So, you know, there’s a silver lining to every cloud, right? For me, those clouds haven’t dropped significant rain for months, so my usually statuesque narcissus are stunted this year.
The silver lining? The weeds have kept a lower profile, at least for now. They’ll certainly make up for lost time if rain arrives with warmer temps.
Every spring, I get questions about weed control. Honestly, it’s faster to pull or mow rather than spray with herbicides that can damage valuable plants and certainly mess with the watershed. When I pull them—before they’ve set seeds—I tuck them under perennials as free fertilizer.
I’m the first to acknowledge that weeds are in the eye of the beholder, since many are edible and feed tiny pollinators, like chickweed. But to tame unwanted garden crashers, Daphne explains how to take charge.
Many succulents resent too much rain in winter. Designer Liz Klein worked with Marilyn Tinstman to create a glorious collection of drought-tough plants including red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) and Yucca rostratas.
Houseplants will flat out die when overwatered. Confined in pots, there’s nowhere for extra water to go except into frantic, suffocating roots. A hard lesson I learned is to abandon my loving schedule and handle houseplants like the garden: check the soil first. John shows how to spare the water and save the plant.
As we’ve become more sensitive to water resources, rainwater collection tanks are seriously on the radar. But what should you know before diving in?
When Chris and his wife served in the Peace Corps, rainwater harvesting was their only water supply. No longer taking water for granted, they started Innovative Water Solutions with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer once they returned home.
He explains the difference between wet and dry systems, whether to go for galvanized metal (lined to prevent rusting) or polyethylene, and how to tie into an irrigation system.
Plus, find out when you can go gravity fed or when you need a pump. He’s also has solutions for small spaces and underground storage tanks. Watch now!
In every design, he brings together architecture, plants and memories with heartfelt craftsmanship.
A very special makeover landed him in his East Austin childhood home that he bought from his parents a few years ago.
Eventually he built a narrow treehouse home for himself in the backyard he shares with renters up front.
He gave the front yard a new look, defining spaces with layers of mysteries and nooks, tucking in sentimental relics and repurposed treasures.
In this sociable neighborhood, Jackson and his neighbors are great friends, so his low wall between properties wasn’t a “keep out” dividing line.
Not only does it help with drainage on his Blackland prairie soil, it gave him a chance to tuck in memories from near and far.
Jackson’s artful wall extends into his makeover carport screened from the neighbors with a cedar coyote-style fence.
It’s become a neighborhood hangout as well as work space.
From the carport, he proclaims entry into his own abode via carefully chosen scraps for footing and regal columns.
An altar of plants, viewed from either side, unites the spaces even while designating separation.
Here, as throughout the garden, he displays carefully selected terracotta pots from Impruneta in Italy.
In the narrow space, heightened by a Mission olive tree (that made it through recent low temps just fine), he crafted a sliding steel and rebar gate that started with hardware from a defunct butcher shop in Seguin.
In back, he diversifies viewpoints and experiences from outdoor dining spaces to a Geo Zoysia lawn for cocker spaniel Daisy Mae. Bay laurel, that Jackson plucks for the kitchen, enclose the semi-shaded cove under post oak trees.
In 1992, Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler parked themselves in East Austin when it wasn’t yet the cool thing to do.
When they started iconic Boggy Creek Farm, ‘locavore’ hadn’t made it into everyday talk, and although farms were once commonplace in the area, urban farms had become a novelty.
Even then, people were hungry for fresh, locally grown food that they didn’t have the time or space to grow themselves.
Wandering around a farm, greeted by gregarious chickens and cats, they discovered a much needed respite from busy computer-dominated calendars.
As I’ve watched them grow, Carol Ann and Larry helped me grow, too. In fact, along with their scrumptious seasonal harvests, Larry’s smoke-dried tomatoes, and locally sourced meats, cheeses, and eggs, customers line up for gossip and DIY gardening tips at the Wednesday – Saturday farm stand (2 days only in August).
Between growing, harvesting, social media and selling—long days in themselves—they’ve fostered plenty of new urban farmers. Always, they’re ready to embrace anyone needing a seed of encouragement, including Paula and Glenn Foore of Springdale Farm.
