My Garden

By Zip 1st freeze 11/12... last freeze 3/20
USDA 8b 1st freeze 12/1... last freeze 3/1




"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need" --Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Check Daily/often--> Garden Style S.A. [SAWS]/ Garden Tips from Garden Style S.A. /

Lowe's NW Central

SATXpermGroup/ Meetup SA Perm/ Rainbow To-Do/ Perennial To-Dos/ Dave's Garden
Bexar Cty. Master Gardeners/ SA Backyard Chickens/ Perm.Research Institute/ G.Ctr/ Milberger's Blog/To-Do
Tenth Acre Farm/ Morag/ Plants reported to grow well around San Antonio, Tx/ Digging Pam Penick in Austin/ Weekend Gardener









Plant List-->
Buffalo Grass
Cover Crops
Marigold, Mexican Mint
Mexican Bird of Paradise
Mexican Milkweed
Mexican Mint Marigold
Mexican Plum
Mexican Tithonia
Montezuma Cypress
Montezuma Cypress Notes
Montezuma Cypress Photos
Mountain Laurel
Mulberry, Littleleaf
Oakleaf Hydrangea
a href="#penstemon"> Penstemons
Pentas lanceolata
Pothos [Devil's Ivy]
Rose, Backyard
Rusty Blackhaw
Sage, Cedar
Sage, Chaparral
Sago Palm
Silver Pony-foot
Sugar Hackberry
Sumac, Evergreen
Texas Kidneywood
Texas Redbud
Turks Cap
Vines, Fall
Wandering Jew
White Butterfly Ginger
Yaupon Holly

Garden pp-->
& Ground Covers


Orders {Amz}

My Notes-->
My Garden Diary & Monthly To-Do List

Check Often-->
Check these links often
My Folia
Freeze Damage
Planting Time Ref

No Dig Gardening
Soil makes you happy
Soil 101
Improving Your Soil2
Plants in gen.
Keyhole Gardening
Potting Soil
CTG Plant of the Week

Central Texas Gardener
Make Money With Plants
Native Plant Society of Texas, San Ant. chapter
Medicinal Plants of Texas
A Tx. Mediterranean Garden
Using Swales
No Lawn
Lazivore G'g
Cover Crops
Potting Soil
Repel Mosquitoes
Gardening Articles
Epsom Salts

Backyard -->
List of current backyard plants
Mexican Milkweed
Backyard Rose
Mexican Bird of Paradise
Sago Palm

Front Yard-->
List of current front yard plants
Fuki, Japanese Butterbur
Montezuma Cypress Notes
Montezuma Cypress Photos
Mexican Bird of Paradise
Echinacea Glowing Dream
Rock Gardens

Side Yard-->
List of current Side Yard plants

Page on Shrubs

Page on Veg. Garden

My House Plants page

Planting Time Ref
Cover Crops-->
Cover Crops
Green Manure

Garden Flowers-->
Garden Flowers

General Info
Easy Plants
Why Grow Bulbs?
Fall Planting

Hot Weather Groundcovers/Plants-->
Silver Pony-foot

Fall Vines

Page on Weeds

Wildflowers, Native-->
Native to SA
Mitchell Lake
Catalpa speciosa

G. Flowers page
Elephant Ears

G. Flowers page

Rock Gardens-->
Rock Gardens

Shade Plants-->
Elephant Ears

Partial Shade w/ Sun-->
Wandering Jew

Full Sun Plants-->
Hot Summer Notes

G. Herbs page

Worthy Rants-->
Leaf Blowers: Modern Pestilence
Daylight Savings Time: A Stupid Idea

Pest Control-->
Organic Pest Control

For Birds/Wildlife-->
For Birds
Littleleaf Mulberry
Mexican Olive
Desert Yaupon
Texas Kidneywood
Cedar Elm
Sugar Hackberry
Fastest Growing Shrubs

Johnny's Seeds [cover]
Burpee [no live plants]
Seed Savers Exchange
Sample Seeds Shop
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds [Rare Seeds]
Grow Organic [Peaceful]
Todd's Sprouting Seeds
Davids Seeds [in SAT-heirloom]
Wildseed Farms in Fred. wildflowers et al.
Urban Farmer Seeds Indiana
PanAmerican Seed S.CA,Ind.
Victory Seeds [Oregon]

Organic Fertilizers Smiling Gardener
Direct Gardening

Neem Oil

Wandering Jew
Silver Pony-foot

Container Plantings-->
Container Info.
Potting Soil
Mexican Milkweed
Fuki Sage

Winter Garden-->
Winter Blooms
/ Fall Veg's
/ Fall Veg's

Hell Strip at Street-->
Creeping Phlox
a href="#penstemon"> Penstemons
Mexican Milkweed
Fuki Sage


Quest for Meaning









Plant Hardiness:
By Zip 1st freeze 11/12... last freeze 3/20
USDA 8b 1st freeze 12/1... last freeze 3/1

2015/6 - First freeze 1/23/16 [l.n.]; 1/24/16; Cedar Fever - November through March, but the heaviest times of pollination occur in December, January and February. In 2016 hit hard 1/19/16 until 2/10/16. Slept constantly; lost a month of gardening et al.

Learn How to Garden

SAWS Rain Harvesting

SA Month by Month Gardening Calendar

Central Texas Gardener Austin

Demesne Arizona Calendar

SA Native Plants DB

Cedar Fever info

How do use to organize YOUR garden?

Birds & Blooms mag.

Native Plant Society of Texas San Antonio chapter

Garden Style San Antonio
SA Plant Database

Plants reported to grow well and around San Antonio, tx

The Garden Center on Bandera Rd. 10682 Bandera Rd, San Antonio nb flower of the month; tree planting svc.
Perenials by sun and shade
Shrubs by sun & shade

Garden Style SA

Central Texas Gardening Melody
Scientific Gardener blogspost from Fairfield, CA. Formerly of Tuscon. Teacher of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. I sometimes laugh at myself when I forget a very basic technique from one year to another. The water-filled plastic containers surrounding my plants have made a dramatic difference in speeding up growth.

Horticulture Mag.

Digging cool gardens in a hot climate... living in Austin, Texas, zone 8b.

Native Plants of Texas Search Engine

Texas Gardener

Rodale Organic Life

Bonnie Plants Alabama; lots of info.. buy plants at Rainbow

Native Plant Society of Texas San Antonio chapter

Photo taken by student at Saturday's NLCP2 class at Phil Hardberger Park Urban Ecology Center. There are several yellow standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) mixed in with the red by the building there.

Medicinal Plants of Texas WEEDCRAFTING, growing, and using wild herbs in and around Texas

Demesne Arizona [desert] Gardening Checklist by Month
Demesne Month-by-Month Planting Calendar

Florida Gardener conversion table, died

Blog--Grow Anything

The Papershell: Gardening et cetera I try to stick mainly to gardening, especially here in our Zone 9A coastal humidity. But sometimes I stray off into other areas.

Greatstems Austin TX notes and photos of wildlife and flowers and gardening

Garden Rants up east, but good articles

Science Daily: Botany News

Ken Druse, REAL DIRT radio program. Go to iTunes.

Tomato Dirt Digging up the best gardening tips for growing tomatoes and using them

OneYardRevolution | Frugal & Sustainable Organic Gardening videos

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit

San Antonio: The Native Plant Society of Texas San Antonio Chapter meets the fourth Tuesday of each month, except August and December, at the Lions Field Adult & Senior Center, 2809 Broadway, San Antonio. Social and plant/seed exchange at 6:30 p.m., program at 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit or email

Gardening Know How



How Dirt Makes You Happy Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential. Learn how to harness the natural antidepressant in soil and make yourself happier and healthier. Read on to see how dirt makes you happy.

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.

Most avid gardeners will tell you that their landscape is their “happy place” and the actual physical act of gardening is a stress reducer and mood lifter.

Mycobacterium antidepressant microbes in soil are also being investigated for improving cognitive function, Crohn’s disease and even rheumatoid arthritis.

Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it and get it into their bloodstreams when there is a cut or other pathway for infection. The natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks if the experiments with rats are any indication. So get out and play in the dirt and improve your mood and your life.

Soils Matter Get the scoop.

Soil pH The number can range from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very basic, or “alkaline”), and a value of 7 is considered “neutral.”

Video: Your First Garden Bed

*Video: Therapeutic Gardening from backyardfarmer. Wonderful video.

Video: Back To Eden Garden Full Tour

Video: Worms Eating Mulch So Fast I Need to Find New Mulch Source

Video: How to Grow a lot of Food in a Small Garden - 9 EZ tips OneYardRevolution

Video: Growing Food in Partial Shade

*Video: Stop Weeding Your Garden! promotes mulch and uses of cardboard

Video: Building Garden Soil with Free, Local, and Abundant Resources

Video: Clay Soil Advice

Video: Permaculture - 3 Ways To Get Started With Permaculture

*Video: Do-Nothing Gardening--Fukuoka

Video: Best New Gardening Products to Conserve Water & More at the 2015 National Hardware Show


Urban Agroecoloy: 6,000 lbs of food on 1/10th acre - Urban Homestead - Urban Permaculture

Environmental News many fine photos, covers garden and much more

Native Plants of Texas Search Engine

Missouri Botanical Garden lots of great info.

Glossary of Tree Health Terms covers a lot of fungi

One Yard Revolution

Jessie's Art

Kebun Malay-Kadazan girls

Gardening Toolkit

Gardenista fashion and gardens

Dream Landscapes: 10 Perennial Gardens Inspired by Piet Oudolf

Perennial Gardens Inspired by Piet Oudolf

England’s Greatest Landscaper: 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Capability Brown In the 300th anniversary year of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown, it is clear that his reputation as the United Kingdom’s greatest landscaper is safe.

The spreading, horizontal branches of Cedar of Lebanon / Landscaping pic

Cedar of Lebanon--They take a hundred years to reach their prime and most cedars in England are a little past it. Gardeners of today: be generous and plant for the future.



Daylight Slaving Time; Does Anyone Know What Time it is? It is time for my semi-annual rant and wish that G.V. Hudson had a different hobby. Hudson, a New Zealander, collected insects and was a shift worker. In 1895 he proposed Daylight Savings Time so he could collect insects after work in daylight.

The world rightly ignored his idea but it was also championed by a golfer William Willett in 1907. He fought for it tirelessly and the world rightfully ignored him as well.

But, to save energy during WWI Germany adopted Daylight Saving Time and soon other countries in the conflict followed. The pox has been on humanity since. In the fall Americans set their clocks back to standard time, or what I call solar time. In the spring they go back on artificial time.

As I have mentioned before I stopped changing my clocks years ago. I absolutely refuse to go on “daylight savings time.” The entire idea strikes me a silly particularly when one considers there is a fixed amount of daylight no matter how we set our clocks. It is rightfully called “daylight slaving time.” Only the government would cut the top foot off a blanket, sew it on the bottom, and then argue the blanket is longer.

What really got to me was the seasonal flipping, spring forward, fall back. It always left me out of sorts for weeks. Now I '’t flip. I '’t change when I get up, when I eat, when I go to bed or when I feed the cats. This family stays on solar time. I just recognize that for half the year the rest of the country thinks it is ahead of me by one hour.

Fortunately nature is not so wrong headed. Animals and plants ignore the time change. Cows get milked at the same time no matter what hour it is. Plants grow the same while we pretend there is more light in the evenings during summer. (Though as a kid I remember marveling that at 9 p.m. it was still light outside.)

There is also a philosophical reasons. So much of our lives is artificial. And artificial “daylight savings” time is but one more thing to knock us out of sync with the world around us. I spend a lot of time with Mother Nature and I prefer her time to man’s. And grumpy me, I like to use my watches (12 and 24-hour) as compasses, and that’s easier if one stays on solar time. Thus I do. And more than one study shows it actually cost more to go on Daylight Savings Time.

From a factual point of view, the majority of people on earth do NOT go on daylight savings time. How sensible. Asia doesn’t nor does Africa. Most equatorial countries '’t. Great Britain and Ireland tried staying on DST permanently from 1968 to 1971 but went back because it was unpopular. Most of Arizona does not go on DST either. Lead the way Arizona. Daylight Savings Time is a bad idea that needs to go away.

Time for a change in the way we tell time James Gleick uses the switch from daylight to standard time to make a case for dropping time zones altogether, writing:

"Most people would be happy to dispense with this oddity of timekeeping, first imposed in Germany 100 years ago. But we can do better. We need to deep-six not just daylight saving time, but the whole jerry-rigged scheme of time zones that has ruled the world’s clocks for the last century and a half.... Let us all — wherever and whenever — live on what the world’s timekeepers call Coordinated Universal Time, or U.T.C. (though “earth time” might be less presumptuous). When it’s noon in Greenwich, Britain, let it be 12 everywhere."

Writing in MNN on the day of the time change last year, I made the same case, but noted that there are alternatives to UTC. I also noted that we have to change the way we do dates as well:

As we switch out of daylight saving time, let's admit it — the way we keep times and dates is a ridiculous mess. Last week I missed a phone call to Belgium because the guy on the other end got the zones wrong. A few years back, I ruined a family vacation because I booked a 2 March start as Canadians do, 2/3/2013, where the hotel booked it as Feb. 3 as Americans do, 2/3/2013. In two weeks, I am on a ridiculous 6 a.m. flight because I got the a.m. and p.m. wrong when I bought my ticket.

Coincidentally, in 1876, Canadian engineer Sandford Fleming missed a train because he arrived at 6 p.m. for a 6 a.m. departure. He then proposed Cosmic Time, a 24-hour clock for the entire world — one time for everyone, irrespective of meridian. When that idea got rejected, he developed the idea of Universal Standard Time with 24 time zones, and he became known as the Father of Standard Time.

Almost a 150 years later, it seems that he was right the first time. Twenty-four hour clocks make a lot more sense than the North American use of a.m. and p.m., day/month/year makes more sense than month/day/year, (though year/month/day makes more sense than either) but what we really need is Sanford’s Cosmic Time, where everyone on the planet is following the same time.

In fact, in the 21st Century we need an entirely new way of looking at time, from the way we divide minutes and hours to the way we write our days, months and years.

There have been many attempts at this over the years. Two recent ones are Swatch Time, where the watch company developed a time system that divided the day into 1,000 beats that were the same all over the world; I am writing this at 802 beats, the number since midnight at Biel, Switzerland, where Swatch is located. It’s 802 all over the world.


Then there's New Earth Time, developed by Mark Laugesen in Auckland, New Zealand, where the day is split into 360 degrees with 0 degrees being midnight at Greenwich, as with Universal time now. Each net degree is four minutes long, and divides into 60 net minutes and 60 net seconds. This makes some sense, as the 360 system is well known. So as I write this, it is now 283°58’ here and everywhere else in the world. Sadly, this idea didn’t go anywhere and the website is stuck in time.

The French Revolutionaries wanted to start with a clean decimal-based slate for everything, and were probably right in be getting rid of the seven-day weeks, cleaning up the different lengths of the months and starting the year at the fall equinox instead of the totally arbitrary January 1, but that's probably too much to handle all at once, particularly in a country that can't even let go of the foot and the pound. And since Americans won’t accept doing something so French as day/month/year, let’s dump both and go with the most logical year/month/day. And while I like the idea of Swatch time, even they have given up on it and no longer sell a watch that shows it.

Perhaps we should all just settle on Universal Time (formerly Greenwich Mean Time) on a 24-hour clock, with an add-on at the end to help adjust to local time and zone/ So right now for me it is 2016.11.06.14:00/9AE.

If we did that, I would never get the hotel dates or meeting times wrong. I would not be getting up at 4 — sorry, 08:00/4AE — to catch a flight.

That seems so much simpler, doesn’t it?

Easy Plants for your garden

Gardening Made Easy: 60+ Tough Plants

It goes without saying that the hardiest and healthiest plants are those suited to your growing conditions. Matching plants to your climate, soil, sunlight and moisture levels gives you the most success with the least effort.

Native plants are always a good place to start. They provide food for native birds and butterflies, and they’re already accustomed to your region.

Texas Gardener: The why, what, and when of fall planting If you ask 10 people when the best time to plant is, at least 8 will probably say "spring." Sure, a lot of annuals and veggies should be planted in spring, but for most perennials, trees, shrubs, and bulbs, fall is actually the ideal planting time. Here's why:

  • Great soil temperatures. In spring, the soil holds onto winter's chill while the air warms up; in fall, the soil holds onto summer's warmth while the air cools down. The warm, fluffier soil in fall is also easier to work and easier for roots to grow in.
  • Better Weather. Summer's heat stops stressing and dehydrating plants. Increased rainfall also helps the roots stay moist. The cool, crisp weather is also more comfortable to work in!
  • Less Environmental Pressure. Pests, diseases, and weeds all become less active in fall, so there are fewer risks facing your newly transplanted plants.
  • Timing. The roots have more time to get established before next summer (they can actively grow as long as the soil is above 40 degrees F). A lot of plants require chill hours before they can bloom, so planting in fall is the only way to ensure great blooms next spring!

What to plant this fall:

  • Spring-Blooming bulbs like Crocus, Tulip, or Daffodil.
  • Shrubs like Roses or Hydrangea
  • Perennials like Sage, Hardy Geranium, or Echinacea.

When to plant:

  • Plant too early and your bulbs might start trying to grow this season instead of waiting or, worse, a heat wave might kill your plants before they can establish. Wait until the first light frost has happened, and then plant your bulbs.
  • Plant too late, and your plants can be killed by chilling frosts and snow. New plants can be more susceptible to frost damage, so it is wise to offer winter protection the first year. A thick layer of mulch can be used to insulate the soil. Roses appreciate extra insulation - cover the crowns with a mound of straw. For maximum insulation, surround the rose with a cylinder of chicken wire and fill this with straw or with the leaves raked from your yard.
  • Plants in containers should be moved into the garage or the house for their first winter.
  • Exactly which month to plant in depends on when the soil freezes in your zone. In warm areas you might be able to wait until October or even early November, while in colder areas the window is narrower, and you generally need to plant by September to let plants' roots settle in before the ground freezes.

Planting Perennials in Fall this is a prime season for gardening.. Zones 8 to 11 can pretty much plant year-round without a problem. (Lucky!) Still, you want to get an early start to give roots time to get established.

Frost might seem like your biggest fall planting challenge, but it’s actually not a huge problem. Yes, frost will kill the tops of your new plants, but it won’t affect the root growth. The roots will grow until the soil freezes solid, which is often weeks or even months after the first frost hits. In temperate regions—everywhere but the far North and the high mountains—soil usually doesn’t freeze until after Thanksgiving.

In spring the soil is cold, so the roots of newly planted perennials grow slowly. In fall the soil is warm, so roots grow faster. Since the plants '’t produce flowers, they have more energy for sending vigorous roots into the soil of their new home. Do your part by planting new perennials in good soil and watering thoroughly. By the time the growing season rolls around again, they’ll be happily settled.

Once you get your bargain plants home, the first order of business is to give them a thorough drink. Set them in a tray or saucer to catch the water that pours through the potting mix, and let them take their time soaking it up. Then proceed as if they were the healthiest plants in the world. Lower temperatures and shorter days mean plants need less water, but if rain is scarce, water them weekly until the soil freezes. Remember that, under the ground, those roots are still growing.

One of a kind for South Texas the A.E. Leonard Native Plant Garden, a one-of-a-kind South Texas gem

Native Plant Garden Is One Of A Kind For South Texas A garden for plant geeks, it has three quarters of the cactus and succulent species found in South Texas, including the four Manfredas, or false aloes, found nowhere else in the United States except South Texas.

Tio and Janell Kleberg Wildlife Research Park The new, thirty-five acre complex, located at the northwest corner of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus... To date, the park is home to the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center and A. E. Leonard Family Native Plant Garden, the Buddy Temple Wildlife Pathology and Diagnostic Laboratory, the Duane M. Leach Research Aviary and flight cages, the Albert and Margaret Alkek Ungulate Research Facility, and the South Texas Natives Research Farm

Plant Garden Has Over 300 Native South Texas Varieties the A.E. Leonard Family Native Plant Garden, located at the Tio and Janell Kleberg Wildlife Research Park.

Images of A.E. Leonard Native Plant Garden includes a when to plant chart

Habitat Worth Preserving about S. Texas



Video: What Is Biochar and What Are Its Benefits?

Biochar Biochar is a name for charcoal when it is used for particular purposes, especially as a soil amendment. Like most charcoal, biochar is created by pyrolysis of biomass. Biochar is under investigation as an approach to carbon sequestration to produce negative carbon dioxide emissions.[1] Biochar thus has the potential to help mitigate climate change, via carbon sequestration. [2] [3] Independently, biochar can increase soil fertility of acidic soils (low pH soils), increase agricultural productivity, and provide protection against some foliar and soil-borne diseases.[4] Furthermore, biochar reduces pressure on forests.[5] Biochar is a stable solid, rich in carbon and can endure in soil for thousands of years

International Biochaar Initiative Valuable Soil Amendment: This 2,000 year-old practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security, and increase soil biodiversity, and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.

GAIA International biochar... increasing crop yields up to 800%... Sharing knowledge with farmers... reviving ancient technologies... Improving soil quality... making an impact

This long-forgotten technique is the creation and use in agriculture of a special soil called Terra Preta, which includes a process of turning organic waste into charcoal (or biochar). Ancient Amazonian farmers made Terra Preta by combining various types of parent soil with biochar and natural fertilizers (such as animal bones and fish or turtle excrement). Biochar is a type of charcoal created from a method of slash-and-char, or by using a pyrolizer, where agricultural waste is incompletely burned to retain most of its carbon content. The charcoal is then mixed into the soil, along with high nutrient additions found locally. Once in the soil, the carbon binds with the nutrients of the fertilizers and allows it to be maintained in the soil for thousands of years.

Biochar is charcoal (carbon) produced when organic matter is baked at relatively low temperatures (?700? C) in the absence of oxygen. After this baking process, approximately one-third of the initial mass remains in the form of charcoal. This charcoal, when used in the soil, is known as biochar. Biochar improves the soil by acting like a sponge, retaining plant nutrients and soil moisture. This improved soil quality results in higher crop yields, which is life changing for people who barely exist on subsistence farming balance carbon and restore soil fertility. Most carbon in the soil is lost as greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, CO2) into the atmosphere if natural ecosystems are converted to agricultural land. Soils contain 3.3 times more carbon than the atmosphere and 4.5 times more than plants and animals on earth (1). This makes soils an important source of greenhouse gases but also a potential sink if right management is applied.

Organic Gardening: Biochar An ancient soil amendment is new again.

Nature: The bright prospect of biochar Enthusiasts say that biochar could go a long way towards mitigating climate change and bring with it a host of ancillary benefits. But others fear it could do more harm than good.

Reach for the Sun Photosynthesis, in the form of biochar, may be one of our best defenses against climate change.

Carbon Farming Regenerative agriculture: Carbon Farming puts carbon where it belongs – in the soil and on the farm.

What is Carbon Farming? Common agricultural practices, including driving a tractor, tilling the soil, grazing, and other activities, result in the return of CO2 to the air. As much as one third of the surplus CO2 in the atmosphere driving climate change today has come from land management practices that cause loss of carbon, as CO2, from our working lands.

On the other hand, Carbon can be stored long-term (decades to centuries or more) in soils in a process called "soil carbon sequestration." Carbon Farming involves implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter.

What is Carbon Farming Carbon Farming is simply farming in a way that reduces Greenhouse Gas emissions or captures and holds carbon in vegetation and soils. It is managing land, water, plants and animals to meet the Triple Challenge of Landscape Restoration, Climate Change and Food Security. It seeks to reduce emissions in its production processes, while increasing production and sequestering carbon in the landscape.

Carbon Farming can range from a single change in land management, such as introducing no-till cultivation or grazing management, to a whole-of-farm integrated plan which maximises carbon capture and emissions reduction. Carbon Farmers have many practices

maximum groundcover (no bare earth)
grazing management
no-till cropping
pasture cropping
green manure
stubble retention
cover cropping
exhaust injection
controlled traffic
precision application (fertiliser)
natural fertilisers
soil inoculants (probiotics)
soil stimulants
compost teas
Albrecht soil mineral balance
Natural Sequence Farming
water spreading
Keyline Planning
Subsoil ploughing
Activated clays
Dung Beetles
Rumen inoculants
Low methane animal genetics
Methane-reducing feed supplements
Manure management

This list is constantly growing. The benefits of Carbon Farming include Carbon Sequestration, reduced erosion and soil loss, improved soil structure, increased soil fertility, reduced soil salinity, healthier soils, vegetation and animals, increased biodiversity, buffering against drought and greater water efficiency.

The Carbon Farmer

No-till Farming

Transitioning to a No-Till Garden

No-till Farming No-till farming (also called zero tillage or direct drilling) is a way of growing crops or pasture from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage. No-till is an agricultural technique which increases the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil and increases organic matter retention and cycling of nutrients in the soil. In many agricultural regions it can reduce or eliminate soil erosion. It increases the amount and variety of life in and on the soil, including disease-causing organisms and disease suppression organisms. The most powerful benefit of no-tillage is improvement in soil biological fertility, making soils more resilient. Farm operations are made much more efficient, particularly improved time of sowing

Tilling is used to remove weeds, shape the soil into rows for crop plants and furrows for irrigation. This leads to unfavorable effects, like soil compaction; loss of organic matter; degradation of soil aggregates; death or disruption of soil microbes and other organisms including mycorrhiza, arthropods, and earthworms;[1] and soil erosion where topsoil is washed or blown away. No-till farming avoids these effects by excluding the use of tillage. With this way of farming, crop residues or other organic amenities are retained on the soil surface and sowing/fertilizing is 'e with minimal soil disturbance. Continuous no-till needs to be managed very differently in order to keep or increase yield on the field. Residue, weeds, equipment, crop rotations, water, disease, pests, and fertilizer management are just some of the many details of farming that change when switching to no-till.

No-Till Farming Pros and Cons To many people, no-till farming appears to be a tremendous step forward for agriculture. At a time when fertile topsoil is being worn away by wind and water at rates that are figured in tons per acre per year, a drastic new soil-conservation measure is certainly in order. And as you're about to see, no-till does preserve topsoil, but this advantage doesn't come without certain trade-offs. As it's currently practiced in the U.S., no-till farming might more appropriately be called no-till/chemical agriculture.

Rodale: Organic No-Till One of the key elements of our organic no-till research is a front-mounted cover-crop roller that knocks down a weed-suppressing mat that can be planted through all in one quick pass.

