Thirsty Thursday | Golden Milk with Turmeric

Yesterday I met the TFM team for lunch at Thai Fresh, which is conveniently located in my 'hood. I go there quite a lot; I have favorites, and for dessert, it is the Golden Milk. It reminds me of my childhood favorite - egg custard, with that nutmeg-gy sprinkle atop.

It also happens to be good for you! The golden hue is derived from turmeric - a traditionally Indian spice known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and some believe, anti-cancer benefits. I've taken turmeric capsules for several years in concert with other holistic approaches to inflammation. I'm a believer.

I decided it was high time I made it myself. I started with this recipe (where I learned a whole lot about turmeric!), and tweaked it to suit my tastes and nutritional needs.

Did YOU know that by mixing turmeric and black pepper together, you increase your body’s absorption of the turmeric by 2000%? And it doesn't even take that much. I love black pepper and I think it's underutilized, especially to balance sweet flavors, so I'm all over this. Needless to say, black pepper did make the cut.

I also added some metabolism-boosting spices: cayenne pepper and fresh, grated ginger, along with cinnamon and cardamom. I used coconut milk as the base, and just a few drops of maple syrup-- I found the golden milk sweet enough without a lot of added syrup or honey; I primarily sweetened it simply to temper the bitterness turmeric can sometimes impart. Your mileage may vary.

Ayurvedic practitioners recommend consuming this golden milk every evening before bed. They hold that it promotes relaxation and good sleep. I'm not sure about that, but I'm willing to give it a try.

Have you incorporated Golden Milk into your diet? I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Ahhhhhhhh. Sweet dreams.

Classes & Events | August 2017 | Maggie Perkins

Geeze it's HOT out there. August brings some scorchers, so beat the heat and bring your recreation inside with me as we learn new skills and polish off some old ones, and preserve the last gasps of the garden. Below, find classes and events for Maggie of From Maggie's Farm for the month of August. Click on the Ticket & Info links for more information. You can also find this information at the Classes & Events link in the navigation bar. And even when I fall behind on the fancy listings (because the cooking comes before the blogging part, a LOT), you can always see what I'm up to on the Google calendar below, and also on the Classes & Events page. 

Keep it cool, my friends!

Learn to Bake Bread
August 9, 2017--Tickets & Info
August 22, 2017 -- Tickets & Info

Home Cheesemaking 101 | Ricotta
August 10, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Mezze: Small Plates from Greece to the Middle East
August 11, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Home Breadmaking | No Knead Caraway Rye
August 15, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Home Cheesemaking 201 | Mild Feta Cheese
August 17, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Spanish Tapas: Healthy Wholesome Spanish Snacks and Appetizers
August 18, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Texas Farmers' Markets Seasonal Best series
TFM at Lakeline August 5, 2017-- Info
TFM at Mueller  August 6, 2017-- Info
TFM at Lakeline August 19, 2017-- Info
TFM at Mueller August 20, 2017-- Info

Canning 101 | Water Bath Canning and Pickled Summer Vegetables for Antipasti
August 23, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Home Cheesemaking 201 | Herbed Cheese Logs
August 24, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Beginnning Pasta-making: Ravioli | Herbed Cheese Ravioli with Summer Sauce
August 25, 2017-- Tickets & Info

Farmers Market Favorite | Summer Melon Salad

In this kind of oppressive heat, I know I don't feel like cooking over a hot stove, and frequently, I don't even feel like eating. Certainly nothing too heavy, or it will sit like a lead balloon, fueling nothing more than lethargy and lassitude. Fresh and light are the orders of these days-- short prep work and wholesome foods are the ingredients of dog day dinners, here in hot, hot HOT and sunny Hell Central Texas.

Farm fresh produce from Johnson's Backyard Garden
Recently at the Texas Farmers' Markets, I prepared a few versions of a Summer Melon Salad which is as filling as a main entree as it is delightful as a side. Market farmers are bursting at the seams with melons of all kinds, and this dish can be made with any of your favorites, or a combination of several. Crenshaw melons, cantaloupe, honeydew-- all are great choices. I keep a few of the small Korean melons around the house to toss into smoothies, create granitas, or enjoy a chilled half, simply, with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or a scoop of homemade cottage cheese. It's cool, it's easy, and it's perfect.

