Sunday, June 24, 2018

Troubles with a Garden Varmint

 by Evan Starnes

    (November 2017)

               During our winter crop season, my father Glenn and I noticed that many of the plants in the main garden bed had bite marks! The plants with larger leaves like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, and chard appeared to be nibbled on by what we suspected to be a rodent. With no real evidence of what type of rodent was creating the destruction, we guessed that a mouse or a rat was the culprit since these animals are small and could easily maneuver through the fencing around the three garden beads.    
               To catch the critter red pawed, my father and I set up a verity of contraptions that were designed to catch mice and rats. The first device that we used was a simple mouse trap that was spring operated and had a bar that would swing down on the mouse’s neck once triggered. After a few days of leaving the traps around the garden bed, we noticed that all of the traps had been triggered without catching anything. This led us to the conclusion that the critter was much larger than a mouse, so we began to invest in traps that were meant for bigger rodents.  
               After watching several YouTube videos on how to build a DIY rat trap, my father and I settled on a model that was comprised of a suspended spindle with peanut butter bait on it. If a rat tried to crawl across the spindle to get the bait, the rat’s weight would cause the spindle to spin. In the process of rotating, the rat would fall into a tall bucket were it would be trapped. Unfortunately, once again, to our disappointment, the bait was stolen without catching anything! Obviously our varmint was larger than a rat, so we set up a raccoon trap. This trap is a cage with a door that is weight triggered.
               Finally at last! After several false triggers on the raccoon trap, the garden varmint was captured. To our surprise it was a rock squirrel, which is a large type of a squirrel that burrows underground, and has a broad diet that includes vegetable crops. We gave the squirrel the name, Rocky, because of its species name, and the fact that it sent us on a “Rocky Road” trying to trap it. I liked looking at Rocky’s fur coat which was a mixed black and gray with several white speckles. My dad and his garden friend, Becky, later took Rocky to the Nature Center to be safely released off a trail that lies in a valley near a river bed.
               With Rocky in a new home, the plants that had been harmed began to recover. Unfortunately, they did not produce as well as they would have. Like we usually experience, we had a bountiful lettuce harvest. I was glad to not have to worry about the garden varmint any more, but I kind of missed Rocky since he was such a stunning creature. After this garden crisis, I was excited to move forward, and start planning for our spring season of crops. Hopefully no other rock squirrels will intrude!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

2017 RWCEG Spring Season Summary

A lot has happened at RWCEG this Spring Season. Below are highlights with pictures. Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge.

The Great Potato Harvest

In mid-February, my family planted six varieties of potatoes from tuber seeds (All-blues, Red LaSoda, Yukon Gold, Desiree, Kennebec, and La Ratte). On May 21, we had many people experience a wonderful harvest that felt a bit like an underground Easter egg hunt since many of the potatoes are a bit egg shaped and came in many colors due to their specific variety.

Newest Garden Member and recent high school graduate, Cydnie, holds up a hand full of recently harvested All-Blue Potatoes. (Once washed, these potatoes are a deep purple in color, inside and out!)

Cydnie helping grade school children that wandered over from a birthday party at RW Park harvest potatoes. Their parents were very impressed when they saw what their kids were doing. RWCEG can add an extra spark to any party!

Evan & Gina harvesting from the other side:

Pictures of some of the potatoes harvested. Note the interior of the sliced All-blue.


 The Great Pumpkin?

In March, we transplanted a pumpkin sprout that arose from a Jack-o-lantern last halloween. As shown below, it became a huge vine. The main vine did have a pumpkin growing on it, but unfortunately, a "forest friend" (probably a rodent) decided it wanted a piece of the action, and ate part of the pumpkin. We ended up harvesting it Memorial Day weekend.

Evan and Gina standing next to the Great Pumpkin Vine. Note the large fan shaped leaves and yellow flowers that bud into the pumpkin squash.

Evan holding up the prematurely harvested pumpkin. Note the chunk eaten out of it. We had planned to cover it up to protect it but we obviously did not do this soon enough.

The Indian Garden

   In mid spring the Gullapalli family became RWCEG members and planted a crop of Okra, Beans, Spinach, and Cucumbers. The seeds planted originated from India! They initially filled up Garden Bed 3, but recently transplanted some the plants to the remains of Bed 2 to prevent overcrowding. Although they had a late start with planting, the plants appear to be doing well as of Memorial Day weekend. It is wonderful to have something growing in all three beds again (although Bed 2 needs to be rebuilt soon).

A proud Kiran Kumar Gullapalli inspects his thriving crop of okra and spinach.

Fabulous Fennel

  On Memorial Day weekend, Evan harvested fennel. The stem and bulb of this plant strangely tastes like licorice!

Educating the Educators

  The RW Garden is a Community Education garden. So Becky and I were pleased to discuss the origins and purposes of RWCEG with Graduate Student, Aaron Niznik. Aaron studies Environmental, Political, and Economic Sociology at Brown University. His research interests are centered on identifying how grassroots environmental movements such as community gardening are developed. His dissertation work compares the socio-political structure of the urban gardening movements in Boston, Massachusetts and Austin, Texas. Special thanks to Becky who is not only the Garden Treasurer, but our Historian as well. She brought an iPad full of pictures and the "RWCEG Book of History" to supplement the discussion. We wish Aaron well with his research efforts and look forward to reading his findings.

Aaron and Glenn discussing the history and purposes of RWCEG with help from Becky!

Blog posted by Glenn Starnes, RWCEG Caretaker.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Vernal Equinox 2017 at RWCEG

Happy Vernal Equinox RWCEG! I hope all have been enjoying the recent Spring weather. The recent crops planted in Bed 1 are presently thriving. If you haven't been to the Garden for a while, I hope you stop by in the near future to check things out. Below are a couple of pictures I took this week.
As usual, I will be at the garden at our current Community Time: Sundays 4-5pm. I hope you can join me so you can learn more details about what is growing. My kids and I will likely be planting tomatoes, peppers, and fennel this weekend.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)
What's growing: varieties of lettuce, spinach, chard, onions, snap dragons, violas, and a large patch of potatoes (All-Blues, Red Lasoda, Yukon Gold, Desiree, Kennebec, and La Ratte)

In the back of the garden bed, peas are growing up the trellis. A couple of pumpkin sprouts have also materialized.

Growing Potatoes and More from MorningChores

I recently received an email from a representative of She came across our Community website and wanted to share information about growing potatoes from a blog entry. I read the article and found it very interesting. It covers potato varieties, growing tips, harvesting tips, pest mitigation tips, and finally a lot of potato based recipes. Refer to the link below for the article. Morning Chores also covers many other DIY and "self-sufficient living" topics.

The potato article:

Morning Chores home page:

How to Grow Potatoes for Beginners

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keyhole Garden Designs

I recently had an interesting discussion with Mary M. about the rebuild effort for Bed 2 at RWCEG. During our discussion, she told me about an innovative garden design known as a "keyhole garden". In short, a keyhole garden in a raised garden bed with a circular shape. In the center of the garden bed is mesh tube or basket in which compostable matter is periodically dumped. There is usually a notch in the bed shape to allow easier access to the compost basket. The idea is that as the compostable materials decompose, rich nutrients will leak out of the compost basket and spread throughout the garden bed for the plants. Below are simple diagrams and links to videos and articles for such designs. I am not sure yet whether this is a good design idea for RWCEG Bed 2, but I think it is a clever idea that many can make use of in their backyards; especially if you are good about composting!

Image result for keyhole garden design

A good place to see Keyhole gardens is on UTUBE…just UTUBE it!    Texas Country Reporter   Utube

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Time to re-mulch RWCEG walking paths

Anyone who has recently been to RWCEG, knows the mulched surface of the walk ways between the garden beds has completely decomposed and is now full of weeds that are knee high is some places! The Garden is in desperate need of some attention!


I am organizing a work day on Saturday, June 25th at 3pm (when it becomes shady in the Garden) to have the weeds pulled and the walk ways re-mulched. I found some great First Grind Mulch for a great price at Kinser Ranch LLC. With some help from those with pick-up trucks, I plan to have 3 cubic yards of mulch brought to the Rollingwood Lower Playground/City Hall parking lot. From there, the mulch can be moved via wheel barrows. To aid with this effort, boy scout members from Troop 31 (Evan's Troop) will help with this labor as a Community Service Project. Any Rollingwood members available at that time are encouraged to come help. Even if you are unable to help with the labor, we would appreciate any available tools such as wheel barrows, shovels, or rakes. (Tools will be labeled so they will get back to their respective owners.) As we say in scouts, "many hands make for light work".

For what it is worth, Evan and I started with removing the weeds using a mattock pick axe and rake. After 4 hours of labor, we removed about three-quarters of the weeds and roots. The remaining will be removed on the Work Day.

Hope to see you there! Please contact me via email (at if you have questions, concerns, or recommendations.
For encouragement, many black berries are nearly ripe for harvest.
Also, check out Evan next to his Monster Zucchini plant in his Garden Bed!

Garden after partial weed removal:

Thank you for your support!
- Glenn & Evan Starnes, members of RWCEG

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful for RWCEG Garden Bed Re-build and Winter Greens!

Thank you to the RWCEG community for support of the recent garden bed re-build and wicking system project! Although not quite done, bed-1 at RWCEG is now functional for growing winter greens! About three weeks ago, the wicking system passed functional testing, and revitalized soil was finally added. Once the square-foot markers were added, my kids started planting on November 9th.  Since then, the garden appears to have survived a few freezing nights, and the nearly 5 inches of rain recently received. Per readings from the "monitoring tube", the wicking system appears to be water tight and yet draining off excess rain water properly. We had our first salad green harvest on Thanksgiving Day, so we truly have something to be thankful for!

What's next?  Although the bed is functional to grow plants, a few construction details remain. The back trellis needs to be rebuilt, and a few block-holes need to be back filled. The arch tubes were recently installed to hold up plastic sheeting to effectively create a green house on very cold days. A full document detailing construction history has yet to be created.

Happy Thanksgiving RWCEG! Enjoy the pictures below.

-Glenn Starnes

 Revitalized Soil being added to garden bed by RWCEG helpers (Many others not shown also helped).

                Gina and Evan planting in newly re-built bed-1 at RWCEG.

Arch tubes and plastic sheeting turn bed into a Green House on cold days.

Monitoring tube measures water level of wicking reservoir.

                               Evan checking on garden and harvesting for Thanksgiving.