Wine and Dine Yourself

I can pick a peck of these spicy little peppers all winter on my patio since we cover it with plastic when temperatures drop.
peppers overwinter on patio Central Texas Gardener
Okay, not a peck exactly, but I wouldn’t have any if I left this container outside. I treasure it since I snagged it at Zilker Garden Festival years ago. Those I seed in the garden in late spring bail out with the basil when cold weather hits.

Then we’ve got plants that can be root-hardy in the ground, but can die in containers if left unprotected. That includes some citrus, some agaves, and subtropicals like Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans). My summer-blooming, fragrant sambac jasmine’s in a pot, here cavorting with grounded Turk’s cap.
sambac jasmine container and Turk's cap Central Texas Gardener
It wouldn’t make it through winter without our “greenhouse” protection. However, some gardeners tell me they grow it in the ground. In fact, here’s one at the Travis County Extension garden that Master Gardener Sheryl Williams confirms has been there at least 12 years! Note: microclimate makes a huge difference with all marginal plants.
Sambac jasmine Central Texas Gardener

Daphne tells us: “Some gardeners assume that their container plant died from the top freezing back. When plants are in containers, the roots are actually more exposed to temperature and other climatic extremes. Soil is actually quite insulating, so being planted in the ground provides a measure of protection from the elements, at least, for the roots.” Find out more and how to correctly cover your plants in winter.

Have you ever tried grafting? It totally fascinates me, but seems so hard. John makes it quite easy and a fun indoor project to trim those leggy houseplants and create new pass alongs, too.
grafting houseplants Central Texas Gardener

Although I’ve grown a few potatoes (mostly in the compost pile), Caroline Homer, Travis County Master Gardener and blogger at The Shovel-Ready Garden does it right!
Caroline Homer harvesting potatoes
Last year in mid-January, she ordered Kennebec and Red Pontiac seed potatoes from a certified organic supplier. By May, she got about 30 pounds of tasty, fresh, potatoes from the six pounds she planted. Here’s what she did.

Marjory Wildcraft made the move to sustainable family living by raising most of their food, including livestock. This week, she joins Tom to explain how to grow half our food in less than an hour a day—even in a standard-sized yard.
Tom Spencer and Marjory Wildcraft Central Texas Gardener
Founder of the [Grow] Network, Marjory created an online global network of people who produce their own food and medicine. On her site, learn about edible landscapes, livestock, wild food, aquaponics, “Grow Your Own Groceries” videos, and more.
Marjory Wildcraft the Grow Network Central Texas Gardener
To unite the world-wide food community to promote backyard food production, Marjory launched the annual online Homegrown Food Summit. Find out about this year’s free event or purchase past presentations.
Homegrown Food Summit Central Texas Gardener
It’s great when we can feed ourselves and the pollinators! When cilantro bolts and flowers this spring, take a tip from Jason Lantz, our Viewer Picture this week! He spotted this lovely Red Admiral butterfly enjoying the nectar, as do many pollinators.
Red Admiral butterfly on cilantro flowers Central Texas Gardener
On tour, Nerinda and Joel Pennington don’t have to hit the road to visit a vineyard. All they do is step out the back door to watch grapes ripen into their signature wine: Slow Turtle.
Nerinda and Joel Pennington Central Texas Gardener
Thanks to colleague JJ Weber for photographs (along with Ed’s video screen shots) since that’s the fateful day my camera fell off the picnic bench, smashing the lens. Ozzie tried to warn me, but I was so excited to see everything!
Linda Lehmusvirta Slow Turtle vineyard Central Texas Gardener
Slow Turtle started in 2012 when the Penningtons bought a house that came with a neglected micro-vineyard.
Slow Turtle vineyard construction Central Texas Gardener
An adventurous, curious family, they couldn’t resist this new challenge. They studied up, brought the Champanel vines back to health, turned an old shed into a winery, and dialed up the look with stylish deer-proofing that lets in light and air.
Slow Turtle champanel backyard vineyard Central Texas Gardener
Slow Turtle vineyard landscape deer proof fence Central Texas Gardener
deer proof fence Slow Turtle backyard vineyard
Daughters Naiya and Uschi love to help tend the grapes and crush them when ripe, already learning how a family project becomes a real product with its own marketable label.
Slow Turtle vineyard family Central Texas Gardener
Slow Turtle vineyard label Central Texas Gardener
Joel enrolled in Texas Tech’s online and hands-on Texas Winemaking Certificate Program to learn more. He kept the Champanels that are resistant to Pierce’s Disease and explains how he prunes and anchors these vigorous vines.
champanel vine pruning Central Texas Gardener
champanel grape training Central Texas Gardener
Since pruning results in yards of vines, Nerinda twirled some of the leftovers into outdoor lighting with a twist. A beach ball modeled this one.
grapeline outdoor lights Central Texas Gardener
She shaped this one around a big PVC pipe.
grape vine outdoor tube lights Central Texas Gardener
In our brief visit, Joel toured us through the intriguing grape-to-wine process, including harvest, fermentation and testing for the tastiest sugar-to-acidity ratio.
Slow Turtle winery lab Central Texas Gardener
Slow Turtle vineyard champanel wine Central Texas Gardener
See the whole story now!

Cheers! And see you next week, Linda