10 Plants Never To Grow in your Yard mint (roots seriously invasive), aloe vera (poisonous for pets), deadly nightshade (Atropa bella'na--extremely toxic), bamboo (extremely invasive roots), mimosa tree ( It is incredibly invasive and will spawn seedlings everywhere in your yard and throughout the neighborhood), Japanese barberry ( It is drought and shade tolerant, and deer resistant. But studies have shown that it harbors black-legged ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. It is also invasive and covered with a thicket of sharp barbs to boot), Wisteria ( Its root system can send shoots popping up far away from the main plant, engulfing trees, shrubs, and anything else in its way. It can live hundreds of years, and requires serious pruning every year to keep it under control), Amaranthus can be a showstopper in the garden (but as a top pollen producer, it can also make allergy sufferers miserable), Castor bean (All parts of this impressive plant are poisonous, though, especially the seed. It’s not a good candidate for a gardener who shares property with animals, as it’s toxic to not only small pets like dogs, cats, and rabbits, but also larger animals like cattle, sheep, and horses), Yucca plant (requires a lot of maintenance. Its sharp, pointy leaves need to be discarded after they’re spent, and stalks need to be chopped down. It blooms for only about a week, and yucca attracts lots of bugs. Its root system is pervasive and hard to kill. Should you want to remove it, you might have to dig up everything around it as well. This distinctive plant is best left in a pot),

Fix the Soil, Feed the Planet, Save the World: The Power of Regeneration 'Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy,' says Vandana Shiva

Roadside verges 'last refuge for wild flowers'

Leaf Blowers: Modern Pestilence

Modern Pestilence: Leaf Blowers Generate Infuriating Noise, Toxic Gases and Hazardous Dust Blasting out air at hurricane-force speeds, leaf blowers spread allergens, toxins, pollutants and pathogens into the air we breathe.

The calm and quiet of suburban existence has always been interrupted by loud, dirty machines in the form of chainsaws, hedge trimmers, lawn mowers, and string trimmers. But none of the tools of modern landscaping inspires as much animus and contempt as the leaf blower, the four-season tool used by do-it-yourself groundskeepers and professional landscapers alike.

The mind-numbing roar of a typical gasoline-powered, two-stroke leaf blower, at 90 to 102 decibels (dB), is only a small part of the overall damage these machines do to a community. Blasting out air at hurricane-force speeds, leaf blowers disperse allergens, toxins, pollutants and pathogens into the air.

The two-stroke engine is used in leaf blowers because it’s lightweight, inexpensive and relatively powerful. But this engine is an environmental nightmare. Because it doesn’t have a separate lubrication system, like an automobile, the gasoline is combined with oil and the entire mixture is burned.

This makes the typical leaf blower engine notably inefficient; some 30% of the fuel and oil mixture does not thoroughly combust, which causes the engine to discharge an abundance of air toxins, such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons. Nitrous oxides make up more than 7% of the gases that cause global warming and factor in the creation of acid rain. Hydrocarbons are volatile organic compounds that are often carcinogenic and contribute to smog formation. Carbon monoxide is toxic to humans and animals in high concentrations and is part of the chemical mix that forms photochemical smog.

Environmental scientists maintain that the emissions from a single leaf blower over a year’s time are the equivalent of running 80 automobiles 12,500 miles. Still, the two-stroke engine’s emissions may actually be less hazardous than the dust and other particulate matter a leaf blower stirs up.

Leaf blowers '’t just blow away leaves and lawn clippings, their 180- to 200-mph air output blasts away topsoil, microbial life forms, animal waste, allergic fungi, spores, herbicides, pesticides, and even heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead. This toxic cocktail of engine emissions and dust particulates can exacerbate allergies and asthma in children and adults, and aggravate acute pulmonary disorders such as COPD (chronic bronchitis and emphysema) and pulmonary fibrosis in adults and the elderly. Leaf blower pollutants are so bad the American Lung Association recommends that all individuals avoid them.

And then there’s the noise pollution. A moderate decibel level, like playing music or having a conversation, is about 60 dB; the noise from a car passing 50 feet away is about 70 dB. But leaf blowers can generate four to eight times the noise of a passing car. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, that’s enough noise pollution to degrade the quality of life by interfering with communication, thinking and sleep. The EPA says such noise can reduce the accuracy of work and increase an individual’s level of aggravation, even hours after exposure.

The high levels of exhaust, particulate and noise pollution have prompted dozens of municipalities across the U.S. to pass ordinances either restricting the use of leaf blowers or banning them altogether. Most restrictions are seasonal (mostly in the late spring and summer months), while other bans restrict the time of day or days of the week blowers can be used. Some cities, like Los Angeles and Aspen, ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers altogether. Fines vary from as low as $50 to as high as $5,000, depending on the community.

There's one more big flaw in terms of leaf blower function: Especially when used in the summer months to move grass clippings, leaf blowers ''t really clean the area, they just move the mess offsite and onto the sidewalk, street, adjacent properties, and into storm drains and the air. So, it's a zero-sum game, giving the home or business owner a pristine driveway or lawn, while the dirt and debris has just been moved elsewhere in the neighborhood. That's not cleaning—it’s one residence making its mess the community’s problem...

whether it would be expensive to clean the village’s tree-lined riverfront park with rakes rather than leaf blowers, possibly raising their taxes. But that probably wouldn't be the case. In a report to the California Air Resources Board, the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water once pit a grandmother with a rake and a broom against a professional landscaper with electric and gas leaf blowers. In three test cycles, the grandmother cleaned the area faster than any of the battery-powered blowers and 80% as fast as the gas-powered leaf blowers. She also did a better job cleaning up the areas, says the report. When a landscaping company did its own tests, it found that it too could do the job faster using rakes.

Across the Hudson River from Nyack in Eastchester, NY, advocates for a leaf-blower ban got the medical establishment on their side. Every doctor affiliated with Mt. Sinai Children's Hospital's Environmental Health Center signed on to the proposed restrictions, stating:

"Leaf blowers pose multiple hazards to human health. Children are the most susceptible members of our population to these hazards because they breathe more air per pound of body weight per day than adults and thus inhale more of any pollutants that are thrown into the air by this equipment. Children's vulnerability to the health effects of this equipment is further magnified by the fact that they are passing through the stages of early development, and thus their lungs, ears, eyes, and other organ systems are inherently more sensitive to environmental hazards than the organs of adults."

Despite the leaf blower bans that are in place, some landscapers still use them. Some wait until the late afternoon, when code enforcers are not on duty. Others consider the fines they get to be just the cost of doing business, while others simply ''t pay the fines. A video by actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., released a few years back, showed that landscapers still use leaf blowers in Los Angeles despite a ban.

Leaf blowers are still a scourge of humanity David Dudley on Citylab calls them “The Devil’s Hair Dryer.”

The crude little two-stroke engines used by most commercial backpack-style blowers are pollution bombs. “Simplest benchmark: running a leafblower for 30 minutes creates more emissions than driving a F-150 pickup truck 3800 miles,”

most of all “SWEET JESUS THE NOISE GAAH MAKE IT STOP. A gas blower at full cry can exceed a 100 decibels for the operator (OSHA requires hearing protections at 85)” Yet when I see people with leaf blowers banging away, they often have no ear protection at all."

TreeHugger Derek has made the case that you should just leave the leaves, let them rot and feed the grass for next season. Some have complained that this will kill the grass, but TreeHugger Emeritus noted long ago: Unless you have oak or other astringent (tannin rich) leaves such as black walnut, there is really no need to rake a yard clean of leaves.

Others have said that one should just use a bloody rake. Perhaps the best answer is simply to not have a bloody lawn. Then you '’t even think about the leaves, there is no grass for them to shade and kill.

Some cities have banned leaf blowers as a polluting annoyance. 81.29% of voters said that they should be banned.

No Lawn

It's Time to Get Rid of Your Lawn! You may also know that turf grass, however welcoming it looks for our bare feet, provides virtually no habitat for pollinators and other animals and plants that make up a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

In fact, these lawns can do substantial harm to the environment and to both vertebrates and insects. Birds, for instance, may ingest berries and seeds that have absorbed pesticides from the ground. Likewise, rainwater runoff from lawns can carry pesticides and fertilizers into rivers, lakes, streams and oceans via the sewer system. This can poison fish and other aquatic animals and harm humans who swim, surf and eat seafood that may be contaminated. And then, of course, lawn mowers can pollute the air.

The No-Mow Movement

A growing number of homeowners are converting part or all of their lawns to a less thirsty form of landscape.

These no-mow yards fall into four categories:

1. Naturalized or unmowed turf grass that is left to grow wild;

2. Low-growing turf grasses that require little grooming (most are a blend of fescues);

3. Native or naturalized landscapes where turf is replaced with native plants as well as noninvasive, climate-friendly ones that can thrive in local conditions; and

4. Yards where edible plants—vegetables and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs—replace a portion of turf. (According to the National Gardening Association, one in three families now grows some portion of the food they consume).

Making the Change

A successful lawn conversion depends on climate, terrain and of course individual taste. Of the four main no-mow strategies, Osann said, native or naturalized landscaping is likely your best option. It's adaptable to any part of the country and offers gardeners an infinite range of design possibilities. If you want to join the no-mow movement, here are some pointers to get you started:

Get expert advice. Begin by talking with a landscaper who has experience with lawn conversions or even a neighbor who has naturalized all or part of his yard. A landscaper can help remove existing grass and recommend native plants to use in its place. Depending on water and weather, a low-growing turf lawn will "green up" about two weeks after seeding. Another alternative is a wildflower garden grown from seed. (Just make sure you choose a wildflower mix that fits your climate and weed out existing vegetation that would compete for moisture and sun). After the seeds germinate and the flowers bloom (in 6 to 12 weeks), they ''t require watering unless there's a prolonged drought.

Do your weeding. Invasive plants like ragweed, thistle and burdock can crowd out their native neighbors and may run afoul of local ordinances (as noted below). For most no-mow advocates, the payoff in natural beauty and habitat are well worth the effort.

Check for incentives. Not surprisingly, western states such as Arizona and California, which have been in the throes of extreme drought for more than four years, have taken the lead in spurring homeowners to do lawn conversions. California, in fact, launched a turf replacement initiative that offers rebates of up to $500 per yard for homeowners who convert turf lawns to native, drought-resistant xeriscaping. On a more grass-roots level, organizations like the Surfriders Foundation, a national environmental group made up of surfing aficionados, have helped transform turf lawns in Southern California parks and homes into ocean-friendly gardens, using succulents and other indigenous plants along with hardscape materials like rocks and gravel that increase filtration, conserve water and reduce runoff.

Check the rule books. The no-mow movement may sound idyllic, but some practitioners have faced a surprising stumbling block: the law. In one example, Sarah Baker, a homeowner and scion of a family of horticulturalists in St. Albans Township, Ohio, decided to let her turf grass yard grow wild. Last year, she was forced to mow when authorities from her township deemed her garden, which had become a naturalized but well-tended landscape, a nuisance. Sandra Christos of Stone Harbor, New Jersey, said that after she replaced turf grass with native plants, she was delighted that cormorants, night herons and kingfishers made themselves at home alongside "every kind of butterfly you can imagine." But since receiving a letter from the town clerk, Christos has had to tame the mallow, bayberry, clethra and rosa rugosa along her walkway—or pay a fine.

Moving away from water-guzzling and chemical-hungry lawns and cultivating yards that are diverse and self-regulating is a matter of mounting urgency worthy of that kind of community organizing. As global temperatures rise and droughts drag on, the demands of turf grass are likely to become untenable. My Township Calls My Lawn ‘a Nuisance’—But Still I Refuse to Mow It Manicured lawns are ruining the planet. By Sarah Baker / The Washington Post August 5, 2015.

I had stopped mowing my nearly one acre of country land outside of a rural Ohio town. A diverse potpourri of plants began to flourish, and a rich assortment of insects and animals followed. I had essentially grown a working ecosystem, one that had been waiting for the chance to emerge.

But the main point of growing a natural yard is to attract wildlife and build a self-regulating environment. The un-mowed plants in our yard attract plant-eating bugs and rodents, which in turn attract birds, bats, toads and garter snakes that eat them. Then hawks fly in to eat the snakes. Seeing all this life emerge in just one growing season made me realize just how much nature manicured lawns displace and disrupt.

There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the United States, more than double the size of the country’s largest national forest. We disconnect ourselves from wildlife habitat loss by viewing it as a problem caused by industry and agriculture. But habitat loss isn’t a problem happening out there somewhere; it’s happening in our own back yards.

This has serious consequences. About 95 percent of the natural landscape in the lower 48 states has been developed into cities, suburbs and farmland. Meanwhile, the global population of vertebrate animals, from birds to fish, has been cut in half during the past four decades. Honey bees, which we depend on to pollinate our fruits and other crops, have been dying off at an unsustainable rate. Because one in three bites of food you take requires a pollinating insect to produce it, their rapid decline is a threat to humanity. Monarch butterflies have been even more affected, with their numbers dropping 90 percent since the 1990s. Butterflies are an important part of the food chain, so ecologists have long used them to measure the health of ecosystems.

Nature preserves and parks are not enough to fix the problem; much of wildlife is migratory and needs continuous habitat to thrive. Natural yards can act as bridges between the larger natural spaces.

Habitat loss isn’t the only consequence; maintaining a mowed and fertilized lawn also pollutes the air, water and soil. The emissions from lawnmowers and other garden equipment are responsible for more than 5 percent of urban air pollution. An hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car. Americans use 800 million gallons of gas every year for lawn equipment, and 17 milliongallons are spilled while refueling mowers — more than was leaked by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops, chemicals that can end up in drinking water and waterways.

I decided to tackle the issue by letting my yard grow wild, and I’m not alone. Homeowners across the country have latched on to the natural lawn and “no mow” movement.

But after we started explaining to people why we had stopped mowing, they were much less critical. If we allow ourselves to truly see a mowed lawn for what it is — a green desert that provides no food or shelter for wildlife — we can re-condition ourselves to take pride in not mowing.

For me, growing a natural lawn doesn’t mean just letting it go. I spend a lot of time weeding out invasive, non-native plants — like thistles, burdock and garlic mustard — that can take over and create a destructive monoculture of their own. But I also think it is wrong to vilify all invasive plants before we fully understand them. After all, a weed is just “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

I’ve been a gardener for years, but since I stopped mowing, I not only feel more connected to nature, I also see the interconnectedness in nature. Never before have I had so few pests in my vegetable garden thanks to my yard’s newfound biodiversity, including predators that keeps crop-damaging bugs in check. When you stop mowing, you get it; you not only see first-hand all the nature that we have lost start to come back, you get to interact with it.

Society needs to adjust its cultural norms on lawn aesthetics. For the health of the planet, and for our own health, we need to start letting nature dictate how we design our outdoor spaces. We need to reassess how much mowed space we really need. By the size of most people’s lawns in my area, you’d think they were hosting a weekly lacrosse match. But the only time I ever really see them on their lawns is when they are mowing them.

Instead of putting nature in its place, we need to find our place in nature. Local officials have told us countless times that our lawn looks bad and is a nuisance. In one public meeting, a brave young boy, Max Burton, stood up and told our critics, “What you are saying is that life itself is a nuisance.” As the planet’s environmental problems mount, the real nuisances are mowed lawns and the laws that enforce them.

Less Lawn info. on lawn alternatives and no-mow yards

Native Grass Lawns info. on lawn alternatives and no-mow yards

A native grass lawn may fit your needs and give extra benefits over traditional turfgrass. Installing a native grass area requires work and money up front, but is expected to repay the gardener with a healthier lawn that needs little or no water, uses no pesticides or fertilizers, and needs less frequent or no mowing.

Covers details on Buffalo grass, sedge (shade), and other possibilities.

Bunny in Yard

Why I'll never have a lawn again I didn't realize what a dead zone the lawn is until I lived in a meadow.

The "no-mow" movement is gaining steam, and I've joined it, after I've had the luck to see firsthand how beautiful a natural meadow can be. Almost two years ago now, I moved to a tiny town in the Coast Range of Oregon. When we pulled up to the house where we would be staying — on 40 acres without a neighbor in sight, I took one look at what I saw as the overgrown grass and added "mow lawn" to my mental checklist. When I looked out the back door (see image above) the sea of grass took my breath away. "This is going to be a huge job," I thought to myself.

Meadow grasses are attractive, and provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals.
Scene from her back porch.

Once I had spent a couple of very busy weeks acclimating to Oregon life, I realized that the meadow that surrounded my new home in the mountains wasn't an unkempt lawn, but one of the local types of ecosystems that flourish here naturally; they form post-fire. And in my first weeks enjoying my new favorite place in the world — the back porch — I was stunned and delighted by the plethora of life the meadow supported. And I immediately thought of that life extinguished if I had started mowing.

Sarah Baker, who is battling her town for the right to keep a meadow rather than a lawn, puts this death-by-lawn into numbers when she writes in the Washington Post: "There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the United States, more than double the size of the country’s largest national forest. We disconnect ourselves from wildlife habitat loss by viewing it as a problem caused by industry and agriculture. But habitat loss isn’t a problem happening out there somewhere; it’s happening in our own back yards."

8 Ways to Kick Your Grass Habit Inspiring tales from those who broke free from the rule of lawn.

During my childhood in the 1960s, a neighbour of ours removed all the grass in her backyard to grow vegetables. We called her The Polish Lady. She came to Canada after surviving the Second World War in a Soviet gulag.

My neighbourhood was built on a former orchard and many yards had apple and cherry trees. Our Polish neighbour would wheel a cart around in the autumn, collect fallen apples and use them to make pies, applesauce and, as I remember, a particularly unpalatable cider.

We tolerated her incursions into our backyards and thought her garden rather quaint. She could be forgiven her eccentricities. After all, she had experienced extreme privation. The rest of the neighbourhood dutifully kept their yards in grass and bought their vegetables from IGA and Loblaws.

All that grass demanded attention from buzzing mowers and pulsating sprinklers – and weed killers such as 2,4-D and an arsenal of insecticides to battle the bugs.

Fifty years later, some things have changed. We finally agreed as a society that using potent pesticides to maintain lawns represented grossly skewed priorities: pristine grass over the health of pets, wildlife and people.

But some things remain the same. Lawns still dominate. In television commercials “real” men stand imperiously in their weed-free yards, dispensing advice to poor souls struggling with hateful dandelions.

In Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan says maintaining a traditional lawn is an exercise in domination. “Every species is forcibly excluded but one, and this is forbidden to grow longer than the owner’s little finger,” he writes. “A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.”

I now look back at the Polish Lady with new eyes. She was not a relict of some agrarian past; rather, she was ahead of her time. Instead of grass she made her yard produce good, healthy food.

I am not advocating abandoning lawns. I still have a front lawn and I recognize lawns have their uses and appeal. I also understand that those who criticize lawns ought to be able to suggest practical, inspiring and attractive alternatives that lead to more diverse, interesting and ecologically sound communities. So … if not lawns, then what?

Gary and Crystal Skinn with their son Lennon at Gary’s Urban Farm in Orangeville. Photo by Don Scallen.

1 – Grow Vegetables

When chatting with a teenage volunteer, Gary Skinn, director of operations for the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, told the girl that Gary’s Urban Farm on Madison Avenue in Orangeville was his. The teenager was incredulous. For years she had helped herself to Gary’s raspberries on the way to school. “I thought you were an old, dirty hippie!” she exclaimed.

At 38, Gary is assuredly not old, but a hippie? Well, there may be some truth to that – he does have a beard and shoulder-length hair. And he is a big fan of one of the most archetypal hippies of all: John Lennon. So much so that he and his partner Crystal Voisin named their son Lennon. As for dirty, Gary wears that handle with pride. His hands are frequently immersed in the dirt of his garden.

Gary and Crystal have converted most of their suburban Orangeville yard, playfully called Gary’s Urban Farm, into vegetable gardens. They are contained in a neat array of beds boxed with wood and separated by mulched paths to allow easy access for weeding and watering. They produce enough to supply up to 30 per cent of their yearly consumption. A hedge of raspberry canes bounds one side of their corner lot, tempting schoolkids and other passersby with sweet fruit.

The “why” of the garden is simple. “I want to provide as much healthy food for my family as I can, without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” says Gary. “I try to do everything organically.”

Gary calls lawns “a big waste of space.” He sees a positive trend toward veggie gardens, but he would like to see more of them located in front and side yards, instead of hidden in backyards. His advice to prospective urban farmers is to start small and grow what you like to eat.

One of the clear beneficiaries of Gary’s Urban Farm is Lennon. Though not yet two, Lennon has taken an interest in the garden and has his own toddler-sized garden tools and wheelbarrow. He gleefully helps his parents harvest ripe raspberries, although most end up in his mouth instead of the basket. Favourite snacks include freshly picked cauliflower and broccoli.

“Lennon is going to learn some math, some science, biology and chemistry as he grows up,” says Gary. But his greatest hope is that his son will develop a lasting love of and appreciation for vegetable gardening, a precious endowment for any child.

Gary’s Urban Farm is a bold, positive example of a healthful alternative to the typical suburban lawn. Feedback from the neighbourhood has been almost entirely positive. Gary takes particular pleasure in the rave reviews of children who say, “I love your garden!”

“I know those kids are going to try to grow something, in their parents’ yard or perhaps 20 years down the road, in their own,” he says. “I hope I’m inspiring some change here.”

Alison Hird among the saplings and waving grasses of her former two-acre lawn. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

2 – Reforest

When Alison and Chris Hird moved to Canada, one goal was to fulfill a dream difficult to achieve in their native England – the purchase of a house with a large lot. A two-and-three-quarter-acre lot in Caledon fit the bill. The lot was covered in manicured lawn with a few trees, the standard landscape of rural estate developments in the area. The couple’s children had plenty of room to romp and play football.

The downside, of course, was keeping the vast expanse of lawn presentable. A typical lawn-mowing session took three and a half hours. Fertilizing was expensive and laborious.

Last year was a time of reckoning for the Hirds. With the children grown, they seriously considered moving to a more manageable property. But then they decided on an alternative – reforestation. Planting trees on a sizable portion of their property would not only quiet the unrelenting demands of the lawn, but also give the property a more rustic look.

The Hirds’ property satisfied criteria for a Toronto and Region Conservation Authority tree-planting program. It was larger than two acres and located near significant wetland habitat. TRCA would pay 90 per cent of the cost of the trees and plant them as well, as long as the Hirds agreed to a minimum number of trees. Alison wanted far more and eventually about 500 trees and shrubs were planted on two acres of the property. The 20 or so species will approximate the healthy diversity of natural woodlands in this area.

A trail through the trees beckons, and walking the property now is far more interesting than before. Wildlife, including deer, are already finding shelter among the saplings. And on a practical note, mowing the much-diminished lawn takes only 40 minutes.

“All in all, it has been a very positive experience,” says Alison. She and Chris are not planning to move any time soon.

Deborah Wilson and her husband Bruce replaced the grass in their front yard with a ground cover of colourful, maintenance-free species geraniums. Photo by Don Scallen.

3 – Discover Ground Cover

Tucked into the woods in Caledon is the home of Debra and Bruce Wilson. When they moved to this sylvan setting from Brampton, they initially tried to manage their front and backyards in typical suburban style. And spent lots of time and energy trying to coax a lawn out of the damp shade that prevailed.

Fairy rings of fungi taunted their efforts. Despite “doing a lot of aggressive stuff to try to resolve the problem,” the fungi persisted. So Deb and Bruce decided to yield to the ecology of their property and get rid of the lawn. For the first two years post-removal, they waited to see what would happen.

At first native violets flourished, providing some welcome cover and colour, but they couldn’t hold their own against the multitude of opportunistic weeds that soon arrived. Deb considered a garden of shade-loving perennials. Bruce counselled caution – Deb already had her hands full caring for a perennial garden in the backyard. Instead, Bruce championed the idea of a “lawn-like” ground cover that would be easy to maintain and confer a manicured look on the front of the house.

They decided to plant perennial geraniums. Some gardeners recoil from this rather aggressive spreader, but for the Wilsons’ front yard it was perfect. It competes well with weeds, fills gaps quickly, shrugs off summer drought and offers spring flowers bees love.

In the backyard, Deb had free rein to create. After removing the struggling lawn, she planted shade-tolerant, predominantly native perennials and annuals. Ever evolving – the natural course of a garden – the varied mix offers season-long colour and welcomes a diversity of wildlife, including birds and butterflies. Tiny snakes wend their way through columbine and bergamot. The only fertilizers Deb uses are leaf mould and compost from the municipality.

“If you’re going to go the garden route, you do have to love gardening because it can be a fair amount of work,” Deb says. By contrast, the front yard, covered in perennial geraniums, is very little work and pleases even her lawn-loving husband. Bruce, by the way, still owns a lawn mower though he has no grass to cut. A man and his mower are not easily parted.

Grass was no friend of Rick Taylor and his allergies, so he and Kathleen Mullis replaced it all with a lush sanctuary for birds and insects. Photo by Don Scallen.

4 – Consider the Birds and the Bees

A grass allergy isn’t something anyone would wish on themselves, but Rick Taylor could dust off the cliché that “every cloud has a silver lining.”

In the early 1990s Rick’s allergies made grass cutting untenable. He and his partner Kathleen Mulliss pondered their options. They began expanding their existing flowerbeds by gradually removing sod. Eventually they decided to go the full monty and get rid of it all.

An early goal was to attract songbirds, and their diverse plant choice has accomplished that admirably. Rick and Kathleen have compiled a list of more than 50 species that have visited their garden over the past two decades. These include a yellow-headed blackbird, a notable rarity in this area, and a woodcock, no doubt attracted by the heavy cover the gardens provide.

Two years ago, concerned about the reported decline in pollinators, Rick and Kathleen made a conscious decision to choose flowers beloved by bees and butterflies – plants with long flowering periods, single flowers and lots of nectar. Salvias and catmints satisfy these requirements, but the hands-down pollinator favourite, according to Rick, is ornamental verbascum.

The gardens do appeal to wildlife, but they also satisfy the human aesthetic sense. Rick and Kathleen’s gardens are simply beautiful, accenting their Edwardian-era house with style. Grand Valley’s annual garden tour makes their home a regular stop.

Kathleen’s advice to prospective perennial gardeners? “Start slowly. Do a little and live with it for a while.” Rick suggests, “Talk to people who have successful gardens. Learn about the plants to avoid – rampant spreaders, runners and seeders.”

Rick and Kathleen acknowledge their gardens aren’t low maintenance, but over the course of a growing season they are easier and certainly more pleasurable to maintain than lawns. As for Rick’s allergies? They’re much better.

The year Brett Davis was late mowing, twin fawns were born in the tall grass. From then on, he and his wife Laurie decided to let nature take its course. Photo by Don Scallen.

5 – Make a Meadow

When Brett and Laurie Davis moved to their Orton area property a dozen years ago, the lawn between their house and the road took seven hours to cut. The purchase of a zero-turn mower that easily moved around the yard’s numerous conifers reduced the chore substantially, but two and a half hours of cutting was still required.

In 2007 circumstances prevented Brett from cutting until mid-May. “The result was a hayfield,” he says. The prospect of cutting and raking it all was daunting. Laurie came to the rescue. “Why don’t you just let it go?” she asked. “Just cut around the house.” The birth of twin fawns in the tall grass at the time seemed to emphasize the wisdom of Laurie’s suggestion.

