With the cooler weather of fall upon us, it is time to
conder moving our gardening efforts indoors, which make growing microgreens an
But what to grow as microgreens?
Considering most garden vegetables and herbs can be grown as
Microgreens, the options are many. So, which microgreens to grow for your
family depends on what your family eats regularly, and Your family’s taste preferences.
Most Common Types oF Microgreens
The broad type of microgreens (listed below in family
groups) Should provide the basics of what
kind of taste the microgreens will have, and the growing conditions the type of
The Amaranthaceae family includes amaranth,
beets, chard, quinoa, and spinach.
Amaryllidaceae family includes chives, garlic,
leeks, and onions.
The Apiaceae family includes carrot, celery,
dill, cilantro, and fennel.
The Asteraceae family includes chicory, endive,
lettuce, and radicchio.
The Brassicaceae family includes arugula,
broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, and watercress.
The Cucurbitaceae family includes
cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squashes.
The Lamiaceae family includes the most common
herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, sage, and oregano.
The Poaceae family includes grasses and cereals
like barley, corn, rice, oats, and wheatgrass.
The Poaceae family also includes in legumes,
including beans, chickpeas, and lentils.
The apricots are a fine addition to a home growing repertoire. Apricot trees can be grown as fans, bushes or pyramid-shaped examples, or left to grow to a natural shape. Dwarf varieties are available which can be grown in containers, small space in the landscape, or trained along walls so that apricot trees can be suitable for even the very smallest of gardens.
Choosing an Apricot Tree
If you choose a self-fertile, you will only need to buy one apricot tree, which can crop without a partner tree. It is important to choose an apricot tree suited to the exact conditions where you live. The crucial factor is when the tree will blossom. Apricots tend to bloom early, so can be prone to frost damage if there is a danger of a late frost in your area. Bryan, Hungarian and Moorpark Apricots could all be good options for zone 8 in Texas.
Planting an Apricot Tree
Apricot trees will grow best in sunny, wind and frost sheltered, locations. They like a deep, moisture retentive, well drained and ideally slightly alkaline soil and will struggle in shallow soils which have low fertility. Be sure to space your Apricot trees according to the space requirements of the variety you have chosen. Generally, I like to add two feet to the spacing to provide clearance for picking and maintenance. Mulch the trees with rich compost or well-rotted manure in March and early April. Mulch will help to fertilize and keep down competitive weeds.
Caring For an Apricot Tree
Newly-planted Apricot trees will need deep watering during their first spring and summer so they can establish themselves. For best fruit production deep water when the fruits begin to set and grow. Mature trees may also need to be watered if there are drought conditions.
If your tree is cropping heavily, then you should thin apricots to around 8-10 cm intervals when they are roughly the size of hazelnuts. You may also wish to prune for shape and size at the same time.
Apricots require insects for pollination. If there are not enough insects around yet when the tree breaks into bloom, then you may need to pollinate by hand to achieve the best possible yield. Better still is to encourage pollinators into your garden by companion planting apricot trees with a beneficial guild of plants that can help gather nutrients and which will attract bees and other pollinators to your yard.
Apricots will be ready to harvest in late June through August. The Apricots are ready to pick when the fruits have a golden-yellow color, are soft, and detach easily from the tree. Take care when harvesting to avoid bruising the delicate fruits and the immediate consumption or preservation of the fruit is strongly recommended. Apricots can be used in preserves, a whole range of delicious desserts, and dehydrated as a healthy treat.
Peaches are such attractive trees and have such delicious fruit – no wonder they are a favorite with many gardeners in the climate zone. Peaches are a delicious, fresh taste of the summer and there is nothing better than being able to pick these juicy fruits from your garden.
Choosing a Peach Tree
Most peaches are self-fertile and so will not require a companion tree to fruit. However, you may wish to consider choosing different peach varieties to be able to harvest these delicious fruits over a longer period. Peaches that do well in zone 8 gardens include Gulf Crimson, Early Golden Glory, Bicentennial, Sentinel, Redglobe, Milam, and Fayette. Ask your local garden center, master gardener or agriculture extension office for other examples of peach trees that will do best where you live.