Coincidentally, it was in 1992 that the Foores bought their land just a few blocks away. At the time, they were in the tree and landscape business, though, making the switch to food crops in 2009.
Their romantic farmhouse-style home overlooks rich fields bursting with harvests ready to cut and others just starting out their journey to someone’s table.
Clued-in chefs revel in seasonal variety as do eager home cooks who make a beeline to the Wednesday and Saturday farm stand.
The tree-graced grounds are a popular event site for their comforting ambience of flowers, silly chickens and geese, and the renewing scent of healthy soil bursting with life.
Last spring, KLRU NEXT, a fun group of young professionals and emerging leaders, gathered at Springdale Farm to make terrariums with Keri Anderson of Plant Party (then Slavonk & Hortus).
So, when Brie Arthur, Raleigh-based horticulturist, speaker and author of the The Foodscape Revolution, headed back to Austin, I couldn’t resist connecting her with the Foores.
On another visit, we’d taped Brie in the studio about why she adapted experience as an ornamental horticulturist to food growing (as did the Foores) and how gardeners can combine both in home gardens.
This time, I wanted to find out what a North Carolina home gardener and Central Texas urban farmers had in common and how they differed.
So, we met up at Springdale Farm for a lively swap of techniques and philosophy.
All three are passionate about the importance of getting back to the roots of our food. And Brie and Glenn agreed that there’s one tool every gardener needs: a soil thermometer.
Vertical gardening, they campaign, maximizes production wherever you’re growing.
Brie brings in HOA directives and how to sneak edibles into the shrubs and flowers to please both neighbors and essential pollinators.
In the end, what was their biggest difference? Soil pH, the measure of acid and alkaline soil. Brie’s a 5: acid soil. Springdale’s a 7: alkaline. This explains why Brie can grow blueberries and the Foores cannot!
Paula and Carla Crownover will continue making and marketing their refreshing Springdale Handmade soaps, salves, sugar scrubs and more. Their venture started with clippings from the gardens and two creative minds!
We thank them all for their urban farm campaign to keep Austin delicious.
And I look forward to Paula and Glenn’s stories and upcoming adventures!
One thing that Texas gardeners agree on is that squash vine borers are a menace, wiping out beloved crops in no time. Last year, Trisha experimented with a squash vine moth trap to such success that she had to tell you all about it!
On tour: In a 40 x 60 backyard, Ratna and Venkappa Gani unite global tastes and sensations in a food and flower forest.
Influenced by their childhoods in Southwestern India, they opted for a sustainable backyard food forest instead of lawn when they bought a house in a new Austin subdivision.
Venkappa wove together leftover construction limestones and bricks into pathways of harvest and beauty.
Respecting the value of water, he engineered two 1500 gravity fed rainwater collection tanks.
After its untimely upheaval December 26, my rather grumpy Yucca rupicola x pallida’s back in the ground after the big drainage pipe project under the house.
That bed by the front door was a big, deep hole for 3 weeks. Temptation to scurry down and explore under the house was quickly quelled by the expert house “cavers.”
The mountain of excavated fill dirt only revealed brick-like clods, though. No wondrous archeological finds here.
Thankfully, these sensitive, efficient tunneling guys set the first few feet of well-composted top soil to the side for me to shovel back once they were done. The bed is pretty barren, since many plants are still sheltering in protected pots until warmer weather (that green container is sort of marking the location for one of them).
Until I return them and pop in new additions, Greg hauled 6 wheelbarrows of our compost to leach in if errant rain ever gives us a hand. Note: I scooted the compost away from the yucca’s hole.
There are countless ways to corral your compost ingredients, from casual piles (my way) or contained. Ten Acre Organics built multiple bins out of recycled pallets in their home (sub)urban farm. Once a bin is “simmering,” they start a new batch in another bin.
Pflugerville gardener Paul Lofton inserts a drilled PVC pipe into his wire bins for aeration and to moisten via the water hose.
Rolled wire fencing can be shaped to any size and to cover, too.
Keyhole gardens utilize a central wire tube that tunnels garden and kitchen scraps (not meat or dairy) into a feeding machine as they break down.