That was the beginning of the Davis’s laissez-faire approach to lawn management. They let nature take over and though the results may not please those who celebrate a rigid manicured look, certain clear benefits have accrued.

The cost, noise and carbon footprint involved in lawn maintenance has been greatly diminished, the tall grass looks fine, and the meadow wildflowers provide nectar and pollen for the bees Brett keeps. Even the drifts of dandelions lining the driveway don’t faze him. “In spring they’re a sea of yellow, great for the bees as well.”

Brett still cuts the lawn around the house, but the local ecology holds sway everywhere else. “Nature seems to be able to figure out what to grow,” he says.

Artist Gita Karklins likes to keep things free-form. “I don’t like regularity – plants like little soldiers all lined up. My style is smooth curves, nothing too rectangular or straight-edged.” Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

6 – Embrace Chaos

Gita Karklins favours a landscape that appears spontaneous, as if arising without a lot of human intervention. And though she concedes that intervention is inevitable, her yard does have a certain rampant quality. She has no quarrel with my referring to it as “the jungle.”

Gita produces quirky, whimsical art and this sensibility spills over into her yard near Mansfield. A vigorous wild grapevine frames her front door, and two small ponds beside her house allow her to enjoy the social life of frogs.

Though some may look askance at her landscaping choices, her yard is undeniably eco-friendly and lovely in a casually unkempt way. “I don’t like regularity – plants like little soldiers all lined up. My style is smooth curves, nothing too rectangular or straightedged.” Phlox billows wildly, daylilies muscle out the toughest of weeds, and robust peonies offer opulent blooms in spring and pretty foliage throughout the season.

Gita’s main period of labour is in the spring, when she does a lot of weeding and renews her epic struggle to vanquish the goutweed – which she calls “the devil’s own” – planted by the previous owner. She likes to plant perennials close together, a technique that helps crowd out weeds. Betraying a Darwinian streak, she says, “The strongest will survive.”

The shelter, seeds and nectar offered by Gita’s jungle of flowering plants and the insects that flourish among them attract a wealth of birds and wildlife to her property. One spring she looked out her window to see an exquisite fawn standing in her salad patch. Though Gita admired it, she did think, “It’s going to grow up, come back and help itself to my greens.”

Beyond the perennials, Gita hopes to produce as much food on her property as possible. An area formerly covered by lawn will grow potatoes this year – enough, Gita hopes, to see her through to 2018. More berry bushes are going in as well, plenty I trust, for the birds and for Gita.

Wayne and Ella Livingston replaced a scratchy patch of grass in their small front yard with an inviting mossy stone path and flower garden. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

7 – Plant Some Perennials

The pretty little garden fronting Wayne and Ellen Livingston’s semi-detached Orangeville home arose from a temper tantrum.

One fateful day in 2010, Wayne and Ellen reached the breaking point. The front lawn had mocked their every effort to keep it green and lush. Dandelions were rampant and the lawn, sandwiched between two driveways, languished in desert-like conditions. Dragging the mower to the front to cut the grass that did manage to grow made little sense. It was time for a major change.

“We dug up all the grass, got some dirt, moved stuff around and covered everything with mulch,” says Ellen. Wayne installed a stepping stone path for visual interest and to provide easy access to the planned garden.

Both Ellen and Wayne work long hours, so in addition to visual appeal, low maintenance was a priority. The mulch and carefully placed flagstones help keep weeds at bay. Careful plant selection also helps minimize maintenance. Colour was important to Ellen, but the plants also needed to be low growing, drought resistant and comfortable in full sun.

Portulaca, alyssum, ageratum and low-growing dahlias are among the plants that satisfied those requirements. Even during last summer’s drought, little watering was required.

Although the Livingstons’ garden resulted from a spontaneous burst of anger, Wayne recognizes the value of a more patient, planned approach to substituting garden for lawn. “Don’t leap [he might have added ‘as we did’]. Think about your objectives. Take your time and persevere.”

The Livingston’s answer to the challenges of maintaining a lawn in our climate, and to the absurdity of mowing such a small space, has been a success. With smaller lots now the norm in new developments, their garden serves as a lovely example of what can be accomplished with a little creativity and a dash of righteous anger.

Ahead of their time, when Larry and Gail Hooper replaced their large front lawn with a perennial garden 15 years ago, they sought town council approval. Photo by Rosemary Hasner / Black Dog Creative Arts.

8 – Lots of Perennials

The elderly woman, a tiny, frail soul, would arrive unannounced. She would work her way carefully between the flowers and then, embraced by the floral exuberance of Gail and Larry Hooper’s garden, sit down. Unable to speak English, she communicated through smiles and gentle gestures – a caress of the hand, a touch to the face.

The Hoopers’ garden is a mélange of colourful annuals, perennials and vines, covering their entire front yard on Diane Drive in Orangeville.

Before launching the garden project 15 years ago, the couple were given the green light by Orangeville town council. They could remove their lawn and plant flowers. The only restriction was a height limit of 15 inches for anything planted within eight feet of the sidewalk.

Converting lawn to an alternative landscape takes a certain degree of moxie. There is no getting around the rude shock of the first step, removal of the turf to reveal the raw dirt beneath. “Initially it did look a little like a battlefield,” Larry concedes.

Another tension to overcome is the perception of neighbours. A neighbouring couple went ballistic. “They thought our project would devalue their property,” says Larry.

The plants grew and the battlefield bloomed, but those neighbours never did come around. Ironically, they eventually sold their house to buyers who cited the Hoopers’ garden as one of the reasons for their purchase.

As long-time environmental activists, the Hoopers celebrate the garden for more than its beauty. The diversity of plants attracts bees and butterflies. A buffet of tasty seeds and insects welcomes birds. And at night the moths visit. “It is astounding the amount of life that this garden hosts,” says Larry.

They handpick pests if necessary, feed their garden with municipal compost and, even in dry summers, water only infrequently. “The garden is work but it’s good work,” says Gail. “Larry and I spend four to six hours a week in it during the growing season.”

Though that one set of neighbours did take issue with the Hoopers’ garden in its early days, in the years since, many others have gone out of their way to express their approval and delight. “A garden can enrich your life and grace you with new friends,” says Gail. “A garden builds community.”

Try new ideas, there are lawn alternatives

Late in the preparation of this article, I met John Sutherland of Orangeville. Like the Polish neighbour of my childhood, he has converted his entire backyard into a vegetable garden. Black plastic covers his front yard to kill the grass there and prepare it for planting a shade garden.

John is an enthusiastic advocate of lawn alternatives and offers this suggestion to local garden clubs: “Have garden tours to show people different possibilities.” He adds, “We shouldn’t be afraid to try new ideas, but we need to respect other opinions as well.”

Respect is key. People embarking on lawn alternatives need to talk to their neighbours and explain their goals and motivations. And respect needs to be reciprocated. Those who remain committed to their lawns should be willing to accept different landscape choices.

Imagine greater diversity in our urban landscapes. Along with traditional lawns, an eclectic mix of alternatives – gardens of varied design and composition, and veggie patches proudly visible to the street. And imagine a new aesthetic sense taking hold among rural estate owners as grand sweeps of turf, sterile and demanding, are converted to meadow and woodland.

Berry-picking children, an elderly woman at peace among the flowers, a fawn in the backyard and hummingbirds whirring. Lawn alternatives can nourish the soul.


Top 10 Backyard Vines With Fall Flair Native vines provide shelter, food and nectar to resident and visiting wildlife precisely when they need it. Here’s a look at a few North American native vines that deserve a spot in your wildlife garden. [includes slideshow of more vines]

Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans, Zones 4-9): A prolific vine bearing late-season orange or scarlet trumpet flowers that attract bevies of hummingbirds.

Wild passion flower (Passiflora incarnata, Zones 5-9): A larval host plant for an array of butterflies, this vine features striking fringed flowers that supply nectar to butterflies from July through September. Edible fruits called maypops mature in fall to feed the birds.

Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana, Zones 4-9): Densely growing plant that flowers from July through September and supplies birds with shelter, nesting sites, nest-building materials and seeds that persist into winter.

Birdbath in Yard

LIVE WELL GARDENS HELPING COMMUNITIES Hospitals are often thought of as places of healing, but not as often thought of as places of growth. Intermountain Healthcare’s LiVe Well Gardens prove they can be both... LiVe Well Gardens are designed to engage employees, patients, and the community in physical activity, provide education, and model good health. Currently, there are two LiVe Well Gardens in Utah – at Intermountain Healthcare’s Orem Community Hospital and Park City Medical Center... “We are working with city leaders to make our garden a hub for neighborhood gardens throughout the City of Orem... The Orem Garden has 24 raised beds and the Park City Garden has 20 beds, including a “wheelchair accessible” bed, all with drip irrigation systems. They are open to the public to visit, and in the case of Orem, residents can apply for a plot for their own use.

Urban farm paying off for West St. Paul neighbors Between me and my neighbors, lots of ideas are born over a few beers in the back yard. Their back yard, for many years, abutted an overgrown, empty lot. We often sipped and joked that we would start a guerrilla garden there. Anything would be better than the way it looked. It seemed like fate when a for-sale sign showed up. Long story short, my neighbors bought the half lot that once had a house on it but was too narrow for a new one under current city code. And after a few years of hard work, clearing brush and weeds, chopping dead trees and building a fence, garden boxes, a chicken coop and a compost bin, an urban farm was born in West St. Paul. My neighbors' last name is Thomas, and over a few more beers, the farm was christened Thomasvania.

People who see Thomasvania for the first time assume that it feeds more than just two families.

Those people underestimate a few things: How much our growing children eat, and how fast Jason's wife, Lisa Antony-Thomas, cans the leftover crops.

"I LOVE canning," Antony-Thomas exclaims. "It is so amazing. It actually stops time!"

My burgeoning root cellar has jars of green beans, garlic green beans, pickled green beans and zucchini pickles. And we're just getting started.

Veg. Garden

Video: Wood Raised Bed Summer Vegetable Garden Tour

Growing Your Greens

Video: How to Be a Back Yard Vegetable Gardener to Grow Food

Huehuecoyotl in Mexico

Texas Garden

Hot Summer Notes

Summer flower bulbs can add a tropical flare to your garden with their lush free flowering habit. Lilies, gingers, elephant ears, cannas, caladiums and other summer bulbs are lively, undemanding plants that flourish when the heat is on. (Mary's Garden Patch.

From Bulbs for the South: It is possible to grow spring-flowering bulbs in climates as warm as Zones 8 to 10!

Winter Garden

Top 10 Winter Bloomers For Your Flower Garden We’ve dug up 10 plants striking enough to take center stage in your flower garden in late winter and into early spring. Bloom times can range from January in the south to March or April farther north.

Cyclamen coum, Zones 5 to 9

These late-winter bloomers boast white, pink, purple and red blossoms nodding above leaves that resemble lily pads. Cyclamen prefer partial shade, so they’ll happily take root under trees and shrubs. Mulch generously each fall if your zone is on the cooler side.

Why we love it: Although cyclamen are not native to North America, these gorgeous flowers are not invasive.


For Birds

Fall Berries for Birds These 5 easy-to-grow shrubs, trees and vines provide berries for birds in the fall and winter: American Beautyberry shrub (Callicarpa americana), Coral Honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens), Firebush shrub (Hamelia patens), Southern Wax Myrtle tree or lg. shrub (Myrica cerifera), Yaupon Holly shrub or tree (Ilex vomitoria). All grow in zones 7-10 in sun or shade.

Wildlife Gardens QUESTION: Which are the best plants that provide food (perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines) to attract birds to my backyard garden? (I have water and cover and would like to make sure I have the 10 best plants to add to attract birds, especially cardinal and oriole.)

Since you have two essentials, water and cover, let me concentrate on the food requirements. Orioles and Cardinals love most kinds of fruit. Non-native fruit, such as figs and plums, will be welcomed by these birds. The Altamira and Audubon Orioles love to forage in dense thickets. You might consider whether you should increase your cover with something like Forestiera pubescens (Stretchberry) (or elbowbush), which provides berries as well as cover.

Other listed natives are the following: Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) (early spring berries), Rubus flagellaris (Northern dewberry) (spring berries), Morus microphylla (Littleleaf mulberry) (berries in spring), Ehretia anacua (Anacua) (summer food), Cordia boissieri (Mexican olive) (Hummingbirds, late summer fruit), Schaefferia cuneifolia (Desert yaupon) (winter berries), Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood) (cover, attracts insects, seeds), Colubrina texensis (Hog-plum) (fall and winter fruit and seeds, cover), Ulmus crassifolia (Cedar elm) (fall seeds) and Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry). A variety such as this would provide food and cover for many species of songbirds, including orioles and Cardinals, throughout the year.


Stretchberry, Desert Olive - Forestiera pubescens Nutt. var. pubescens Desert olive is a multi-branched, deciduous shrub, 4-9 ft. tall, with smooth, gray bark; arched branches; spiny branchlets, and light-green leaves. Flowers are inconspicuous but fragrant. Tiny, blue fruits occur in clusters on the female plants. This is a thicket-forming, deciduous shrub.


This drought-tolerant plant is well-suited for use as a spreading background plant or ground cover where grass wont grow. It is widely adaptable – tolerating dry or moist soil, sun or shade.

Forestiera pubescens, commonly known as stretchberry, desert olive, tanglewood, devil's elbow, spring goldenglow, spring herald, or texas forsythia is a deciduous shrub or small tree native to the southwestern United States (Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California) and northern Mexico.


How to grow Stretchberry wiki with nothing there yet.


Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood) (cover, attracts insects, seeds)

Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry)

Texas Wildflowers

Desert Tropicals see also Plants list

Plants for a Future The main aims of the charity are researching and providing information on ecologically sustainable horticulture, as an integral part of designs involving high species diversity and permaculture principles. Approaches such as woodland/forest gardening use a minimal input of resources and energy, create a harmonious eco-system and cause the least possible damage to the environment, while still having the potential to achieve high productivity.

Plant Me Green Monicello, Florida. Trees & perennials.

All Things Plant an active community of gardeners who gather to share ideas, information, and pictures about the plants they love. The whole site is free for everyone.

My Folia a wiki for plants. Track your plants. Free software.

The Useful Wild Plants Project Our first goal is to complete and publish a comprehensive multi-volume encyclopedia that describes over 4,000 Texas plants, discusses in detail their past, present, and future value, and provides color photographs and distribution maps for each species.

Container Info.

Good Potting soils email

"Good potting soils have an open structure, allowing air to the roots, but at the same time retaining water, essential for plant growth," Carlile explains. "Of course, they need added plant foods, and need to have a suitable pH, the balance between acid and alkaline conditions."

Home gardeners may be tempted to simply fill their pots with soil from their yard. "We ''t raise potted plants in backyard muck," Carlile cautions, "because of poor structure, lack of nutrients, weed growth from seeds in soil, and diseases and pests lurking there."

Peat is currently a major component of many potting soil blends. Peat is the layered accumulation of partially degraded organic material over hundreds of years. But in some parts of the world, peatland habitats are shrinking. The harvest of peat may also release additional carbon, contributing to climate change. Efforts are underway to find suitable replacements - a considerable challenge given the airy, absorptive nature of peat that is ideal for plant growth.

It has proved almost impossible to find a material for use in potting soils that is as readily available at the same cost and with the same physical and benign chemical and microbiological properties as peat."

That one exception? Coir. Formerly regarded as a waste product, coir (pronounced "koi-er") is the outer husk of coconuts. Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, and Costa Rica have made this a valued export to European and North American markets. Once the husks are washed to remove natural salts, coir is dried and compressed. In the country of import, it can be wetted and it then swells to make a good potting soil base.

"Because it wets up and retains water well, it's even better than peat for some uses, especially cuttings from plants," Carlile says. "In Europe it's becoming the potting soil of choice for the rapidly expanding strawberry market. The cost of coir, however, is at least twice that of peat."

Bark and shredded wood fiber are other options. They are lightweight and easy to transport. But their age may affect their usefulness. "One of the problems in using wood fiber and bark is its ability to mop up nitrogen added as part of the fertilizer package," Carlile says. Without access to the necessary nitrogen, plants suffer.

Other composted materials are valued as mulches, but can be deadly to young plants if not properly matured. "Raw composted materials can be drastically harmful, where seeds and young plants may be killed," says Carlile.

Other options still exist, Carlile says. "Interestingly, a huge amount of coffee grounds go annually to landfills in the USA and Europe, and in mixture with peat and other materials, coffee grounds can produce a very effective growing medium."

Carlile urges caution - and careful consideration of the plant's stage of life. "Seedlings and young plants may be stunted in an inferior potting soil, but mature specimens may still grow. Very badly produced potting soil may reduce growth or in some cases even kill plants."

My 2 Favorite Homemade Fertilizers That Anyone Can Make pee & herb tea


Perennials website

Perennial Resource has encyclopedia


Top 10 Quick-Growing Shrubs Get fantastic results and garden benefits even faster than usual with these plant picks.

Elderberry Sambucus

Add a few elderberries for you and the birds to enjoy. Butterflies are attracted to the white flowers that appear in summer. The small, purple-black fruit that follows attract birds and can be used for jellies, pies, juice and wine. New cultivars like Black Lace and Lemon Lacy add fine texture and color to the landscape.

Why we love it: Elderberries tolerate wet and even dry soil once established.

Panicle Hydrangea Hydrangea paniculata

Zones 3 to 8 and 9 to 10 on West Coast

The newer and shorter varieties have helped this plant’s popularity explode. Their hearty nature and low-maintenance makes them an easy plant to use as a hedge, in mixed borders or as a specimen. Grow in full to part sun and check the plant tag for proper spacing.

Why we love it: Its close cousin, the Annabelle-type hydrangea, grows quickly and makes a nice addition to shade gardens.

Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius

Zones 2 to 8

New cultivars with colorful foliage have moved this native plant out of the back border and into the spotlight. Use as a hedge, backdrop for flowers or in mixed borders. This tough shrub tolerates full sun to part shade, drought, salt, clay and rocky soils.

Why we love it: You can find lots of compact cultivars like Lady in Red (Ruby Spice), Nugget, Little Devil and Amber Jubilee.

Fraser Photinia Photinia x frasen (Red Tip)

Zones 7 to 9

This is an evergreen shrub often used as part of a screen or tall hedge. Its bright red ends have inspired its other common name—red tip. Regular pruning controls the plant’s size and promotes new growth. White flowers appear in spring and though they’re pretty to look at, they’re not pleasant to smell. Be aware that this shrub is invasive in some parts of Texas.

Why we love it: Red Robin photinia tends to be less susceptible to leaf spot diseases.

Glossy Abelia Abelia x grandifolia

Zones 5 to 9

Add some fragrance and color with this sweet shrub. Fragrant, bell-shaped flowers first appear in spring and continue throughout the growing season. The season ends with purplish fall foliage. Grow in full sun for the best flowering and fall color. Use en masse, as a hedge, in natural areas or in front of larger plants and evergreens.

Why we love it: This low-maintenance plant has few pest problems.

Hazelnut Corylus Americana

Zones 3 to 9

This low-maintenance native shrub grows in full sun to part shade and moist to dry soils. The edible fruit can be roasted and eaten if you can harvest the nuts before the birds and squirrels do. Use as a screen or hedge in informal or natural areas where it has room to spread.

Why we love it: The pendulous male flowers (catkins) provide added interest in late winter or early spring.

Waxmyrtle Myrica cerifera

Zones 7 to 11

This native tree is often pruned and used as a shrub. It’s easy to grow and tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, including drought and flooding. Northern gardeners can grow its hardier relative, Bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica).

Why we love it: The evergreen foliage is fragrant when crushed, and the gray berries are an energy source for winter birds.

Japanese Beautyberry Callicarpa japonica

Zones 5 to 8

The striking violet to almost metallic purple fall fruit make this shrub worthy of a spot in the shrub border. The blue-green leaves make a nice backdrop for both the pinkish white flowers and fruit. It grows best in full sun or light shade in well-drained soils.

Why we love it: The birds love the fruit of both this and its southern cousin, American beautyberry, which is hardy in zones 6 to 11.

Yaupon Ilex vomitoria

Zones 7 to 10

This native evergreen shrub forms dense thickets well suited for screens, hedges, windbreaks and barriers. It can be espaliered or trained as a small tree or topiary. The red berries brighten the winter landscape and provide food for the birds.

Why we love it: Its adaptability, along with drought- and disease-tolerance, makes it a long-lived native alternative to boxwood.


Pittosporum [Pittosporum tobira] a genus of about 200 species of flowering plants in the family Pittosporaceae. The genus is probably Gondwanan in origin; its present range extends from Australasia, Oceania, eastern Asia and some parts of Africa. They are commonly known as pittosporums or, more ambiguously, "cheesewoods".

Flowering Japanese Cheesewood; Pittosporum tobira / Feuilles et fleurs du Pittospore du Japon

Left photo attribution: "Pittosporum tobira1" by Kurt Stüber [1] - part of Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

Right photo attribution: "Pittosporum Tobira JPG0" by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

The species are trees and shrubs growing to 2–30 m tall. The leaves are spirally arranged or whorled, simple, with an entire or waved (rarely lobed) margin. The flowers are produced singly or in umbels or corymbs, each flower with five sepals and five petals; they are often sweetly scented. The fruit is a woody seed capsule, which bursts on ripening to release the numerous seeds. The seeds are coated with a sticky resinous substance. The genus is named after their sticky seeds, from the Greek meaning "pitch-seed". Tarata (P. eugenioides) and Kohuhu (P. tenuifolium) – both from New Zealand – and the Japanese cheesewood (P. tobira) from southern Japan are widely cultivated as ornamental plants in subtropical regions; pittosporums can also be grown indoors as bonsai.

Mediterranean Crown Vetch

5 Shrubs That Add Color To Winter Landscapes Coronilla valentina subspecies glauca. This little gem can be in flower at almost any time of year in mild climates, but it’s in late winter and spring that its neat clusters of yellow, peach-scented, pealike flowers are at their most prolific against prettily lobed, slightly bluish leaves. Ideal in the southwest in sun and well-drained soil.Grows 3 feet by 3 feet and is hardy to zone 8.

Med'n Crown Vetch / Jacqueline Postill Nepalese Daphne

Grows 3 feet by 3 feet and is hardy to zone 8.

Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill

Also called Nepalese Paper Plant. Primarily a West Coast plant, though worth trying in the southeast, this is the hardiest variety of an intoxicatingly fragrant evergreen. Each flower has purplish red buds that open to white flowers yet retain the dark coloring on the backs. Upright in growth. Often regrows well if cut back by frost.

Grows 8 feet by 3 feet and is hardy to zone 7.

Daphne Bholua However, there are now several reliably hardy clones of this species in cultivation. The hardiest of the lot, D. b. var. glacialis ‘Gurkha’, was the first fully deciduous form of the species to enter the scene. It came out of collections by Major Spring-Smyth at nearly 12,000 feet in eastern Nepal in the early 1960s. Large clusters of very fragrant white flowers open from rich pink buds in January to March in the Pacific Northwest (the bloom may be later in areas with a colder climate).

Seedlings raised from ‘Gurkha’ at England’s Hillier Nurseries in the ’80s resulted in the very popular ‘Jacqueline Postill’, which, though fully or mostly evergreen, is still considered one of the hardiest and showiest cultivars. It blooms in midwinter, while fully cloaked in handsome narrow, wavy, deep green leaves.

Daphne bholua ‘Alba’ offers pure white, intensely fragrant flowers in mid-February. ‘Peter Smithers’ deserves mention for being the darkest flowered of all forms in cultivation. British nurseryman Robin White raised the only known D. bholua hybrid, crossing ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and the much hardier D. acutiloba ‘Fragrant Cloud’. The resulting D. ‘Spring Herald’ has a bushier habit than the species and blooms later, but it offers a long progression of cream-tinged, clove-scented flowers.

Unlike many other daphnes, whose growth habit might be described as dense and squatty, D. bholua possesses an upright open habit. This stance makes the species, and especially its deciduous cultivars, doubly desirable, because it puts the fat clusters of ethereally scented white or pink flowers at the forefront. With the fragrance of its flowers in mind, I sited it near a doorway on the east side of our home—a sheltered spot, with cool, moist humus-rich soil. It can be kept in a container if there is a cool glasshouse or porch in which to place it during the winter months. Fortunately, fruit is seldom set on plants under cultivation. This reduces the possibility that this species will invade local ecosystems as spurge daphne (D. laureola) has.

Daphne bholua - Buch.-Ham. ex D.'.

Daphne bholua is an evergreen Shrub growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1.5 m (5ft). It is hardy to zone (UK) 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jan to April. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, lepidoptera.

USDA hardiness zone : 7-10

Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Known Hazards: All parts of the plant are poisonous[76]. Skin contact with the sap can cause dermatitis in some people


Biennials A biennial plant is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots (vegetative structures), then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months. Usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, forming a rosette. Many biennials require a cold treatment, or vernalization, before they will flower. During the next spring or summer, the stem of the biennial plant elongates greatly, or "bolts". This typically makes biennial vegetables such as spinach, fennel and lettuce unusable as food. The plant then flowers, producing fruits and seeds before it finally dies. There are far fewer biennials than either perennial plants or annual plants.

Under extreme climatic conditions, a biennial plant may complete its life cycle rapidly (e.g. three months instead of two years). This is quite common in vegetable or flower seedlings that were exposed to cold conditions, or vernalized, before they were planted in the ground. This behavior leads to many normally biennial plants being treated as annuals in some areas.

From a gardener's perspective, a plant's status as annual, biennial, or perennial often varies based on location or purpose. Biennials grown for flowers, fruits, or seeds need to be grown for two years. Biennials that are grown for edible leaves or roots are grown for just one year (and not grown on a second year to run to seed).

Examples of biennial plants are members of the onion family including leek,[3] some members of the cabbage family,[3] common mullein, parsley, fennel,[3] Lunaria, silverbeet, Black-eyed Susan, Sweet William, colic weed, carrot,[3] and some hollyhocks. Plant breeders have produced annual cultivars of several biennials that will flower the first year from seed, e.g. foxglove and stock.


Perennial Plants

Simply put, unlike annuals or biennials, perennials are plants that live year after year. Some perennials, such as trees and shrubs, have significant life spans. Others, like many flowering perennials, may need to be replaced every three or more years.

Some trees and shrubs retain their foliage throughout the year, but most herbaceous perennials, including many flowering perennials, die back to the ground during the first fall freezes. That is, the leaves, stems and flowers die back to the ground, leaving a dormant root structure. Upon the advent of spring, new plant tops form and the cycle begins anew. These perennial garden plants are said to be hardy, having survived a winter season.

Perennials have a shorter bloom time than annuals — about two to three weeks. However, with a little research, an entire flower bed may be filled with a variety of perennial plants, allowing for continuous blooming as one plant ends and another one flowers.

