Casie Becker

gardener
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since Nov 13, 2015
Casie likes ...
forest garden urban
Zone 8B/9A
Temp avg range 15 F to 100 F (cold temps are sporadically scattered through winter)
Avg rain 36 inches (plus or minus 25 inches)
Flood and drought both are common here.
Alkaline limestone/caliche based soil
Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Recent posts by Casie Becker

I'm just going to point out to everyone that when I wanted to find an appealing prize for a contest their hori hori knife was chosen because it was the most loved gear on our review grid.
9 hours ago
I don't know about rooting determinate tomatoes. I suspect not as they get there name by having a predetermined lifespan from seed to fruit to decline.
Determinate varieties have their benefits. They tend to be smaller plants so work better in containers or smaller yards. Some farmers prefer them because they can expect on large harvest instead of having to continually search the plants for ripe ones between the developing fruits. I think in shorter climates they produce more reliably because they stop spending energy on new flowers and fruit, instead devoting all their energy to maturing that single crop.

Indeterminates tend to produce more over their whole lifespan both because of growing larger plants and having a longer season of producing fruit. Because I have both a lot of space and a very long growing season, I prefer inderterminates.Indeterminates will grow and continue to flower and fruit until something kills them.  Plus they've got that handy ability to clone themselves.

I just did a quick web search on all three varieties you named. Google says they are all indeterminates, which is what you want for this to work. Go crazy and enjoy being a mad scientist. Dolly the sheep has nothing on what they plant world does everyday.

If these are indeterminant tomatoes, there is something you can do as insurance while you wait. Take a short cutting and root it in water, just like you might to root a pothos ivy. When it starts forming roots, pot it up so you have it ready to go if you need to replace a plant. In my area we have a strong late spring/early summer tomato season, a very stressful hot summer and then an even better fall tomato season that can sometimes last into Nov. Problem is that hot stressfull summer can lead to the plants suffering from disease and heavy insect damage that hurts the fall productivity. Often people just start new plants to plant in the fall. Starting them from cuttings is faster and easier than growing them on from seed. Actually, I need to remember to do that for my mom this year.
Okay, the prizes have arrived at my house. The hori hori knife is a solid tool. I was expecting something a little lighter, but this is clearly intended to stand up to heavy use and the real kinds of abuse I think most of us subject our tools to.

Those international members eyeing this, I know some of you have expressed frustration that amazon won't ship to your countries. If there's another reason you can't get a hori hori knife shipped to you (possible the knife part of the description) and you win, I do have a less controversial second option. 
11 hours ago
Fill a circle inside the root zone with wood chips, starting 4 inches or so deep and have them get shallower until ending within one inch the trunk. Remember to never pile mulch against a tree trunk as it makes it much easier for disease and insects to get around the natural protection in the roots and then kill the tree.  I also dig a very shallow swale (think four inches deep and wide) and use that soil make a very shallow berm that both sets the depth of the wood chips and keeps them in place. If you're not doing huge number of trees it is actually not very laborous to set up and makes maintaining a mulch ring easier in the long run.

Now if your fellow volunteers are so obsessed with weeds, cardboard hidden under the mulch will stop most volunteer plants. You cut through the cardboard to plant into the soil underneath. In this circumstance it works best to start your seeds in pots and then plant out when they get close to nursery size.

Take some time to look at conventional landscaping websites to get an idea of how to arrange plants to please the conventional eye. Usually it's easy to find useful alternatives will fill the same asthetic needs. I make good use of the idea of large drifts and repeated pops of color in my front yard to mix flowers, herbs, perennial vegetables and annual vegetables. If you're dealing with a reluctant audience this is the time to focus on the ornamental functions of the edible plants.

Just some examples, plant roses that produce good edible hips. Talk up the beauty of the flowers and then the color that will carry through fall and into early winter. (Maybe don't mention if you plan to harvest all those pretty hips.) I have very productive chard growing in my flower beds which have a hot pink stem that goes well with the prodominately pink and purple flowers. Rosemary, thyme, and winter savory all provide a dense, aromatic,  evergreen ground cover. We have a perennial onion that provides really interesting artichectual flowers in the early spring and then goes dormant as the summer comes in. Echinacea is a mainstay of the conventional flower garden with it's large abundant flowers for most of the year. Artichokes and cardoons have beautiful structure from their leaf shapes and if you don't harvest them they will produce gigantic purple flowers. (If you do harvest, cook the flower stem as well as the bud. I find it just as good as the heart). If you have the resources to build a simple trellis, runner beans can be as ornamental as any vine. They won't set beans if temperatures are over 80 in farenheit, but the flowers are edible and taste like green beans themselves. I have one that's still growing three years on, though we're too hot here for many beans. Many of the herbs have varigated forms with streaks of white, yellow, sometimes even red or purple. I think they taste the same but look more ornamental.

