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Wicking beds, sun scald, tomato tasting!

Since I had a tree limbed up last year, the outer edge of our patio is getting too much sun for many plants. One is Cordyline fruticosa, suffering classic signs of sun scald. I’ve sacrificed my “design scheme” for its safety. Already I’d moved agaves and even bougainvillea into shadier depths.
sun scald cordyline Central Texas Gardener
Last year, Marissa Garrett sent us a photo of her troubled agave. Daphne diagnosed sun scald, in part caused by our quick transition from cloudy, cool days to sudden heat. Our agaves didn’t have time to adapt to harsh rays.
agave sun scald Central Texas Gardener
Per Daphne’s suggestion to shade them, that’s what Marissa did until the temperature was solidly back in the 80s. They recovered just fine!
Agaves healthy after shading Central Texas Gardener
When we ran into the same dramatic weather switch this year, Marissa started draping them when we hit consistent 90° days. The plant’s spines hold up the shade fabric, which Marissa periodically adjusts. Find out more.
shading agaves from sun scald Central Texas Gardener
Boxwoods also suffer from too much sun. Landscape Architect Tait Moring sent this picture of a client’s hedge, where leaves are turning yellow and brown. He notes that it gets a lot of reflected heat from a white stone patio.
sun scald on boxwood hedge Central Texas Gardener
Bingo! Indeed, that hot sun is the culprit. Daphne explains: “In order to take in water from their roots, plants must lose water from their leaves. This process also helps with heat buildup. Much like sweating helps to lower our temperature slightly when we get too hot, for plants, water loss has a cooling effect. And when it’s really hot, water loss occurs quickly, depleting the leaf’s supply faster than the roots can replenish it.”

Find out what to do if you can’t move your boxwoods to a less stressful location.

Heat-lovin’ purslane (Portulaca oleracea) doesn’t get all hot and bothered when we hit triple digits. We prize its flamboyant flowers when other plants are sagging. Did you know that its edible leaves contain more beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable?
purslane portulaca Central Texas Gardener
This week, Trisha also tells us that it contains Vitamins A, C, E, B and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron and many other nutrients.
nutritious edible purslane Trisha Shirey Central Texas Gardener
Although the hybridized plants we buy are edible, wild purslane is much tastier in recipes.
wild portulaca flowers Central Texas Gardener
“It has deep tap roots which penetrate hard soils and bring up nutrients and water to assist plant companions. Adjacent plants will be more efficient at mining deeper soils by following purslane’s roots,” Trisha says.
portulaca long tap root soil nutrients Central Texas Gardener
So, in your chemical-free garden, consider “eating your weeds!” Find out more.

Homegrown tomatoes still top our favorite summertime crop. In the past, Bill Adams, author of the Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook, joined us for his top tips for growing.
Texas Tomato Lover's Handbook Central Texas Gardener
When he suggested a follow up tasting, drooling commenced! This week, Tom samples some of Bill’s luscious harvests.
Tom Spencer and Bill Adams tomato talk Central Texas Gardener
Even though Bill’s no longer clocking in as a beloved Harris County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulturist, he’s still on the road educating us all.
tomatoes salsa chips Central Texas Gardener
Watch now to meet the superstars, including Bill’s recipes and sage (or should I say basil?) advice.
heirloom tomatoes Bill Adams Central Texas Gardener
On tour, Jay Carpenter loves growing the family’s food in his front yard garden.
Jay Carpenter innovative bucket wicking containers Central Texas Gardener
To save water, he adapted a wicking bed technique devised by Larry Hall of Brainerd, Minnesota using 5-gallon buckets with slits cut into the sides.
bucket wicking garden Central Texas Gardener
herbs in bucket wicking bed Central Texas Gardener
He inserts a net cup (liked used for hydroponics and aquariums) into the bottom.
net pot wicking bed buckets Central Texas Gardener
Then, he tells us: Get a vinyl rain gutter, frame it in treated lumber to make it rigid, put caps on the end so now you have a water trough that holds water. A float valve regulates water flow from a slow hose or in his case, rainwater collection. Cover the trough with fabric, cut holes for the net cuts and insert the bucket. The plant wicks up water as it’s needed and the float valve turns off.
rain gutter float valve bucket wicking gardens Central Texas Gardener
He even installed underground gutter collection for other container plants.
container wicking bed Central Texas Gardener copy
To grow even more, he replaced the soil in his limestone raised beds with 55-gallon food grade drums cut in half and larger net pots on the bottom.
wicking beds in quonset hut vegetable garden Central Texas Gardener
PVC pipes funnel water under these larger beds, again regulated with a float valve.
PVC pipe float valve wicking bed design Central Texas Gardener
He fills the drums with a mixture of compost, peat moss, vermiculite or perlite and minerals. Jay strongly recommends adding biochar (agricultural charcoal) for robust crops. I plan to get this myself after exploring its many benefits!
wicking bed 55 gallon drums Central Texas Gardener
Molly, the albino white coyote (Jay’s quite the raconteur!) makes her daily inspection.
Molly westie with compost tea brew Central Texas Gardener
Jay’s three 3000-gallon fiber glass cisterns, tied in with his neighbor’s roof, too, supply water to the rain gutters and PVC pipes. “I just run a little half inch plastic pipe through a filter, and then underground that feeds the water pipes underneath my beds.”

He nourishes with pump-aerated compost tea in another 55-gallon food grade drum.
food grade drum compost tea brew Central Texas Gardener
Since the front yard’s his only available space to garden, he made it “neighborhood-pretty.” And many a neighbor stops by to hang out on the patio and most likely take home lots of fresh food for dinner!
front yard patio and raised vegetable gardens Central Texas Gardener
front yard gravel patio raised limestone beds wicking gardens Central Texas Gardener
I really like this drinks table he crafted from leftover stones.
limestone table with leftover flag stones and limestone Central Texas Gardener
He installed Quonset-hut style cattle panel over the limestone beds for climbers.
cattle panel quonset design raised limestone wicking bed vegetables Central Texas Gardener
They also frame the plastic he stretches across them in winter.
quonset hut vegetable gardens limestone surround Central Texas Gardener
Jay even framed doors for easier access in cold months.
homemade greenhouse door Central Texas Gardener
Rather than battle summer’s heat and insects, he finishes harvesting in May or early June and plants again from September to March. At Christmas, he’s harvesting a cornucopia of summer and winter crops.
limestone raised beds cattle panel winter cover Central Texas Gardener
Although not everyone can handle the Scoville heat rating of ghost peppers, Jay’s a big fan.
ghost pepper wicking bed garden Central Texas Gardener
He cans his own salsas and grinds them up for the ultimate critter control. No self-respecting squirrel or other 4-legged forager touches anything kissed with ghost pepper!
ground ghost pepper animal control homemade salsa Central Texas Gardener
Watch his whole story now!

Thanks for stopping by! I’ll see you next week when we look ahead to fall planting with top shelf perennials. Best, Linda

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