Another upside to perennial plantings is the amazing varieties of color, texture and sizes available. They do require some pruning and maintenance, but their longevity makes this well worth the effort. Many perennials will retain foliage year round. Among these include not only trees and shrubs, but many types of ground cover as well.

Gardening with Perennials – How To Design A Perennial Garden I truly believe that the key to a lifetime of happy gardening is to have a few tried and true perennials in your gardening beds. I remember the first time I grew them: I was 10 years old and seeing those green shoots poking out of the cold, hard ground in late spring was the most miraculous sight I had ever witnessed.

Perennial Gardens

How to Design a Perennial Garden

Now that you have an idea of which plants will suit your location’s particular characteristics, the joyful process of preparing, designing, and maintaining the garden bed begins. As part of your perennial garden design process, performing a pH and nutrient soil test is a good first step. It will let you know what nutrients are lacking or if the pH is off balance. A pH range of 6.0-7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral) is acceptable to most all perennial flower gardens.

Once the soil test has been 'e and any adjustments have been made, add o1inch of compost to the top of the soil, making sure the soil is not too wet (soaked) or too dry (dusty), and turn it over with a shovel being careful not to trample it after digging. If this soil preparation can be 'e the fall before next spring’s planting, it would be ideal. If not, wait at least a day before planting the bed.

Plant the perennials on a cloudy and cool day, if possible, to avoid shock. Make sure to give them sufficient space to double or triple in size. As perennial garden plants bloom, remove any spent blossoms by simply pinching them off with your fingers. Each spring it is also a good idea to spread well-rotted manure, compost, or organic fertilizer on the surface of the soil and cover it with a mulch, such as chopped leaves or straw, to keep the soil moist and fertile.

If the plants have become crowded after a few years at their location, dig up the perennial clump, divide it into two or three sections with a knife, being careful not to let the roots dry out, and replant them, either expanding the flower bed or choosing a new location–even giving them to friends. It’s easy to make friends when you have free perennials.

12/17/15 ordered one plant (2.5" pot) Asclepias tuberosa Western Gold Mix. Will ship after 2/29/16. See at High Country Gardens Your order # is: 300054922.

High Country Gardens Western Gold Butterfly Weed


Artemisia "Sweet Annie" / Epazote
Epazote from The Growers Exchange; ordered 12/18/15 for Spring delivery

Mine "Peppermint" from The Growers Exchange; ordered 12/18/15 for Spring delivery

Mint "Citrus Kitchen" from The Growers Exchange; ordered 12/18/15 for Spring delivery

Mint "Orange" from The Growers Exchange; want

Artemisia 'Sweet Annie' from The Growers Exchange; ordered 12/18/15 for Spring delivery

Comment: The sweet-spicy scent of this wonderful herb is a 'must' for anyone making herbal sachets or wreaths. Harvest plants in late summer/ early fall in dry weather when yellow flowers have appeared & foliage turns yellowish-green. Cut close to the ground. To dry, tie 3-5 branches in bundles & hang upside down in a dark dry area for a couple of weeks or 'til completely dry. Sweet Annie is great for repelling moths and insects in dresser drawers & closets and makes your linens, lingerie, etc. smell wonderful!

Salad Burnet from The Growers Exchange; want

Young leaves taste like cucumber.

Thyme "Lemon" Lemon Thyme looks and grows like English Thyme but has the taste and scent of lemon! Use Lemon Thyme in any recipe that calls for lemon flavoring or lemon zest to avoid bitterness or overpowering with citrus flavor. Known worldwide for its culinary prowess, Lemon Thyme is heavily used in Middle Eastern and European cuisines, most popularly found in the French Bouquet Garnis and Herbes de Provence.

Thyme 'French' The narrow leaves of French Thyme are distinctly grayer and sweeter than English Thyme.

Keyhole Gardening

Keyhole Gardening Unlocking the secrets of drought-hardy gardens

See illustrations of a keyhole garden: overhead view and side view cutout, with labels.

See step by step instructions for constructing a 6-foot diameter keyhole garden.

"The sustainable gardening method was developed by a humanitarian aid organization in southern Africa, where resources are scarce and the climate unforgiving. There, three keyhole gardens can feed a family of 10 all year long, reports the BBC."

"In her area of North Central Texas, Tolman has added a twist to keyhole gardens, making beds almost entirely of compost. Some of the soil is composed of recycled newspapers, telephone books and cardboard, which she says adds carbon, nitrogen and air to the soil. In Tolman’s garden, cardboard is gold, and what it buys is priceless.

“You '’t have to spend $400 a month on groceries when you can grow healthy produce at home,” she says. “In the summertime, I grow Malabar spinach, which loves the heat. The chard’s been going all year. I can eat a power snack of French green beans right off the vine.” Her harvest also includes carrots, kale, tomatoes, berries and more, rivaling Texas farmers markets. “I eat year-round from these gardens,” says Tolman.

Plant Your Garden in a Keyhole by W. Leon Smith.

Video: Keyhole Gardening Dr. Deb Dolman. Central Texas Gardener

Video: Keyhole Gardens (Texas Country Reporter) 1/1/16

Video: How to Build a Keyhole Garden P. Allen Smith--short & to the point

Facebook page on Keyhole Gardens

Dr. Deb's Site

Video: The Garden Show: Keyhole Garden Pat Austin, KS resident

Dave's Garden: KHGs great article with links

Keyhole Garden Beds some new ideas

PDF Field Guide to How to Build a Keyhole Garden DVD with Debbie Tolman, Ph.D.

The Ins and Outs of a Keyhole Garden

The Secret to Building a Salad Keyhole Garden Raised beds are nothing new. The idea is to elevate the garden to maximize drainage, improve the soil, and enhance access. Keyhole gardens are a riff on that idea, with one addition: a center compost area that works as a self-fertilizing element for the plants.

The access notch makes the garden look like a keyhole, and leads to the composting center. That’s often placed on the least sunny side of the bed (usually north), to allow the plants to better capture sun.

The Most Brilliant Raised Bed We've Seen Avoid wasted work, water, and space with the keyhole design

If you’ve grown vegetables in raised beds you know they are amazing, often getting four times the yield of a traditional garden. But chances are, your design still isn’t as efficient as it could be. The solution? A keyhole garden.

Said to have originated in Africa, where communities with very poor soil and a long dry season were looking for a way to grow fresh veggies as economically as possible, the shape is incredibly efficient, offers high yields, and can be built cheaply.

The round walls are stronger than traditional forms. And by eliminating corners, which often dry out faster, you maximize growing space. The central core (reach via the “slot”) holds kitchen scraps and filters gray water, removing the need for a separate compost bin.

The combination of shape and central core also means that the wet compost keeps the soil moist, and the water radiates out to the plants, so your garden can stay lush during dry spells. Yet, since it is a raised bed, it also won’t get waterlogged in heavy rains.

The Simplest Raised Bed To Make Growing plants gets much easier when you ''t need to dig into the ground.

Why garden in a raised bed? The soil can be liberally supplemented with compost and other organic amendments, creating a rich and porous root zone that nurtures plants. And the bed sides act as an edging, helping to keep out weeds and turfgrass. Many gardeners, including those of restricted mobility, find that the slightly higher soil level facilitates maintenance. Bonus: The elevated soil of raised beds drains quickly and doesn’t become waterlogged, and it warms up earlier in spring.

Soil Improvement

Mycorrhizal Fungi: The Amazing Underground Secret to a Better Garden Nurture the ancient, symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants’ roots for increased garden harvests and healthier soil.

We still define natural habitats primarily in terms of plants and animals, the two kingdoms of life we can see with unaided eyes. The greatest amount of biological activity and the largest diversity of species and genes, however, come from the other four kingdoms science now recognizes: bacteria, archaea (a less-studied division of life-forms formerly considered bacteria), protists (mostly single-celled algae and protozoans), and fungi.

The vast majority of these members are microscopic in size. They cannot be seen with the naked eye, but we now know they permeate soils and suffuse waters. They drift en masse through air. They thrive not only on the surface of every plant and animal, but within them as well. From the upper reaches of the atmosphere to the bottom of the seas, down into the rock layers and outnumbering the stars in the known universe, microbes are literally the creatures that make Earth a living planet.

Microbes remain mostly in the “out of sight, out of mind” category of nature for a lot of folks. Others, chemical spray in hand, can hardly stop thinking about them, envisioning “germs,” mold spores and other unseen swarmers poised to unleash disease and rot. Either way, a broader understanding of the life-forms that truly put the “bio” in “biosphere” has been slow to emerge.

Interest is building, though, as the public learns more about the positive roles microorganisms play, including how some types can boost yields in gardens. These mycorrhizae — extraordinary fungi that interact with our garden crops — are what we’ll be zooming in on.

A white fungal network called hyphae, not plant roots, is the principal structure for the uptake of many important nutrients in the plant kingdom. / The hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi are only a single cell wide, and they penetrate a root’s cell wall to facilitate nutrient exchanges between the fungi and the root tip. This illustration is magnified about 200 times. Illustrations by Michael Rothman

I’m a wildlife biologist. Decades ago, I visited a team working to restore streamsides churned to bare gravel by placer mining. They were planting willow and alder in hopes of stabilizing the banks and preventing further erosion. Other vegetation could then move in and once again shade the passing waters, cooling them for native trout and spawning salmon. I was already picturing songbirds returning to nest in the lush foliage while mink, otters, and bears patrolled the shores, except the normally hardy willow and alder wouldn’t grow. They withered instead, and the banks stayed empty — until the team prepared the next batch to be planted by first soaking their roots in a broth containing certain fungi. This is common practice today. It wasn’t then. Besides changing the way I’ve planted trees at home ever since, the visit made me realize that my view of the most important wildlife in ecosystems might be upside-down.

What is called a mushroom is merely the temporary structure some fungi grow to produce spores. The main body of a fungus typically consists of a network of fine-branching threads known as “hyphae.” While you’ll sometimes see them massed together, spread like a web across a decomposing log, they’re usually hidden underground and essentially invisible to us; the individual filaments are only a single cell wide.

The network of fungal hyphae is called a “mycelium.” As it turns out, the largest known creature on Earth is neither a blue whale nor a redwood tree; it’s the several-hundred-ton mycelium of one humongous fungus that’s between 2,000 and 8,000 years old. Spread across 4 square miles of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, the fungal network grows at an average depth of only a few feet. By contrast, the mycelia of most species are small, but they’re as common as, well, dirt. If you pick up a pinch of soil almost anywhere, you’ll have miles of hyphae in your hand.

Estimates for the number of fungi species run in the millions. Mycologists have identified close to 100,000 so far. Of those, nearly 6,000 interact with plants’ roots. These are roughly divided into two types: those in which the fungus remains outside the root’s cells (ectomycorrhizal fungi) and those that penetrate the root’s cells (endomycorrhizal fungi, illustrated in the Slideshow).

The outcome in both cases is a continual exchange of goods. Ten to 20 percent of the sugars a plant produces through photosynthesis are absorbed by the mycorrhizae. In return, the fungus delivers many essential nutrients to the plant and increases drought resistance.

Higher crop yields can be the result for gardeners. As the ends of the hyphae weave among soil particles via cracks and crannies too small for even the narrowest root hair, the mycelium becomes an auxiliary root system that’s in contact with a subterranean volume of soil from several hundred to 2,500 times greater than what the plant could reach alone.

Plants routinely face a challenge absorbing enough of certain key elements, such as phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and iron. Fungi '’t face this obstacle; they produce specialized acids and enzymes that break the bonds that bind those nutrients to soil and organic compounds. Although we call this process “decay” and attach a morbid aura to the word, it’s a lively enterprise.

Gardeners recognize this decomposition from their compost piles. It’s no surprise that a plant with hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of hyphae working on the plant’s behalf to mine key nutrients and freight them back to the roots is able to grow faster, stay healthier, and ultimately yield more than it would without the fungi’s partnership.

Leeks inoculated with mycorrhizal fungi (right) grow much better than those planted without an inoculant (left). Photo by Paul Pierlott /

Polish scientist Franciszek Kamienski gets credit for discovering in the 1880s that the fungus and plant combination was in fact a symbiosis — a mutually beneficial partnership. A contemporary gave it the name “mycorrhiza,” which is Latin for fungus-root. '’t get freaked out by the Latin. Just say it with me: my-core-rise-uh. The plural is mycorrhizae: rise-A.

At least 90 percent of all plant families are known to partner with mycorrhizal fungi. These associations can be between a single fungus species and a single plant species, but most plants associate with many species of fungi, and vice versa. Mycorrhizae are by no means considered the exception any longer. They rule. Mycorrhizae, not plant roots, are the principal structures for most nutrient uptake in the plant kingdom.

The first plants that colonized land some 400 to 500 million years ago were descendants of aquatic algae. According to fossil evidence, symbioses with fungi appeared shortly afterward. Some think they had already formed before the proto-plants even left the water. Either way, mycorrhizae would have greatly improved early plants’ chances of adapting to the stresses imposed by the harsher and less predictable environments encountered on shore, especially since those plants hadn’t really developed roots yet. In a sense, helping plants cope with the demands of life on land is what mycorrhizae have been doing ever since.

Although we think of fungi being most at home in deep, dank forests, they’re surprisingly abundant in open shrublands and prairies, too. The outer walls of hyphae contain gluey compounds that cause fine particles of earth to clump together on and around the threads. This process is a major factor in building soil structure and making the ground less vulnerable to erosion.

Mycelial networks also play a valuable role in sequestering carbon within microclusters of filaments. They limit their partner plants’ exposure to heavy metals, such as lead, zinc and cadmium, by keeping those elements bound to the hyphae’s sticky sheath.

At high latitudes and high altitudes, mycorrhizal fungi scrounge nutrients from cold, rocky soils. In boggy regions, the hyphae buffer plant partners from the high acid content of peaty soils. In saline ground, the hyphae help safeguard their partners from high salt concentrations. Mycorrhizae can also protect plants from pests and diseases.

How can a gardener take advantage of this symbiotic relationship that plants and fungi have been developing for 400 million years? Microbiologist David Douds of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has been studying that question for 35 years. His studies show that fungal inoculants can increase the yields of many vegetable and field crops, including leeks, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Inoculants can give transplants a strong start, but the main key to raising good crops lies in maintaining healthy communities of native mycorrhizal fungi in the ground itself. Douds cautions against heavy or frequent tilling and the use of chemical fertilizers (especially phosphorus) and soil-applied fungicides. These activities break apart, weaken or otherwise suppress beneficial microbes, including fungal mycelia. You can keep your soil in prime condition by minimizing disturbances apart from occasional light tilling, weeding and mulching.

How to Use Cover Crops and Other Techniques to Increase Beneficial Fungi Populations

An equally important step is to ensure that mycorrhizal fungi survive through winter and early spring. The kinds of mycorrhizal fungi that support many garden crops aren’t capable of living and reproducing independently of their plant partners. In a carefully weeded and fully harvested garden, mycorrhizal fungi numbers can decline for lack of live roots to colonize.

Douds advises avoiding empty beds by keeping plants, whether food crops or cover crops growing at all times. (See Cover Crops and Cover Crops 2 for ideas.) In fall, plant rye, oats or, Douds’ favorite, hairy vetch. All of these plants have extensive root systems and readily harbor mycorrhizae.

Rows of perennial onions and strawberries can also serve as reservoirs for overwintering fungi. Orchards '’t require the same attention, but buffer strips of a grass-and-legume blend will help retain a mix of fungi.

Douds sows hairy vetch in September while his garden is still producing, targeting areas where the soil is accessible, such as under and around tomato plants.

The following year — usually late May when the hairy vetch is in full flower — he chops the shoots and lets them lie on the soil’s surface. Wait until the hairy vetch is in full flower; cut it too soon and it will re-sprout as a “weed,” but cut it too late and it will produce seeds, which can be problematic. Douds then transplants his tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables into the hairy vetch mulch.

Since learning about mycorrhizae’s reliance on live plants for winter survival, Mother’s Editor-in-Chief, Cheryl Long, has grown a thin strip of perennial alfalfa along the edges of her garden paths. “It doesn’t take up growing space, and during summer I cut it for protein-rich poultry feed,” Long says.

Many gardeners know that over-fertilization can be harmful, but they may not be aware that phosphorus builds up in soil more readily than the other two elements in common fertilizer mixes (nitrogen and potassium). Under a regimen of frequent, well-intended application, phosphorus can reach levels that actually discourage the formation of mycorrhizae. Phosphorus is the middle number of the N-P-K percentages shown on fertilizer products. Choose low “P” numbers unless a soil test has shown your soil is low in phosphorus.

Now that scientists have taught us that invisible, magical mycorrhizae are in the soil, minimal tilling and constant cover crops should be considered a routine part of growing good crops. If you want to take extra steps in spring to help your crops establish these remarkable plant-fungi partnerships, Douds, in cooperation with the Rodale Institute, has developed a technique you can use to grow your own fungal inoculum to give your transplants a head start at the very beginning of their lives. For details, visit the Rodale Institute.

Quick and Easy Guide: On-farm AM fungus inoculum production Following is the crib-notes recipe for producing beneficial AM fungus inoculum on-farm.

The following list will produce 16 “Grow Bags” of inoculum, enough to make 200 or 400 ft3 of inoculated greenhouse potting media depending on the dilution ratio (1:9 or 1:19) of inoculum:potting media used in the final step.

Bahiagrass seed (sources for bahiagrass seed can be found on the internet, for example:

Conical plastic pots (we use RLC-4 Pine Cells from Stuewe and Sons, Corvallis, OR 97333)

Coarse sand such as swimming pool filter sand (240 in3 for 80 seedlings)

Ground cover fabric (16 Grow Bags fit on a 1.2 m x 3.6 m or 4 ft x 12 ft section)

16-7 gallon “Grow Bags” (one source is Worm’s Way, Bloomington, IN 47404)

4-4 ft3 bags of vermiculite

4 ft3 of compost

In order to maximize mycorrhizal proliferation and colonization of the host plant, the inoculum bags should be setup outside as soon as possible after the last frost. Some work is necessary before this date. The finished inoculum will be ready for use the following spring.

4 months before the predicted last frost [11/20 in San Antonio]:

Germinate bahiagrass seeds (or other host seeds) in vermiculite or seed starter.

Order any needed materials.

3 months before the predicted last frost [12/20 in San Antonio]:

Transplant bahiagrass seedlings into conical plastic pots filled with 1:3 soil:sand mixture (volume basis). In order to avoid introducing pathogens, we suggest using sterilized field soil. Another option is to use soil from a natural area of the farm or from a field that has not been used within the past 2 years to grow the crop that will be inoculated.

As soon as possible after the last frost [3/20 in San Antonio]

Set up the inoculum production area by covering an area with the ground cover fabric. This will provide a clean, open area that makes maintenance easy. It will prevent weeds from growing around the bags and contaminating the inoculum with weed seed.

Set up the grow bags:

Mix compost and vermiculite in chosen dilution. A basic recommendation for yard clippings compost from municipal facilities is a 1:4 compost:vermiculite ratio (volume basis).

Fill bags ¾ full with mixture. Roll the lip of the bag down to just above the level of the mix.

Add 100 cm3of field soil as the “inoculum starter” and mix well.

Pool 4-5 soil samples taken from the surface to 10cm (4 in) deep. Sieve out roots and rocks.

To avoid introducing pathogens and to obtain a diverse sample of AM fungi, take samples from a natural area of the farm or from a field that has not been used within the past 2 years to grow the crop that will be inoculated.

Transplant 5 bahiagrass or host plant seedlings into each bag.

During the growing season:

Weed and water the bags as needed. The mycorrhizae will proliferate as the plants grow.

Frost will kill the bahiagrass and the mycorrhizae will overwinter naturally outdoors in the bags.

The following spring:

Harvest the inoculum:

To keep the inoculum clean, cut off the dead bahiagrass leaves and discard.

Shake the compost and vermiculite mix from the root ball into a bin. This mix will contain the mycorrhizal spores and hyphae.

Cut the roots into short segments (less than 1cm or ½ inch) and mix into bin. The roots contain the mycorrhizal vesicles.

Mix the inoculum into your potting medium:

Use a 1:9 inoculum:media mix (volume basis) for flats with cells of 50 cm3 or smaller. For larger cells a 1:19 mixture should be sufficient.

Amend your greenhouse fertilization regime to avoid P-sufficient plants that will resist colonization:

Conventional farmers: Try to achieve a P addition of 3 ppm or less for no more than three fertilizer applications per week. Apply P-free solutions at other times if necessary.

Organic farmers: If your potting medium requires additional fertilization, use a low P source. If your potting medium contains all the nutrients needed during the greenhouse culture phase, no modifications are recommended at this time.

When gardening or farming with mycorrhizae in mind, there are a couple of things you '’t need to worry about. The first, Douds points out, is that you '’t need to inoculate your established garden soil with beneficial fungi.

If the soil has had plant cover and hasn’t been abused, it will already have the fungi present. The second non-worry is what would be best for beets, spinach and most members of the mustard family, which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kale and radishes. These are among the relatively few plants that get along fine without fungi for partners.

How to Promote the Plant-Mycorrhizae Partnership

• Minimize soil tilling
• Always keep live plants in your beds, even in winter
• Rotate crops within your beds
• Avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers
• Avoid applying too much phosphorus; a soil test every few years is a good idea

Mycorrhizal Fungi and Plant Roots: A Symbiotic Relationship Mycorrizal fungi help plant roots absorb nutrients and fight off harmful, soil-dwelling predators. In exchange, the fungus receives sugars and nutrients from its host plant.

Lichens from Antarctica survived 34 days in a laboratory setting designed to simulate the environment on Mars. Photo by Fotolia/Ifrabanedo / The prevailing opinion among experts is that when you’re looking through a microscope at mitochondria, you’re looking at highly modified bacteria whose ancestor formed a symbiosis with a larger, single-celled creature eons ago. Photo by Fotolia/zozulinskyi

Observations of hyphae bound together with root hairs weren’t reported until the 19th century. No one made much of the findings for decades afterward, because botanists took them to be examples of fungi parasitizing plants. Polish scientist Franciszek Kamienski gets credit for discovering in the 1880’s that the fungus and plant combination was in fact a symbiotic relationship.

A contemporary gave it the name mycorrhiza, Latin for fungus-root. Say it with me: my-core-rise-uh. The plural is mycorrhizae: rise-A. It’s worth remembering, because as the years went by, researchers discovered mycorrhizae among the roots of more and more trees, shrubs, grasses, herbs, and even non-vascular plants such as ferns and liverworts.

We All Need Somebody to Lean On: Symbiotic Relationships

At least 80 percent of the plant species on the globe, representing more than 90 percent of all the plant families, are known to form mycorrhizae. In addition to facilitating the transportation of nutrients, at least one kind of mycorrhizal fungus attracts and kills the tiny soil-dwelling arthropods called springtails, a rich source of nitrogen.

Other carnivorous fungi capture the superabundant microscopic worms known as nematodes, either with sticky knobs that develop from the hyphae, fine filament meshes, or loops that constrict to snare passing prey — fungal lassoes. Weird, but Yeehaw! A variety of mycorrhizal fungi protect plant associates from root-devouring nematodes by producing chemicals lethal to the worms, nematicides, which have drawn interest from the agricultural pest control industry.

Many mycorrhizal fungi secrete antibiotics fatal to bacteria that infect root systems. Not surprisingly, those chemicals have generated close interest among researchers, too.

The more vigorous a plant, the better it can contend with diseases and parasites, compete for space and sunlight, invest extra energy in the production of flowers or cones, successfully reproduce, and replace growth lost to insects, larger grazing animals, storm breakage and seasonal defoliation. That’s the game. Engaging in a symbiotic relationship with fungi is clearly a winning combination for plants, and the connections reach more widely than you might suppose.

Combining old-fashioned shovel work with modern genetic analysis, researchers have traced mycelia that directly connect two or more individuals of the same plant species, allowing them to share resources. They have also found mycelia with hyphae connecting different species. For example, a cluster of conifer saplings arising from a dark forest floor and struggling upward toward the light needs nitrogen to continue building tissues. This element is particularly hard to come by in many woodland soils, and there may be little or none near the saplings’ roots.

But if one of the young conifers can get an infusion of that element through hyphae linked to an alder or birch tree, whose roots host symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria, that particular sapling may be good to go. Make that good to grow.

Of course, a physical attachment via a mycelium isn’t necessary for a plant lacking a nutrient to benefit from a surplus associated with a different plant. If hyphae from the impoverished plant only reach the soil near the second plant, this can be enough.

People have been planting nitrogen-hungry crops like maize next to legumes like peas and beans for generations, think of the Native American’s Three Sisters Gardens. Some farmers might have guessed that the roots of one plant borrowed good stuff from the soil around another, but nobody was aware of the bacteria in nodes on the legume roots making the nitrogen available or aware of the mycorrhizal hyphae gathering it. They just knew the maize grew better.

These days, orchardists, commercial farmers and dedicated gardeners tend to be keenly aware of the symbiotic relationship between plants’ roots and fungi. A good measure of growers’ interest can be found in the long list of companies currently selling mycorrhizal fungi. They offer packets and jars of inoculants to treat roots or seeds prior to planting and larger quantities for broadcasting onto croplands, especially those whose mycelial structures have been disrupted by chemical treatments, over-tilling or compaction from trampling.

Lichen: A Biological Alloy

If you ask the general public to name a partnership between a fungus and a plant, those who aren’t at a loss will probably answer “lichens.” Easily found and often strikingly colorful, lichens are indeed a fungus combined with a photosynthesizing species, but that partner isn’t a plant.

It will be a microbe, single-celled algae or else cyanobacteria, which can convert sunlight to energy as well. Some fungi partner with both types at once. As in a mycorrhiza, the fungus takes a share of the sugars produced by its solar-powered collaborator.

Cyanobacteria also fix nitrogen, making that available to any resident algae as well as to the fungus. The fungus meanwhile shelters the partner cells nested among its filaments and keeps them moist by absorbing water from rain, mists, and dew. In addition, the fungus delivers nutrients from airborne dust caught on its threads and from whatever surface it’s anchored to by the filaments extending from its base.

Swiss botanist Simon Schwendener proposed in 1867 that this combination of creatures represented a symbiotic relationship. It earned him years of scorn from prominent lichenologists. That all organisms are separate, autonomous beings wasn’t just an assumption in those days. It was more like a creed — a projection of the human sense of individual identity in Western culture.

As of 2014, thousands of species of lichens have been identified. By one estimate, they cover as much as six percent of the planet’s land surface. Their nature as a sort of biological alloy makes them tremendously self-sufficient and able to inhabit extreme environments. Often the first to colonize sites destroyed by catastrophic natural events or human disturbance, lichens are also among the last organisms you’ll find standing as you travel from well-watered realms into deserts. It’s the same as you journey from moderate climes toward the barren terrain of alpine crags or polar expanses.