You can probably tell this is a subject that is relevant to my interests. Most of my gardening energy goes to making a front yard that invites my neighbors to come talk about gardening. We've sent many an innocent walker home with bags of herbs that we gathered while giving them a fast tour.

Don't underestimate the value of a lot of flowers and pay attention to when different things bloom. People are a lot more willing to overlook that carrot that's going to seed if it's planted between eight foot tall sunflower bushes and a bed of echinacea. And while they're distracting the conventional eyes, the flowers are providing food for benefical insects and birds that keep pests of your crops.

Yarrow's another great flowering medicinal herb, if you're willing to harvest the flowers frequently, you can keep it in bloom for a very long season. Garden sage blooms with purple spires just a little less showy than those bred purely for show. Chives and garlic chives are alliums with flowers in purple and white. Ornamental sweet potato vines are very popular right now, no reason to tell everyone it's actually the edible variety.

Alright, I'm done for now. There are other things in my yard, but I don't know if they're as likely to be widely appealing as what I've already listed.
11 hours ago
As long as it's a new picture I'd be happy to see it. If I have to I will get my nonpermies involved relatives to help me judge. They've laid eyes on Paul once, when we visited Montana.
1 day ago
One of these days I'll get a copy of the sunset zones map. http://sunsetwesterngardencollection.com/climate-zones This has the western seaboard,  but I have heard rumors that this was expanded to cover all the US. We are far from the first people to notice the limitations of the USDA zoning system.

You don't want to know how long it took me to find this https://permies.com/t/61417/permaculture-projects/Climate-analogues-find but the discussion here has stuck with me.  It has a lot of useful information to help find plants from around the world that may be well adapted to your area, wherever that may be.
1 day ago
I've added your post to the fish and aquaponics forums.  The limited information I have is for a much warmer climate. I think catfish and blue gill can at least survive your climate, but I doubt tilapia would. As I understand it a colder climate means slower growing fish, for those species that can handle the cold at all.

If I were looking for information on this myself I would spend some time in the both the forums I've added your post to. This thread https://permies.com/t/20136/small-scale-fish-farming-startup#495179 lists several fish that have the potential to live off vegetable scraps.
2 days ago
http://www.batcon.org/resources/getting-involved/bat-houses

There's a lot of resources online about attracting bats to your site. Mind you, we're a bit batty about our bats here in central Texas, but I've sat on a fishing pier all night long and not been bothered by any insects as I watched a continual flight of bats swoop around me. The link above is to one of the few who isn't trying to convince you to buy their product. I believe they do have product recommendations (In fact they have an entire certification program) but they also have solid information on how to build bat houses as well as where to place them.

As I remember it, it's best if you have tall dead trees (snags) to mount bat houses on, but very high walls or even tall posts can work in a pinch. Best of all would be if you were able to mount the houses somewhere you could gather falling guano to reuse on your plants. There used to be (and probably still is) an robust international trade in guano gathered from cave floors where there are huge colonies of bats.
2 days ago
Sweet potatoes have done a wonderful job of perennializing in my central Texas garden. It turns out there is a heavy infestation of root vine weevils which I haven't built up the soil biology to combat yet, but they do a wonderful job of filling in the space under my espalier peach trees each year. It's a little hard to use them as a mulch for anything that isn't either well established or relatively tall. It's so vigorous it outgrows anything else.

I am a little bit confused as to what the sweet potatoes are providing mulch for in your experiment? Is there another plant in that bed, are you just trying to protect the soil surface as you prepare a bed, or are you just testing how well the sweet potatoes do in your conditions?

I've been doing my own experiment with a living mulch.  It's a very low growing mat forming wildflower.  So far it's been very successful when it reaches where other plants are growing, or when I clear a patch to plant other plants. I think this is partly because it is very slow growing.  When I do have to pull it the soil underneath has always been far better than the surrounding ground, so I suspect it is also a dynamic accumulator. It wouldn't make a good chop and drop, but it does make a great permanent soil cover.

Let us know how your experiments turn out. I'm always interested in mulches because they are one of the most important parts of keeping my gardens going.
2 days ago