Top Tomato Tips, Aquaponics

Despite February’s typical topsy turvy temps, my Mexican plum celebrated Valentine’s Day with plump little buds. When things heated up the next week, it positively exploded while I was at work.  The bees worked overtime to fuel up before we dived back into winter.

bee mexican plum Austin Central Texas Gardener

The bees didn’t waste a second to hit the ground on tiny spring star flower (Ipheion uniflorum). These perennializing bulbs are great for part shade, too. Hmm, next fall I may include some among my sedges.

bee on spring star flower (Ipheion uniflorum) Central Texas Gardener

Nearby in a container, bracts on my container-grown gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) are sending bee signals. Freeze didn’t bother them a bit.

euphorbia rigida gopher plant bract central texas gardener

Bees and butterflies will have to wait until summer to chow down on evergreen sumac (Rhus virens) flowers, Daphne’s Plant of the Week. In the meantime, birds are polishing off the berries on this drought defiant native shrub.

native evergreen sumac berries central texas gardener

Mine has grown a little lanky, and twice I’ve had to prune it hard. Once, a killer ice storm bent and broke it at the base. I feared the party was over, but it returned lusher than ever. It really does thrive on my clay soil, without extra water from me. Note: if you’re in deer country, you will have to protect until it’s mature.

native evergreen sumac central texas gardener

So, I bet lots of you would love to chomp into homegrown tomatoes this summer, but success defies you every time. Help is on the way this week with charming Bill Adams (The “Tomato Guy”)!

Tom Spencer and William D. Adams, The Texas Tomato Lover's Handbook

We’ve got lots of tips: planting, cold protection, staking, and pests. But his fabulous book, The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook, is the ultimate roadmap to the tomatoes of your dreams!

The Texas Tomato Lover's Handbook

What’s his fertilizer secret? Mounds of mushroom compost!

mushroom compost The Texas Tomato Lover's Handbook

On CTG, he picks a few of his favorite varieties. One of his early birds is Black Krim, a luscious slicer.

Black Krim tomato The Texas Tomato Lover's Handbook

For a sweet pop-in-mouth yellow, he goes for Sungold.

Sungold tomato The Texas Tomato Lover's Handbook

Bill set us straight on heirloom Brandywine. If you haven’t been lucky with it, you can thank our heat and humidity. In Texas, it really wants a ticket (bus or plane) to more temperate summers. Find out more.

Plus, check out Bill’s great podcasts on the Arbor Gate nursery center’s website.  I know I’ll be visiting this charming place when I’m in Tomball!

His book includes lots of ideas for staking those tomatoes. Here are two from local gardeners. This handy idea with T stakes and bamboo is at The Natural Gardener.

T stake and bamboo tomato stake The Natural Gardener

The young agrarians at Ten Acre Organics (featured on CTG) go for the Florida weave in their front yard garden, one of Bill’s techniques.

Ten Acre Organics tomato Florida weave Central Texas Gardener

To pick up some of the 30,000 hard-to-find certified organic tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, don’t miss the Sunshine Community Gardens March 7 plant sale. Note: get there early!  Get more fabulous hands-on tips from the great gardeners at Sunshine!

It’s not too late to start our warm weather food and flowers indoors. John Dromgoole’s got super tips for starting seeds indoors or in your greenhouse.

starting seeds indoors John Dromgoole Central Texas Gardener

Another fruit that’s got our attention these days is Satsuma mandarins. Good news: there are two new introductions that are super cold hardy! Daphne explains the difference between Texas Superstar ‘Orange Frost’—hardy to 12°, and ‘Arctic Frost’—hardy to 9°.

cold hardy Arctic Frost satsuma A&M central texas gardener

Here’s more on caring for your citrus with Monte Nesbitt from Texas A&M.

On tour at Austin Aquaponics, Rob Nash found his farming destination in this water-conserving method that combines raising fish with soilless agriculture.

austin aquaponics central texas gardener

It’s a new style family farm where wife Lacy and daughters Hanna and Ryleigh (pictured here) give a hand when they can.

Rob Nash and family at austin aquaponics central texas gardener

They love their land in Spicewood, but it’s more conducive to native plants like four-nerve daisy than groceries.

four-nerve daisy in Spicewood Texas

In this efficient operation, one technique is media-based, where fish tank water nourishes plants every 30 minutes.

media-based bed Austin Aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

Rob also grows in wicking beds and in rafts, where cleansed, nutrient-rich water from the gravel beds pumps to the rafts.

raft beds Austin Aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

He cuts days to harvest by about 2 weeks. Check out his ‘Rob’s Red Butter Lettuce’ at Apis Restaurant!

lettuce Austin Aquaponics Central Texas Gardener

Rob also teaches aquaponics classes for homeowners and professional growers, and does installations on site.

See what aquaponics is all about right now!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda