Adventures in the Dirt – 2022 Edition

So, you may have noticed that there were no gardening posts last year – or you may not have. Either way, this year will be different. Last year a thing called COVID happened to me just as spring and gardening time were upon me. I managed to squeeze in a few herbs by the time I was up and around, but overall I had no garden last year. I’m really hoping to make up for it this year by starting early and strong!

Veggie bed covered in deer netting

This is my cinder block raised bed. I planted Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, and Rutabaga from seed. We have a bit of a squirrel problem, so my husband and I constructed these covers out of PVC pipe and deer netting. They’re easily removed and work really well.

Below is a picture of another raised bed. You can’t see it real well in the picture, but it’s surrounded by a tall version of the cover above. Even this one, I can remove and put back myself because it’s so lightweight. In this bed I have; lettuce, carrots, spinach, and turnips. In a bit, there will be cucumbers at the end climbing up that trellis that you can see a little bit of. This picture was taken in the late afternoon/early evening. It gets full sun the rest of the day.

Veggie bed in the late afternoon.

I’m adding a few fun, decorative touches this year as well. Like this trellis with our initial in it for the jasmine, and Mr. Rabbit standing guard.

“L” for Lenz
Mr. Rabbit

I am not, by any means, an expert gardener. I mostly put things in the ground and see what happens. I do try to make sure that the things I plant together are good companions. I’m not afraid to try doing things a little differently from year-to-year.

For instance, the bed that Mr. Rabbit is in is usually reserved for herbs. I have some perennials in there that are working on coming back right now. This year, however, I got brave. I found the aforementioned jasmine and decided it would look lovely at the head of my herb garden. I researched companion plants for it, but didn’t find a lot of information, so I decided to give it a go.

Pink Jasmine that reminds me of home.

Right next to the Jasmine, or pretty close anyway, I decided to place a Texas Bluebonnet that I found at the nursery. I tried planting these from seed once, but they didn’t take. They’re a wildflower that doesn’t really bloom for very long so I didn’t think it would hurt to put it in there. It seems fairly happy so far.

Texas Bluebonnet – state flower and symbol of our new home . . . for the past 15 years.

In addition to these beds, I also have some tubs that I’ve used for years and had wonderful success with. One of them got a new installation of peppermint and two others have Swiss chard, and shallots and onions. I’m reserving the fourth for tomatoes.

Peppermint tub

I am obsessed with chocolate mint. Yes, my friends, CHOCOLATE mint! And it’s as wonderful as it sounds. I have always had trouble finding it, but this year I found it at Home Depot online. Strange, I know, but my normal seed vendors didn’t have it. So, here it is in all it’s glory and I have three pots of it! I don’t grow mint in the ground because it is incredibly invasive and would take over the yard.

One of three chocolate mint plants.

I haven’t even begun to mention all my potted plants on the deck; chocolate mint coleus (I told you I was obsessed with chocolate mint), holy basil, Jerusalem sage, purple fountain grass, cinnamon basil, columbine, purple basil (I’m a little obsessed with Basil as well), snapdragons, cosmos, and a creeping Jenny. I’ll post pics of those when they’re done recovering from winter, and when the seedlings are a little bigger.

I am really hoping for the best garden yet this year. Texas is really a great place for gardening because the growing season is so long. There are even crops that can be grown through winter and are even better once they’ve gone through a frost. I’m having fun no matter what and just like every other year, it’ll be an adventure and we’ll see what happens!

Happy growing! 👩🏻‍🌾

Adventures in the Dirt

Spring 2020 As I mentioned in my last “Adventures in the Dirt” post, I’m giving the gardening thing another go. I’m all in this year, planting as much as possible and trying several new things. I’d love to share how my garden is growing with you! Pictured above is a Marigold. I’ve never grown them before, so when it started coming up I wondered if it was a weed (we have some pretty weeds in central Texas). As it grew bigger I decided it wasn’t like any weed I’d ever seen, so I took my plant identifying app to it, and sure enough – it was a Marigold! Yay! A couple of other new flowers I’m attempting to grow are Sunflowers and Nasturtium. Flowers are a little more of a challenge for me. The Nasturtium is struggling a little as you can see in this picture. I’m attempting to resolve it’s issues.
The sunflowers are doing fairly well. I think it’s about time to stake them. I planted two seeds in each space and they all sprouted. I attempted to transplant one and so far, it’s not doing great. I’m waiting to see if it bounces back before I move any of the others.

I’m also attempting tomatoes in pots with Basil as a companion. The Basil is looking beautiful!
The netting over the top is part of a squirrel guard my sweetie made for me. Squirrels are a huge problem in my yard. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to replant because of those little buggers! So, my ever creative husband built these “squirrel guards” out of PVC pipe, deer netting, and zip ties. The smaller one in the background is wood. He originally made two like that for the smaller containers a couple of years ago. The big one below was just made a few days ago. I love them! They’re all super light and easy to move around. Best of all, they keep the squirrels out of my plants!