If I'm hungry for a little more excitement and variety in my bowl, I'll throw together salty, spicy, sweet, sour, herbal, and crunchy textures in a quick salad, dressed lightly with a few of my favorite market vendor flavors. If I'm feeling carnivorous, I'll toss in the sublimely salty punch of Belle Vie Farm duck prosciutto-- you can find that recipe here, or perhaps occasionally find the saline tang of homemade feta cheese to be a great addition.

More often than not, though, in this heat, I prefer a vegan version to keep things light and aid with digestion. I dress this particular salad with another digestive-- ginger, in the form of SoCo Ginger Beer. I combine that with a slow, thin drizzle of Texas Hill Country Olive Company balsamic vinegar, and enjoy a combination of rich and lively flavors without animal products, fat, artificial additives, or a sweat storm of a hot kitchen. Boom! Summer-perfect.

1 summer melon, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 red onion, small, halved, sliced thinly
1 small pickling, Persian, or English cucumber (no wax), halved lengthwise, sliced thin crosswise
1 bunch basil, de-stemmed, leaves chopped small
5 small shishito peppers, de-stemmed, de-seeded, minced
1 cup SoCo Ginger Beer, honey orange
cracked black pepper & kosher salt
Texas Hill Country Olive Company blackberry balsamic vinegar

Toss the melon, onion, cucumber, basil, and shishito peppers in a large bowl. Pour ginger beer over all. Toss lightly. Season to taste with pepper and salt. Cover and chill for 15 minutes or more.

Remove from the refrigerator and toss again. Plate individually. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over salad in a light stream, correct seasonings as necessary, and serve.

Meet me at the markets next, on Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6, 2017, for a fresh taste of the seasonal best farmers and artisans have to offer at Texas Farmers' Markets Lakeline and Mueller, in Austin.

Disclosure: I work as a contract market chef for Texas Farmers' Markets, and the food provided for chef demos is given free of charge for promotion.

Potato Salad Politics | Blackeyed Pea Potato Salad

Earlier this week, THIS happened!

I'm so honored to have my first lead story published in the Food section of the Austin American Statesman. I've been a loyal reader and unapologetic fan girl for many years, and my association represents a goal and a dream fulfilled for me. I am so honored that I'm at a loss for words.

Of course that won't last long.

You can find that article online, too, right here. I had a little fun with it.
I might not be able to remember all of my ex-husbands’ middle names, but I remember their mamas’ potato salads.
One of the recipes I included in the article was so intriguing, and so darn southern, I had to share it here, too. It's a pretty little thing I think would make a fine impression among your holiday table this July 4th. It's as if my grandfather's summer garden was mined for a bowlful of family favorites.

Black-eyed Pea Potato Salad

Spring House Press, $16.95

Serves 8

½ cup thinly slivered red onion
Juice of 1 lemon
1 jar pickled okra, ¼ cup juice reserved
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup diced celery leaves from the tops of stalks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups thawed or canned black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
6 cups cooked red-skinned potatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon ground paprika for garnish

1. Toss onion with lemon juice and set aside for 15 minutes
2. For the salad dressing, mix together the okra juice, mayo, mustard, and celery leaves, plus salt and black pepper to taste.
3. Place black-eyed peas and potatoes in a large bowl and add onions. Toss well.
4. Drizzle mixture with dressing and toss to coat. Serve in a shallow bowl, topped with a dusting of paprika and pickled okra pods.

Tip: Do you like onions but not the way they can overtake all the flavors in a dish? Soaking the onion pieces in lemon juice will take away the bite, sweetening them just enough to complement the dish you’re making rather than overpowering it.

For 4 more of my favorite potato salads, along with the family politics that form and inform them, check out Potato salad with a side of family politics in the Austin American Statesman.

SOUTHERN COMFORT | Buttermilk Fried Chicken & all of the fixin's

Southern Comfort | Buttermilk Fried Chicken & all of the fixin's
TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2017
6:30--8:30PM  | AUSTIN
Tickets available at Kitchen Underground.

Frying chicken always makes me feel a little better about life.
— Minnie, The Help

Though possibly the most cherished dish of our past, and the one that reminds of us most of sweet grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or whoever prepared the BEST in our families, frying chicken has become a lost art.

Margaret Calhoun may not have been a holy roller, but she sure could fry the Hell out of a chicken.-- Steven Norton
Join market chef and southern food aficionado, Maggie Perkins to learn the secrets to proper golden, crispy Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken and enjoy the best heirloom dishes to accompany it. You’ll master breaking down a whole bird, preparing chicken by brining, seasoning, and dipping and dredging, tips and techniques to include and/or avoid, and frying for light and crispy crust and succulent, fully cooked interior.
And when church was over they would go home to Heavenly dinners of fried chicken, it might be, and creamed new potatoes and hot biscuits and butter and cherry pie and sweet milk and buttermilk. And the preacher and his family would always be invited to eat with somebody and they would always go, and the preacher, having just foresworn on behalf of everybody the joys of the flesh, would eat with unconsecrated relish.— Wendell Berry
At the end of the demonstration, sit down with classmates for a full meal with all the fixings. Depending upon what is freshest and most abundant from the fields, that might include sliced garden tomatoes, okra, squash, definitely potatoes in some form or fashion, fresh peas, sweet corn, or anything else that shows itself off that morning. And of course, cold iced tea to wash it all down.
Nothing rekindles my spirits, gives comfort to my heart and mind, more than a visit to Mississippi...and to be regaled as I often have been, with a platter of fried chicken, field peas, collard greens, fresh corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes with French dressing...and to top it all off with a wedge of freshly baked pecan pie. -- Craig Claiborne
This is THE MEAL of southern childhoods and beyond, and you’ll be the talk of the table and town when you make it YOUR specialty.

Minnie don't burn chicken.
-- Minnie, The Help

About Maggie Perkins: When food writer, former farmer, and market chef Maggie Perkins isn't preparing seasonal dishes on the fly at local farmers markets, you might find her at a backwoods barbecue joint in Mississippi, comparing chargrilled oysters in the Big Easy, or trading food folklore with a fishmonger on the coast. Her true north is in her home kitchen, puttering about, spinning vintage vinyl, perfecting her creole cooking techniques, and developing recipes she shares in print, and on her blog, Notes from Maggie's Farm.

Southern Comfort | (Not) Fried Green Tomatoes

A healthier version of the South's favorite starter, these (Not) Fried Green Tomatoes are the perfect solution for those not-ripe beauties that fall off in a rainstorm, or perhaps when you get a little too antsy waiting for that coming tomato harvest.

Farmers and gardeners in the South know a thing or 10 about growing tomatoes. Once daytime temps reach 90 degrees, tomatoes will cease to flower, so tomato plants are set out the very first days after the last frost is expected, and sometimes earlier, relying on crossed fingers, the help of hothouses, and upturned milk cartons to protect the plants in case of a late frost. I've strung large bulb Christmas lights from the house, extension cord connected to extension cord connected to light string and strung down the rows close to the base of the plant, then plant and bulb covered with opaque overturned jugs. From the road, it looked as if miniature alien spaceships had taken over the tomato plot.

Plantings and harvests are staggered every few weeks, so as not to overwhelm the market, or the preserving farmer, as was my case. It's all over midsummer or so for the first tomato season in the South. As the mercury stretches toward 100 degrees, rangy plants produce little, and it's time to pull them to give room for more heat-friendly options, or to plant a quick cover crop-- but quick it must be for there are only weeks until time for the late summer planting seasoning. It sounds like a lot of work, and some complicated timing, and of course it is, but dang it, we get 2 seasons of fresh tomatoes down here and I can't think of a reward more precious for which to work.

I've got a thing for tomatoes, for sure.