Planting a Peach Tree
Peach trees will require a sheltered site in full sun. Moisture-Retentive and yet well-drained soil is best. Be very careful to avoid planting in a frost pocket or a windy or exposed location, as peaches blossom early and so can be damaged by late frosts in some areas.
Caring For a Peach Tree
The first year after planting It is important to deepwater your peach tree to ensure that the roots do not dry out. During the growing season, you should deepwater regularly, and during periods of extreme heat, you may need to water more frequently. Use of a drip irrigation system is strongly recommended. A good layer of compost and two to four inches deep mulch will help to retain soil moisture and will help feed your tree.
Underplanting with a beneficial guild of companion plants will also help with soil cover and moisture retention, as well as aiding your peach tree by attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects to your garden.
Prune your tree as required for shaping and size requirements. Pruning aims to replace fruited wood with new growth. Peaches mostly grow on the previous year’s growth.
When fruits appear, these should be thinned to give a final spacing between fruits of around 15 cm. Remove any small or misshapen fruits when they are around the size of your fingernail. Keep an eye on fruits and if necessary, protect them from birds and other wildlife.
Peaches should be ready to harvest between July and September depending upon weather and the variety of peach. Peaches are ready to pick when they are fully colored, and the flesh close to the branch stem feels soft. Cradle each fruit in the palm of your hand and then lift gently. You will need to harvest over more than once as the peach become individually ripe, as not all the peaches will develop and ripen at once; especially if you have planted different varieties. Do not leave picked fruits uneaten or unpreserved too long. Peaches are most nutritious and flavorful used immediately after harvest.
If you do have a large harvest of peaches, you can also turn these into a range of delicious desserts, or preserves to see you through to the colder months.
One of the key skills any permaculture gardener should learn is how to create good compost. Creating a good compost is key to creating abundant, productive and sustainable permaculture gardens. If you want to be able to grow your food using permaculture principles then creating compost is one of the foundations upon which your garden will be based. This guide to composting in a permaculture garden will help you make your garden the thriving, resource-rich ecosystem that it should be.
Why Composting is Important
Composting is an important element of gardening because it allows you to adhere to the permaculture ethic of returning the surplus to the system. It allows you to eliminate waste, and make full use of the natural resources at your disposal. It enables you to care for the soil of your growing areas, and to make them rich, fertile places to grow a range of fruit trees and other edible and useful plants. When you create and use compost in your garden, you are completing the natural cycles and creating systems that can endure and sustain for many years to come.
There are some different ways to create compost. The main methods used in a permaculture garden are:
Composting in Place (Sheet mulching with organic materials and allowing them to decompose on top of the soil of your growing areas.)
Cold Composting (Creating a heap or large bin in which compost is slowly created.)
Hot Composting (Creating the conditions for faster, warmer decomposition in a bin or other container.)
Vermiculture (Creating compost with the help of special worms.)
Creating Compost in a Permaculture Garden
No matter which method you are using to create your compost, the principles at play remain the same. You are taking organic materials that are considered to be ‘waste’ and creating the conditions for their decomposition. Once decomposed, the compost is used to conserve or enhance the fertility of the soil.
Creating a good compost involves a basic understanding of the different sorts of material in a compost heap. The materials are grouped into two categories – carbon-rich ‘brown’ materials and nitrogen-rich ‘green’ materials. Both types are necessary to create a good-quality compost. Brown materials include cardboard, straw, twiggy material, wood chips, and bark. Green materials include green leafy matter, grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable scraps.
To get a good mix in your compost, you should add ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials in thin layers. Adding in thin layers allows for the right conditions for aerobic decomposition and helps to ensure that your compost does not become too wet or too dry.
In addition to thinking about getting the right mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials in your compost, creating good compost also involves thinking about getting a good balance of the main nutrients that plants need to grow: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as the various micro-nutrients needed by plant life. Adding a good mix of different ingredients to your compost will help to create compost with a good nutrient balance.
