Houston Vegetable Gardening – Spring

I had my first experience with veggie gardening this past spring and I’m hooked! There is something so gratifying in planting a seed and watching it grow.  I thought it may be helpful to share a little bit of what I have learned through my first planting season.  When I was getting started, it was difficult to find someone’s actual experience with gardening in Houston, so I hope you find this to be helpful!

Houston Raised Bed Gardening

First of all, let me say that we are so lucky in Houston because we have two great planting seasons with our mild weather.  Except for July and August (mainly because it is too hot to go outside and water!), you can just about grow year round.

My veggie garden is in a raised bed.  My super handy dad built them for me here and more pictures can be seen here.  Maybe I can talk him into writing a how-to post for me on the blog : )  Raised bed soil was purchased from The Ground Up.

Raised Beds

Keep in mind, I am such a novice here, but this could be helpful to you, from one beginner to another.  One huge tip I can give is to buy this book (you can purchase it at Buchanan’s Native Plants Nursery):

Houston Gardening Manual

My other secret is Buchanan’s Nursery in the Heights. They have the most beautiful selection of plants and an unbelievably knowledgeable staff!  This is where I get everything that I start from plant (vs. seed).

I have also recently discovered Southwest Fertilizer where they have an unreal selection of seeds and even some you can purchase by the scoop (so much cheaper than packs!).  I’ll definitely be getting most of my seeds there from now on : )

Here is what I planted and my thoughts on each:

Sugar Snap Peas

Huge success and wish I would have planted more! Even after planting them from seed two months later than recommended, I had a bumper crop.  These were so delicious, I rarely had enough left to take inside after eating them straight off of the bush.  They seem to be low maintenance and are so delicious – win, win!

Growing Sugar Snap Peas

A note on the trellis – mine was 4 feet high and I think I would have gotten more peas had I made it taller.  Also, as they grow taller and top-heavy, you may need to use some gardening tape and tie them to the trellis.  This is the type of tape I use:

Gardening Tape

  • Super Sugar Snap Pea variety purchased from Park Seed
  • Plant December through January (or apparently into march!)
  • Provide a good trellis (4 ft absolute minimum height – check your variety for height)
  • Utilize gardening tape

Carrots

My first try at carrots was a total flop.  I’m not sure if it was the weather or not enough water or what, but no success here.  A few friends have told me that their first try in the spring was unsuccessful, too.

  • Nantes variety purchased from Park Seed (this variety was recommended for Houston)
  • Plant from seed September through January

Carrots and Beets

Beets

Same as the carrots – no luck with my first go.

  • Chioggia variety purchased from Park Seed (also recommended for Houston)
  • Plant from seed October through February

Lettuce

I had so much fun growing lettuce! It seems to start slow and then, before you know it, you have more lettuce than you could ever use! The added bonus of lettuce is that it is so beautiful with all of the colors and textures – great addition to the garden.

Lettuce in Houston

From the types that I grew in the Spring, the standout favorite was Majesty and the arugula was trailing in second (although my variety was sooooo peppery – sticking to regular in the future) .  The Majesty lettuce had super textured leaves and maintained its crispy texture after topped with dressing.  I can’t say that I was a big fan of the others (Jericho, Red Sails and Buttercrunch).

Cucumbers

Like the sugar snap peas, cucumbers were another nice surprise.  I tried planting mine on a decorative trellis – big mistake.  Cucumber plants needs serious support and my trellis couldn’t handle it.  I think it really limited the cucumber production so I’ll try a more substantial trellis next time. I was fairly neglectful to my cucumbers towards the end of the summer (hello…July in Houston is the least pleasant time to get outside and water) and one of my plants was completely overtaken and killed by aphids – probably avoidable.  Now, what I was able to get off of the plant was delicious and pretty ample.

