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Above: Our domain in the process of being re-claimed. Two out of three beds so far. The new critter, new since I last blogged about the garden, is Phoebe, the Welsh Pembroke Corgi. She will likely factor into the garden’s looks depending on how well behaved she can be and what training she can pick up.


Spring came six weeks early here on the Texas coast. Yikes! For once, though, I am on time. My seeds are started, and soil is being prepped!

I’ve started and stopped blogging here at Blackgumbo so many times. It is, actually, my second oldest blog of all, having been started over a decade ago in 2004. It once lived on Blogger’s hosting service and was an adventure and gardening and fishing blog where our family exploits, hikes, gardens, and our one boat-outing were shared. It grew into a garden blog, and then I started cooking the stuff we grew. Now I’ve moved cooking to its own place, and will focus here on garden stuff for the foreseeable future.

So here we go. After my wonderful cinder-block raised beds served us for a few years, they also became dormant in the fall of 2015 until now. That’s been the story of all my gardens over the years – on for two or three seasons, off for two or three… its life, and life gets in the way sometimes. So now I have the opportunity to learn how to resurrect weed-bound, fallow gardens, and I’ll share the ups and downs.

In December, I dragged some large plastic composite boards from the side of my house and laid them over the weed-entangled garden beds to kill off some of the growth (see pic). I salvaged these wonderful and useful boards when I was in my 20’s. I got them from the retainer walls of my father’s vinyl liner swimming pool (that I dug the hole for when I was 15 years old!) thinking they would be useful. Non-rotting boards! Of course they are useful. They helped tame the growth while I anticipated the spring chore of cleaning these beds. It was intimidating, as the growth had become basically wild coastal prairie. What you see below is tame compared to summer growth.

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Above: I am ashamed that my cinder block gardens that I labored so hard to build descended into this state of dismay. This AFTER I put the 4×4 composite boards over it to stunt weed growth. All three beds looked like this.

I started the usual way, tearing out the major branches, stumps, and dense weeds. I pulled up most of what I could. I had to relocate snakes, spring peepers and leopard frogs who had taken up residence, but they should be well-established now in other parts of the yard. That’s what little boys are good at.

Then I grabbed the weed torch and burned down the entire weed bed to soil. That is some real fun. Doesn’t everyone do that? My neighbors probably wonder about me… Then I began hand-tilling with a grub hoe, about which I will write up a separate post because this tool is amazing (follow the link if you can’t wait). This tool made tearing up the extensive root systems in my beds really easy and gave me hope that I did not need to rent, beg or borrow a gas powered roto-tiller. Once the beds were chopped up and broken up, I amended them with 3 year old compost. Its wonderful, earthy gold! The good thing about taking a couple of years off is that all a fella’s compost piles break down and then wait patiently to be used.

I’ve decided to grow mostly tomatoes in two of my three beds, and I am not sure what other plants will make it to the beds with these tomatoes. I will be growing peppers and maybe some other veggies in containers, and basil will live side by side with the tomatoes. In my third bed, my little son has decided to plant corn. We’ll give the whole bed over to corn. Lots of corn. Corn planted with a fish under each seed like the natives taught the pilgrims. That should be fun.

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Above: Nine buckets of good compost. This was from my 70 gallon trash can compost bin. Good stuff from the kitchen and a little leaf and grass clippings added in contributed to this excellent nutritious loam.

Since I am a tomato fan, and a tomato sauce lover, I will be growing these varieties, all heirlooms (click them for more info): Roma Tomato, Martino’s Roma Tomato, Rosso Sicilian Tomato, True Black Brandywine Tomato, Old Italian Tomato, Royal Hillbilly, and Costoluto Florentino Tomato. I make no apologies that I prefer to buy from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I like their approach and the vibe they have. I read The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere and Emilee Gettle and it was wonderful, so I like what they are doing there. We who receive their annual seed catalog have watched their family grow up over the years, which is a nice touch. I sowed a good bunch of these seeds almost 10 days ago and they are all now up and growing under the lights, I am delighted!

I also bought some bell peppers, Quadrato D’Asti Rosso Pepper, Emerald Giant Pepper, and some Thai Red Chili Peppers. I did the whole pepper bed a few years ago, but have concluded I just need some bell peppers for the kitchen, nothing fancy. The pepper seedlings are just starting to peek out from the peat in the germination trays.

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Above: Screened compost from one of my old piles. This is mostly grass clippings, but also had several squirrel carcasses and an unfortunate kitten in it too. Good, rich stuff.

So that’s where I stand. I will have periodic updates now for the sake of those backyard gardeners who wish to follow the progress and maybe learn some things from me, as I follow others and seek to learn from them. “Alysheba Garden” is now back in business!

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Above: My germination and sprout-growing set up is still the same. I fried my first seeds this year, the thermometer insured I kept the second attempt from being scorched. You can see the green. We have life!

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