Right now, you'll  find green tomatoes all around the country, and in many parts, the beginnings of salmon, pink, blush, orange, then RIPE. I love them all-- all colors and all stages from the tartest green to the deepest purples and black-reds, and I use them and preserve them in many ways. For that deep dark Cherokee tomato, it's Hellmann's mayonaisse, a Noonday onion slice, and homemade sourdough. For a year's worth of sauce, it's the bell-shaped, scant-seeded Roma. For tarts, tartines, gallettes-- heirlooms of every shape, size, color and variety. For the explosion of cherry tomatoes, a bowl on the table all day long-- they get snacked on often with a flourish-- tossed in the air and caught by my mouth. It keeps me agile.

Occasionally, I'll make a batch of fermented green tomato pickles or charred green tomato chow chow, but only occasionally because my one true love of green tomato prep is the darling of the Southern menu, Fried Green Tomatoes. Only Not. I mean they're still green tomatoes, they're just not fried.

But DANG, they're still as good.

Better, I might say. Better because they're easier. Better because they're tidier. Better because I'm inclined to make a custom-sized batch for one, where I might not bother with the traditional preparation. Better because taking a spin in the oven instead of a dunk in the fryer means less mess, less fat, and better flavor, I think. The delicate herbs in the breading, the layers of flavor in the tomato are all showcased best without having been drowned by hot grease. Save the bacon drippings for another day-- and enjoy this quick, wholesome option.

(Not) Fried Green Tomatoes
Yield: 4 servings

4 green tomatoes
Sea Salt
2 whole eggs
2 T water
1 cup seasoned fine bread crumbs (see note below)
1/4 cup Panko Japanese-style bread crumbs
2 whole lemons (see note below re: seasoned bread crumbs)
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated cheese, separated
Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. While silicone spray or a mat will suffice in a pinch, I've found parchment to work the best, without losing any coating, and clean up is a breeze, for extra benefit.

With a sharp knife, slice stem and blossom end of tomatoes and discard. Slice remaining tomato in 1/3" slices, approximately. Place in a single layer on a paper towel-lined plate or sheet pan, sprinkle each slice with salt, and set aside for 10 minutes.

Whisk whole eggs, cracked, with 2 tablespoons tepid water in a bowl large enough to accommodate one flat slice.

Combine fine seasoned bread crumbs, Panko crumbs, and 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in a larger bowl (see note, below, regarding bread crumbs). You'll need a little room to bread them well on each side.

Pat dry tomato slices. Transfer one by one to 1) egg wash, dipping each side in then, 2) transfer to breading, coating each side (use your fingers of one hand for egg, and other hand for breading, and you won't get all goopy like I did), then 3) transfer to parchment-lined sheet pan. Dribble tops with a few scant drops of freshly-squeezed lemon juice.

Place pan in middle rack of preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove, gently invert each slice, top with a scattering of Parmigiano Reggiano, and return to oven for 10-20 minutes, or until golden brown, and fork-tender. Season with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, as necessary. Allow to cool slightly (the interior flesh can be napalm-hot when first removed from the oven), about 5 minutes, then serve.

I like mine drizzled with this Homemade Southern Buttermilk Dressing. LOTS of folks do. But these are equally as intriguing served with warmed marinara sauce, topped with a dreamy, creamy seafood imperial sauce, or even in their nekkids.

About seasoned bread crumbs: The bread crumbs I used for this dish were homemade, from a day-old loaf of Asiago Lemon Thyme foccacia I baked that was ground finely in a food processor. The bread was enriched with lemon infused olive oil, minced parsley, and fresh thyme. You could replicate those flavors with some dried thyme, dried parsley, grated parmigiano reggiano and lemon zest added to plain fine bread crumbs, or simply purchase seasoned bread crumbs available on store shelves and add the grated cheese to the mixture. Should you choose the lemon zest route, zest the whole lemons called for before cutting and squeezing lemons for juice.

I'm happy to be hanging out with the fine farmers, vendors, staff and shoppers of the Texas Farmers' Market this weekend where I'll be demonstrating how to prepare traditional Fried Green Tomatoes. Stop by TFM Lakeline on Saturday from 10-12, and TFM Mueller on Sunday from 11-1pm to learn more, grab a bite, and shoot the breeze. I'd love to see your smiling face among the crowd.

Well Dressed | Homemade Southern Buttermilk Dressing

Light and tangy, this Homemade Southern Buttermilk Dressing isn't anything like that bottle of shelf-stable ranch-style condiment with which so many drench so many foods. It's not a facsimile of it, either. But it's better. No gloppy, slimy, cloyingly sweet artificially preserved and flavored dressings are welcome at my table. I prefer fresh and real, to dress-up the fresh, real vegetables they'll enhance.

ENHANCE. Not overcome. Not smother. Not drown. Enhance.

If you're looking for something closer to the ranch you'll find in grocery stores, and even homemade ranch-style dressings, you'll probably want to look further. Likely, the addition of a healthy dose of mayonnaise is where to start. Believe me. I have not one thing against mayonnaise. In fact I love mayonnaise so much, I make it AND buy it and I use different brands for different foods. Hellmann's in the chicken salad. Duke's in the egg salad. Blue Plate in the potato salad. Homemade on the tomato sandwich.

But not in this dressing. Nope. It's a tad more delicate and refined than a glob of saturated fat (not that there's anything wrong with that). Oh it's not fat-free. Buttermilk is naturally lowfat (see more about buttermilk, below) but this recipe includes full-fat dairy as well, which experts have finally begun to tell us actually helps with weight loss, along with a host of other healthy benefits. So GET THE FULL FAT. You're welcome.

Homemade Southern Buttermilk Dressing
Yield | approximately 1½ pints
Supplies |  1 quart jar with lid
Ingredients |
1 pint buttermilk
8oz sour cream, full fat
Fine zest of 1/2 lemon
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
½  garlic clove, minced finely
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1½ teaspoons fresh dill
1½ teaspoons minced parsley
½- 1 teaspoon onion salt, to taste
½- 1 teaspoon white pepper, to taste

Optional: fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients in order in a screw-top jar. Shake vigorously until well blended. Really shake. Shake it up. Like this.

Taste, and correct seasonings, adding fine sea salt if/as needed. 

Kitchen Hint: When using both lemon zest and juice, zest the whole lemon first, setting aside the amount the recipe requires. Wrap remaining zest in a small pocket of aluminum foil and tuck it into the freezer to store for a month or so. Then cut and squeeze the lemon. Even when a recipe calls for only lemon juice, I zest the lemon and store the zest-- it's powdered gold. The zest, where the essential oils are found, has a milder, sweeter flavor than the acidic juice. 

About Buttermilk....... As mentioned above, buttermilk is traditionally the byproduct of butter-making, and as such, is naturally lowfat. Cultured buttermilk, sold in America, is created by fermenting pasteurized lowfat or skim milk to create lactic acid, which gives the milk it's acidic sour note. 
"What we call old-fashioned, or churned, buttermilk is very different from cultured buttermilk. It is the thin, slightly acidic liquid left over after churning butter from full-cream milk. It is drunk or used in soups and sauces in northern Europe and South Asia but is not available commercially in the United States." Cary Frye, Fine Cooking

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing (Not) Fried Green Tomatoes to serve with this dressing alongside. A healthier version of the popular southern starter, perfect for tomatoes that hop off the vine a little too soon.  

Further along, we'll tackle a few ways to hack this dressing to create other favorites, like Blue Cheese Dressing, Green Goddess Dressing, and others. It's summer and that's what we do. We eat field-fresh vegetables and we dress 'em up right. 

If you've got a little time to spare, enjoy this excellent Southern Foodways Alliance spotlight on charming dairy farmer and buttermilk believer Earl Cruze of Cruze Farm Dairy. I sure would like a little of that buttermilk!

FARMERS MARKET FAVORITE | No-cook Summer Sauce with Tomato & Mozzarella

Kitchen gadgets can be a lot of fun, but when it comes right down to it, I believe the most important tool to have in a well-stocked kitchen is the best, sharpest knife you can afford. This weekend at the Texas Farmers' Markets, I had the opportunity to partner with Allan Hillegass of Padlock & Co to demonstrate proper knife skills, as Allan discussed the best ways to select, utilize, and care for good knives.