Tumblers are popular, especially in small gardens.
Tim and Sheila Smith in Waco use big trash barrels drilled with holes for air and rainfall.
Compost is the best thing you can do for your trees. Spread now or anytime, but avoid covering the base of the trunk. But what’s going on with Gail Allen’s redbud tree at Natural Bridge Caverns that’s splitting at the crotch?
The culprit is our dramatic weather patterns: heavy rainfall followed by equally intense drought. Lots of rain spurred overly eager growth, leading to heavy branches that can stretch limbs apart, “exposing interior plant sap, which would oxidize, or might attract opportunistic microbes, such as sooty mold, either of which would cause the black ridges seen here,” Daphne says. Find out more and why providing deep irrigation during drought can help.
Now, let’s get to planting! Are you looking for an easy-care, evergreen herb to edge a border to trim spicy culinary taste? Energetic and absolutely fun Herb ‘n Cowgirl Ann McCormick packs a peppery punch with perennial winter savory.
Combining the flavor of oregano and thyme, winter savory isn’t as finicky as thyme. Growing about a foot or so high and wide, this perennial even handled Ann’s lengthy days of temps in the 20s. Find out how to grow this winner!
On tour in San Marcos, Lydia Kendrick weaves together a garden on many levels.
A practical goal was to deflect rainwater in her sloping yard and also to collect it. She only hits the hose in super dry times.
Lydia’s artistic mission led her to singling out destinations, each with a particular mood.
She unites them all through her intricately woven hangings.
A few years ago, Lydia found a new passion as a fiber artist after taking a weaving class (my dream!). On looms indoors, she designs absolutely gorgeous scarfs, runners, wall hangings, and placemats—well, just about anything that can be woven!
She took her leftover yarn outdoors to pattern frames of all kinds, even from recycled finds.
Her birds have the fanciest nests in town since she stuffs a suet feeder with yarn of their own.
Then she discovered how to put all those colorful plastic newspaper sleeves to work! Looks real, doesn’t it?
Watch the whole story now!
Weaving Garden on Many Levels |Lydia Kendrick |Central Texas Gardener - YouTube
And thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda
To celebrate the Peace Park Conservancy’s 10th anniversary to restore this historic and very beloved park, they commissioned Patrick to create an interactive artwork with invasives cut down by volunteers and cleverly woven together.
Already it’s attracted lots of attention! Opening day coming soon and our video later this year.
I’ve got a few “stick sculptures” in my garden right now. Once I’ve cleaned up dormant perennials, family-minded birds will busily craft their own intricate sculptures to replace last year’s wind-bedraggled homes.
Until native zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida) rebirths after its annual haircut, native spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea) claims the green glory.
My vast collection, starting from a few strays we collected, has diminished in recent years.
Although they naturalize via roots, I’ll collect seeds this year to ensure future February – April flowers for bees and butterflies.
Cobweb spiderwort (Tradescantia sillamontana) favors our summer gardens with low-growing, clumping fuzzy foliage and spurts of pollinator-loving flowers. They turn to mush in winter, but typically return in my garden. After days of 20° temps, this is a “wait and see.”
Our soil also naturally contains many elements that help plants grow. Other elements, like lead, arsenic, and cadmium can be harmful in certain edible plants. It doesn’t affect all of them and doesn’t impact flowers for pollinators.
My garden, for example, was most likely once a farm where arsenic could have been used to repel insects. Peeling lead paint isn’t just an issue indoors; it remains in the soil.
Outside of Austin, check out TPS Lab for every soil test under the sun (or ground), including heavy metals, compost, organic testing and more.
To get a solid grip on what’s going on with plants—including nutrients and heavy metals—check out How Plants Work by Linda Chalker-Scott, Associate Professor and Extension Horticulturist at Washington State University.
On tour in a standard backyard, Don Iden and Jana Beckham cultivate over 100 species of food, flowers, herbs, and succulents, many grown from seed or divisions.
When he bought his house, Don decided, “Some people collect stamps or coins, and I went for plants and so did Jana because you can grow them and reap the benefits as far as the food, or the view.”