  • *Alibi variety from Park Seed*
  • Cool Breeze variety from Park Seed
  • Plant from seed late March through April
  • Provide ample support

Cucumber Trellis

[something like this seems ideal for cucumber support]

Tomatoes

My dad has always said this and I’m going to listen from now on – forget the big guys and just stick to the little cherry tomatoes!  With cherry tomatoes, you don’t have to worry about splitting and you don’t have to try every trick in the book to make them taste good.  Cherry tomatoes are perfect for salad, bruschetta and snacking.  Buy plants, rather than starting from seed, and I recommend getting them at Buchanan’s, or your local nursery, rather than online (probably obvious to most but I learned the hard way).  Local nurseries will have them at the proper planting time while ordering online is a little unreliable.

Don’t be deceived when you bring home 6″ tall plants – they will be monsters before you know it!  Be sure to snap off any sucker branches and don’t worry about losing blooms – trust me, you will have enough.  Sucker branches compete for nutrients from the main branches and will make for an out-of-control, huge plant.

Tomato Suckers

[sucker is the one sprouting from inside the 'Y' of the other branches]

You also want to be sure to cage tomato plants and be sure to adjust branches as they grow.  You will probably need to carefully move the branch up to the higher rung so it is well supported.

Final note is on fertilizing.  Be sure to fertilize regularly, probably every few weeks.  If you stop fertilizing, your plant will likely stop producing tomatoes (learned this the hard way!).

  • *Supersweet 100 plants from Park Seed*
  • Big Beef plants from Park Seed
  • Plant cherry tomato varieties in June and again in September (buy at Buchanan’s Nursery and confirm proper month for planting based on each variety)
  • Be ruthless with the suckers
  • Provide support for branches
  • Fertilize regularly (I use MicroLife which can be purchased at Buchanan’s)

Happy Gardening!

Time to Upgrade

Remember back here when I showed off our fancy ‘temporary’ paper shades?  Welp, they are still there! I haven’t been ready to commit to anything yet and also haven’t been ready to part with the money to replace them with something legitimate. Although I’m really still not ready to commit nor am I ready to part with the moolah, the paper shades have got to go!  So, I’m now pushing myself to make a decision in both our bedroom and the office. After a long session with my window treatment counselor earlier this week (a.k.a. my mother), I think I have my options narrowed down.  Here are the considerations I have to take in this decision:

1) Privacy – Bedroom and office are at the front of the house

2) Curb Appeal – Need consistency for the windows that face the street

3) Usability – Need to be adjusted easily for daytime/nighttime/weekend use

4) (somewhat) Budget Friendly – duh (we planted lots of trees, but none of them are growing money, yet!)

Thoughts on Bedroom Windows:

Initially, I wanted to do a double rod with linen sheers topped with blackout drapes. This would provide us with privacy we need on a daily basis while allowing us to still see out a little bit and also allow for plenty of natural light.  The two main deterrents for this plan are cost and also consistency with office window treatments for curb appeal reasons (read: I don’t want to do sheers in the office).

Thoughts on Office Windows:

The bedroom next to ours is currently serving as our office and hopefully will eventually be a nursery.  I’d love to do something that could carry us through both purposes.  My ideal in here would be some sort of linen roman shade with a trim detail.  Same constraints here with needing consistency with other bedroom windows and budget constraints.

Here are some of my inspiration images for these rooms:

Master Bedroom

Drapes with Linen Sheers

[tracery interiors]

Office

Roman Shade with Greek Key Trim Detail

[source]

Polka Dot Roman Shade

[source]

Blackout Roman Shade

[Tish Key]

I have received quotes both for custom linen roman shades and privacy lined bamboo shades and both estimates had too many digits for my liking.  So, with all of this in mind, I’m thinking the best option is probably to go with the unlined bamboo roman shades.  After quite an extensive search, I have found some on overstock that are the right size, right price and look to be the right color.  They only had one in stock (figures, haha) so I went ahead and ordered it to check the color.  If all goes as planned, I’m going to go ahead and order them for the whole house!  The price is reasonable enough that, if I plan to switch some out for something custom in a year or two, it won’t be the end of the world.