Lichens from Antarctica survived 34 days in a laboratory setting designed to simulate the environment on Mars. For that matter, lichens have been shot into orbit and placed outside a spacecraft in a container that was then opened, directly exposing those composite creatures to the flash-freezing temperatures and cosmic radiation of space for 15 days. Upon returning to Mother Earth, they simply resumed growing!

So many of the plants we see in a field or forest are symbiotic with fungi, and the soils underfoot are so saturated with hyphae, it’s not hard to picture such habitats as titanic lichens. You just have to imagine the plants as equivalent to the single cells of symbiotic algae — big algae poking into the air above ground while enwrapped in a mesh of fungal threads below.

I am You, and You Are Me

Perhaps this is where we should shift our gaze from other species to the one calling itself Homo sapiens. The body of people who puzzle over how the living world works — just like the body of people who aren’t all that interested — each contains trillions of human cells and ten times that many microbes. Some are harmless hitchhikers, but most are symbionts that contribute to our well-being.

Roughly 30,000 species — primarily bacteria but also archaea, protists, and fungi (mostly in the form of yeasts) — typically inhabit the human stomach and intestinal tract. They carry out much of our digestion, manufacture vitamins, fatty acids and other nutrients often missing in the foods we eat; secrete enzymes and hormones that influence the body’s metabolism, energy storage, and immune system, and they destroy or neutralize harmful microbes.

Thousands more species inhabit our mouth and throat, flourishing in those warm, humid environments while helping ensure that harmful varieties of microbes '’t. Still others congregate on our skin and in its pores, in the conjunctiva of our eyes, and in ….. let’s just say any other place you care to imagine.

People are increasingly aware of these facts nowadays. Yet the human-microbe symbiosis goes way deeper. Every cell in every plant and animal, many protists, and all fungi contains organelles known as mitochondria. Commonly described as the power sources of the cell, they build the molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate), whose complex bonds, when broken, release the energy needed to drive other cellular functions.

Mitochondria have their own DNA, different from that in the cell’s nucleus but similar to DNA found in bacteria. These organelles also reproduce on their own by splitting, just as bacteria do. The prevailing opinion among experts is that when you’re looking through a microscope at mitochondria, you’re looking at highly modified bacteria whose ancestor formed a symbiosis with a larger, single-celled creature eons ago.

It probably began with the bigger cell engulfing a bacterium to eat it. Somehow the eatee avoided being digested, took up residence inside the eater’s protoplasm, and carved out a niche in the energy production business. That combination became the primordial line that ultimately led to the larger life forms we know today.

Plants have an additional type of organelle in their cells: chloroplasts. These are the photosynthesizing modules, where green pigments in complex proteins convert the sun’s radiation to chemical energy. That in turn fuels the construction of sugars from ordinary carbon dioxide and water, with oxygen given off as a byproduct.

Like mitochondria, chloroplasts have their own DNA and reproduce independently. As far as scientists can tell, the chloroplasts are almost certainly a strain of cyanobacteria. Widespread in early seas, those microbes were among the first — and maybe the very first — organisms to develop photosynthesis.

Scientists largely credit them with converting earth’s early atmosphere of methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide to a breathable, oxygen-rich one. At some point, like the ancestors of mitochondria, ancient cyanobacteria merged with larger, single-celled organisms. Once again, it may have started when a bigger cell engulfed a smaller one, in this case a cyanobacterium that survived to carry on its sunlight-driven routines. The sugars it contributed led to a better-than-average survival rate for subsequent generations of both species as they reproduced. Their descendants developed into unicellular algae, then multicellular algae, and then — with the help of symbiotic fungi — land plants.

And there you have it. You, I, the rest of humanity, and just about every visible creature we relate to as wildlife, pets, livestock, crops, ornamental plants, and so on, are symbionts, joint ventures in the business of existence, partnered-up from head to toe (or root) with invisible life forms. To me this means that whether you are lost in the wild, mowing a suburban lawn or sitting on the top floor of a skyscraper in an empty, sanitized room, you are never really alone and never truly separate from nature, no matter what you feel or prefer to believe. It’s for others to speculate on the implications for our cherished sense of individuality, not to mention our politics, religious views and environmental consciousness.

Creating Your Own Mycorrhiza Mycorrhiza can be broken down to its root words and translated literally to “root fungus”. Whether fungus makes you think of yellow toenails or mushrooms on a pizza, most '’t realize the impact they do and can have on all life on Earth.

They are an amazing life-form that we are just scratching the surface of their potential. One use that commercial growers and nurseries have known for a while but is now starting to trickle to the average gardener is the symbiotic relationship mycorrhizal fungi has with plants.

All life has co-evolved with bacteria and fungi over millions of years. All life depends on life. Life not only needs to eat life to live but they also need to work together to be successful. Even humans have co-evolved with other life to get to where we are today.

Mitochondria, a component in our cells that creates energy for the cell to produce proteins and molecules for cell function and reproduction has some of its own genetic code intact. This is theorized as occurring because at one point in time it was its own organism. It starting working with other cells and over time they became dependent on each other.

In the bigger picture, roughly 90% of the cells in our body belong to other organisms. Only 10% of the cells that make up us are actually us. We wouldn’t be able to live without the other micro-organisms we evolved with. And plants are the same way.

The roots of plants can only take in nutrients within its rhizosphere, or the area surrounding its roots. This area encompasses about 1/10 of an inch around the roots. Think about it. All that fertilizer, compost, water and whatever else you dump in the soil is only getting to the plant if it is 1/10 of an inch away from the roots. The rest is wasted.

To better survive, the plants root system secretes out certain exudates (organic acids and sugars) to attract particular organisms (fungi and bacteria) for whatever micro-nutrient the plant is lacking. Fungi spread out in root-like stringy webs called hypha and bring the nutrients to the rhizosphere to trade them for the exudates. This basically increases the area of the plants rhizosphere and thus more access to nutrients for the plant.

This alone makes me want to use these little organisms in my garden, but a strong colony of beneficial fungi and bacteria crowd out the harmful ones leaving the plant in better condition. It helps the plant resist pests and diseases, helps the plants from overstressing, and can also increase drought tolerance.

Many studies from around the world have shown the benefits of encouraging this symbiotic relationship. So while you can go buy specific species of fungi to add to your garden and fields’, making them on your own is as easy as creating an environment for what is already in the soil to thrive.

Creating Soil Helpers: They Work Hard So You '’t Have To

Fungi and Bacteria are classified as decomposers. If they weren’t around we would quickly be swimming in un-decomposed organic matter. Though paradoxically, without them we would not have that organic matter in the first place.

Bacteria are nitrogen loving and capable of ingesting only the simplest of micro-nutrients and sugars.

Woody carbon-filled matter is what fungi are good at breaking down with the enzymes it creates. Knowing this I set out to establish different environments for both organisms to grow.

For the bacteria I made sure to have lots of small organic materials for them to munch on. Layering my compost pile with a good ratio of carbon to nitrogen ensures that the organic matter breaks down enough for the bacteria. Air and water are needed for this as well so a moist and aerated compost pile with plenty of brown and green material is a perfect breeding ground for beneficial bacteria.

Lots of worms showing up in your compost pile are a sign of many decomposers present since this is the worm’s main diet. The excreted material leftover by the worms is also a great addition for soil fertility. I cover my compost pile with straw or leaves since UV light can kill the bacterial colonies you are encouraging to grow.

For the fungi I covered my low hoop tunnel bed last fall with straw while my remaining summer crops were wrapping up for the year. Before winter came I added a good amount of leaves I collected in the Compost Bandit over the top of the straw. This mulch covered the fungi within the soil and enabled them to grow around the straw.

This method is easier than composting because it requires you to do the opposite; you '’t turn it. As mentioned earlier, fungi spread out with thin stringy webs called hypha. Turning and mixing the soil would destroy that hypha killing the network the fungi had created. This is why no-till or low-till is more beneficial in the long run than tilling the ground up every year. You are making it harder for the beneficial fungi to grow which limits their presence for the plants come spring time.

Hoop Tunnel ~

Before spring came this year, I carefully removed all the leaves from my garden bed exposing all the fungi that had been growing there. The next step was to add the bacteria filled compost directly on top. This gives me fungi, bacteria, and good compost to make my garden bed a fertile one for this year’s crops. When pulling out the few weeds that had managed to grow under the leaves, I saw the fungi all wrapped up in the roots. This was a good sign of things to come for the plants I wanted to grow there this year.

In a world where we are too impatient for things to come, it makes sense to find simple ways of doing things so we can more easily make the transition from short term thinking to long term. Growing beneficial fungi doesn’t take any work from you other than setting up an area that encourages growth. There is no tossing and mixing. There is no checking on it daily. It should be added to your end of the year garden preparation for winter. This will not only enable you to use less fertilizers and pesticides but will also make your plants all the more happier and healthier, passing those benefits on to you.

Getting Ready For Spring, Preparing Your Soil Testing the Soil--Tried and True Test: grab a handful of soil from your garden, and squeeze it together to form a ball. Apply a bit of pressure to the ball, and see what happens: if the ball breaks apart into loose pieces, it's time to get digging. If pressure causes the ball to break into large chunks or just flatten, there is still too much moisture. If the ball doesn't break or if breaks into a few solid clumps, your soil is still too wet.

If your soil is still wet from heavy snowfall or spring rains, working it early means that you are actually compacting the soil, making it harder for plant roots to establish. You want some air space between the soil particles, and clumpy heavy soil can work to trap pockets of air round roots, damaging them. Please remember that not many plants can deal with compacted soil, so this should be your first step ~ loosening compacted soil by digging or tilling and make sure the first 6 - 8" is 'worked'. This is important for water penetration, allowing roots to grow deeper and spread wider and it brings oxygen to plant roots.

*Video: Change The World By Being A Good Steward Of The Soil

*Video: Building Garden Soil with Free, Local, and Abundant Resources

*Video: Preparing the soil for my heirloom seed garden. ''t dig down, build up! Becky's Homestead

Video: Potato Harvest: Growing Potatoes & Building Soil at the Same Time

100% Pure Earthworm Castings

Organic Gardening Tips - For A Healthy, Pest-Free Organic Garden

Ten Vegetables You Can Grow Without Full Sun salad greens, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Peas, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Radishes, Swiss Chard, Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale, Beans

Catch More Water for Irrigation by Connecting Rain Barrels to a Rain Garden

Collecting rain from your roof in rain barrels is a great way to use a free resource to irrigate the garden. However, rain barrels can fill up within minutes during a rain event. Directing rain barrel overflow into a rain garden is one way to keep more water on your property for irrigation or to create more biodiversity.

Why Worry about Rain Barrel Overflow?

Water is powerful: One downspout can fill a 55-gallon rain barrel in less than five minutes!

My 1,200-square-foot roof, for example, can collect an average of 30,525 gallons of rain per year. It’s easy to see that a 55-gallon rain barrel doesn’t catch a lot of water in comparison.

Directing the rain barrel overflow into the landscape, however, is one way to make rain barrels more eco-friendly and useful.

It is important to think about what to do with the excess water, because an overflowing rain barrel can flood a basement, damage a foundation, or worse, do the same to an unsuspecting neighbor downhill.

Directing Rain Barrel Overflow into the Landscape

One of the supposed benefits of rain barrels is their ability to keep water out of the sewer system during a rain event. That’s because stormwater runoff causes soil erosion, can carry pollution, and can overwhelm municipal stormwater systems, sometimes causing raw sewage to enter local waterways.

We can now see that rain barrels on their own don’t keep much water out of the sewer system, but catching water in the landscape will reduce the amount of water that is sent to the municipal stormwater system.

Retaining water on site will benefit the local ecosystem by:

Recharging groundwater (instead of it being whisked away)
Filtering pollution
Reducing surface runoff and soil erosion
Irrigating downhill gardens
Creating habitat and microclimates

That is why in our front yard garden we decided to use a swale to capture rainwater from the roof in the landscape. In our backyard, we directed rain barrel overflow into a rain garden.

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a shallow depression in the ground, usually bowl- or kidney-shaped, with berms on the downhill sides, designed to capture rainwater. The depression is planted with deep-rooted, drought-tolerant native perennials.

*Check local regulations for legality. In my city, rain barrel overflow must legally redirect back to the sewer system, while in my county it is legal to send overflow to a rain garden.

Locate the Proper Site for a Rain Garden

The ground must slope away from buildings.

Don’t send water….

to within 10 feet of a building
over a septic drain field
near the edge of a steep slope
into low spots that don’t drain well

Calculate Rain Garden Size

1. Square feet of rooftop x .1 = ___ Volume in cubic feet your garden needs to hold in a 1.2” rain storm


2. Volume / 1.1 = ___ Surface area in square feet

Our backyard rain garden, for example, which captures rain from 600-square-feet of roof, should be at least 55 feet squared.

How to Construct a Rain Garden

1. Dig down 12 inches and grade a flat area across the recommended surface area.

2. Form a berm on the downslope sides of the garden with the dug-up soil.

3. Add 4-inch depth of compost soil to the inside of the rain garden bowl.

4. Fill the bowl with water and be sure water will infiltrate within 48 hours. This is essential, because a rain garden that doesn’t drain within 48 hours can become a mosquito pond and a human health risk.

Plant deep rooted native plants both in the bowl and on the berm. For a twist, plant the rain garden with edibles.

This is what our backyard looked like before the work started:

This narrow strip, just 4-feet wide between the fence and the house, was not serving any purpose. Sun-baked clay soil hosted a number of random and useless plantings from the previous owners.

What struck our attention, though, was how this long, narrow area already had a somewhat elongated bowl shape. We decided this unused sliver in our tiny backyard was perfect for a rain garden.

We hired a local rain barrel guy to source the used, food-grade barrels and the appropriate plants, and to do the installation. Back then, we weren’t confident that we would do it right, and help from a professional on a rain garden that was so close to our house seemed like the smart thing to do.

This is what the rain garden looked like after the installation:

2008 Rain Garden

We used flat rocks to carry the water from the rain barrels to the rain garden in order to prevent erosion. The dogwood (Cornus sericea) was a great choice because it loved the extra water. The plantings to the right (including rhubarb and yarrow) assisted during heavy rains, but were otherwise chosen for their drought-tolerance.

The “waterfall” was a rock feature we added as an extra precaution for those times when the rain garden became fully saturated. It is beautiful when the waterfall is flowing with water during a heavy rain and watering the lower plantings that surround the patio.

Here is how the rain barrels connect to one another and the rain garden:

Burying the overflow pipes prevented the openings from attracting mosquitoes.

Rain Garden View From Patio

By 2013, the system was still working beautifully, but the red twig dogwood had grown so large that it completely cut off the pathway that led from the side yard to the backyard. So we decided to give the rain garden a makeover with two goals: Maintain its water-absorbing capacity and make it a walkable through-way.


The Superfood Crop That May Help Change The World What is moringa, and why is everyone eating it?

Native to northwestern India, Moringa oleifera is a small tree that’s grown in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. The leaves have a slightly nutty taste with a hint of horseradish and can be eaten raw or cooked, though they’re most commonly powdered and used as a supplement in smoothies and drinks or made into a tea.

It’s extraordinarily nutritious: Ounce for ounce Moringa has twice the protein of yogurt, four times as much calcium as milk, and three times as much potassium as a banana.

Not only is it healthy and tasty, but you '’t have to feel guilty about buying it. Unlike crops that can be harvested only once a year, moringa leaves grow and mature all year round. This means farmers can subsist on the plants while growing them, which hinders the kind of problems typically associated with foods such as quinoa, where the entire crop must be sold, leaving little for the farmers or their communities.

The tree also produces other crops and products growers use and sell locally: The seed pods are edible, and the seeds can be made into a useful oil. Not only do they produce abundant crops, but the trees also need little in the way of water or fertilizers and grow easily in dry places where few other crops do well. Bonus: The leaves are compact and lightweight to store and ship, giving them a much smaller ecological footprint.

Masanobu Fukuoka

Why This Farmer Refused To Plow His Land How a “do nothing” approach to farming yields more food and happier people.



Cycas revoluta large prickly plant at back of backyard.

Sago Palm: Poisonous to pets

Green Manure:

American Meadows Clover Seeds If you’re trying to improve your soil or looking for a hardy, easy to grow groundcover — look no further! Many choices/

Clover is the answer! Clovers can provide numerous benefits to your soil and garden. Clovers are a natural fertilizer, eliminating the need to have to use store bought products. It’s cheaper to seed and they provide natural fertilizer to your soil. Clovers are hardy and are great options for areas that might be too shady or poorly drained. Another major benefit of planting Clover is attracting pollinators to your garden. The birds and the bees love clover and we know how beneficial they are to our ecosystem!

American Meadows Alfalfa

Outside Pride red clover 3.49 1/4 lb.

Outside Pride Alfalfa & clover several choices

Johnny's Sel. Seeds red clover 5.15 for 1/4 lb.

Johnny's Sel. Seeds alfalfa & clover

Seedland clover (Perennial Legumes) Aysicarpus vaginalis Clovers are popular legumes grown for forage or pasture grazing as well as for wildlife feed in food plots and for their soil improving / nitrogen fixation. There are 3 major varieties of clover grown for pasture and hay usage, red clover, crimson clover, and white clover. With sweet clovers, such as Yellow Sweet Blossom Clover, being cultivated for green manure, honey bees and soil replenishment. Soil tests should be made on all fields planted in clovers to determine proper fertilization.

Seedland Yellow Sweet Blossom Clover Seed

Seedland alfalfa Alfalfa seed produces a cool season, perennial legume that is high in minerals, vitamins and protein it is one of the most nutritious crops that can be utilized in any forage situation including hay production, pastures and wildlife food plots. Planted all over the world, Alfalfa originated near Iran and has been found in one form or the other on nearly all the continents. Alfalfa represents one of the oldest forage crops. Depending upon the cultivar Alfalfa withstands a wide variety of climates and is highly drought resistant through dormancy for as much as two years.

Grow Organic: Red Clover sold out

Gardeners Supply: clover

Video: Seeding Starting

Pest Control

Video: Non-Toxic Pest Control - The Best Way To Control Pests Smiling Gardener. We tend to think insects and diseases are making our plants unhealthy, but actually, they are there because our plants are unhealthy.

This is one of the biggest shifts we need to make in our thinking when moving to organic gardening practices, and to me it’s absolutely fascinating.

While animals prefer healthy plants, insects and diseases prefer the opposite. They choose plants that have a nutritional imbalance of one or more nutrients. They literally do not possess the enzymes necessary to digest healthy plants.

In fact, they '’t even see healthy plants as a food source at all. Sounds crazy, right?

Well I'm going to explain it, because this is one of the most important concepts to understand when talking not only about non-toxic pest control, but organic gardening in general.

Baking Soda Can Help With Certain Fungal Diseases

For example, baking soda actually works to prevent and eradicate powdery mildew (Erysiphales), blackspot (Diplocarpon rosae) and a few others.

Organic Fertilizers Smiling Gardener

Rock Gardens

Rob's Rock Garden To provide for the needs of those small perennials, our rock gardens are somewhat elevated from yard level, and the native clay has been generously amended with sharp sand, granite grit, rocks dug up from other garden areas (there's a use for everything in our garden), and some compost.

Once we get rid of the boxwoods along the driveway, a semi-circular rock garden at the front corner of the driveway would be very attractive.

Sustainable / Regenerative Farming

Regenerative Farming

..rather than come up with one definition for the word "sustainable" as it refers to food and food production methods, we suggest doing away with the word entirely. In its place, as a way of helping food consumers make conscious, informed decisions, we suggest dividing global food and farming into two categories: regenerative and degenerative.

In this new paradigm, consumers could choose food produced by degenerative, toxic chemical-intensive, monoculture-based industrial agriculture systems that destabilize the climate, and degrade soil, water, biodiversity, health and local economies.

Or they could choose food produced using organic regenerative practices based on sound ecological principles that rejuvenate the soil, grasslands and forests; replenish water; promote food sovereignty; and restore public health and prosperity—all while cooling the planet by drawing down billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil where it belongs.

Gardening Articles

6 Tips to Get Your Home Garden Growing This Spring good tips

Sunflowers [Helianthus annuus]

Plant Sunfllowers This Summer

How to Grow Black Oil Sunflower Birds not only bring sound and color into the garden, they can help eliminate insect pests that damage your plants. The least you can do is repay them with some of their favorite food -- black-oil sunflower seeds. Songbirds including finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and jays are all attracted to black-oil sunflower seed. This type of seed has a softer shell than the gray-striped type, with a larger meat that has a high oil content that provides more energy for the birds. They are the type commonly used for commercial bird seed, with "Peredovik" being a widely grown cultivar that you can plant in your own backyard.

Sow seeds when the soil temperature warms to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit, 1 1/2 inch deep in clusters of three seeds with clusters 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on how large your want the mature plant to be -- space farther apart, the larger you expect your black-oil cultivar to grow.

Water in well. Seeds should germinate in 10 to 14 days.

Thin seedlings to the strongest plant in each cluster when plants are 3 to 4 inches tall. Snip the extra seedlings off at ground level with scissors to avoid disturbing the roots of the strongest plant.

Mound soil up several inches around the base of remaining sunflowers.The plants will establish additional roots to help support your black-oil sunflowers' 4- to 5-foot stems.

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of borax in 1 gallon of water. Water sunflowers with the solution in midsummer, when the buds are forming. Borax, a mineral, strenghtens the stem, increases the size of sunflower blooms and boosts seed production. Feed with the borax solution again in four weeks.

Learn About Black Oil Sunflowers Sunflowers provide some of the cheeriest blooms. They come in a wide range of heights and bloom sizes as well as colors. The giant flower head is actually two separate parts. The inside is the cluster of flowers, while the larger colored “petals” on the outside are actually protective leaves. The flowers in the center turn into seed when the plant is almost 'e for the season.

Oil seed flowers are grown for oil production and bird seed. Sunflower oil is low in saturated fats and doesn’t have a strong taste. It is growing in popularity due to its heart healthy reputation.

Black Peredovik Sunflowers Usually sunflower seed is a mixture of colors and some are striped. The black sunflower seeds hold the most oil and the Russian cultivar, Black Peredovik sunflower, are oil seed sunflowers used the most. It was bred as a sunflower oil production crop. The Black Peredovik sunflower seeds are medium sized and deep black.

This black oil sunflower seed has more meat than a regular sunflower seed and the outer husk is softer so even smaller birds can crack into the seed. It is rated the number one food for wild birds by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The high oil content in Black Peredovik sunflower seeds is important to birds in winter as they will spread the oil on their feathers, increasing buoyancy and keeping them dry and warm.

Mexican Sunflowers / Tithonia diversifolia, Giant Mexican Sunflower

Tithonia diversifolia-- Mexican Sunflower Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray is an impressive member of the sunflower family, Asteraceae. Tithonia was named for Tithonus, a legendary Trojan loved by the dawn goddess Eos, who turned him into a grasshopper. Tithonia diversifolia is a perennial native of Mexico and Central America and is cultivated for its beautiful flowers and enormous size. The plant's flowers are a favorite of bees and African farmers have many uses for the plant, the most popular use being as an organic fertilizer for vegetable crops in either compost or a tea form.

Family: Asteraceae

Plant Type: Large, perennial, rangy shrub

Origin: Mexico and Central America

Zones: 8 - 11

Height: Height and width to 12' or more

Rate of Growth: Fast

Soil Requirements: Average, well-drained soil

Water Requirements: Requires regular watering in dry weather

Nutritional Requirements: Balanced liquid fertilizer monthly

Light Requirements: Full sun for best growth and flowering

Form: Shrub

Bad Habits: Foliage damaged by frost, but recovers rapidly

Propagation: Sow seeds in place

Sunflower Helianthus annuus Daphne’s pick of the week is sunflower, Helianthus annuus, a lovely annual that many people may not consider planting, due to its simplicity, but a good one to consider.

There are a multitude of different varieties to choose from, so pick a flower type, a size, and plant away. Or, pick several. Sunflowers are very easy to start from seed and grow very quickly once they’ve sprouted. Because of this, it’s uncommon to find them for sale as seedlings. So purchase seed packets and plant directly in the garden.

Sunflowers '’t need a lot of space in width, but many get very tall. Plant the seeds close together, 9 to 12 inches apart, and in full sun.

The common sunflower is bright yellow and blooms from mid-summer through early fall. You can plant the seeds anytime and they’ll sprout, but if planted too late in the summer, the plants will die before they have a chance to produce blooms.

Sunflowers are annuals, so you’ll need to plant again each year, normally in late spring or early summer, once temperatures have reliably warmed into the 70’s and days are bright and sunny. Not only do bees and butterflies love sunflowers, but songbirds do as well, as the seed heads are very nutritious, and yummy. Sunflowers require very little water and reseeds easily, so if you want to control where it grows in your garden, remove the flowers before seeds can drop off.

Occasionally, sunflowers will form a double head, as this one did in viewer Nancy 'ner’s garden.

Top 5 Plants to Attract Birds and Grow Birdseed cumin, Salvia Hispanica (Chia), Peredovik Sunflower, Guizotia Abyssinica (EarlyBird Niger Seed), Rudbeckia Hirta (Black-eyed-susan)

Niger is an annual plant that can produce seeds as early as 50 days after planting. It will attract honeybees as well as goldfinches who absolutely love this seed (which is technically a fruit called achene).

In 1982, the USDA required all imported Niger seeds to be heat sterilized to kill the contaminant dodder seed. This requirement was then revised in 2001 specifying a heat treatment at 248º F for 15 minutes. This is a relatively rare seed to grow, in which you will be rewarded with flocks of finches. Purchase Niger seeds here.

How to Grow My Own Black Oil Sunflower Seeds Black oil sunflowers produce seeds used for sunflower oil, bird seed and other animal feeds. If you leave the seeds on the flower heads to dry, you will have an abundance of birds feeding on them. Black oil sunflower seeds can also be dried and used as healthy snacks full of vitamins E and B6. Best of all, black oil sunflower seeds are easy to plant and grow.

Layer 2 to 3 inches of compost over the soil. Work the compost in

Poke holes at the top of the dirt row with your finger. They should be approximately 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart. Drop a black oil sunflower seed in each hole and then push soil over the top.

Spray water over the seeds, gently, each day. Water more often if the climate becomes hot and dry. Change to watering in the moats, on each side of the row, after the sunflower seeds have germinated.

Dove hybrid black oil sunflower seeds are one of the most popular black oil sunflower varieties.

7 Plants You'll Never Get Rid of Every garden needs a few plants that can handle whatever abuse we throw their way. That’s not to say we should be needlessly tough on them, but let’s face it, there are times when we just '’t have the time or energy to water, places in the garden that are less than ideal conditions, and years when the weather mocks gardeners despite all their efforts. For those and so many more times when our gardens must rise to the challenge, here are some (almost) indestructible plants.

1. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Black-eyed Susans are hardy Plains plants. They grab a hold of soil and take whatever they need from it. It’s really pretty amazing how much they can flower on so little care and feeding. Like another Plains plant, coneflower, black-eyed Susan has a proclivity to form a thick mat of roots. I recommend dividing these every few years, while you can still get a spade through them. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 - 9

2. Coneflower (Echinacea)
If you’ve ever tried to divide a large clump of coneflowers you know what a wicked root system they have. Coneflowers are a great choice for controlling erosion. The roots weave together in a mat, holding the soil in place while supporting the entire clump. The newer varieties are beautiful and tempting, but most haven’t really been put to the test yet. If you want an unflappable plant for poor soil and full sun, here’s a winner. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 - 9

3. Daylily (Hemerocallis)
It wasn’t so long ago that daylilies were the darlings of the plant world. Every year saw the introduction of hundreds of new cultivars, all hoping to be the next Stella d’Oro. Now many gardeners have grown weary of them, and want to replace them with the next new thing Before you lift your spade, consider why the daylily became popular in the first place. Nothing phases this plant. Oh sure, there’s the odd slug or thrip, but on the whole, daylilies can handle drought, flood, neglect, just about everything but deer. If you got a hot, sunny bed where nothing is happy, give daylilies another look. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 - 10

4. Hosta
Just about every old house has a border or 2 of hostas somewhere on the property. Long before they were the darlings of plant breeders, they were the go to plant for home owners who wanted something that looked good all season without any effort on their part. Not only does hosta thrive without attention, it seems to live forever. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 - 8

5. Peony
Peonies are not just low maintenance, they resent it when you fuss about them. These plants can live for decades and never need dividing. They are prone to botrytis or gray mold, which can ruin the foliage. However it rarely kills them. Come next year, they send out new growth and bloom all over again. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 - 8

6. Sedum
If tall sedum weren’t so attractive to deer, they’d be the perfect plant. These are succulents, so they '’t need supplemental water. Their thick, juicy stems shoot up early in the spring and remain attractive all season. By the time it’s time to cut them back, there’s already new growth at the base. This plant can’t wait until spring to emerge, it gets a head start in late fall and bides its time through winter. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 - 10

7. Yucca
Now, now, '’t turn up your nose. Yucca doesn’t get a lot of respect in the gardening world, but it’s not going to disappear because of it. Those spiky leaves fend off intruders and the long tap root anchors it deep in the soil and makes moving it (or killing it) very difficult indeed. Talk about a xeric plant. If the common species is too coarse for you, try one of the variegated varieties. They’re almost as tough, just as architectural, and you get a long season of color. USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 - 10

Landscaping long-flowering plants: hibiscus (H. moscheutos), Purple Wave Petunia (Petunia F1 'Wave Purple'), Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa),

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
For year-round enjoyment, these clover-like flower heads are hard to beat. The papery flowers last a long time in the garden and in fresh bouquets, and the blooms are easy to dry for use in wintertime arrangements. Depending on the variety, flowers are white, red, pink, lilac or purple. 'Strawberry Fields,' with bright red blossoms, and 'All Around Purple' are two standouts.

Requires full sun to partial shade; moderate water. Grows as an annual in all zones.

15 Clever Gardening Tricks Plastic forks to deter pets and animals,

Plant Encyclopedia

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Demesne: Garden Help in Arizona [desert]

bigger the better: aralia cordata and its cousins

aralias: why i grow these big, beautiful plants ‘THANK YOU,’ SAY THE BIRDS, “these are delicious.” And they are delicious to look at, too–especially as fall comes on, with all the giant heads of bird-attracting purple fruit and in some cases (such as Aralia spinosa, above) incredible fall foliage color, too. Do you grow any aralias (sometimes called spikenards) in your garden yet?

Comments: These grow wild here in north central Florida, where I was taught another common name is Hercules club. To a casual observer, the fruit and foliage look extremely similar to the winged sumac (Rhus copallina), but brush up against those spiny trunks and you’ll soon learn the difference!

I would have thought those were elderberry! (sambucas). What gorgeous fall color they provide.

Yes, Stephen, I know what you mean. I love elderberry, too (as do the birds!). The fall color of A. spinosa is exceptional. Give it its own space; it suckers and colonizes!




Going Native

Choosing native plants allows developed landscapes to coexist with nature, rather than compete with it. This is important in South Texas where the fate of your garden beds, foundation shrubs and even container plants depend on selecting varieties that thrive in our hot and dry climate.

Fortunately we have a lot of colorful plants to choose from. Native plants are frequently used around homes and in gardens to create sustainable landscapes. Most native plants are perennial and have extensive root systems. They support wildlife including beneficial insects, pollinators, and native birds.

Native plants are hardy, do not require fertilizer once established, and provide food and habitat for native animals. Most native species are perennial, and they also maintain themselves by reseeding on the same site. Gardening South Texas on the air at KLUP (am 930)
Saturday and Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

A Mediterranean Garden for Texas

A Mediterranean Garden for Texas

San Antonio’s climate and geology are ideal for a Mediterranean garden. Our climate similarities include short wet winters, long springs, hot dry summers and mild falls. Soils in both regions are characterized by thin soils on a limestone substrate, alkaline clays and some sandy areas.

As for large, expansive lawns, they derive from England and northern Europe where temperatures are cooler and rain is more regular, and are very rarely part of any Mediterranean garden. In fact, our Hill Country-like soils present the perfect opportunity for colorful, drought-hardy lawn alternatives.

Mediterranean garden design elements include:

  • Well placed container plants. Invest in one or two large pots instead of lots of little ones, they’re easier to care for and more impactful.

  • Fountains create a serene atmosphere and are a better use of water than a thirsty lawn.

  • Fragrant plants like mountain laurel, sweet olive or confederate jasmine.

  • Interesting textures and vivid colors in the form of plants or paint. Textural plants include Texas persimmon, nolina, giant crinum lily or fuzzy lamb’s ear. For vivid color try Moy Grande hibiscus, Pride of Barbados, esperanza or plumbago.

Since Mediterranean weather often means hot you will want to incorporate a shady retreat and an outdoor-rated ceiling fan, if possible. Be sure to include a nice size table and enough chairs so you can gather with family and friends as you enjoy your Mediterranean fare.

Summer Color

Planting for Summer Color

By Dr. Jerry Parsons

June is the time to pour yourself a long glass of ice tea and enjoy your garden and landscape. For color firebush is a favorite hummingbird plant and lantanas are a great butterfly bush. Lantanas are deer resistant.

Plant vincas in full sun. Shade plants include coleus, caladiums, firespike and begonias. Leave the bougainvilleas in full sun and fertilize them regularly with hibiscus food or soluble fertilizer. Moss rose and purslane are showy all month long in full sun. Remove spent flowers from perennials for more blooms. '’t let the weeds get ahead of you.

Shade Trees and Shrubs: Your established trees and bushes should do well without supplemental watering. Newly planted trees, however, need deep watering by hand when the soil dries to one inch. Remember to mulch 4 inches deep around new trees so that they ''t have to compete with grass. There are a large number of salvias available. Most species are deer resistant in some neighborhoods and drought tolerant. Keep them compact by shearing. Crape myrtles reach full bloom in June. Deadhead spent flowers for more bloom.

Vegetables: Harvest your vegetables on a regular basis to keep quality high. You can still plant southern peas, eggplant, and okra for mid- summer vegetables.

Lawncare: Irrigate the lawn grass only if it hasn’t rained in the last two weeks, and then no more than 3/4 inch of water on the St. Augustine, less for Zoysia, Bermuda, and Buffalo. Water only the most important part of your lawn and let the rest go dormant until we get rain. Keep the mower blade sharp.

Odd Jobs: Use mulch generously around (but not piled on the trunks) trees, shrubs and landscape and garden plants. Apply sufficient moisture to soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Watering early in the day is preferred to early evening or mid-day.

Daylilies:Texas’ Favorite Perennial Daylilies are prolific and colorful bloomers. Few pests show any interest in them. They will grow in sun or shade, dry or wet soil, can tolerate both flooding and drought, and produce beautiful flowers throughout Texas. You can find tiny flowers and large flowers, compact plants and tall plants. You can even create your own varieties with relative ease. It is no wonder that every gardening expert recommends daylilies for the home landscape. Although daylilies will tolerate poor soil, you want them to bloom well, so take some time to prepare the soil. Daylilies require good drainage; they will rot if they are planted in a spot where they constantly have wet feet. Plant only to the base of the crown, the area above the roots on the plant where it is white in color and gradually goes to green.

For best growth and bloom of your daylilies, select a location that has full morning sun and some protection from afternoon sun. All-day sunshine in Texas is hard for most plants to take, and daylilies appreciate afternoon shade. April is a good time to plant one of the easiest to grow perennials. Water plants thoroughly after planting and continue to deep soak them until they are well established. Although they are drought-tolerant, consistent watering while budding and flowering produces better quality flowers. Blood meal, cottonseed meal, agricultural molasses, composted manure, sludge compost and compost are all good organic amendments for your daylilies and will keep them at the peak of health. Be careful not to mulch heavily around the crown of the plant to avoid rotting and maintain air circulation. In the spring, a good blend of fish emulsion and seaweed is a fine tonic to get them growing. Daylilies grow from fleshy roots below ground with fans of leaves above ground, coming together at the crown of the plant. From the crown, flower stalks (scapes) will emerge in May and June, bearing typically 10 to 20 flower buds. Though each flower is only open for one day (thus the name), the buds will take turns opening, resulting in weeks of garden color. And many cultivars send up repeat scapes into June, July and August

growing-citrus-trees-in-containers Citrus are one of those plants that I think are a must in the garden. They have beautiful dark green foliage all year, sensuously perfumed flowers at various times of the year and then produce fabulously colorful edible fruit. They really are the most perfect garden specimen. Citrus grow well in containers which gives you the ability to move them to different places in your landscape or your deck. Potted up citrus can be moved to protected areas to avoid freezes.

Like all other plants, citrus trees grown in containers plants need more watering than in ground plants because of their restricted root run and although citrus like a hot and sunny position, they also require good soil moisture levels to stay healthy and produce well.

You will need to feed your potted citrus: they are prone to micro nutrient deficiencies, which is exacerbated by the constant watering, so you need to ensure that you apply a fertilizer with a variety of trace elements especially iron manganese and zinc. For citrus in containers I like to apply the rule “A little often”

In spring and early autumn I apply slow release organic pellets and then supplement this with regular liquid feeds from early spring through to late autumn. The type of liquid feed I use is dependent on the growth stage of the plant. When the plant is young, I use a high nitrogen ratio fertilizer to encourage plenty of growth which will develop into a strong branch structure. High nitrogen ratio fertilizers also discourage flower and fruiting which is necessary until the tree is large and strong enough to hold full sized fruit.

Best Perennials for Shade Bigroot Geranium [ (Geranium macrorrhizum) doesn't mind heat], Toad Lily [a fall show with shade plant toad lily (Tricyrtis). This easy-to-grow perennial offers unique flowers that are often compared to orchids.], Ajuga [groundcover is grown mainly for its foliage. Zones 3-9 and grows only 6 inches tall], Old-Fashioned Bleeding Heart [(Dicentra spectabilis) is a favorite of plants that grow in shade. In late spring and early summer], Hosta [Some hosta flowers are very fragrant. Hostas are hardy in Zones 3-8.], Lungwort (Pulmonaria) [grows best in Zones 4-8 and reaches 1 foot tall], Yellow Corydalis [clusters of yellow flowers from late spring all the way to frost. grows about 12 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 5-8], Lamium [groundcover, usually stays about 8 inches tall and grows best in Zones 4-8], Epimedium [groundcover blooms in spring in shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, or white; it tolerates dry shade; grow best in Zones 5-9 and reach about 1 foot tall], Brunnera, Hellebore [Hellebore (Helleborus), also called Christmas rose, is one of the earliest bloomers of plants that grow in shade. Look for its burgundy, pink, cream, green, or white flowers in late winter or early spring. Although it looks delicate, the Christmas rose is quite sturdy Zones 4-8 and grows 12 inches tall], Astilbe [Astilbe grows best in Zones 4-8 and can reach up to 4 feet tall], Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) [Zones 5-8], Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is one tough shade plant. This slow grower eventually forms an impressive clump. It grows best in Zones 2-8 and reaches 6 inches tall.] Lilyturf [ (Liriope) is an easy-to-grow favorite shade plant. Loved for its grassy foliage and spikes of blue or white flowers in late summer, practically a plant-it-and-forget garden resident. It grows best in Zones 5-10 and grows a foot tall], Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia and D. formosa) look beautiful all season. These shade plants bloom on and off from spring to fall (if they get enough moisture during hot, dry periods), producing delicate clusters of pink, red, or white flowers. Even when not in bloom, though, their tidy mounds of blue-green, ferny foliage looks great. They grow best in Zones 4-8 and grow up to 2 feet tall.],

Top Shade-Loving Annuals Fuchsia. Balsam, Lobelia, Torenia, Oxalis, Impatiens, Coleus, Perilla, Browallia, Polka-Dot Plant, Sweet Potato Vine [groundcover], Viola, Beefsteak Plant

Emily Composte quotes

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes. ~Author Unknown

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

The Quote Garden supporting the "grow food, not lawns" philosophy, as well as farming and the importance of soil and dirt.

He talked and contrived endlessly to the effect that I should understand the land, not as a commodity, an inert fact to be taken for granted, but as an ultimate value, enduring and alive, useful and beautiful and mysterious and formidable and comforting, beneficent and terribly demanding, worthy of the best of a man's attention and care.... he insisted that I learn to do the hand labor that the land required, knowing—and saying again and again—that the ability to do such work is the source of a confidence and an independence of character that can come no other way, not by money, not by education. ~Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound

In my garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past. ~Alexander Smith, "Books and Gardens," Dreamthorp: A Book of Essays Written in the Country, 1863

Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have 'e with my own hands. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

In almost every garden, the land is made better and so is the gardener. ~Robert Rodale (1930–1990)

Life begins the day you start a garden. ~Chinese Proverb

How can I stand on the ground every day and not feel its power? How can I live my life stepping on this stuff and not wonder at it? Science says that an acre of soil produces one horsepower every day. ~William Bryant Logan, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

The kiss of the sun for par',
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
~Dorothy Frances Gurney, "Garden Thoughts"

When God blesses the harvest, there is enough for the thief as well as the gardener. ~Polish Proverb

Often... visible outdoor areas are homogenous, cookie-cutter spaces, where neatly-trimmed grass or a few well-placed flower pots are admired and appreciated by the neighbors. But for some revolutionary gardeners, a feast for the eyes is not enough. They want something edible in return for the hard work, the water and the expense of tending a landscape. These food revolutionaries are maximizing their cultivation area by converting their landscapes, patios, and nearby vacant lots into productive edible gardens. In the quest for more space to grow food, even conventional front lawns are being transformed into maverick, and highly visible, vegetable plots.... the rise of modern vegetable gardeners who are cutting against the grain of current landscape fashion to grow food out in the open once again. ~Kari Spencer,, quotation from Squidoo article “Ground-Breaking: Making the Switch from Lawns to Food

Learn to be an observer in all seasons. Every single day, your garden has something new and wonderful to show you. ~Author Unknown

Early to bed, early to rise;
Work like hell and fertilize.
~Emily Whaley

When overwhelmed and stressed and unable to think,
I go out and garden, it's cheaper than a shrink.
~Author Unknown

Human vanity can best be served by a reminder that, whatever his accomplishments, his sophistication, his artistic pretension, man owes his very existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil — and the fact that it rains. ~Anonymous, in The Cockle Bur, sometime between 1930 and 1968

The ancient Hebrew association of man with soil is echoed in the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil. This powerful metaphor suggests an early realization of a profound truth that humanity has since disregarded to its own detriment. Since the words "humility" and "humble" also derive from humus, it is rather ironic that we should have assigned our species so arrogant a name as Homo sapiens sapiens ("wise wise man"). It occurs to me, as I ponder our past and future relation to the earth, that we might consider changing our name to a more modest Homo sapiens curans, with the word curans denoting caring or caretaking, as in "curator." ("Teach us to care" was T.S. Eliot's poetic plea.) Of course, we must work to deserve the new name, even as we have not deserved the old one. ~Daniel Hillel, Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil

The principal value of a private garden is not understood. It is not to give the possessor vegetables and fruit (that can be better and cheaper 'e by the market-gardeners), but to teach him patience and philosophy, and the higher virtues,—hope deferred, and expectations blighted.... The garden thus becomes a moral agent, a test of character, as it was in the beginning. ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, "What I Know about Gardening: First Week," 1870

We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot. ~Leonardo da Vinci

One of the worst mistakes you can make as a gardener is to think you're in charge. ~Janet Gillespie

The ancient Chinese regarded earthworms as "angels of the earth." Aristotle considered worms as "intestines of the earth." ~Lee Ann Gillen, "An Historical Perspective of Soil Microbiology"

Charles Robert Darwin, the great English scientist, after years of patient study, published a book of 236 pages dealing exclusively with earthworms. In this volume, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, he makes it clear that Nature apparently created the earthworm to be an improver of the soil and to aid the growth of plants. Indeed, he goes so far as to make this statement: "Without the work of this humble creature, who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible." ~John Edwin Hogg, "Harnessing Earthworms," Nature Magazine, January 1941 [the last book Darwin published before his death in 1882.]

The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures. ~Charles Darwin, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observation on their Habits, 1881

I must own I had always looked on worms as amongst the most helpless and unintelligent members of the creation; and am amazed to find that they have a domestic life and public duties! ~Joseph Dalton Hooker, letter to Charles Darwin, 1881 [thanking him for his book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms]

When a front yard is converted to a vegetable garden, growing food goes public! Gardens that are visible from the street naturally pique the interest of the community. The result can be that the gardener... reconnects with their food, and also forges new connections with their neighbors. Some residents may be surprised, even resistant to the idea of a garden that is cultivated out in the open. But, as flowers bloom and veggies begin to form, attracting birds, bees and butterflies, as well as curious neighbors, a tended garden converts a sterile space into a living sanctuary. Most neighbors will grow to appreciate its beauty. A few community members may even jump on board, adding a few edible plants to their own landscapes. ~Kari Spencer,, quotation from Squidoo article “Ground-Breaking: Making the Switch from Lawns to Food”

If I finish my day with no garden dirt under my fingernails and nothing new learned, it is a day wasted! ~Valerie Clague

Old gardeners never die, they just run out of thyme. ~Gardening Saying

Garden Therapy You Can Bury a Lot of Troubles Digging in the Dirt

Gardening Quotations

Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. --Max Planck

Non-gardener: "Did I just hear thunder?" Gardener: "I hear nitrogen!" --Kay Neff

If there were no tribulation, there would be no rest; if there were no winter, there would be no summer. --St. John Chrysostom

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. --James Dent

All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar. --Helen Hayes

When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves. --David Orr

The goal of life is living in agreement with nature. --Zeno 335BC

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. --Author Unknown

There are many tired gardeners but I've seldom met old gardeners. I know many elderly gardeners but the majority are young at heart. Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized. The one absolute of gardeners is faith. Regardless of how bad past gardens have been, every gardener believes that next year's will be better. It is easy to age when there is nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for, gardeners, however, simply refuse to grow up. --Allan Armitage

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful: they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul. --Luther Burbank

Garden: One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by charity-minded amateurs in an effort to provide healthful, balanced meals for insects, birds and animals. --Henry Beard and Roy McKie, Gardener's Dictionary

Gardening is the purest of human pleasures. --Francis Bacon

If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener. --J. C. Raulston

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. --Mahatma Gandhi

Most of us are too busy gardening to remember the pristine significance of the word "garden" which comes to us from the Persian, meaning Paradise. --Author Unknown

We come from the earth, We return to the earth, And in between we garden. --Author Unknown

Apprentice yourself to nature. Not a day will pass without her opening a new and wondrous world of experience to learn from and enjoy. --Richard W. Langer

Gardeners must dance with feedback, play with results, turn as they learn. Learning to think as a gardener is inseparable from the acts of gardening. Learning how to garden is learning how to slow down. Wise is the person whose heart and mind listen to what Nature says. Time will tell, but we often fail to listen. --Michael P. Garofalo, Pulling Onions If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. --Cicero

'Garden' came into the language in the 14th century from Old Northern French gardin, itself a variation of Old French jardin (still used in modern French), which probably has a German origin. 'Horticulture' is not recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary until 1678. This word for the art or science of cultivating gardens comes from the Latin hortus, meaning garden, and cultura, meaning growing or cultivation. The 17th century also saw the creation in American-English of the idea of a 'backyard', first recorded in Suffolk, Mass, in 1659. 'Yard', however, is one of the oldest words in the English language. It came in around 300 AD as geard [(Old English) [Pronunciation IPA: /jæ?rd/ Origin & history From Proto-Germanic *gardaz, from Proto-Indo-European *ghardh- ("yard, court"). Cognate with Old Frisian garda, Old Saxon gard, gardo (Dutch gaard), Old High German gart (German Garten), Old Norse garðr (Icelandic garður, Swedish gård), Gothic. The Indo-European root is also the source of Proto-Slavic *gord (Old Church Slavonic, Russian ("town")), Albanian gardh ("fence")]'building, home, region'] from a Germanic word that is related to 'garden' and 'orchard' --Juliet New, A Word About Gardening

The more one gardens, the more one learns; And the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows. --Vita Sackville-West

What this country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds. --Will Rogers

Old gardeners never die. They just spade away and then throw in the trowel. --Herbert V. Prochnow

Live each day as if it were your last, and garden as though you will live forever. --Scottish proverb

The garden must first be prepared in the soul, or else it will not flourish. --English proberb

Any garden demands as much of its maker as he has to give. But I do not need to tell you, if you are a gardener, that no other undertaking will give as great a return for the amount of effort put into it. --Elizabeth Laurence

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. --Karel Capek

What continues to astonish me about a garden is that you can walk past it in a hurry, see something wrong, stop to set it right, and emerge an hour or two later breathless, contented, and wondering what on earth happened. --Dorothy Gilman


The Surprising Reasons Humans Need Bats These flying mammals can carry a number of harmful diseases such as rabies and more recently Ebola, which has led many to wonder why we should even care about them.

Sure, there is good reason to be exceptionally cautious if you come into contact with bats, but for the vast majority of us, high bat populations are extremely beneficial. A wide variety of different bat species have been shown to play a significant role in pest control and in pollination all over the world.

Many organic farmers have learned about the very real benefits of having bats nearby to help manage the bounty of pests that show up without pesticides. One brown bat – about the size of a human thumb – can consume about 600 mosquitoes and other unwanted insects an hour. They make for a fantastic, almost essential, addition to pest management in any garden.

Even large government organizations have realized the economic benefits of bats. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that bat contributions to pest management save the United States at least $3.7 billion dollars per year. Just by flying around eating their dinner – the insects that eat and damage our crops! Without them, we would most likely experience a distinctive drop in food produced, which would eventually make its way into our weekly grocery bills.

As if this wasn’t already enough of an ecosystem service we receive, bats also play a significant role in the pollination of a variety of different plant species. Many of these are preferential to bat pollination, meaning without bats the plant would decrease its ability to produce offspring by at least 50 percent.

A number of plant products consumed by humans fall into this preferential pollination category. Some popular foods include mangoes, bananas, peaches, and guavas. Additionally, the Saguaro cactus (Arizona’s state plant) and the agave plant, which is used to make tequila, are completely dependent on bat pollinators for reproduction.


Growing Fence-Friendly Vines: Do's and ''ts If you have a wooden fence, most species of vines are likely to be treacherous to your fence’s longevity. The rotting, cracking, twisting, and other structural damage that vines can cause to your wooden fence mean that most species should be kept away.

The safest vines for wooden fences are annual, herbaceous (non-woody) vines. These vines’ stems can wrap around your wooden fence but won’t cause the types of structural damage that woody vines will. You can guide these vines to grow around fence posts or along your fence’s upper support beams, which will provide them with plenty of light while keeping them away from your fence’s more vulnerable slats.

Though they should be removed at the end of the growing season, annual vines like morning glory, moonflower, sweet pea, and climbing nasturtium all work well with wooden fences. These plants are airier than most woody vines, which minimizes any moisture trapped between the plant and the fence. These vines grow readily from seed and can reach lengths of 10 to 15 feet at the peak of the season. They do not provide much privacy, but they do produce flowers that are vibrant in color and sweet in fragrance, brightening up your summer garden and attracting butterflies and birds. Gardeners who like to vary their planting from year to year will enjoy the opportunity to plant new herbaceous vines each growing season.

Consider your alternatives. If you have a wooden fence but are dead-set on filling your garden with climbing hydrangea or wisteria, look into other methods of introducing these plants into your space without destroying your fence. Arbors and trellises often provide a good structure for flowering vines to cling to and allow you to keep your vine’s growth in check. Strategically placing these structures can also help you enhance privacy. Many people place a series of posts a few feet inside their fence line and a string wire or other supports between each post, then guide their vines along these wires. Doing so can give you the full, rich look of creeping, climbing vines without putting your fence in danger.

Fiskars 20 Inch TerraPot Planter, Thyme Green $19.53
Bloem MP1620-18 Milano Planter, 20-Inch, Curated $19.99

Which Houseplants Are Best for Cleaning the Air?


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Gilmour Flat Weeper/Soaker Hose, 75 Feet 4** $16.28 Prime-- ordered 2 on 8/14/16

Flat Soaker Hose, 25-Feet by Melnor $9.99 FREE Shipping 4**

Orbit 62061N-91213 Single-Dial Water Timer best seller, 4.5** $23.95 Prime. 2- and 3-outlet timers available

AMERISCAPE 55553 Cedar Mulch, 2 Cubic Feet, Natural 5** $6.39 + $19.29 shipping

PlantBest Mega Mulch 8.8lbs by Planters Pride $12.83 Prime 4** Place in wheelbarrow and add water. Expands to about 2.5 cu. ft.

Comment: it's a great mulch. Lasts much better than bark and really helps hold the water. If you want something to lighten the soil and hold water, I'd say it's exactly what you're looking for, and it isn't toxic. The only con so far as I know is the expense.

Comment: It appears to be made of coconut husk

Comment: I discovered some things that are great with this mulch - First of all, while it is bulky, wherever I put it last year, there are no weeds this year. Secondly, I put it in a shade raised garden under a maple tree last year where I have 2 huge hosta growing. Well, much to my surprise and delight, when I went to add more of this 'miracle' mulch (the second of two I had ordered), there were NO SLUGS!!!!!!! NONE!!!! NA-DA!!!!! Before I put this stuff down, I had to use lots of Sluggo to keep them off my hosta. I am ordering more of this for another shady spot I have with hosta (and weeds). I'm sure this will take care of both the slugs and the weeds. While I can't say I will use this stuff in my other gardens as it is rather bulky and not 'pretty' (I use natural cedar mulch for them), I would definitely recommend it to anyone fighting slugs and weeds where hosta are growing.