Well, I've been fan-girling on Padlock & Co's hand-forged Damascus steel knives since they joined the market over a year ago. Though I have a few nice, heavy German-made knives hanging on my knife rack, I have a little jar in my kitchen into which I tuck my spare change, saving up for the day when I can purchase my own heirloom quality tool like those from Padlock. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed using Allan's handiwork this weekend to create this No-Cook Summer Sauce with Tomato And Mozzarella. The secret to it's tasty success lies in the blade-- the better the knife, the better the sauce, in that small, uniform cubes of vegetables make this dish as pleasing to eat as it is to prepare. 

A gorgeous bounty of vegetables arrives this month at the market, and there's no better way to showcase their seasonal burst of flavor than to prepare them simply, and without a lot of fuss. This sauce is a great way to approach a meatless meal when tossed with warm pasta, but should you be avoiding wheat or carbs in your diet, it is equally as refreshing tossed with scallops, shrimp, shredded chicken, or any protein of your choice. I've also taken to just tossing the mix with freshly-picked arugula and a squeeze of lemon to make a substantial entree salad as well. 

Break out your best knife, to make preparation a breeze, and head to your local market for the best the seasons offer. You'll have meals from the bounty of the coming summer wrapped up with nary a bead of perspiration for the hot days ahead. 

No-cook Summer Sauce with Tomato & Mozzarella


2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 small sweet bell pepper (we used a medley of banana and purple bell peppers, but any sweet pepper(s) of your choice will suffice)
1/2 small red onion, cubed 
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 clove elephant garlic, minced
Kosher salt, cracked red pepper, to taste
1T apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Serve tossed with 1 pound prepared pasta, or over protein of your choice


Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, peppers, basil, parsley and garlic. Season with salt and cracked red pepper to taste. Set aside to let tomatoes release their juices and flavors to meld for about 15-30 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Mix well. Correct seasonings.

Prepare pasta (or protein of your choice). While still warm, toss with summer sauce, and serve.

NOTE: Sauce can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before tossing with hot pasta or cooked protein of your choice.

Texas Farmers' Market vendors Johnson's Backyard Garden and Gray Gardens provided vegetables for promotion free of charge for this demo, and new cheese vendor, Full Quiver Farms, their own fresh mozzarella. If you're in the Austin area, stop by and pick up the best local farm and artisan food in Central Texas. If you're outside of the area, I'd love to hear about the sources you find in your region for fresh wholesome food, too. Drop me a line or comment below, and you may just find your name, your blog (if you have one) and favorite market mentioned in an upcoming post.

If you find yourself in the Austin/Cedar Park area in the month of June, please stop by the market on June 10 and/or 11 to discover The Season's Best, and learn tips for maximizing your wholesome market basket haul. I'd love to visit with you!

In the Garden: May
Monthly guide for gardening tasks and more

UPDATE: This In the Garden, monthly guide for May, has been updated with new gardening tasks and scheduled plantings for 2017

Thinking about starting a new hobby? Maybe grow a bit of your own food or flower this year? Get growing and going with this post from the archives, Preparing Your (New or Existing) Garden.

May, glorious May! This is the month that all your hard work begins to pay off. I've had dinners of spring greens, and green garlic, and sweet peas with caramelized onions. I've snacked on every cabbage imaginable, and sauerkraut was last weekend's project. Looks as if tomatoes and peppers and squash will be showing up at markets and on the table this month, so I'll add homemade pasta to the list of weekly kitchen to-dos for late Spring, which also include making mayonnaise, pesto, fresh french bread and herbed focaccia that will all highlight May's harvest. (I'll also be leading small classes for those tasks, so keep an eye open for tomorrow's updated Calendar of Events.)

It's going to get awfully sunny and steamy around these parts, every day, really soon. Shake out your swimsuit, air out the lawn chairs, bust out the sprinklers, unearth your straw hat.....Summer's right around the corner!

In the Garden: May
Monthly Gardening To-Do list

Collect seeds from spring flowers when the seed heads are brown. Clean them, dry them for a week or so, and then store in airtight containers or baggies in a cool spot.