I do have a few plans to customize the bamboo shades and hopefully get a functional and lovely end result…

1) Add privacy lining to the back of the shades, if needed (hoping some gauzy linen fabric and hot glue will do the trick and nobody, but you, will be the wiser!)

2) Layer drapes (probably use these that I have for now) with the bamboo shades in the bedroom like these photos:

Bamboo Shades with Drapes

[source]

Shades layered with Drapes

[source]

3) Eventually add a cornice board to the office like these:

Bamboo shades with Cornice Board

[source]

Cornice Board

[Liz Carroll Interiors]

Wish me luck that the overstock shades are the right color and that they decide to restock them!

Well, Hello There!

So, where do I begin? How does one slink back after allowing their blog domain to expire? Mom, June, Shirley…are you still there? And, even though my last blog post was technically on July 9th, we all know I have left you in the dark since week 1 of renovations and tried to combine weeks 2, 3 and 4 and didn’t check back in until, oh…week 8!  So now I have the daunting task of somehow catching you up from March!! Ay yay yay!

It feels a little bit like skipping the gym. Once it has been months, even the thought of walking on the treadmill seems daunting and like you could never muster the willpower to do it! Usually, after I finally make it there and put in five minutes, I pat myself on the back for the effort and call it a day!

That is what I’m doing today, taking small steps and just sharing a little.  Hopefully, soon enough, I will have the endurance to give you a quality tour of the renovation results : )  For now, here are a few fun things that happened over the summer:

No. 1 - Finishing Home Renovations*
[*but really, when are they ever finished?]

Dutch Door

No. 2 - Traveling to Greece and Turkey

Santorini

[dinner in Santorini]

Rug Shopping in Istanbul

[rug shopping in Istanbul]

No. 3 - Leaving the Corporate World for full-time Design

No. 4 – Colorful Weekend Visitors

IMG_1310

No. 5 - Spring Gardening

Growing Lettuce

[it's all fun and games until it hits August...in Houston, haha]

Looking forward to sharing more soon! xo, Rachel

Day Job

Out on a Limb

 

Remember when I finally made the plunge and decided to move down the path towards a career in interior design?  Well, I’m excited to make the announcement (a little bit late) that my official day-job is now doing design work! My last day at my corporate job was June 21st.  I’m so excited to finally have the opportunity to do Interior Design work for my clients on a full-time basis and continue to grow my business! Wish me luck!

Kitchen Sneak Peek – Unlacquered Brass Hardware

We are still in a little bit of a holding pattern until our carpenter is able to come finish out a few custom components of our kitchen, but I thought it may be fun to show you a little sneak peek of our kitchen.

unlacquered brass hardware

As you can see, I decided to go bold and venture out into the brave world of unlacquered brass cabinetry hardware!  I am really thrilled with the amount of warmth and character that it has added to my very white kitchen.

Update on the Garden

Hi there! It has been quite a while so I thought I was due to come back and give a little update.  The house is really coming along and I’m so grateful that it is, for the most part, functional and I’m finally able to cook again!  Here you can see how exciting it was to finally have running water in the kitchen.  It is really easy to forget how awesome these daily conveniences like, oh say a kitchen sink, are until you are without one for so long!

New Kitchen Faucet

This post really isn’t about the inside of the house, but what has been going on in the backyard.  Let’s look at some before and after pictures, shall we?

Sugar Snap Peas

Let me tell you what, these have been such a fun surprise! My expectations for the sugar snap peas were quite low since I was starting them from seed and got them in the ground about two months after the recommended time.

Sugar Snap Pea Seeds

[sugar snap peas planted about 10 weeks ago]

Here you can see they really came through for me! The vines were covered with delicious, sweet and crispy peas! I ate most of them straight off of the bush while working in the yard : )

Sugar Snap Peas

Herb Garden

My first addition to the raised beds were some herb plants.  It is so fun to look back and see how much it has already grown. Take a look at the beds 12 weeks ago…

Raised Beds 3 Months Ago

[raised beds 12 weeks ago]

Here it is this week (I really need to take a picture like the one above as it is today…hard to believe it is the same!).

