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July 6th, 2012

Heat Waves and Hail: Summer in Dallas

leslie_h_tnFor all the weather punishment we’ve been taking down here in Texas for the last 5 years—especially last year—we’re actually getting a much deserved break this year! We had a mild to non-existent winter (which does make the bugs quite happy) and a very, very wet and long spring. Yes, we’ve had a stretch at 106°F already, but it didn’t hit 100° until July 1 here, which is great! Last year we hit 100° by June 1. We don’t know what to think about this kind of mild weather, but after last year we’ll take it!

You may have heard we had a pretty hefty hail storm here in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. Luckily there was little damage at my home. Unfortunately, almost all the plants I put in our display and testing gardens up here at the garden center were completely destroyed by almost softball-sized hail. Who knows what the rest of July and August will hold, but the mild temps and rainfall have so far made for a pretty easy gardening year, all things considered. Not easy to say in Dallas!

Side note: Dallas is under permanent watering restrictions. Twice per week via automated system, but we are allowed to use drip irrigation or hand-water as needed within specific time parameters.

 'Faerie' is a compact hybrid watermelon with a ghostly skin. It's an All-America Selections winner for 2012.

'Faerie' is a compact hybrid watermelon with a ghostly skin. It's an All-America Selections winner for 2012.

I’m particularly in love with this ‘Faerie’ watermelon so far. It’s probably my favorite variety on the trial list right now. Of course, we’ve had such a mild June that who knows what they’ll do in a normal summer. So far, they’ve been very prolific (but I do have beehives and the bees are helping quite a bit). The compact size of the vines is fantastic. I have them growing in my front yard where they are quite the fascination for the neighbors.  And no powdery mildew. I should be harvesting soon—I hope the flavor is just as good as all the other characteristics!  —Leslie Halleck, Dallas, Texas

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May 12th, 2011

Noodle Beans, Drought, and Aphids

I harvested our first ‘Chinese Red Noodle’ beans last week, after direct-seeding them on March 4. I picked all the ones that were about 12 inches or longer. Some were over 18 inches and should have been harvested a few days earlier, but I wanted to do it all at once. Warning: After they hit 12 inches, they seem to grow an inch per hour! The taste of the Red Noodle beans is VERY good. Cindy did a stir-fry with toasted sesame seeds and garlic—outstanding!

We are in the midst of a horrible drought. Thanks to drip irrigation and organic production, we’re using much less water than conventional growers. Even so, this is the time of year that legumes like row-crop and vining beans get ravaged by aphids. The cowpea in our variety trials is also decimated with aphids. In a normal year, I would have planted it in January to avoid the problem period, but our unusual winter temperatures didn’t allow that this year. I’ll try again in fall. Still, we should be able to harvest enough pods to get a taste in a week or two.

The aphids don’t seem to bother the leguminous trees; the poincianas are putting on a great show, and our pigeon pea trees are covered with pods.

Well, that’s it for now. Will gladly trade some heat for some cool!  —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

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