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Patio Garden Update: Spring Planting

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I can’t believe that I just finished my fourth planting of my patio garden.  I never would have dreamed that not only would I learn how to garden, but that I would look forward to the new season planting so much.

My winter garden didn’t work out quite as I hoped.  The broccoli and Brussels sprouts never produced although they did grow.  I’m guessing that, like the tomatoes last summer, they just didn’t get enough sun.

The season wasn’t a complete loss.  I managed to keep my Kaffir Lime and bay trees alive.  At one point, I’d thought I’d lost them both, but, alas, they are both sprouting new growth and looking good. My oregano, mint and lavender made it as well. The bougainvilleas are even blooming already and they never bloom this early.  I might, just might, be getting better at this.

Kaffir Lime Tree

Undeterred and with the continued coaching from Carla Crownover of Austin Urban Gardens, I’ve selected a new round of crops for the spring and summer.  Carla brought me seedlings for yellow straightneck squash and pickling cucumbers.  She even shared two Charentais melon seedlings from her recent seed exchange with friends.

Sqash, cucumbers, melons & herbs

I rounded out the planting with a few herbs – basil, thyme and sage.  I skipped the eggplant this year.  I’m a fairly creative person, but I didn’t think I could dream up an entire new season of eggplant recipes after last year’s eggplant explosion.

Even more exciting than my own garden is the news that my sister has caught the bug and planted cucumbers and herbs as well.  My niece and nephew loved helping with the Earthbox and were excited to garden again.  Woo hoo!

Here’s to a productive spring and summer!  What have you planted?

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Patio garden update: the end of the eggplant invasion

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Winter 2010 GardenThe summer crops from my little patio garden lasted well into the fall yielding eggplant until two weeks ago.  I now feel like I could take on any cooking challenge that included eggplant as the secret ingredient because I’ve prepared it in almost every way I could imagine except dessert.

Even so, I was a little heart broken when I ripped the fading eggplants from their Earthbox.  I’m finding that I have a hard time pulling up vegetable plants even after they are long past their prime.  I get sentimental about the gifts they yielded and have to give myself a little pep talk to perform the first yank on the roots.  It was much easier to pull up the non-producing tomatoes.

But, it was time.  The eggplants were clearly unhappy in the cooler weather and I had Brussels sprout seedlings that needed a home.

I’m excited about my winter garden; my third planting in the patio garden! I planted broccoli seeds and the Brussels sprout seedlings in the Earthboxes and butter lettuce seeds in a few large pots.

I’ll be interested to see how the lettuce does.  I have good luck with the Earthboxes, but spottier results with the pots.  I have a hard time figuring out how much to water the potted plants, but with the Earthbox I just fill the reservoir and the plant does the work.  I’m getting better, but I’m definitely still learning.

Once again, a huge thanks to Carla Crownover at Austin Urban Gardens for continuing to coach me to grow new things.  She might turn me into a real gardener after all!

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Patio Farm Update & Fall Farm/Gardening Classes

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Back in May, I planted eggplant and tomatoes in my EarthBoxes and I’ve been enjoying half of the fruits of my labor for the last few months.  The two eggplants have been producing like crazy, sprouting beautiful purple bulbs since July.

Patio Eggplant
The tomatoes, not so much.  Carla Crownover from Austin Urban Gardens ruled that my patio doesn’t get enough sun for tomatoes.  I was able to harvest a few cherry tomatoes, the couple that I picked before the blankety-blank squirrels got them, but that was it.  Oh well; it was worth a try.

But the eggplant…the eggplant LOVE the porch.  I’ve been picking two to three pounds of eggplant every week and I’ve also received eggplant every two weeks in my Farmhouse Delivery box.  It is a good thing I REALLY like eggplant.

It’s even become a joke with my friends, some of whom are now calling me the Eggplant Lady (let’s hope this doesn’t stick.) My friend Sandra has even created her own version of the Bubba Gump Shrimp speech from Forrest Gump, “Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple eggplant, lemon eggplant… .”  You get the picture.

And even more eggplant

The challenge has been what to do with it.  Since I’m single, I freeze a lot of what I cook and eat it later.  Not all eggplant recipes freeze well.  I also wanted a little variety – I didn’t want to make my four eggplant standards (caponata, ratatouille, baba ganoush and grilled eggplant) every week.

What do you do when you’re swimming in eggplant?  You start playing with your food and begging your friends for recipes.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Eggplant and tomato pasta sauce – I made this one up as I went along, like I usually do for red sauce, so no recipe.  It did freeze really well and is very tasty.

Eggplant and sweet potato greens stir fry– Again, this was a quick weeknight stir fry and I was looking for a way to use the sweet potato greens from Johnson’s Backyard Garden.  I added some garlic and made a sauce from Hoisin & soy sauce.

Green curry eggplant – Delish thanks to the guidance and tutelage of Jam Sanitchat from Thai Fresh.


