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Updated February, 2005
I started gardening when my wife and I bought our first house in Northwest Houston in the summer of 2002. The previous owner had one side of the back yard fenced in and landscaped with 6 inch raised beds that cover a total of about 250 sq. ft. The whole place was originally planted with mostly flowers, a couple banana peppers, and a rosemary bush. I remembered the way an old college roommate described some homegrown tomatoes that his grandfather had grown. Having never really liked tomatoes much myself, I decided to give gardening a whirl.

In 2003, I ripped out the zinnias growing in a 5’ x 4’ bed and planted a Better Boy, two Pink Brandywine’s and two Burbank plants. The Burbanks left something to be desired, the Better Boy’s were great and produced tons, and the Brandywine was easily the best tomato I had ever tasted. I was hooked.

In the spring of 2004, I took over all the existing beds that receive good sunlight and dedicated them to vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, beans, squash, zucchini, radishes, watermelon, and a bunch of herbs). I learned that watermelon grows like CRAZY, basil makes just about any dish taste better, not to pee after picking habaneros, and that I will probably grow tomatoes for the rest of my life.

In the fall of 2004, I built a bean/pea trellis in an old flower bed and expanded the garden even further by taking over part of the back yard. I was crossing into Austin’s territory now (our 6 year old yellow lab.) I built a 12" deep, 16’ x 3’ raised bed in the back yard specifically for tomatoes and carrots. I also started a project that may end up being either the most rewarding or the dumbest thing I’ve ever done....wine grapes.

A couple years ago, I found out that a friend from work grows grapes to make port. I instantly envisioned a mini-vineyard in my backyard, and the gears in my head started cranking. After much research on the Internet, I was disappointed to find out that, although the gulf coast is home to more native species of grape than anywhere in North America, southeast Texas is probably the last place on earth (other than Antartica) that one would want to grow vinifera (wine grapes). However, I did learn of an American grape variety called Norton, or Cynthiana, that may actually do OK here and makes excellent red wine. Nevertheless, the task seemed daunting and my grape-growing dreams were put on hold.........Until......

In November, 2004, in what seemed like a stroke of fate, "The Port Guy" and I were sent on a business trip to northern California. Needless to say, there were several side-trips to Napa Valley. If you haven’t been there, Wow! Can you say "the most ideal climate on the planet"? I came home with one thing in mind....."I must grow grapes."

Regardless of the outcome, I became determined to take a shot at it. I had delivered to the house a yard of sharp sand and 4 yards of garden soil and enlisted my 59 year old, Ironman-ish father to help prepare the ground for growing. We removed sod from a 30’ by 4’ area and dug the soil to 2 ft. deep, amending with sand and organic matter as we backfilled the removed soil. We ended up with a nice 6 inch high raised bed. The Cynthiana grapevines I ordered should arrive in February, 2005, and I am anxious to get them in the ground.

This summer will be joyously spent tending to my tomatoes, garlic, peppers, onions, peas, carrots, beans, corn, eggplant, and herbs. Undoubtedly, many weekends will be spent constructing the new grape trellis...something I look forward to and dread at the same time.

Well, that’s my gardening story. Hope to see you guys in the forums.

Take Care,
Tyler

I live in: United States

My zone is: z8b Houston, TX

First registered on March 31, 2003 .