Category: Gardening

February is for Chicken Magic… and garden planning

In January and February I get the itch. The gardening itch. I begin thinking and planning in my head. On warm days, I go out and shovel wheelbarrows of goodness from the chicken coop and pile it up in the garden. I cut back the asparagus bed, and other twigs of last year’s garden that need to be cut back.

My chickens have had access to the garden since production ended. In January, I usually begin dumping our kitchen scraps into the garden area. The girls work hard in January & February, moving the mulch around, working in the piles from the coop, scratching where I’ve thrown the scraps, and pooping all over everything.

It’s like magic. Chicken magic.

Chicken garden magic.

But now it gets serious. February is here.

It’s time to kick things up a notch. Seed catalogs began to arrive in January, so the daydreaming intensifies. It will soon be be time to set out onions! I ordered my Baker Creek seeds a few days ago! I’ll start tomatoes indoors as soon as the seeds arrive!

I need to check my garden fence and chicken-proof it again, so I’ll be ready to put onions out. (And then I’ll probably need to clip wings until they get accustomed to the fence again.)

Here are the tools I’m using during this preparation time:

  • Clyde’s Garden Planner – This is a new tool to me, but it looks like it’s going to be a great help!
  • Texas Gardener Magazine – I hang onto my back issues because they’re full of great info!
  • Seed Catalogs from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Willhite Seed Inc (a Texas company), and any other catalogs that come in the mail! They don’t have a paper catalog but I’ve had great success with the seeds from Heirloom Seeds for years.
  • Premier 1 Poultry Solutions catalog – Great options for feeders & waterers, banding, portable electric net, and other chicken needs. I’ve got my eyes on their temperature sensitive outlet for next winter.
  • I promised myself I’m not buying any chicks this year, but if I did, I’d order them in February as well, from Ideal Poultry (another Texas company).
  • Triangle U-Pin in black nickel, as seen in the first photo, is an easy way to twist my hair up when I’m outside working.

Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year

I was so excited to see this year’s Pantone Color of the Year! And if you know me, you know why!

I used to tell people that I selected my college because I liked their school colors best. I might go as far as to say that every year’s Color of the Year should be purple… But that might offend someone… Like my middle daughter.

Here are a few of the Ultra Violet accessories you may see me sporting this year (or any year, for that matter!). Comfortable, beautiful, durable, Ultra Violet accessories!

I guess we’ll just leave the powers that be alone and let them pick a new color next year, but deep in my heart the Color of the Year will always be purple. Or Ultra Violet 18-3838.

“The Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design; it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today.” – Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute.

Yes, indeed, the world would be a better place with more purple in it. It’s “what’s needed in our world today;” more purple, people!

I am also excited that I’ll be bringing more Ultra Violet into my garden this spring! My garden was greatly lacking in purple last year, but thanks to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I’ll be remedying that as well! Watch for these beauties in upcoming garden posts this spring and summer:

Purple power!

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How I’m fighting Leaf Footed Bugs on my tomatoes

I’ll be straight up with you.  This is the first year I’ve had leaf footed bugs on my tomatoes and I am just beginning to learn about them.  What I learned first of all…. they’re evil!

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Adult leaf footed bugs on my heirloom tomatoes

I do remember seeing some of these adult bugs last year, I think they were on the sunflowers, maybe.  But this is definitely the first time I’ve had a tomato infestation.  Usually, my biggest tomato problem is horn worms and blossom end rot.  I’ve had a few horn worms this year, no blossom end rot, and now this.  😦  I did see the unusual nymph bugs in our locust thicket in early spring while I was cutting limbs for a fence row.

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Various stages of leaf footed bugs

Leaf footed bug nymphs are red, so they’re easy to spot.  Looks like another bug altogether, but it’s not.

OK, so how am I handling it?  Well, first of all, I turned to my gardening communities to identify the bugs in the first place.  I’m in a North Texas Vegetable Gardeners group on Facebook as well as a member in the Abundant Permaculture (Justin Rhodes) DIY Abundance group.  The community helped me ID the bugs and then I was able to do more searching.

Since I am in Texas, AgriLife Extension articles are always a good place for me to start.  The article, Finding Leaf-footed Bugs in Your Tomatoes?,  helped confirm their identify, but didn’t really offer me many solutions.

Through other articles read, I discovered that there’s a reason I haven’t seen leaf footed bugs on my tomatoes before!  Apparently, these bugs are native to the western United States, and have slowly been migrating.  The adults overwinter in piles of wood, among other things, and a mild winter will allow them to flourish.  Bingo.  I saw nymphs in the locust thicket, where we have a brush pile waiting to be burned.  We also had a mild winter.

Then I came across an article from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources department, How to Manage Pests in Gardens & Landscapes: Leaffooted Bug.  This article is very thorough and included six options for managing my problem.

So, obviously, this will be an ongoing thing here on the homestead.  My first step has been picking unripe tomatoes.  Neil Sperry, in his article, Success with Tomatoes, stated that picking as fruit makes the turn from green toward pink will protect against sunscald and bird pecking and will lose no flavor or nutritional value.  I’d like to add, will also give some protection from leaf footed bugs.

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This morning’s garden harvest: green tomatoes that are beginning to turn, one duck egg, zinnias, roses and other wildflowers.

So to summarize,

How I’m fighting Leaf Footed Bugs on my tomatoes, Step One:

Pick the tomatoes early.

Yes, I know, that was a little disappointing.  As I research and learn what else I can do to protect my tomatoes, I’ll update the information here on the blog.  Wish me luck…

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These tomatoes are ripening on the kitchen window shelf. Far right are from yesterday. Left are ready to eat! Mmmmm…