Creating compost is not rocket science. Anyone can create good, crumbly compost for use in their forest gardens or polyculture vegetable beds.
If you are a keen gardener then doubtless you love watching the wildlife that comes into your garden. You may enjoy watching the birds, for example. In a permaculture garden, you will discover that the whole ecosystem teems with life. Food forests and other diverse garden ecosystems are great at attracting wildlife – far better than a boring lawn! This guide to attracting wildlife in a permaculture garden will help you understand the reasons to attract wildlife and learn how to attract wildlife in a range of different ways.
What Wildlife Can Do For Us
It is lovely to watch wildlife in your garden – but this is not the only reason why, as gardeners, we should do all we can to encourage a range of creatures into our backyards. Here are some of the many things that a diverse range of wildlife can do for us:
Pollinate our fruit trees and other food crops.
Predate pest species such as aphids and blackfly, slugs and snails.
Add fertility to the garden soil (through droppings, for example).
Spread seeds and propagate useful plant material.
Aerate soil and aid in nutrient transmission and spread.
‘Recycle’ old plant material and help in decomposition.
Naturally ‘prune’ plants and trees through grazing.
Increase diversity and beneficial interactions, thereby making your garden ecosystem more stable and resilient.
Almost every mechanism and natural cycle in an organic garden involve some form of wildlife in some way. The more you think about what wildlife is doing for you, the more you will appreciate the creatures, large and small, with whom you share your space.
Attracting Wildlife Through Planting
One of the most important things that we can do as gardeners to attract beneficial wildlife to our gardens is to plant a wide range of wildlife-friendly plants. For example, certain flowers will be particularly good at attracting bees and other pollinators, while fruiting trees or bushes may attract birds and mammals that eat pest species.
When planting for bees and other pollinators, it is important to consider providing for these insects throughout the year by choosing appropriate plants that are in bloom in Spring, Summer, and Fall. A useful list of bee-friendly plants for Central Texas gardens can be found here: Central Texas Bee-Friendly Plants. You’ll also be able to find out more about which plants to choose to attract different types of wildlife by chatting to other local gardeners and the staff of local plant nurseries and garden centers.
Attracting Wildlife Through Habitat Creation
Beyond choosing the right plants, there is more than gardeners can do to attract wildlife. By creating a range of different habitats in your backyard, you can attract a wide variety of different creatures. For example, a garden pond could encourage aquatic creatures to move in and can also be a boon to birds, mammals, and insects. A brush pile will provide shelter for bugs, beetles, and other creatures. Bird boxes, feeders, and baths can help to create a bird-friendly habitat. Try to create diverse environments of shade and sun, cool and hot, to increase the natural diversity in your garden and make it more resilient.
Cherry trees are an excellent choice for your forest garden. Not only will you be treated to a wonderful yield of delicious cherries, but you will also have a beautiful display of blossom in the spring. When you choose the right varieties, cherries can do well in a zone 8 Texan garden. Aside from providing delicious fruit, cherry tree flowers can also be of benefit to insects, especially bees, and help to increase the biodiversity of insect and animal life in your garden.
Choosing a Cherry Tree
It is essential to be aware when choosing a cherry tree that some varieties are sweet and others are sour. Sweet cherries can be eaten raw, and yet it is important to note that not all sweet cherries are self-fertile and many will need a companion tree to bear fruit. Sour cherries generally are self-fertile and will do fine as a single tree.
Planting a Cherry Tree
Cherry trees prefer deep, fertile and well-drained soil. The soil pH level should be between 6.5-6.7 and full sun.
Sweet Cherry trees do not do well as undergrowth situations. Sweet Cherry trees do not like shallow, sandy or waterlogged soil. Bing and Lapins are sweet cherry varieties that can thrive in zone 8.
Tart Cherry trees, will tolerate a limited amount of partial shade. Montmorency and North Star are options for sour cherry trees for the region.