There’s another tomato and Basil pot at the other end. The black containers are; beans and peas, carrots and onion, Beefsteak tomato, and Spinach and strawberries. Strawberries are very difficult to grow from seed, so I’ve ordered some plants just in case. Spinach is a cool weather plant. Since things are starting to heat up around here already, the spinach may not get very far. The raised bed in the background is a cinder block one that hasn’t been used in a couple of years. At the time of the above picture, it just had weeds in it. Yesterday, however, we turned it into this:
I had Arugula, lettuce, and Swiss Chard growing in pots and decided to give them a little more room and see how they do. The pot on the ledge is a pepper plant and I’m hoping to put him in the ground pretty soon too.

I have another raised bed where the Nasturtium and Marigold live with some lettuce, a failed attempt at turnips, and some newly planted cucumber. My hubby is just starting to build a combination squirrel guard/cucumber trellis. The netting on this one will have a Velcro closure that I can open and close when I need to work in there instead of having to lift it off. That wouldn’t work so well for the cucumbers.
The little guard sitting in the bed right now is protecting my cucumbers which have just started to pop!
I’ve had great success with cucumbers in the past. I’m hoping this year will be successful as well. Cucumbers are one of my sweetie’s favorites.

I have several other things growing in pots; Chrysanthemums in bloom,

some Sweet Basil and Peppermint (2 peppermint plants),

more Italian Basil (we love Basil),

some English Thyme,

a little Calendula just starting,

and this surprise planter. I put several flowers and herbs in here. Then, a cute little squirrel came and dug a bunch of it up. I have no idea what was left and now that Rich put another of his guards on it, I’ll have a chance to find out!

One of my most exciting additions to the garden (two actually) is a Lilac bush and a Gardenia! Gardenias are my absolute favorite flower and Lilacs are a close second! I’ve wanted to grow them for years, but was always too intimidated. This year I decided to go for it. They have both rewarded me with one little bloom.

It will be a few years before they bloom seriously, but this was very exciting for me. I’m planning to ask Rich to make guards for them too.

A couple more pics before you go:
A little visitor to our backyard, and the new raised bed that we’re hoping to finish once we can get dirt to fill it.
The original plan was to have a co-op garden with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. This stage of construction on the raised bed is as far as we got before the world went crazy and “stay-at-home” orders were issued. I’m hoping maybe we can make this a fall garden bed.

Phew! That was a lot! I guess I’m feeling a little ambitious this year! Not to mention having plenty of time on my hands. I hope you are all staying safe and find plenty of things to fill your life with joy despite current events. May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!


First Sweet Potatoes

So, I said I would keep you posted on my sweet potato experiment and this is the outcome. Eight tiny sweet potatoes that I was actually able to use. I cured them and they all emerged edible. A small win – literally. 😂

I started out by planting two whole, sprouting sweet potatoes. I then did some research and learned that you’re supposed to cut the sprouts with a bit of the sweet potato off and plant those. So, I dug up the original sweet potatoes (which were growing leaves like crazy), sliced off the sprouts, and replanted them. I had no idea how it would go.

I left them in the ground until after our first freeze, then pulled everything up and found the eight little guys pictured up top. I consider the experiment a success because it actually yielded something and because I learned a little bit about growing sweet potatoes. Next year I’ll plant them somewhere where they’ll have more room and hopefully see a bigger yield.

I love the experimental aspect of gardening. If you mess up, try to learn from the experience and just try again. Try different plants in different locations, and keep notes. That’s something I neglected to do in the beginning. It was a huge mistake because I couldn’t remember what I had done with what plant. Hard to learn that way. 😉. I can’t wait to try some new things in the spring. It’s an adventure!

P.S. I used my baby sweet potatoes in my sweet potato casserole for thanksgiving. 😋

Until next spring!

Adventures in the Dirt

I love to garden, but since moving to Texas and attempting several summer gardens with minimal success, I gave up. I realized that I was failing because I don’t like to go outside during a typical Texas summer. It’s my hibernation season. Inside with the air conditioning is where you’ll find me. I come out of my cave at the first sign of fall. Fall, winter, and early spring are when I do my vacationing, daytripping, and anything else I can find to do outside. Including fall gardening.

Things have changed in the past year, however. Due to health issues, I can no longer pursue some of the indoor hobbies I enjoyed during the summer months like crocheting and scrapbooking. I discovered I COULD still do the gardening thing. So, I decided to brave the heat and give it another go. I go out early in the morning, and I mean just after daybreak as much as possible. I don’t spend anymore than thirty minutes at a time (even though the temp. isn’t too high this time of day the humidity often is) and I focus on just one or two chores. So far it’s been manageable and fall is just around the corner. I think I’ll make it.