Since planting seasons intersect in Central Texas, they install future crops while getting the last harvests from the current crowd, rotating locations every few years.
Don also grows tangerines, oranges, lemons, limes and even a pomelo. He raised a variety of miniature fruit trees from seed, growing them in buckets that are easy to move to warm quarters in winter.
Jana built the central island’s frame for a color wheel of plants for pollinators.
Their vigorous tomato crop, including heirlooms, begins in winter by starting last year’s collected seeds indoors, usually in January.
Since window light isn’t enough, they install a grow light. A heat mat underneath the seed flats speeds germination. Last year, they added ‘Patio’ tomato.
“It’s a smaller bushy form and ideal for pots. We like to maximize the space that we have,” Jana says.
To anchor larger tomatoes, Jana drilled holes in the ground for bamboo stakes to stabilize typical tomato cages. She also drilled holes into the sides of recycled buckets and fills them with homemade compost. Watering directly into the buckets nourishes with each drench.
She stretches bird netting over the bamboo, weaving together the seams with fishing twine. Slices of pool noodles prevent tearing. So far, her technique has deterred birds and even squirrels.
Lots more tips from Don and Jana, so watch now!
Turning Lawn into Backyard Food & Flowers | Central Texas Gardener - YouTube
And thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda
Fortunately, in Texas, we don’t have to protect roses, like ‘Marie Pavie’.
Its sport, ‘Marie Daly,’ was yet another find made by intrepid horticulturist Greg Grant, now stalking plants at Smith County Extension in Tyler.
That’s one of the many delightful stories in The Rose Rustlers, where once again Greg teamed up with former professor and post-graduate mentor William C. Welch, Professor and Extension Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulturist.
Bill’s been a favorite professor for many of us, thanks to his generous energy to guide our horticultural paths.
Many have survived without care for decades, remaining nameless until curious horticulturists discovered, identified and propagated them for today’s resourceful gardens. One of Bill’s finds is richly-hued, fragrant ‘Maggie,’ named for his late wife’s grandmother who grew it in her Louisiana garden.
In The Rose Rustlers, Bill and Greg swap poignant and often humorous stories, give us the scoop on the birth of Michael Shoup’s The Antique Rose Emporium, and have us laughing about Greg’s conversion from rose-hater to rose rustler.
Check out Heirloom Gardening in the South, too, for horticultural history and cultivation tips of some of your garden stalwarts.
Other keeper plants include native perennial penstemons. Although they’re called beardtongue, I think a more apt moniker is “bee tongue” since bees love them, as do hummingbirds and butterflies.
Spring-blooming Brazos (Gulf) penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) handles my heavy soils, though it loves to reseed in decomposed granite to hang out with winecup and Calylophus berlandieri. Note: the Calylophus doesn’t love me back, so I’ve given up on it.
Prairie penstemon (Penstemon cobaea) prefers lighter soil, though I have luck with a few paired with white Salvia greggii. They like sun or at least sun part of the day.
A close relative is Hill Country penstemon (Penstemon triflorus). I spotted this one in a Hyde Park curb garden with California poppy, bluebonnets, and succulents.
After spring blooming, you can cut the flower stalks to the base. If you want them to re-seed, it can be late summer before they’re totally dried.
Already, January’s been as fickle as a cat. Between Texas-style nips, spurts of sunlight warmed up a few crispy plants, like Barbados cherry. It desperately needed cutting back anyway, a chore for March. In this little cove, it’s business as usual for Jerusalem sage and roses along with wildflowers, bulbs, and pink skullcap.
‘Country Girl’ mum is bound and determined to keep a few insects fed.
Indoors, Amaryllis ‘Lagoon’ is in its prime.
A treat from White Flower Farm, I accidentally knocked off one bloom—almost as big as my hand—while closing the open window one balmy evening. All was not lost; in fact, it’s quite a bonus on my kitchen window ledge.
Native and adapted shade trees don’t care about our dips into the 20s. What WILL kill them is mounding soil or mulch against the base of the trunk.
Questions about trees ruled my 2017 inbox. When should you fertilize trees, how do animals kill trees, and when can we prune oak trees susceptible to oak wilt?