Comment: Although you have to soak this mulch for much more than 5 minutes (works best when soaked for some hours or overnight) is well worth the wait. Two blocks make for a wheelbarrow full of wet mulch that you can plop down and shape with your gloved hands, which made for the opportunity to create nice rounded and moulded edges...piles on thickly, more so than the dry kind I used to buy at Home Depot.

One trick to prepare it quickly is to physically nudge / rake the pellet while it is soaking. That helps the hydrated parts to fall away and brings the drier parts in contact with water soon. By doing this, I could extract a wheel barrow load in about 30 minutes.

Coconut Fiber & Coir are used as mulch in tropical parts, so I knew they work well; even though here in Northwest pine shavings are most common. It is organic - another plus in my book.

BEWARE: Breeding ground for TERMITES there are termite infestations in all the planters I've used it in. I bought 2 blocks about 2 months apart and Ive expanded the 2nd but will be trashing it since the termites have taken over. I've found a few things online about this happening and they say that's why Home Depot stopped Selling it.

I planted some shrubs in the late fall, and wanted to mulch them before the severe cold hit. I was a little nervous buying this, but it works very well.

I love this mulch. For me at least it takes about 30 minutes total for it to expand. Because it's wet, mulching goes much easier for me. I'm doing a big area so the timing of how long it takes to expand works out really well as I prepare a big enough area while the mulch is doing its miracle thing. I ''t know that it's less expensive or even more expensive than buying a big bag of mulch because I've never priced the other stuff. I just know I always have some bricks of this stuff available in case I find something else in my yard that could use a little manicure.

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Unco Industries Wiggle Worm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer, 15-Pound $17.99 FREE Shipping (3 days) for Prime members 4.5** See 5 videos at bottom.

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Cutting Edge Brand Products - Brown Mulch Premium Quality, 2 cu ft $4.58 Free shipping

Unco Industries Wiggle Worm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer, 15-Pound $15.37 Prime

8 Steps to Garden Success in Zone 8b Zone 8b means that the average minimum winter temperature is 15 to 20 °F.

Central Texas’s off season is just about opposite and falls in July and August. These months the climate is so hot that most gardeners “take the summer off” by planning their crop harvest for June. The season begins again in September with their cool crop rotation. Warm weather crops are planted in March and mature by the end of June.

1. Have your frost protection ready – Even in Texas 8b, plants are susceptible to frost damage, just not as frequently or for such extended periods of time. You still need to have frost protection ready. Learn about using a simple cloche from recycled materials and adding a grow tunnel to raised beds. Even a sheet will keep frost off your prized starts in a pinch.

2. Use a cover crop in the off season to protect and build your soil. Soil building is the key, no matter what zone you live in. Texas cover crops are used in the hot season and are planted at the end of June, with plans for tilling in September.

3. '’t start too early. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wasted perfectly good plants by setting them out too early. It wastes your effort, time and money. Pay attention to the first and last frost date for your area and '’t push it too much. (but push it a little!)

4. Make plans for heat protection by using strategic planting. Utilize afternoon shade by placing tall plants on the west side of the garden. While planning my new Texas garden, I chose to make use of a fence on the west side. I’m hoping that the afternoon shade will allow my lettuce and spinach to grow longer before bolting.

5. Use water saving measures in the garden. Drip irrigation and rain catchment practices will make watering time easier. Learn about the benefits of mulch and other permaculture practices that help to conserve water in the garden.

6. Get info.: Connect with gardeners in your area. Consider joining a local gardening club or find a local group on Facebook. The Pflugerville Gardeners group has been a great place to ask questions. At the very least visit the library and check out a good gardening book for your area.

7. Keep records from year to year. I’m a big believer in keeping a garden journal. I have at one time or another kept a red notebook, binder, and even used an online system. I’ve found that the most consistent way for me to me to keep track – year to year – is The Gardening Notebook (affiliate) from SchneiderPeeps. I use it as my garden journal, yearly garden planner, and I expect it to be my future garden problem solver.The Gardening Notebook has been especially insightful to me as I adjust to the new garden seasons of Texas. I can look back and apply what I learned from Oregon to my new garden here. All garden knowledge is helpful.

8. '’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Gardening is about experimenting, after all! Just because the gardening books say it won’t grow in your zone – doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Grow something outside your comfort “zone” and see what works best for you.

The simple milk jug can work wonders in your garden Try these five frugal tips to recycle a milk jug in garden areas

1. Make a scoop for soil bags and amendments

Cut out the opening with a pair of scissors or a box knife

2. Make a self-watering planter. After using this for a few days I think it would work best on plants that need moisture. Think seedlings that are just getting started or plants like mint. If you are using it for seedlings, be sure you only keep half an inch of water in the bottom, or your soil will become water logged.

Cut your milk jug in half, keeping the handle intact.
-Cut off the stem with the cap so it will .
-Place a piece of cloth or a folded over coffee filter inside the half and over the opening. This will keep the soil inside your makeshift container.
-Place the handle piece upside down inside of the bottom half .
-Plant as usual. The bottom will collect any access water and make it available to the soil above.

3. Make a simple cloche to protect seedlings– What is a cloche anyway? In olden days these bell-shaped glass covers were used for protecting individual plants from winter’s chill. They are beautiful, but are expensive and breakable.. The frugal way is to use a milk jug!

-Cut off a one inch section from the bottom of the jug
-Cut a jagged edge all the way around to help anchor the jug in the soil and stay put
-Keep the cap on the jug on cool evenings
-Remove the cap on sunny days so you do not overheat your new plants

4. Make mini milk jug greenhouses – These little greenhouses are great to use inside and out. They work just as well for growing microgreens in a window sill and for starting seeds in the garden. The milk jug keeps moisture and heat inside where your seedlings need it.

See the full tutorial here: Mini Greenhouses from Milk Jugs | PreparednessMama

Bonus #1 – Make a Wall-o-Water

Fill plain milk jugs with water and arrange them in a ring around plants. They will protect your plants and store solar energy in the water. Be sure to cover the ring at night to preserve heat the absorbed during the day. When the danger of frost and cold has passed, use the warmed water to water your plants. For warmer water, paint the containers black before filling them. This is also a good way to regulate heat in cold frames and greenhouses.

Mini Greenhouses from Milk Jugs I have found it is a way to bring a little bit of spring into my house this winter.

My milk jug greenhouse had been in an east facing windowsill in January. If you have a south facing window, that will work well too. At this time of year you should try to get as much sun on the seedlings as possible. This will cut down in the legginess that winter plants sometimes get. You can also give it additional light with grow lights, but I’m trying the frugal way here!

After two weeks, the seedlings look fantastic. I’m planning on using these for harvesting Microgreens but you can use the same idea to start your seeds indoors and get a jump on the growing season.

Materials needed for a Milk Jug Greenhouse

1 gallon or 1/2 gallon plastic milk jug
Sharp knife
Packing tape (inside use) or duct tape (outside use)
Potting Soil

Instructions for making and using a Milk Jug Greenhouse indoors:

// Wash your milk jugs. Keep the lid.
// Cut around the jug about 3-4 inches from the bottom. leaving the back 1/4 attached (use it as a hinge). Be sure you leave the handle intact.
// Fill it with 2? of potting soil. No need to cut holes in the bottom if you are growing these inside.
// Place your seeds inside. I soaked mine for 1 hour and placed them extra close together for Microgreens. You can also space them out for future transplanting. A half gallon jug can probably handle about 9 pea seeds.
// Tamp the seed down a bit.
// Cover your seeds with another shallow layer of potting soil. The bigger the seed the thicker the soil. '’t fill it higher than your cut sides.
// Water in your seeds but '’t water them so much they are “swimming” in moisture. A good dampening will do.
// Close the top and put tape around the jug to keep the moisture in your milk jug greenhouse.
// Re-cap your mini greenhouse to keep in the moisture.
// Place your milk jug greenhouse in a south or east facing window and check it every few days. Spray water inside if needed. You are aiming for moist, but not soaking.
// After a few days you should see your seeds sprouting .
// Depending on the type of seed you are using, they should be ready for garden transplanting or Microgreens in 14 days.

I have had wonderful success with this method of seed starting and will continue to use it for microgreens and for getting an early jump on my garden starts. Next – outdoor seedling starts – I can’t wait!

If you are thinking about starting seeds outside in your milk jug greenhouse, use this link for more information. The only difference really, is drilling holes in the bottom of the jugs before planting and leaving the top off so it can receive rain water. They seem to be pretty self sufficient, but I haven’t personally tried it. The Parsimonious Princess has also had success with outdoor milk jug greenhouses.

Create a Mini Compost Bin

4 Permaculture Principles Every Gardener Should Embrace I think of Permaculture as the practice of gardening smarter, not harder, and what gardener isn’t looking for that. I’m just beginning to learn the 12 principles of Permaculture and these four are the first ones I’m striving to incorporate and put them to work on the new homestead.


Fall Seed Starting Tutorial

// I have 5 straw bales conditioning right now. The internal temperature is just over 100° and they should be ready to plant this weekend.
// I have moved my gutter garden and will put in some lettuce and other greens.
// The herbs are in pots for now until I can finish the grand plan for our new homestead. I will continue to refine it this winter.


For now, it’s all about seed starting.

I like to use as many recycled containers as I can. That might include:

// Toilet paper pots
// Yogurt containers
// Milk jug greenhouses or
// Seed starting trays (because I’ve invested in them in the past and they work well)

This season, since I’ve had such lead time while waiting for the bales, I’m also planting in some bigger 5×3.5 inch pots that I received from Panda Pots. (Amazon) This allows me to let the roots grow bigger while I’m waiting.

Here’s my process for using those bigger pots to start seeds:

1. Make sure your pots are clean. If you are reusing pots, give them a wash in soapy water and then rinse in a weak bleach solution.

2. Fill the bottom of the pot with 2 inches of regular potting soil or compost. This will give the roots something to grab on and will provide fertilizer once they reach this level of the pot. This potting soil is typically less expensive than seed starting mix, so I’m also saving money.

3. Fill the top 1 inch of the pot with extra fine seed starting potting mix. This gives the seeds an “easy” time of sprouting through the soil.

4. Plant the seeds to the appropriate depth according to package directions. If you are planning on transplanting to the garden, a 5-inch pot will typically grow 5 or 6 seeds per pot. If you are using the pots for microgreens you can plant them much, much closer.

5. Water well being careful not to disturb the seed placement.

6. Cover the pots with a plastic bag or place them in a clear plastic tub with a lid. Your goal here is to create a “greenhouse effect” for the seedlings to grow. This will keep moisture in and you will have to do much less watering!

7. Place them in a sunny window. I actually have mine on top of an 18-gallon tote that I’ve placed in front of one side of the French doors. This area gets morning sun and afternoon shade, which is important for hot days like mine. (It was 90° yesterday) That’s another benefit of starting seeds in the fall – there is much more light and heat available than on cool spring days, that means no grow lights in the fall.

8. Make note of the average days to germination and monitor the seedling trays for water.

9. Once most of the seeds have germinated remove the plastic covering and grow as any planting.

10. If you are planting in a cool climate you should harden off the seedlings before you plant them into the garden.

There will not be a need to transplant these seedlings. You can keep them in the larger pots until it’s time to put them in the garden.

The benefit of using larger pots is threefold –

// The seedlings can get bigger because the roots will not be disturbed.
// There is less cost and waste of potting soil.
// These pots are sturdy and can be used year after year. The small seedling trays will eventually break down.

I have been quite impressed with these 5×3.5 inch pots. They are sturdy and are holding up well for my fall seed starting project.

30 Plant Pots - 5 Inch Diameter - 100% Recycled Plastic - Made in USA - Strong, Reusable - By Panda Pots™ (Dark Green) $21.95 Prime
Comment from PreparednessMama: Here's what I did: I used a commercial potting mix on the bottom 2/3rd of the pot. In the top 1/3 I placed seedling mix (which is lighter and helps the seeds to sprout better) I added my seeds to the proper depth, watered well, and covered each one with a plastic bag, making a mini-greenhouse for the seeds to start. Once the starts had true leaves, I removed the plastic and allowed the starts to grow. The 5 in diameter and 3.75 inch depth mean that I can keep them in their pot for a longer length of time. In fact they will stay there until big enough to go into the garden.These pots are really sturdy so I will be able to use them year after year.
Hydrofarm HGS6 Clear 6-Inch Saucer, pack of 25 $10.56 Prime. Set on top of Panda Pots to keep in moisture during germination.

Food Scrap Gardening

4 reasons to improve garden soil this winter | PreparednessMama
4 Reasons to Improve Garden Soil

Make DIY Willow Water Rooting Hormone | PreparednessMama
DIY Willow Water – A Natural Rooting Hormone

Growing Cilantro - The Cut and Come Again Method - Garden Primer Series says: May 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm […] using a recycled milk jug planter instead, then cut off the top once your cilantro seeds sprout. No fashion statements here, but […] Microgreens - Bring the Garden Into Your Kitchen | PreparednessMama says: August 9, 2015 at 8:10 am […] // A container – You can find seed starting containers everywhere, at this time of year or use a plastic clamshell from the grocery. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but should be at least 3inches deep. I’ve even been looking into recycling milk jugs as mini greenhouses. […] Fall Seed Starting Tutorial | PreparednessMama says: September 16, 2015 at 11:13 am […] // Milk jug greenhouses or […] DIY Preparedness - Get Ready One Project at a Time says: February 2, 2016 at 7:07 am […] Water for Natural Rooting Hormone Mason Jar Soil Test Mini Compost Bin 25 Uses for Epsom Salts Mini Greenhouses from Milk Jugs Toilet Paper Seed Starters Herbal Cold Remedies DIY Herbal […] POPULAR POSTS 6 Ways to Make Natural Rooting Hormone 6 Natural Rooting Hormone Techniques | PreparednessMama Increase the success of your cuttings by using natural rooting… Testing Your Soil pH Without a Kit 2 DIY ways for testing soil pH without a kit | PreparednessMama Learn two homemade soil pH testing methods I’m always looking… Crab Apple Crazy – A Collection of Recipes Garden Planners: 5 {Mostly} Free Online Vegetable Garden Planners

GrowVeg Used by both Mother Earth News and the Old Farmers Almanac as their planner of choice, I also find it one of the easiest ones to use. It has the most features and allows you to do the widest range of plans.

COST: Free for 7 Days, then $29 per year

PROS: GrowVeg lets you create stunning, full yard, garden plans. It gives you the ability to change into square foot gardening mode for raised beds planning. The planner software shows how much space plants require and how to group them for maximum success, removing the need to look up planting distances and crop families. It takes the guess work out of the number of plants you can grow for the space you’ve chosen. It also allows you to schedule spring and fall crop rotation.

The program gives you the ability to print out a planting schedule for seed starting, planting out and harvest. This is based on your specific geographic location. There is also a mobile app for iPad & iPhone.

CONS: The yearly fee. If you wish to have access to your “gardens past”, you have to continue to pay every year. At $29 per year, the cost is not overly burdensome.

Who will use it? Any gardener looking for an overall enjoyable planner experience. Give it a try for 7 days – free. This is plenty of time to create your garden plan and print it. Even if you '’t purchase the subscription, take the time to sign up for their informative monthly emails. I always learn something new from them.

VegPlotter free to all non-commercial users. We launched fully in January and so far we have had very positive feedback. VegPlotter takes a slightly different approach to the others that are available in that it use a month by month approach at it’s core so is very easy to see where you have gaps in your planting schedule and can plant follow on green manures. Also shows you what you need to do in any one month right there on your plot.

If you '’t want to register an account but would like to see what it can do I’ve shared the our vegetable garden plan so that you can have a look around and explore our plan month by month (


Ergonomic Gardening excellent article for handicapped and elderly.

Accessible Gardening: Assistive Technology


Controlling Mosquitoes to Reduce the Spread of Zika Virus Controlling mosquitoes to reduce the spread of Zika virus would be easy if there was a perfect pesticide. However, experience has shown that pesticides alone rarely produce complete or lasting control of pests, whether battling cockroaches in kitchens, or mosquitoes in marshes. This observation is the basis of a control strategy called “Integrated Mosquito Management” or IMM.


The Best Way to Control Mosquitoes: “The Four D’s” – How to Manage Mosquitoes & Protect Against Bites

1. Dusk/Dawn – Avoid being outside when mosquitoes are searching for a blood meal, which is usually in the early morning hours and just before the sun goes down. While some species are daytime biters, many prefer to feed at night but all can be actively feeding at dusk and dawn. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes that carry Zika, Dengue, Chikinguna and Yellow Fever also bite during the daytime.

2. Drain – Empty standing water from “containers” around your home and work areas, such as buckets, wheelbarrows, kiddie pools, toys, dog bowls, water troughs, tires, bottles, etc. Make improvements that allow standing water to run off following rains.

3. Dress – If out during mosquito feeding hours, wear long sleeves and pants in plain colors. Avoid attracting them by wearing excessive amounts of perfume or aftershave.

4. Defend – Any time you go outside for an extended period of time, wear a mosquito repellent. DEET provides up to 6 hours of high protection from mosquitoes and has an excellent safety record. People who dislike the smell or oily feel of DEET can choose from two other excellent mosquito repellents. Lemon oil of eucalyptus (an aromatic, plant-derived natural mosquito repellent) and picaridin (odorless) provide excellent, though shorter protection than DEET. Keep a bottle or can of insect repellent just outside the doorway to remind you to spray exposed skin.

Additional measures that can be used around the house or workplace include:

  • Using mosquito dunks containing insect growth regulators or Bti
  • Mowing tall weeds and grass
  • Spraying labeled contact insecticides in shady mosquito resting areas
  • Installing mosquito barriers such as screened windows and doors –or- making sure they are in good repair

12 Plants That You Can Grow This Summer To DETER Mosquitoes

Basil In addition to repelling mosquitoes, it's also quite an attractive plant to grow.

Catmint While the catmint plant does repel mosquitoes that are close, you can try adding crushed leaves or oil for even stronger protection. Watch out though, if you own cats they will probably respond to you the same way they respond to the plant itself. If you're a cat owner, you might want to try other natural ways to deter mosquitoes.

Garlic "If you have a high allicin (garlic's active anti-microbial ingredient) blood count, mosquitoes will refuse to engage with your blood. If you are infected, garlic can eliminate the virus because it is a proven anti-microbial, killing both viruses and bacteria.

Lavender. Lavender repels mosquitoes because mosquitoes dislike the scent of the lavender plant.

Lemon Balm. For an easy homemade repellent, crush lemon balm leaves and then rub them onto your skin. Keep the plants growing near doorways where the leaves will be readily available when you need them.

Lemon Grass Mosquitoes do not care for the fragrance of lemongrass. Grow these attractive "grasses" near walkways and near seating areas to deter them.

Lime Basil The leaves and their extracted juices will help to repel mosquitoes from feeding on you.

Marigolds "Potted marigolds can be positioned near entrances to your home and any common mosquito entry points, such as open windows. The smell may deter mosquitoes from going past this barrier. While marigolds can be used as border plants around the patio, we do not advise putting marigolds on the patio table since the bright blooms may attract wasps."

Pennyroyal "Crushed pennyroyal stems stuck in your hat and pockets really will repel gnats and mosquitoes. Dog owners often see their dogs rolling in pennyroyal patches, and dog instincts can usually be trusted." -source ""

Rosemary A Recipe for a Simple Rosemary Mosquito Repellent: "A simple repellent spray is made by adding 1 cup dried rosemary to a quart of water, boiling it in a pot for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour a quart of cool water into another container (that holds at least half a gallon), then strain the rosemary water into the container. Pour small amounts of the blend into squirt bottles to apply directly to skin and outdoor pets. Store the unused portions in the refrigerator; discard it when it no longer smells strongly of rosemary." - source ""

Tansy Tansy is a strong herb, beautiful & yet suitable for growing around doorways to act as a mosquito deterrent.

Wormwood Wormwood can make a lovely, unique border and the strong odor does a good job of keeping mosquitoes at bay. Note: Do not rub on skin.

Essential Oils Proven to Send Mosquitoes Packing Government health authorities continue recommending DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), which does work in repelling mosquitoes. However, this potentially toxic chemical is not without its own risks, producing effects similar to deadly nerve gases and pesticides.

A number of essential oils have proven effective for repelling mosquitoes, including the Aedes Aegypti variety—the most notable Zika transmission vector. It isn’t surprising that essential oils would be effective because, over the millennia, plants have needed to manufacture “insect repellants” to ensure their survival. Many of the individual chemical compounds in essential oils have insect repelling properties. Any one essential oil may contain hundreds to thousands of compounds—terpenes, alcohols, esters, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, alcohols, esters, and the list goes one.

Three essential oils outperformed the rest: litsea, geranium and rosewood oils. The results will be published in the September 2016 issue of Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases.

Litsea oil ranked highest in making the little pests turn their proboscises and head for the hills. Litsea showed outstanding repellency at all three concentrations tested (1, 10 and 100 ppm), comparing favorably to DEET and DEPA (N,N-diethyl phenylacetamide). Litsea oil comes from the fruit of the Litsea cubeba tree, an evergreen native to Japan, southern China and southeast Asia. In this particular study, the top 10 mosquito-repelling essential oils were identified as the following, listed in order of highest effectiveness:

1. Litsea
2. Rosewood
3. Geranium
4. Lemongrass
5. Lemon scented
6. Camphor
7. Citronella
8. Galbanum
9. Dill
10. Cinnamon

Specifically targeting Ae. Aegypti. The most effective blends had litsea as one ingredient, especially when combined with lemon scented (lemon eucalyptus) or lemongrass oil. The little bloodsuckers are clearly not lemon fans.

8 Plants That Repel Mosquitos Naturally They may be great food for birds and bats, but you '’t want them hanging around your backyard. You also '’t want to cover yourself in harsh chemicals to repel them. So, aside from making your property less friendly to the buggers by getting rid of any standing water (including those rain gutters!), what can you do to keep them away?

It turns out that mosquitoes, along with many biting insects, are attracted to certain odors in human skin. They’re especially attracted to your body odor and other secretions, meaning that if you’re spending a lot of time running around and sweating, you can expect to have more mosquitos following you around. Alternately certain strong—or unpleasant to the bug—smells can both hide your scent and dissuade them from getting close enough to bite you. There are several plants with strong scents that we find pleasant, which you can use to help mask your own smell and keep nearby mosquitoes at a distance.

You can’t just plant and be 'e, however. The aroma needs to be in the air around you, at the very least, and ideally on your skin. To get the maximum effect, crush herb leaves in your hands to release their perfume, and then rub the leaves and their oils over your skin. Here are eight herbs that work great and can be kept in pots on a porch, near a door, or anywhere else you plan to congregate outside.

Lemon balm, catnip, basil, lavender, peppermint, citrosum, sage, rosemary.

List of current backyard plants

Primrose Jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi) around pool & at my window
Pittosporum [Pittosporum tobira] from Japan east end of pool
Texas Red Oak
Pecan Trees
Hackberry Trees
Sago Palm
Rose Bush
Aloe Vera
Horseherb [Calyptocarpus vialis], Straggler daisy
Bermuda Grass
St. Augustine grass
Elephant Ears, Taro
Containers various veg., herbs, and flowers.

List of current front yard plants

List of current side yard plants

see downloads: Superstar_13_rev2.pdf
Texas Superstar Plants

South Central Texas residents can choose, prepare plants for winter

Winter Gardening in Central Texas

The Natural Gardener, Austin, TX America's longest running organic gardening radio show.

3 Things To Do In Your Garden Right Now [Fall]

10/4/16 email from "Phil (Smiling Gardener)"

1. '’t remove annuals. What’s left over of your tomato, squash, potato plants, etc. in the fall doesn’t have to be removed from the garden. You certainly could move the stems and leaves into a compost pile if they’re just too darn ugly for you, but you can also let those things decompose right where they are over the winter. They’ll eventually become part of the mulch layer and the roots will continue to feed soil life throughout the winter.

2. Plant a cover crop. Pick a legume (like clover) and a grass (like oats), sow them both and make sure they have enough water for the first couple of weeks to improve germination. They’ll do a whole lot of good for you during the off season.

How to Store Seeds Protect your finds and ensure your seeds are viable when the planting time is right with proper seed storage. It doesn’t take much, especially if you are storing seeds short term (less than two years).

If you plan to store your seeds for longer, a few more steps are needed to protect the long-term viability of the seed. But for short-term storage, a cool, dark, dry and free of pests spot is all you need.

Seed Storage Tip 1: Maintain Cool Conditions

Keep seeds out of direct sunlight in a cool spot that maintains a fairly consistent temperature. Consider a cold closet, a basement, or a room on the north side of your home that remains cool year round. Freezing isn’t necessary for short-term storage, but you can refrigerate seeds, provided they are sufficiently dry.

Seed Storage Tip 2: Maintain Dry Conditions Before you place your seeds in storage, it’s important that they are dry. Not sure? A simple bend v. snap test is a good starting point. If the seed can be cleanly snapped in half or shatters under stress, it is likely dry enough for storage, even in a freezer. But if it bends or smashes, the seeds should be be dried further before being stored.


All seeds need to germinate is sufficient water and temperatures that are favorable for plant growth. Make sure your seeds '’t sprout by storing them in a spot that isn’t humid and ensure the seeds are dry before sealing them in a container. Moisture is an especially important factor if you are freezing or refrigerating your seeds. If seeds are too wet, they can rot in the refrigerator or suffer frost damage in the freezer. If you store seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, place the packets in an air-tight container and ensure the seeds are properly dried to begin with. If you are storing seed you’ve saved yourself (bravo!), follow the correct seed saving processes to ensure they are dry.

Consistency is key when it comes to temperature and humidity levels. This is why you should avoid storing seeds in a spot that isn't climate-controlled, like a garage or shed, where temperatures and moisture levels can fluctuate wildly.

Seed Storage Tip 3: Protect the Seeds

We’ve all had a plant or two that’s caught the attention of a pest. Critters, rodents, and bugs also enjoy nibbling on seeds that are waiting to be planted. Choose a storage spot that is pest-free and you can keep a close eye on to ensure it remains that way. Glass jars, metal containers, or wire mesh can further protect seeds from invaders.

However, there is something to be said for a little breathing room.

When using a storage area that is cool and dry year round, you may be able to keep seeds in paper bags, mesh bags, or envelopes in what is called “open storage”. Moisture and heat generated by the seed during respiration can escape through these gas permeable containers. This is also a smart tactic when you aren’t sure about the moisture content of the seed. But you will still want to take precautions to protect your seeds from pests.

Some seeds do not fare as well in storage. Crops like carrots, parsnip, onions, and leeks are notoriously short lived. For these, freezer storage is best as seeds from these varieties that are stored at or near room temperature will quickly lose their ability to germinate and grow.

With these safeguards in place, you’ll be able to plant your seeds later and enjoy watching them grow.