Continue planting summer annuals like celosias, cosmos, pentas, angelonia, sunflowers, globe amaranths, and zinnias to attract butterflies and bees this summer. Pentas and Salvia coccineas brighten up partly shady areas and attract butterflies.

Lightly prune spring blooming plants to clean them up. Don’t do heavy pruning at this time.

Put out shallow bowls of water to attract toads. Small dishes filled with decomposed granite make good puddling spots for butterflies. Make your own hummingbird nectar for feeders with 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Dissolve well. Be sure to change and clean your feeders on a regular basis.
Do clean birdbaths and other water bowls every few days to fend off mosquitoes and to keep the water cool and clean for your wildlife friends.

If fire ants are a problem, use fresh spinosad-based bait and an orange oil drench directly on the mounds.

Fertilize: Feed all spring-blooming shrubs after they have bloomed. Feed amaryllis after they bloom. Feed and mulch iris. Feed crape myrtle with 1/2 cup/sq. yd. of 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer beneath the branch spread.

Water: Water annuals as needed. Mulch all bare soil to retain moisture.

Transplant: Container-grown plants can go into the ground now.

Lawn Care: Mow every 5-7 days, leaving the clippings on the lawn. Keep St. Augustine grass at 2 1/2" to 3" height. Apply 1/2’ to 1" of water as needed to wet soil thoroughly. Don’t water more often than every five days.

Diseases/Pests to look out for: Check for aphids and spider mites. Look for tobacco hornworms, spider mites and stink bugs, especially in vegetable gardens. Spray peach and plum trees for curculio weevils. Spray blackspot-susceptible roses with fungicide every 7-10 days.

Prune: Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees after they bloom. Prune climbing roses and other "once bloomers" as soon as they finish flowering. Divide chrysanthemums and pinch tips for bushier growth. Pinch back leggy annuals to encourage branching. Deadhead plants to encourage blooming. Prune frost-damaged trees and shrubs. Remove sucker shoots from tomato plants to get earlier, larger fruit.

Things To Plant In May:

Flower Plants:
Ageratum,  ajuga, amaranthus, balsam, begonia, blue dze, blue cardinal flower, boltonio, scarlet bouvardia, calico plant, chocolate plant, cigar plant, cockscomb, coleus, columbine, copper plant, coreopsis, cosmos, dahlia, daisy, feverfew, geranium, gomphrena, hibiscus, hollyhock, impatiens, jacobinia, lantana, marigold, nierembergia, penta, periwinkle, persian shield, plumbago, phlox, portulaca, purslane, purple coneflower ,rudbeckia, salvia, sedum, stokes' aster, sunflower, wishbone flower, yarrow, zinnia.

Flower Seeds:
Ageratum, balsam, castor bean, celosia, cleome, cockscomb, coleus, coral vine, cosmos, cypress vine, dahlia, echinacea, feverfew, four-o'clock, globe amaranth, gourd, impatiens, linaria, nasturtium marigold, moonflower, morning glory, periwinkle, petunia, pinks, portulaca, scabiosa, sinflower, sweet pea, tithonia, torenia, vinca, zinnia.

Acidanthera, amarcrinum, amaryllis, caladium, canna, giner, daylily, gladiolus, liriope, monkey grass, neomarica

Amaranth, Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke), Jicama, Malabar Spinach, Okra, Southern Pea, Peanut, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Tomatillo, Watermelon.

Anise, basil, bay, borage, bouncing bet, caraway, catnip, chives, comfrey, costmary, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, scented geranium, germander, horehound, horseradish, lamb's ear, lavender, lemon grass, lemon verbena, mexican mint marigold, monarda, oregano, perilla, rosemary, sage, santolina, summer savory, winter savory, sesame, sorrel, southernwood, tansy, tarragon, thyme, wormwood, yarrow

Container-grown plants can go in the ground.

Stay cool out there, friends!

For more tips, visit Central Texas Gardner for a wealth of information for Zone 8 gardens, and the Farmers Almanac, for weather forecasts, moon calendar and much, much more.

Additional sources: Garden Guide for Austin Vicinity, Travis County Master Gardener Association, 2002.

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