Wherever she goes, artist Valerie Fowler discovers visually captivating stories through plants and scenes she encounters.
Back in her studio, she interprets her impressions on canvas and paper to invite others into her world of introspection.
This story begins in 2016 at the Georgetown Art Center’s then-exhibit Botanicals, a collection of interpretations in all media by very talented women.
We all fell into depths of fascination with each intricate or exaggerated viewpoint.
Housed in a renovated firehouse in the bustling historic district, Georgetown Art Center is run by volunteers. Civically active curator Nick Ramos, a graphic designer, arranges innovative exhibits and public events to promote visual literacy.
So, that’s where I discovered Valerie Fowler. I simply had to meet the artist behind the magical agave oil on canvas, ‘Summer, Saturday Morning Cartoons,’ inspired by a garden in her Travis Heights neighborhood.
“I really wanted it to look like the plants and the rocks were animated. And that’s why it’s called ‘Saturday Morning Cartoons’. I was thinking of the old Road Runner cartoons, but I didn’t want to put animals in. I wanted the plants and rocks to be characters,” she told us.
After capturing the human figure for years, Valerie turned to botanicals when she became a mom. Home bound, she took up gardening, and began to see plants through the eyes of very small children: “Staying close to the Earth and seeing what’s actually there and going deeper and deeper into it.”
Oil on canvas ‘Winter, Keep the Fire Burning’ was inspired by tree roots that carry on life until spring rebirth.
On a spring drive through Fredericksburg with her then-young daughter, the ephemeral beauty of peach tree flowers—like youth—became ‘Spring, Everything Changes’.
Emergence after the Bastrop fires, new leaves bright red in their determination to survive, became ‘Earth Has a Long Memory, Dedicated to the Lost Pines of Bastrop County’.
Closer to home, Valerie’s influenced by radical changes in neighborhood landscapes, including trees tagged for safety or removal, as in ‘Ponca Street’, a mixed media on four sheets of paper. “I want to document that neighborhood as it’s changing before all the wildness is gone,” she said.
Valerie returned to human figures when husband Brian Beattie, a musician, song writer, and record producer, wrote, produced and recorded Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase.
A book, a record, and a movie for your ears, Valerie and Brian have performed this family musical for delighted audiences across the country. Set in the 1930s, you (and the kids in your life) will be hanging on to the end and singing right along!
Since Brian’s studio is just one floor below Valerie’s light-embraced one, they’re aligned by more than architecture and marriage as they bounce off ideas from their own creative spheres.
“Ultimately it’s just about communicating emotionally somehow. That’s the nice thing about this going upstairs and downstairs with us here,” Brian said.
They collaborated again on the CD for a young musician they’ve known since birth, Anna Roenigk, the daughter of Valerie’s best friend Lucinda. Brian was honored to produce Anna’s debut album with Born Again Virgins. What a wonderful voice!
Valerie offered to do the cover: “I drew her face and it was really nice to be able to draw my best friend’s daughter after all these years.”
So, you’ve always heard that winter is ideal for moving dormant plants. Well, it’s not such a great time to move cold-sensitive specimens or succulents, especially with super cold forecast for the weekend, but that’s what I had to do. There’s a lot more plants than visible here and scads of bulbs, spring and fall.
Our “gift” to each other this year was new drainage pipes under the slab which conveniently broke right before the holidays, flooding the laundry room. Santa plumber was delayed with other deliveries and tunneled in the day after Christmas. By then, the reindeer were too tired to fly.
Greg and I excavated some plants into pots to join the patio crew.
I moved a few to new locales. Geez, I never realized how many bulbs I had until I had to dig them up! Since we managed to extract entire soil clumps of some, I deposited them in a shady spot and simply mounded more soil on top for now.
Once the soil’s back in place, I’ll amend with homemade compost, a needed chore that I kept putting off. Hey, sometimes we need the ultimate incentive!
My big concern was my Yucca rupicola x pallida that’s nicely matured and would resent re-planting during cold, wet conditions.
