Today we are continuing our two-part series interviewing local home gardener Zach Schwab. In the first post, Zach shared why first attracted him to home gardening and some of this favorite resources.
Like many home gardeners, Zach’s work for his garden begins long before the summer season occurs, usually in early January. In order to be as efficient as possible, he has created an Excel spreadsheet that helps him to organize planning when to start seeds and when to plan for harvest. During January and early February, he also adds compost to his garden beds, fixes any issues with the irrigation system, and appropriates seeds and other growing supplies. Starting seeds inside begins as early as February for tomatoes and peppers. It accelerates quickly into spring with hardening off, planting and mulching the plants he has already spent hours caring for.
Besides dealing with such a dry climate, Zach has also had to learn ways to deal organically with pests on the Llano Estacado. For pests and diseases that affect his plants, he uses orange oil, Neem oil, and diatomaceous earth. He has also had some luck searching online for helpful tips: “Once, when my zucchini was plagued with White Powdery Mildew, I found a recipe using diluted milk and soap to cure the plant.” Mulching deep helps conserve water and so does having plenty of organic matter in the soil. While he has had some luck using vinegar to kill annoying weeds, he thinks the best way to deal with them is to pull them by hand.
Zach and Ashley’s experience as home gardeners has also lead to their experience in the kitchen. With Zach’s love of experimenting with different types of produce, they have had an opportunity to work with many different ingredients in their cooking at home: ranging from homemade salsa, to different types of pizzas, to an eggplant polenta recipe. This year they have canned homemade hot sauce and frozen tomatoes to be enjoyed during the winter months. In the future, they can expect an even larger crop to preserve, as Zach would like to expand his garden in the years to come, and is looking forward to adding more perennials to his landscape.
When asked for the best gardening advice he ever received, Zach shared these words of wisdom: “Nothing beats hands-on experience.” We’re grateful that he has chosen to share his. What advice would you add to all that he has shared?