Ruth in the gardenI could not wait any longer! A beautiful day in the middle of February and I had plenty of catch-up to do in the garden. Better late than never, onions and potatoes were planted. I seeded parsnip, rutabaga, spinach, beets, baby greens and an edging in five different kinds of carrots. My Fall garden, which was also planted late (actually in December), is now yielding beautiful cauliflower, dinosaur kale and swiss chard. There are lots of radishes and and so much cilantro that I can see that I will be soon making another batch of cilantro pesto.

This is what is so amazing about vegetable gardening in North Texas. We may get another deep freeze here, but meanwhile we can enjoy such bounty from our gardens. And this week we will start bringing in tomato plants at our stores. There are a bunch of gardeners out there way ahead of me and chomping at the bit to start their summer garden – yikes!

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Grandpa's GardenI was growing up, a vegetable garden was an integral part of our family’s life. The same was true as my boys were young. Today, too many children in urban communities have no concept of where carrots, radishes or tomatoes come from. Hence, they are less likely to even enjoy eating them.

Across the country, there is a movement afoot to bring children and communities together through school gardens. Teachers, parents and students are working together to plan, plant and nurture gardens. These outdoor gardens are an important part of the curriculum – teaching children science, math, reading, art, music, writing and social studies. There is an incredible organization in Fort Worth, Texas. REAL School Gardens www.realschoolgardens.org, currently provides support for school gardens in 57 public elementary schools in North Texas. The staff is superb, the enthusiasm of the teachers is infectious and, most importantly, the students are thriving from the efforts.

In Dallas, Mark Painter and others started a school garden at Stonewall Jackson Elementary in 1995. It became a 20,000 square foot outdoor science lab beloved by all the students. This past fall, Mark’s garden and his position were victim to the Dallas school district budget cuts. An amazing bunch of volunteers is raising money to continue maintenance of the garden and find a way to keep Mark on board for the rest of the school year. It is a worthy cause.

I hope that these new generations will learn to garden and garden organically. I am excited

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Our first fall vegetable garden in Texas was in 1979. What a treat that was for the girl from Ontario to be picking broccoli from the garden for Christmas day dinner. Even then, we were gardening organically. Leaves were used for mulch. A large compost pile was kept behind the garden.

The trick to the fall vegetable garden is protecting those little plants from our scorching hot August and early September sun. Cedar roofing shingles, or in our case, Redenta’s Garden info signs, work well. In the middle of August, a little later than we should have, we planted a dozen tomato plants. We also planted some lemon and Armenian cucumber seeds, French fillet, yellow and purple bean seeds and some squash seeds. In September, we followed with broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants, and radish and turnip seeds. We have had many cucumbers, several meals of beans and last week I harvested the biggest crown of broccoli ever. Today we will have tomato salad and tomato soup. The turnips will be used in both a beef stew and minestrone soup I plan to make this weekend. And Sunday breakfast may include fried green tomatoes if the weather forecast rings true and we have our first frost.

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