Eggplant and beef stew– I found this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Great Good Food.  Organized seasonally, I turn to this book a lot for ideas.  It was written in the early 90’s and some of the ingredients/techniques are a little dated, but it’s a great starting reference

With the produce drawer once again full of eggplant and another eight ripening on the vine, I’m heading in to the kitchen again this weekend.  I had eggplant, squash, peppers and tomatoes in my FarmHouse box this week so I’m going to finally make ratatouille and I’m going to try my hand at eggplant enchiladas, a recipe that Stephanie McClenny of Confituras found for me.

With at least another few weeks of eggplant coming in, I’d appreciate links to any of your eggplant favorites.

I’m looking forward to new fall crops.  I pulled up the tomatoes and have planted broccoli in the other Earth Box.  The broccoli is the first thing I’ve ever planted from seed.  It was pretty darn exciting to see those first little shoots poke through the dirt.  When they eggplant finally give out, I’ll probably plant lettuce again.  I enjoyed being able top pick lettuce whenever I liked last winter.

If you are interested in gardening, and remember that you don’t have to have a yard to garden, there are several upcoming gardening and farming workshops that can help you develop or build your skills.

Fall Citizen Gardener Sessions
Want to learn about Austin’s unique growing seasons, climate, soils, plants, and water resources? Want to raise safe, nutritious food for your family, and want your children to know and enjoy gardening? Don’t have a lot of time, money, or space, but want food and want it to work, now?

Each Citizen Gardener session consists of two Saturday morning classes and one Wednesday evening class, for a total of 10 instruction hours. You’ll learn the basics of Central TX organic food gardening in this hands-on course. Join us to get all the information/experience you need to design, build, plant, and enjoy your own back-/front-yard garden this fall.

Initial cost is $30, due on the first day of class (cash or check made out to “Sustainable Food Center”). $10 dollars will be refunded if you complete 10 volunteer hours at one of our Citizen Gardener partner gardens.

Session 17: Saturday mornings, September 11th and 18th, and Wednesday evening Sept. 15. The Rock Methodist Church: 2001 W. New Hope Road, Cedar Park

Session 18: Saturday mornings, September 25 and October 2nd, and Wednesday evening September 29th.  Location TBD.

For more information about Citizen Gardener, go to For  questions, contactcitizengardener08@gmail.com

Master Gardeners of Travis County Plant Sale and Garden Talks

The Travis County Master Gardener group will be conducting their fall plant sale at the SFC Farmers Market Downtown  this Saturday, September 11, from 9 am to 1 pm. Learn about roses, fall planting, and more in the free talks that will be given at the market by leading master gardeners who know how to grow in Austin, Texas, one of the most challenging regions in the country. All free.

Check the chalk board for speaker schedules and topics in the southeast corner of the park by the speaker’s tent!  All presenters as master gardeners are part of the Texas AgriLife Extension Master Gardener education and outreach programs in Travis and surrounding counties.
Slow Food Austin Fabulous Gardening Workshop
Saturday, September 11, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at  Green Sprout Preschool, 1019 Reinli Street, Austin, TX 78723.

Itching to plant your own garden?  Would you like to learn some hands-on gardening installation techniques from the experts at Austin’s Resolution Gardens while also supporting a local pre-school?

Slow Food Austin is hosting a garden installation workshop where participants will help install a raised-bed garden for Green Sprout preschool and gain practical skills to start a home garden.  Once the garden is complete, we’ll all enjoy a meal together- lunch provided by blu African: http://www.bluafrican.com.

Bring the family to learn about home gardening and support a local pre-school’s garden education program.  Cost to participate is $5 for Slow Food members, $10 for non-members (children under 12 are free).

Attendance is limited so buy your tickets today. Questions: email president@slowfoodaustin.org  Buy your tickets at:> http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/123782

See you at the seed store!

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Living Local: Becoming a Patio Farmer

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I used to think I had a black thumb and I listened with envy to others talk about their gardens.  Um, I’m not envious anymore.

It all started innocently last fall when Carla Crownover from Austin Urban Gardens gave me an Earthbox to grow lettuce and spinach.  I loved being able to pick my salad fresh from the patio. Earthboxes make it easy because you water into a reservoir and you don’t have to worry about overwatering the plants.  It was so easy that I decided to get a second Earthbox.

Carla gave me three tomato transplants for one of the Earthboxes.  I went to the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale and bought a few transplants: 2 types of eggplant for the other Earthbox and a few peppers and herbs for some of my pots.   It seemed like a reasonable expansion.

Then I went to the Johnson’s Backyard Garden farm tour with Slow Food Austin.  And they gave us transplants.  Oh boy.  And now I had another eggplant and a squash.

It all seemed manageable until everything started growing, which is exciting proof that I do not have a black thumb, but it’s a little intimidating in its current state.

I am going to have more eggplant and tomatoes than I’m going to know what to do with.  Can anyone say ratatouille?  Thank goodness the food bank accepts fresh produce donations from local gardeners.  That is if I can get the veggies past my neighbors.

So, if I can grow veggies on my patio, what are you going to grow?  Maybe you can be a patio farmer too.

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