I actually only planted two summer crops. Baby steps and all. The first was green beans. I had some issues with them in the beginning. The leaves weren’t looking healthy and the beans would show up then immediately dry up and turn brown on the plant. After some research I realized the plant was lacking nitrogen. I cut all the unhealthy leaves off and cut the plant back quite a bit. I’ve been fertilizing it for several weeks now and this is what it looks like today.

The summers are long here in Central Texas and even though it’s September it’s basically still summer. I’m hoping for at least a small yield before it’s all said and done.
I also planted some cucumbers, a little late, so not sure what’s going to happen there. My garden this year is basically one big experiment. Next to the cucumbers I have some sweet potatoes. These were actually a couple of potatoes that were sprouting in my kitchen. Just for fun, I stuck them in the ground to see what would happen.

The other day I went digging around to see what was going on. One potato was just sprouting more leaves, buuut the second one had little baby sweet potatoes on the ends of some of the roots that had sprouted. I stuck them back in the dirt and the picture directly above this paragraph is where we are right now. I also planted some Kale seeds for the winter garden and they’re doing well so far (pictured below).

I haven’t done a whole lot of flowers in the past. Mostly herbs and veggies. I have a little seating area on my back deck that I thought could benefit from a little color though. I prefer perennials and wanted some color that would carry through at least the beginning of fall. I chose several different colors of mums and put them in pots around the deck.

Along with my already present asparagus fern, I also added a Coneflower.

I have two of these Asparagus ferns and two Fountain Grass plants on the deck as well.

As much as I love putting things in the ground and watching them flourish, my knowledge is very limited. I think that’s going to change now that gardening has taken a priority on my list of hobbies. Who knows, maybe next summer I’ll actually have enough of something to put some up for winter! Stay tuned. If I get any kind of yield from what I presently have planted, I’ll post pics. Until then, happy gardening!


2 Easy Kitchen DIYs

I have two really simple things you can make yourself and have on hand in the kitchen.  The first is a remedy I use every winter to combat colds, flu, and chronic bronchitis – lemon and ginger infused honey.


Ginger is a well-known traditional remedy for coughs, cold, and flu.  It’s anti-inflammatory and may help boost your immune system.  Honey soothes a sore throat, has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and local honey can help with allergies.  In general, the darker the honey, the stronger its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  The lemon, of course, provides vitamin C, aids in digestion, and also improves skin quality, just to name a few of its many health benefits.

sliced lemon

Photo by on

This infusion is super easy to make and use.  Here’s the recipe:


1 medium lemon.                         1 piece of ginger root, similar in size to the lemon
Lots of honey                                1 quart mason jar with lid, or similar glass container


  1. Chop lemon and ginger into similar sized pieces (this helps everything diffuse evenly) and place in your jar.
  2. Cover completely with honey.  Pieces will float to the top, but as long as you initially covered everything with the honey, it’s okay.
  3. Leave the jar on a countertop all day, shaking or rotating occasionally.  By rotating, I mean turn the jar upside down for awhile then turn back right side up for awhile.  Make sure your lid is tight.
  4. Store in the refrigerator overnight and by morning, it’s ready to use.

Simply measure 2-3 tablespoons of honey into a cup and add 6-8 ounces of hot water.  Stir and enjoy!  If you want to amp up the flavor a bit, add a chunk or two of the lemon and/or ginger from the jar.  I recommend at least three cups of this tea a day.  More if you already have a cold or flu.

My second DIY is homemade vanilla.  Again, so super easy that a recipe isn’t really even necessary.  If you’re big on holiday cooking, you might want to start this in August or earlier.  It takes 8-12 weeks before it’s ready to use.  So, here’s what you need: 5 whole vanilla beans, 1 cup of your favorite vodka, rum, or bourbon and at least a half-quart jar.


My alcohol of choice is Smirnoff Kissed Caramel vodka.  It’s not real expensive and it tastes yummy!  This Rose & Ivy bottle used to contain vanilla extract that my sister brought me several years ago and I’ve reused the bottle over and over for making my own vanilla.  So, all you do is cut a slit in each vanilla bean and drop it in your container of choice (I also cut mine in half to fit the bottle better).  Pour 1 cup of vodka over the beans, seal, and store in a cool, dark place for 8-12 weeks.  Give it an occasional shake and there ya’ go!  In 8 weeks you’ll have a fantastic homemade vanilla to use in your homemade goodies.  The longer it sits, the stronger it gets, so 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks – depends on your taste.  If you want to make a larger batch, the ratio is 1 cup of booze for every 5 vanilla beans.


I started this bottle three days ago and you can already see the vanilla “caviar” swimming in the vodka when I shake the bottle.  So exciting!  I love making my own ingredients for the kitchen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these two ideas and that you get plenty of use out of them.