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IN THE GARDEN: Journaling, junipers, and purple martins

Berries on the 'good guy': the female Ashe juniper tree. The male ('bad guy') tree is the cause of allergy woes with its large pollen releases.

In the beginning, our gardens grew a little more than planned. Our raised beds were too close, making it difficult to maintain the grass and weed growth between them. Next, one of us planted fruit trees to provide shade while harvesting vegetables — what was he thinking? Now that the fruit trees are grown and mature, the shade is excellent for the harvester but none of the planned vegetables grow in the shade.

Obviously, you can tell that these mistakes were committed before we became a Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist. Gentle reminder: We try out everything on our own land before we suggest it to y'all.

Now, the raised beds have been moved to allow sunlight to reach the vegetables and the fruit trees separately. The raised beds are also located much closer to the house to do what we write about: visit the garden daily to monitor conditions. Moving the raised beds presented an opportunity to apply a different and better mix of soils and amendments than originally used. It also allowed for a change in planting, not only what is to be but also what was to be. It further allowed for the planning of the long-term growth of trees and shrubs as well as better drip irrigation.

JOURNAL YOUR GARDEN AND LANDSCAPE

January is always a great time to reassess what we did last year and project what we are going to do this year. That brings up a point about keeping a journal of your gardening activities. It doesn’t have to be complicated or sophisticated: A spiral notebook from the grocery store or notes on your Google calendar will work. We need to journal what we did, when we did it, what were the results, and what changes are necessary (or questions to ask Martelle or Bill). Other than gentle reminders of what we planted where and when, it is helpful to document rain amounts, freeze dates (and how long), and watering schedules.

ASHE JUNIPER ID

This is the time of year that is the easiest to identify the “good guys" (the females) from the “bad guys” (the males). Confusing, isn’t it. The “good guys” are the cedar trees that have the blue berries. The “bad guys” are the ones that have the red pollen about to burst forth in a full red cloud. These are the ones that cause allergies.

You can use a can of surveyor’s paint (a shocking color works best) to mark the trunk for removal during the spring and summer months. The female “good guy” tree — from which we make our allergy-fighting tea or eat straight from the tree — is not dependent upon the male tree to produce her berries. So, yes, it would be OK to remove as many of the “bad guys” as your heart desires to minimize allergies.

THE MARTINS ARE COMING

Purple martins (Progne subis) scouts arrive around Valentine’s Day. They are just like swallows of Capistrano (cliff swallows, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota), making their annual trek. So, it is time to lower those martin houses and start cleaning for the new arrivals.

Till next time.

Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

"In the Garden" is written by daughter-father gardening team Martelle and Bill Luedecke. If you have gardening questions, contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or luedeckephotography@gmail.com or Bill at 512-577-1463 or bill@texasland.net. Read more "In the Garden" columns in the 101 Lawn & Garden Guide.

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