Herb Garden and Mint

Overall, the herb plants have really thrived! Some have definitely been doing better than others (winners: Dill, Thyme, Parsley, Rosemary and Basil / losers: Cilantro and Chives).  I got a little bit panicky with the basil, because the leaves kept turning brown.  Apparently, if they get water on their leaves, the sun can then burn them.  Since I have been trying to water them more carefully, they really have been gang busters! Obviously, the mint has no problem taking over a pot.

I’m OK with the Cilantro and Chives not doing super well, because I probably use them the least in my cooking anyway.

Beets, Carrots & Tomatoes

It is safe to say my spring crop of beets and carrots was a big flop.  I have heard from friends that their first (also spring growing season) try at carrots was completely unsuccessful but then they tried again in Fall and had tons!  Here’s to hoping my story is the same and I have lots of fresh carrots this fall. Houston is really so perfect for veggie gardening because we can grow in both spring and fall.

beets and carrots

I’m hoping my tomatoes are as easy on me as my sugar snap peas were, because they were also in the ground about a month after they were supposed to be.  We had a fairly cool April, so maybe this was for the best. The plants are growing so quickly and I even have a few big green tomatoes.  Now I just need to figure out how to stay ahead of those pesky birds and squirrels.

first tomatoes on plant

I planted some zinnia seeds amongst my herbs to add a little color.  Here is one of my first ones blooming…

yellow zinnia

Renovations – Week 8

As you can see, that weekly renovation update thing didn’t quite work out as I had planned! I’m giving myself some grace here (and sparing you at the same time) and skipping straight to today! Here is what has been happened at our little home…

Hardwood Floor Installed & Stained

IMG_1057

IMG_1056

IMG_1088

IMG_1094

New backdoor Installed

IMG_1095

Painting Complete

IMG_1090

Laundry Room Tile Floor Complete

IMG_1092

IMG_1111

Cabinetry Installation in Process

IMG_1096

IMG_1088

IMG_1106

IMG_1108

It really feels like everything should say complete* (with an asterisk).  Floors are complete* (except for thresholds and final buffing), painting is complete* (except for the shoe molding and final touch ups) and tile is complete (except for baseboards and shoe molding) Doesn’t it always seems like the most pain is found in the final details? So many finishing tasks are dependent on one another like how the painters are waiting on the floors to be finished while the floor guys are waiting on the painters to be finished!

By the end of this week, we should essentially have everything but the counter tops in (which means no backsplash or custom cabinetry items finished yet, but ’tis life).  It will be such a treat to have a refrigerator inside and not have dust everywhere, even if I have temporary plywood counters!

Hardwood Floor Stain

Just dropping in for a quick little update.  I bopped over to the house at lunch yesterday to decide on the hardwood stain.  My goal was to go with something pretty dark, but still somewhat warm.  I wanted to avoid anything red (at least to minimize the already red, red oak) or gray looking. Take a look…

Hardwood Stain 3

[coffee brown / antique brown / medium brown / honey brown]

Rodolfo (my hardwood guy) recommends an alcohol wash to go on the sanded floors prior to stain.  This adds a richer color and helps to wood grain show a little better. You can see in this next picture the grid with painters tape – normal stain above and alcohol wash stain below.  You can also see Rodolfo’s bias toward the ebony stain showing up in the size of swatch he was showing me : )

Hardwood Stain 6

Hardwood Stain 7

[limed wood]

Hardwood Stain 4

[alcohol wash + white stain]

Hardwood Stain5

I was pretty darn tempted by the white floor and also the lime finish, but thought, for the sake of resale someday, not everyone would appreciate that like I would. Also, the dark stain is classic, which you can never go wrong with!  The final decision is to start with the alcohol wash and stain in coffee brown.  The alcohol helps the wood to better hold the stain and also makes the wood grain pop.