The guys helped me unearth this one. Since the roots need to harden off a few days anyway, it won’t mind hanging out in the trug until I can re-plant. I’ll move it into a patio spot before the cold front hits.
Now is actually the best time to move trees, hardy evergreen shrubs—including Salvia greggii—and roses. January and early February is when I divide evergreen perennials, along with asters, coneflowers, and others that rosette in winter. I’ll also move that rock rose that sneaked in.
Late January is prime time to plant fruit trees. To lead off CTG’s new season on January 6, Texas A&M Associate Professor & Extension Fruit Specialist Jim Kamas answers your top questions.
January 13, tree advocate Zach Haflin shows how to prune young fruit trees for productive futures.
Also in January: ISA Certified arborist Mark Mann from The Davey Tree Expert Company answers your questions about oak wilt, fertilizing, and animal damage. Susanne Harm from Austin Resource Recovery explains what you can learn from a soil test, including any toxic metals hiding underground. And Trisha Shirey shows how to prune crape myrtles for health and beauty.
Old roses are easy-care wonders that brightened dusty homesteads for many an adventurous settler. Texas A&M Professor and Extension Horticulturist William C. Welch spins a few true tall tales behind rose rustling and how to propagate beauties like ‘Maggie,’ one of his sentimental finds.
On tour, find out what prompted artist Valerie Fowler’s switch to botanicals and where she gets her inspiration to tell stories on canvas and paper.
In La Grange, the charming Bernsen family walks us through their tips for year-long abundant harvests, including sage advice from the younger-than-10 crew.
Don Iden and Jana Beckham turned a standard backyard into a delicious experiment where they grow over 100 species, many from seed, for culinary and visual feasting.
And discover how Syd Teague turned rocky, flooding land into an exciting botanical adventure and captivating destinations.
Thanks for stopping by! See you next week for CTG’s new season!
Elation! Isn’t that what gardening’s all about? Director Ed Fuentes grinned from ear to ear catching this joyous shot at Redeemer Lutheran School.
We all were pretty joyful to step into Sheila Smith’s Waco garden, where a battle with lupus strengthened her growing intrigue. 10-week-old chickens cheerfully credited Sheila’s husband Tim, a hospice nurse, for building fancy pants housing from recycled materials.
In an East Austin pocket-sized front yard, Briana Miriani and Mark Biechler go big with a spectrum of shapes and cleverly-placed artistic scavenges corralled with face-painted bricks.
In case you missed it, Michelle Pfluger from Green ‘n Growing plugs in ideas that’ll have you leaping for joy!
And Sandy Stone and Joe Brown, assisted by sensitive designer Leah Churner, revel in the wildlife that hangs out with them in artfully designed shady retreats.
I found the perfect holiday ornament right outside my front door!
Shade-loving native pigeonberry designed this all by itself. I guess the birds admired it so much that they left this last, lone fruit to shine.
Nearby, bees and butterflies scrambled for the free shrimp (plant).
In temperate winter microclimates, shrimp plant doesn’t toss the decorations until I prune them back in late February or early March. Supposedly deer resistant, shrimp plants are very drought tolerant.
My calamondin oranges are going gang-busters since I remembered to dose my container plant with high nitrogen fertilizer a couple of times this year. I use Citrus-Tone after Trisha praised its organic ingredients and beneficial microbes. Watch her segment about calamondins, limes, and kumquat.
Well, that worked! It looked so bad last year that I almost dumped it. In a container, it can really take a hit in super cold weather if not protected, which I didn’t. But it rallied ‘round!
This weekend, I’ll harvest the plump little fruits. I’ve got my eye on Jennifer Stocker’s marmalade recipe on her blog Rock Rose.
From citrus to corn, home gardeners are eating their gardens instead of mowing them. Horticulturist, speaker, and author Brie Arthur joyfully explains how she got started and why she launched The Foodscape Revolution.
On tour, how does growing food unite a community? In East Austin, the Festival Beach Community Garden brings together multicultural gardeners of all ages to share planting techniques, seeds, and recipes.
On adjacent park land, volunteers at the Festival Beach Food Forest nurture a 7-layer fence-free food forest open to public harvesting.
Thanks for stopping by! See you next week, Linda
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