Caring For a Cherry Tree
Cherry trees will do best when planted between November and March, to the same depth as they were in the pot. Cherry trees should be mulched with organic compost in late February, and if you desire to use commercial fertilizer stakes, this is the time to place the fertilizer stakes just outside the drip line if the cherry tree.
The area around the tree (inside the drip line and a couple of feet outside the drip line) should be well mulched on top of the compost and kept clear of grass and other competing vegetation. It is essential to deep water your cherry trees frequently and keep it well mulched the first couple of years to ensure they thrive.
A guild of comfrey and beneficial herbs and flowers around the base will help cherry trees to become established and keep them healthy.
If you want to shape your cherry tree, then the pruning should be pruned once established during the summer, between late July and the end of August. If you choose to prune be conservative in your pruning and be aware of the type of cherry tree you are pruning:
Sweet cherries form on wood that is one year old and older.
Tart cherries form almost all their cherries on growth from the previous season. With the tart cherries, you will have to make sure that you get the balance when pruning between one-year-old fruiting wood and new replacement branches.
The sugar content in sweet cherries increasing dramatically in the final few days of ripening, so it is essential to wait until the fruits are entirely ripe before harvesting. Sour cherries will come off the stem when ripe and ready, while sweet cherries should be tasted to determine whether or not they are ready for harvest. Take care when harvesting not to damage the fruiting wood spur, which will produce more fruit next year. Leave stems intact if you plan to store cherries for any length of time.
Sweet cherries are best eaten straight from the tree, as soon after harvesting as possible, while sour cherries can be cooked into a range of preserves and desserts.
Even the small gardens usually have space for a small plum tree. Plums are a fantastic addition to your home garden and need not take up too much space. Plum trees will be beloved of pollinating insects, attracting them to your garden with their beautiful blossom. With the right care, a plum tree can provide a bounty of delicious fruit for eating fresh and for preserving for later use.
Choosing a Plum Tree
When choosing a plum tree, it is crucial to determine whether the variety that you are looking at is self-fertile. Also, the plum tree you select should be decease free and healthy. If you select a self-fertile type, then you will not require a second tree, while self-infertile varieties much have a partner tree to bear fruit. One plum variety well suited to a zone 8 climate in Texas is Gulf Beauty. Your local AgriLife Extension office, master gardeners group, garden center, and plant nurseries will be able to advise you of further good options for where you live.
Planting a Plum Tree
Plum trees will love a sheltered spot and can do well up against a south-facing wall or fence. They will do best when planting in soil that is not too free-draining and which will retain moisture. Plum trees are best planted in the dormant season between late fall and early spring and should be watered regularly, at least once weekly during cool weather and daily during hot weather during the first year until the plum tree has had time to settle in.
Caring For a Plum Tree
An application of some form of nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer in the middle of spring can help increase yield. Established trees will benefit from an organic mulch, which will keep down weeds and help with nutrient needs. Be sure to deep water during drier periods, especially while the plum tree is young.
Plum trees will also benefit from under-planting with a ‘guild’ of beneficial companion plants like comfrey, borage, alliums, and tansy, as well as, nitrogen-fixing legumes. Since plums have intense nitrogen needs, keeping grass at bay to well beyond the tree’s drip line is strongly recommended. So it is best to plant alternative companion plants or at least mulch heavily around the base of the tree to prevent grass from encroaching. Additionally, plum trees benefit from a thick helping of compost and a fresh covering of mulch. Also, fertilizer stakes, in moderation, can be helpful, as well.
When the tree fruits in summer, you may find that some boughs have to be supported to prevent them breaking with the weight of the fruit. Unlike with other fruit trees like apple trees, plum trees should be pruned in spring or summer when they can recover more easily without risk of infection.
Plums are sweetest when left to ripen fully on the tree. You will be able to tell if the fruit is ripe because it will be soft when you squeeze it gently. Take care not to bruise the fruit during harvest. Otherwise, they may spoil rapidly.
Plums are best when eaten fresh. If you have a bumper crop, however, you can also create a cordial or an alcoholic beverage, de-stone and freeze excess plums for cooking later or make jelly or another preserve with the delicious fruits.