Hardwood Stain 6 notes

Raised Beds and More

A few weeks ago, we had some busy bee visitors come in town to help us knock out some yard work.  Within one day, here is what was accomplished:

  • Built 4 Raised Beds
  • Cleared Grass Beneath Beds
  • ‘Installed’ Raised Beds
  • Purchased 5 – 15 Gallon Trees
  • Planted Trees

Raised Beds

I’ll most likely write a more detailed post on building the raised beds, but for now, here are just a few quick shots of the process.

IMG_1338

IMG_1356

[seriously...the energizer bunny]

IMG_1360

In the weekends following , Ryan and I made several trips to The Ground Up to get a few cubic yards of really good raised bedding soil.  This is what each of the beds will hopefully be sprouting soon:

Bed #1

  • Herbs (plants)
  • Zinnia (seeds)

Bed #2

  • sugar snap peas (seeds)
  • carrots (seeds)
  • beets (seeds)

Bed #3

  • red sails lettuce (seeds)
  • jericho lettuce (seeds)
  • majesty lettuce (seeds)
  • buttercrunch lettuce (seeds)
  • arugula (seeds)

Bed #4

  • tomato plants (not yet planted)
  • cucumber seeds (not yet planted)

IMG_1014

[quarantined the mint to a pot so it wouldn't completely take over!]

Planting the Trees

We decided to get three Schumard Red Oaks and Three Chaste or Vitex Trees. We placed the Vitex trees (a lovely blooming tree with purple flowers – image below) along the back of the fence which will hopefully stop your eye before being drawn to the giant lot-hogging house behind us. There is one Red Oak in the back left corner and two in the back right corner.

[hopefully our Vitex tree will look like this before we know it!]

IMG_1354

[David, our awesome neighbor, come over to lend a hand]

IMG_0945

One month later, our red oaks have really filled out with fresh green leaves, my herbs are starting to flourish and there are even signs of life with the Vitex trees!

IMG_1022

IMG_1015

[my thyme is already creeping]

IMG_1018

I had no idea that such a love of gardening had been instilled in me – I guess all of those years with my little garden patch in the backyard growing up really stuck with me (thanks Mom!).  Honestly, there isn’t much I would rather be doing than working out in my garden – this could change when the Houston summer rolls around : )  Appreciate all the backbreaking work my family did to get our yard started!!

P.S. I saw my first lettuce sprout yesterday, which was only 4 days after being planted.  Talk about immediate gratification!

Renovations – Week 2, 3 and 4

By the title alone, you can see that I have some catching up to do on renovation posts! I think we are now about half way there and bad news – I’m getting close (if not past) the end of my rope! I really can’t complain, because the process has been fairly flawless, other than a few minor hiccups along the way.  I tell you what – renovations are not for the faint of heart (nor for those that are big babies, like I am!).

For those that haven’t seen the week 1 update, take a look here, since then,  a surprisingly small amount has been accomplished…

Let me start by taking you through the new front door into the new foyer. Please, won’t you come inside?

IMG_0682

You can see here, the doors to the laundry ‘closet’ have been installed and the doorways have been framed out.

IMG_1009

IMG_1008

[view from living room into foyer]

This wall, that was pretty random and previously between the living room and kitchen…

IMG_0692

…it’s now gone!  New insulation and sheet rock were installed in the kitchen replacing the previously mold-ridden walls.  You can see our new recessed lighting and locations of  island pendants here, too.

IMG_1006

New hallway door installed, closing off the ‘private quarters’ from kitchen, living room, etc.

IMG_1007

My resident handyman pulled out all of the old baseboards…thanks Ryan! Can’t you see the true joy just radiating from him? I guess any guy using a crowbar has no reason not to be happy.

IMG_0714

IMG_0715

Finally, almost everything mentioned here has arrived, except for the dutch door (don’t get me started – Home Depot, you has some ‘splaining to do) and appliances.  Speaking of dutch door not yet arriving…

IMG_1010

…this is where it will be going – towards the back of the house, between the living room and dining area. It will look great, if it ever gets here for us to install it!!

Thanks for stopping by – next up will be an update on our backyard! Can’t wait to show you my raised beds : )