37 Garden Edging Ideas: How To Ways For Dressing Up Your Landscape

BrokenConcrete / EdgingStones

EdgingStones / CobbledStone

TAMU: Perennial Plants for South Texas Landscapes

Bexar cty: Hardy Survivors-The Plants for San Antonio By Dr. Jerry Parsons

Her tips to growing ferns are:

1. Put them in “high light”, such as under a densely shaded tall tree
2. Protect them from the wind
3. They like very rich, organic, high humous soil
4. Use compost, bonemeal and peat for amending the soil
5. They HATE artifical fertilizer of any sort; fertilize with Fish Emulsion.
6. When you plant them: Osmocote + Bone Meal +Fish emulsion + compost (OK, I know this sounds contradictory with the Osmocote listed here, '’t ask me to explain it. I’m giving you her notes.)
7. Water deeply and slowly
8. Use pine mulch and pecan compost to increase acidity of soil

In case anyone else is interested, here is her list of ferns that will do well here. Many of them have to be special ordered, and they all need low to medium light and plenty of water. Her pictures (I wish I had them to show you) were lush and beautiful and cooling to look at in this summer heat.

The top ten ferns are:

Southern Wood Fern (Dryopteris Indoviciana) Deciduous, easy to grow, light and leafy look
Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum Rochfordianum) evergreen, cold tolerant (I happen to have several of these
already in my yard and they appear to be indestructible), leaves are heavier and not as airy looking, makes it more hardy
Brilliance Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora “Brilliance”) evergreen, orange color on new fronds, light and leafy look
Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblephoruim), evergreen
Lace Fern (Microlepia strigosa), there’s some growing in the ground at Barton Springs Nursery to see, deciduous
East Indian Holly Fern, (Arachniodes simplicior “varigata”) a very pretty evergreen fern
Victoria Lady Fern (Athyrium filix femina “victoriae”), deciduous, hardy
Mexican Male Fern (Dryopteris pseudo-filix-mas), evergreen, clumping
Ostrich “the King” Mattauecia struthiopteris var. Pennsylvania), deciduous, wide spreading
Ghost Fern (Athyruim x Ghost), deciduous, clumping, likes to stay wet

SA Express news Native ferns: Fronds with benefits

Western sword fern. The native fern most are familiar with is Polystichum munitum. It is so popular, in fact, that for many a gardener this is what a fern “looks like.” This hardy plant earns its reputation by being easy to establish, needing less water than many other ferns and looking great planted in masses. It is one of the larger fern species, reaching a height and width of 3 to 4 feet, ideal for filling up a larger area. Like many ferns, it’s wonderful as an understory planting, be that under trees or tall shrubs.

Maidenhair ferns. For those who love the delicate appearance of Maidenhair ferns, Adiantum aleuticum, better known as Five Finger fern, offers a decidedly lacy look. That delicacy belies its toughness. Even if it suffers and looks poor, a haircut and a little water will bring forth verdant new growth. Fronds showcase bright green, finger-like leaves that contrast nicely with wiry black stems. Reaching a height of 10 to 15 inches, the plant has a cascading habit, making it an excellent choice for containers.

Giant chain fern. Want to make a bold statement? Woodwardia fimbriata can reach 5 feet tall, and its vertical habit makes for an impressive sight. It will appreciate a little morning sun and moist conditions, so is excellent for an area where you have other plantings that also need a little regular water. It’s an ideal choice for someone who doesn’t have the space for an Australian tree fern but wants a dramatic statement.

Coastal wood fern. On the other hand, Dryopteris arguta is found in shady, wooded areas all up and down the West Coast. Surprisingly drought tolerant, it slowly forms dense clumps of mid-green foliage that reach 2 feet in diameter. It prefers a humus-rich shady location. Occasional tidying will maintain an attractive appearance.

California polypody. Lastly, the tough guy of California ferns might well be Polypodium californicum. It’s found in the shade of many of our California oaks, where not much else will grow. It tolerates sand, clay or serpentine soils and seasonal flooding. Absent summer moisture it will go dormant, but a little regular water will keep it evergreen. One can choose the broader fronds of the straight species or the frillier foliage of ‘Sarah Lyman.’

The Lady fern. Athyrium filix-femina is a smaller fern that’s ideal for massing under or around larger plants. Its bright green fronds will help lighten up a shady spot, and the new fiddleheads add a red hue for additional interest. It reaches 2 to 3 feet in height and width.

Deer fern. Blechnum spicant has a neat trick that distinguishes it from other ferns. The outer leaves form a low, glossy, evergreen rosette, while the new growth of inner leaves stand straight up, reaching as much as 2 feet. This fern is great for tucking into a shady, woodland garden.

6 Different Ferns You Can Grow Indoors The diversity of type of ferns lends difficulty to the decision which to grow… in pots or in hanging baskets. In making selections there are a number of important considerations – the plant’s ultimate size, its suitability for pot culture and whether it is what could be called an evergreen.

The bird nest fern (Asplenium nidus) / Cyrtomium Falcatum – The Holly Fern

Cyrtomium Falcatum – The Holly Fern

potted cyrtomium falcatum holly fern A fern that fully meets the above requirements is the holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), a native of Japan, Korea and China.

The plant grows from 18-20 inches high, with an equal spread. The once divided, leathery fronds are dark, shiny green and the divisions, sickle shaped. In one form the margins are deeply cut and the ends, long-pointed, causing a resemblance to true holly. Once established, holly fern survives drought and chill temperatures. Grown in humidity, it stands winter sun.

There are several forms of holly fern, all about the same size and grown under similar culture.

The Boston Fern [Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis]

No fern collection in the home would be complete without the popular old-timer, the Boston fern. The true Boston fern scientific name is (Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis) is a horticultural form discovered by chance by a florist among his ferns in the early nineties (1890’s). Its parent is a tropical species, Nephrolepis exahata, native to Cuba, Mexico, South America, and Malaya.

The Boston fern grows to two feet or more, is once-divided, with the frond divisions entire and slightly ruffled. At first erect, the fronds arch over with age, having continuous length of growth, unless injured.

There are nearly 100 named and described descendents or forms, all sports and all creeping. For a large, erect form, with older fronds arching and drooping, look for a variety called Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, with much ruffled divisions having margins slightly cut. The plant grows to 18 inches and it care is of easy culture. Having about the same size and form but with fronds more deeply cut is the Boston fern form splendida.

Lace fern (Nephrolepis exaltata whitmanii) is smaller, much more cut and divided. The erect fronds arch over the pot sides, reaching only 10 inches in height.

Lace fern (Nephrolepis exaltata whitmanii)

Another nephrolepis is the sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia). It lacks its Boston cousin’s grace, the fronds being more narrow and more erect. An important advantage, however, is its hardiness and easy culture and care. Overwatering is the greatest source of difficulty. It survives full sun, but is most attractive when grown in partial shade.

sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia)

Quick Care Tips For Nephrolepis Ferns
Keep the fronds of all nephrolepis on the dry side. Do all watering directly into the pots. Varieties with finely divided fronds require more care. Night temperatures above 50 degrees F. are best. Provide light but no direct sunshine and plenty of ventilation for most varieties.

All the Boston ferns are sterile. New plants are produced from runner-like off-shoots, more properly known as stolons. To propagate, cover the stolons lightly while they are still attached to the mother fern. If there are a large number of new stolons, remove some because they retard the parent plant’s growth.

The Boston Fern / Davallia Fern

The Polystichum Ferns

Another Fern which has finely cut foliage is the soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum proliferum). It has dense, deep green fronds which arch over the pot sides. Native to Tasmania, it has a number of close relatives in temperate zones around the world.

It reaches a foot in height, with a slightly larger spread. The fronds are numerous, long and tapering. It is propagated by spores or from young ferns produced along the axis or midrib on the frond uppersides. It can also be propagated by pinning down the fronds over a layer or moist peat moss, and maintaining good circulation of air and humidity.

the soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum proliferum)

Useful in both dish gardens and planters is the tususima holly fern (Polystichum tsushima), native to Japan and China--also called the Korean Rock Fern. It is as a young plant that tususima holly Fern makes a good dish garden subject. The leathery, dark green fronds are twice divided. Ten to 12 inches in height, it slowly spreads, forming dense chimps.

the tususima holly fern (Polystichum tsushima)

It is of easy culture and will withstand strong light. Like the true holly fern, it is most successfully grown in slightly acid or neutral soil.

Davallia Ferns

For something really different, try the epiphytic [epiphyte-a plant that grows on another plant but is not parasitic, such as the numerous ferns, bromeliads, air plants, and orchids growing on tree trunks in tropical rain forests] members of the genus Davallia. All are evergreen, with fronds erect and finely divided. Being tropical in origin, they cannot withstand even light frost.

One of the group, the Squirrel's Foot fern (Davallia mariesii), native to Japan, it was once imported as a novelty, coming in the shapes of animals, monkeys, clowns or fern balls. Others are the hares’ foot fern (Davallia trichomanoides), from Japan, Ceylon and Malaya, the various forms of Fiji Davallia – (Davallia fejeensis), from the Fiji islands, and the members of the closely allied genus Humata, the hears’ foot fern (humata tyermanii) and other small or medium epiphytic ferns.

the Squirrel's Foot fern (Davallia mariesii) its rhizomes are covered with fine white hairs. I've always thought these 'legs' look more like tarantulas

The epiphytic ferns can be grown in pots, but are more showy and successful grown on pieces of cork, oak logs or wire baskets. High humidity, plenty of filtered, overhead light and good drainage, with no over-watering, are the recipe for healthy ferns of this group. Water thoroughly but infrequently, placing the container in a pan or bucket of water for a complete wetting.

Use coarse potting materials, try a mixture of potting mix and perlite in a 2 to 1 mixture. During potting, do not plant the creeping rhizome in the potting medium. Compress the root systems with sphagnum moss, avoiding root injury.

All the members of the group are slow in starting from divisions or spores. Especially during this early period be very careful not to overwater. Once the plants are established, however, they are easily cared for and can survive considerable neglect.

The following group of terrestrial (or soil grown) ferns are small to medium in size and of easy indoor pot culture.

The Australian cliff brake (Pellaea falcata) creeps to form tight, 10-inch high clumps. Give it light, but no sun, and add finely ground limestone to the soil mixture.

The Australian cliff brake (Pellaea falcata) from New Zealand

Pellaea rotundifolia from New Zealand grows six to 10 inches tall, is shade loving and drought resistant. Use a soil mixture of leafmold, a little broken lime and rocks.

Button fern [Pellaea rotundifolia]

The Mexican flowering fern (llavea cordifolia) is also an unusual specimen. It reaches 10-12 inches in height, prefers shade. Keep fronds dry and do not overwater the plant. Fertile fronds are much contracted and divided at their ends, slightly resembling green flowers.

The Mexican flowering fern (llavea cordifolia)

The Pteris Ferns

An attractive group are the ferns of the genus Pteris, sometimes known as table ferns, most of which can be grown from divisions as well as spores. They prefer a soil mixture containing a sprinkle of ground limestone, an acceptable mixture being of fibrous loam, leafmold and sand with some well rotted [compost], ground cow manure added.

The Cretan brakes (Pteris cretica 'mayii') reach more than a foot in height, growing in clumps from very short, slowly creeping rhizomes. Found throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, they were first discovered on the island of Crete. Apart from requirements of filtered light and soil kept moist but not wet, Cretan brake needs little care.

the Cretan brakes (Pteris cretica)

The variegated Club Foot fern (Pteris cretica 'mayii').

The variegated Club Foot fern (Pteris cretica 'mayii')

Varieties are the ribbon brake (Pteris cretica albo lineata), a variegated form from Japan.

the ribbon brake (Pteris cretica albo lineata)

Another pteris species is the Chinese or spider brake (Pteris multifida, often sold as Pteris serrulata), of Chinese and Japanese origin. Divisions are narrower than in the Cretan brake and continue growing down along the midvein. The plant is densely leaved and has a spread and height of about a foot.

the Chinese or spider brake (Pteris multifida)

White foliage areas contrasting with bright green make the silver brake (Pteris argyraea) from India and eastern Asia an outstanding species. Its erect leaves are taller and are differently divided than the other pteris.

the silver brake (Pteris argyraea)

San Diego Fern Society

The Pteris Ferns / The Mother Fern

The Mother Fern

A large and showy specimen is the mother fern (Asplenium bulbiferum), a native of New Zealand, Australia, India and Malaya. It reaches a height of 18 inches, with medium green fronds arching over to give the plant a spread of 20 inches or more. Very proliferous, it produces bulblets and also grows young plants on the upper frond sides, source of its common name, mother fern. It can also be grown from spores.

the mother fern (Asplenium bulbiferum)

The bird nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is even larger than the mother fern, reaching over three feet when grown outside in subtropical areas. Fronds are not divided, but are sometimes slightly wavy and are of a leathery texture. In nature epiphytic, pot bird nest fern in leaf-mold, peatmoss or ground fir bark. Give it occasional fertilizer.

The bird nest fern (Asplenium nidus)

Another excellent pot subject with a yen for a bit of lime in the soil mixture is the hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium). A large fern in the wilds, it doesn’t reach more than a foot high grown in pots. It is found in Europe, Asia and Africa as well as parts of the United States. A form from England, more cut and varied in size than the others, is most commonly grown indoors.

the hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

Garden Insurance with PH Soil Testing

Soil Common Sense All great plants start with great soil. Spend extra time building the soil and you'll be rewarded with a healthier garden.

The soul of your garden is the soil. A healthy soil translates into a healthy garden. But before you begin adding compost, manure, fertilizer, lime, and other soil amendments, you need to know what type of soil you have and its properties. Clay, silt, and sandy soils all behave differently and have different needs.

Soil is comprised of air spaces and organic matter, but mostly mineral particles. There are three kinds of soil minerals: sand, silt and clay. The relative percentage of each of these particles in the soil determines its texture. Soil texture won't change unless you literally excavate your soil and replace it.

The ideal amount of organic matter in most soils is between 5 percent and 10 percent. Organic matter helps any soil become more like the ideal loamy soil. Here's how.

Microorganisms feed on organic matter and produce polysaccharides. Polysaccharides help form humus, which enables small clay or silt particles to stick together to form larger aggregates. Larger aggregates create more pores for water and air to flow. The soil drains better, the plants grow better because of the increased pore space, and more nutrients are available.


Soil pH: Acid or Alkaline?

To treat alkaline soils or make more acidic, add sulfur, coffee grounds, peat [?], pine needles

Soils Matter Get the scoop.

Soil pH The number can range from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very basic, or “alkaline”), and a value of 7 is considered “neutral.”

The pH of soil is a measure of the sweetness (alkalinity) and sourness (acidity) of the soil. It is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. A soil pH below 7.0 is considered acid; above 7.0 is alkaline. The correct pH for your plants is important because certain nutrients are only available to plants within a specific pH range. Usually areas of high rainfall have a low pH and areas of low rainfall have a high pH.

The ideal structure of topsoil (at least 10 to 12 inches deep) is granular, crumb-size groupings of soil particles and plenty of pore spaces. The ideal subsoil structure is blocky, with cubes of soil and vertical openings. Compacted soil has few air and water pore spaces and tends to be poorly drained.

Compacted soils in perennial beds will benefit from a yearly 1- to 2-inch-deep top-dressing of compost. A compacted layer in annual beds can be broken up by double digging or deeply tilling the soil below the hardpan layer and mixing in generous amounts of organic matter. In some soils the thickness of the hardpan layer may require building raised beds or planting in a different location.

pH Test. To check if your soil is severely alkaline, take 1 tablespoon of dried garden soil and add a few drops of vinegar. If the soil fizzes, then the pH is above 7.5. The free carbonates in the soil react with the acid at a pH of 7.5 and above.

To check for acidity in the soil, take 1 tablespoon of wet soil and add a pinch of baking soda. If the soil fizzes, then the soil is probably very acidic (pH less than 5.0).

Five Soil Tests

Here are five home tests you can conduct on your own to help you determine your soil texture, drainage, and pH.

Ribbon Test. Take a handful of moist soil and roll it in your hand to the size of a ping-pong ball. Squeeze the soil ball between your thumb and fingers in the palm of your hand to make a ribbon. Stand the ribbon straight up in the air. If you can't form a ribbon, then the soil is at least 50 percent sand and has very little clay. If the ribbon is less than 2 inches long before breaking, then your soil has roughly 25 percent clay in it. If it is 2 to 3-1/2 inches long, then it has about 40 percent clay. If the ribbon is greater than 3-1/2 inches long and doesn't break when held up in the air, then it is at least 50 percent clay.

Jar Test. Put 1 inch of dry, crushed garden soil in a tall quart jar. Fill the jar 2/3 with water and add 1 teaspoon of a dispersing agent such as Calgon or table salt. Shake the jar thoroughly and then let the contents settle. Sand will settle to the bottom in about one minute. Measure the depth of that layer. Silt will settle in 4 to 5 hours. You should see a color and size difference between the sand and silt layers. If not, measure the depth of both layers and subtract the sand depth from the total to determine the silt depth. The clay takes days to settle. Determine its depth in the same way as for the silt. Some of the smallest clay particles may remain permanently in suspension and will not settle out.

By measuring the depth of each layer of soil particles, you can figure the percentage of sand, silt, and clay in your soil. For example, if you have a 1/4-inch-deep layer of sand on the bottom and the overall depth of the soil in the jar is 1 inch, then your soil has about 25 percent sand in it.

Percolation Test. Dig holes 1 foot deep by 2 feet wide in various places in your garden or landscape. Cover the holes with plastic to let the soil dry out. Once it's dry, fill the hole to the top with water and time how long it takes for the water to completely drain.

The ideal time should be between 10 and 30 minutes. If the water drains in less than 10 minutes, then your soil will tend to dry out quickly in summer. If it takes 30 minutes to 4 hours to drain, you can still grow most plants but will have to water slowly to avoid runoff and to allow the water to soak deeply. If your soil takes longer than four hours to drain, you may have a drainage problem.

One caveat: Extremely dry soils, especially those with large amounts of clay, tend to crack. The water in the drainage test will leave quickly because of these cracks, not because of good structure.

Compaction Test. The simplest way to see if your soil has a hardpan or compaction layer below the surface is to take a metal rod and walk around your property sticking it into the ground. If you can't easily push the rod into the soil at least 6 to 8 inches deep, then you need to improve the aeration of your soil. If you push it down and consistently meet resistance at a certain depth, then there may be a hardpan layer.

Another way to tell if you have a hardpan layer is to dig up a plant and examine the roots. If they're white, vigorous, and well branched and extend at least 6 to 8 inches deep, then your soil has good structure.

If the roots are 1 to 2 inches deep, mushy, and gray colored, they are infected with a bacterial rot. If they are shallow, brittle, and black, they're infected with a fungal rot. Both diseases are enhanced by poor drainage either from a high water table or a compaction layer.

pH Test. To check if your soil is severely alkaline, take 1 tablespoon of dried garden soil and add a few drops of vinegar. If the soil fizzes, then the pH is above 7.5. The free carbonates in the soil react with the acid at a pH of 7.5 and above.

To check for acidity in the soil, take 1 tablespoon of wet soil and add a pinch of baking soda. If the soil fizzes, then the soil is probably very acidic (pH less than 5.0).

The ideal pH for most plants is 5.5 to 7.5. A few plants prefer more extreme conditions. Try this remedy for acidic or alkaline soil: If your pH is on the extreme end of either range, take a soil test to determine the exact pH.

Add the appropriate amounts of limestone (for acidic soils) and sulfur (for alkaline soils), according to the soil test.

Weeping Larch (Larix decidua 'Pendula') / Zonal Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum 'Appleblossom Rosebud')

Tall Bearded Iris (Iris 'Brilliance') / Tall Bearded Iris (Iris 'Momentum')

Salvia (Salvia 'Amistad') / Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos 'Shademaster') / Bloom where your are planted


8/12/16 Ordered from High Country Gardens:

Miniature Daffodil Bulbs Tete-a-Tete Bag of 25 $11.99 and
Crocus tommasinianus Bulbs Ruby Giant Bag of 25 $6.74
Shipping & Handling $8.99
Grand Total $27.72

Let's see the order of things:

Crocus Ruby Giant 3" tall purple
Viola walteri 'Silver Gem' 3-4" tall lavender butterflies
Phlox 3-6" tall red-purple butterflies
Aubrieta up to 4" tall violet-purple
Alyssum 4-6" tall purple,yellow butterflies,insects very fragrant
Viola 6" tall tricolor butterflies
Miniature Daffodils 6-8" tall yellow
Ajuga 6-9" tall purplish blue acidic Euphorbia 12-18" tall yellow mounds
Vetch 18" tall pink-lavender

So, for best display in container:

Crocus Ruby Giant 3" tall purple outside
Miniature Daffodils 6-8" tall yellow inside
Alyssum 4-6" tall purple butterflies,insects cover

Or in another container:

Crocus Ruby Giant 3" tall purple outside
Miniature Daffodils 6-8" tall yellow inside
Viola 6" tall tricolor butterflies cover

WHY GROW BULBS? So, what are some of the charms of planting flower bulbs?

  • Even those with brown thumbs can be successful at bulb growing, the amateur gardener as well as the skilled horticulturalist.
  • The next charm I’ve already mentioned – what fun to see flowers in January or February, especially if you live in colder climates!
  • Another is that bulbs are for the most part perennials, especially the fall-planted bulbs. You plant them once and then can enjoy them for years.
  • Along that vein, you can naturalize bulbs – plant them at the edge of the woods or in your lawn in sweeps. Over the years they will spread and it will look like Mother Nature herself planted them for you. Daffodils are especially good for naturalizing.
  • Bulbs are easy to divide and transplant. If your established patch of bulbs stops blooming or becomes crowded, simply dig them up and separate them, and plant the extras in another part of the garden or give them away. Free bulbs!
  • There are numerous colors, forms and varieties of bulbs that can satisfy any garden plan, from the tiniest Crocuses and Dwarf Species Irises (Reticulata) to tall Cannas and Peonies (which are technically rhizomes and fleshy roots, respectively).
  • Bulbs will grow in practically any type of soil and after planting require a minimum amount of work.
  • It’s possible to have a continuous succession of interesting flowers, and the cut flowers are spectacular in the vase and tend to last a long time.
  • You '’t even need a garden to grow bulbs! You can plant them in pots on the porch and have a beautiful display in the Spring or you can even force them indoors during the Winter. Hyacinths, Daffodils, Tulips, Amaryllis, as well as some others, can be forced into gorgeous bloom in just a few weeks.

Bulbs – they give so much for so little.


Miniature Daffodil Bulbs Tete-a-Tete

This perky little heirloom daffodil has fragrant buttercup yellow petals and yellow-orange cups. With 2 to 3 flowers per stem, 'Tete-a-Tete' is a prolific bloomer that forms large colonies.

Zones 3-8. Flowers are fragrant. Full sun or Morning sun and afternoon shade. Bulb Spacing: 9 bulbs per sq. ft.

Miniature Daffodil Bulbs Tete-a-Tete

6-8" tall. Early spring blooming. This perky little heirloom daffodil has fragrant buttercup yellow petals and yellow-orange cups. With 2 to 3 flowers per stem, 'Tete-a-Tete' is a prolific bloomer that forms large colonies.

Botanical Name Narcissus Tete-a-Tete. Plant 2-4" deep. When you receive your spring bulbs (tulips, daffodils, etc.) keep them in a dry, dark, cool place until ready to plant. They need air circulation so they will not collect moisture and rot. Planting times can vary from early October in the North to mid-to-late November in the southern regions. A good rule of thumb is to plant them about 6 weeks before the ground is frozen or after the first hard freeze.

Miniature Daffodil Bulbs Tete-a-Tete

A compost enriched, well-drained soil is best. Incorporate a good quality organic compost as needed. Yum Yum Mix® is recommended as an excellent source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needed for strong plants and healthy roots. Mix a small amount into the bottom of the hole before planting your bulbs.

Once your bulbs have bloomed, allow the bulb foliage to brown and fade naturally, since the leaves are feeding the bulb in the ground. Removal of foliage weakens the bulb and leads to fewer blooms the following year. Planting your bulbs amongst your perennials is one way to conceal the dying bulb foliage. The perennials begin to grow and fill out as the bulb foliage dies back. The perennials will then provide foliage and color in the garden from late spring through the summer and into fall. Regular fertilization with balanced organic or natural fertilizer and a re-application of mulch each fall will insure more and more beautiful spring bulb blooms for many years!


Crocus tommasinianus Bulbs Ruby Giant Common Name: Crocus tommasinianus Bulbs Ruby Giant. Botanical Name: Crocus tommasinianus. Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Light Requirements: Full Sun, Morning Sun & Afternoon Shade. Mature Height: 3" tall. Bulb Spacing: 16 bulbs per sq. ft. Planting Depth: Plant 2-4" deep. Advantages: Deer Resistant, Rabbit Resistant, Easy tto grow.


When you receive your spring bulbs (tulips, daffodils, etc.) keep them in a dry, dark, cool place until ready to plant. They need air circulation so they will not collect moisture and rot. Planting times can vary from early October in the North to mid-to-late November in the southern regions.

A compost enriched, well-drained soil is best. Incorporate a good quality organic compost as needed. Yum Yum Mix® is recommended as an excellent source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium needed for strong plants and healthy roots. Mix a small amount into the bottom of the hole before planting your bulbs.


After planting, add a top dressing of compost or other organic material and water in thoroughly. If your winter is dry, water every three to four weeks throughout the winter and add more mulch if necessary.

Once your bulbs have bloomed, allow the bulb foliage to brown and fade naturally, since the leaves are feeding the bulb in the ground. Removal of foliage weakens the bulb and leads to fewer blooms the following year. Planting your bulbs amongst your perennials is one way to conceal the dying bulb foliage. The perennials begin to grow and fill out as the bulb foliage dies back. The perennials will then provide foliage and color in the garden from late spring through the summer and into fall. Regular fertilization with balanced organic or natural fertilizer and a re-application of mulch each fall will insure more and more beautiful spring bulb blooms for many years!

So, maybe in containers... move to front after blooming by pool.

Bulb Companions

I need some companion plants to put in the containers with the bulbs. Cover and interest until they bloom and afterwards.


Primroses Primrose flowers (Primula polyantha) bloom in early spring, offering a variety of form, size, and color. They are suitable for use in garden beds and borders as well as in containers or for naturalizing areas of the lawn. In fact, when given the proper growing conditions, these vigorous plants will multiply each year, adding stunning colors to the landscape.

Blooming often lasts throughout summer and in some areas, they will continue to delight the fall season with their outstanding colors. Most primrose flowers seen in gardens are Polyanthus hybrids, which range in color from white, cream and yellow to orange, red and pink. There are also purple and blue primrose flowers. These perennial plants prefer damp, woodland-like conditions.

Primrose perennials should be planted in lightly shaded areas with well-drained soil, preferably amended with organic matter. Set primrose plants about 6 to 12 inches apart and 4 to 6 inches deep.


Phlox subulata (moss phlox) Really good possibility Type: Herbaceous perennial. Family: Polemoniaceae. Native Range: Eastern and central United States. Zone: 3 to 9. Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet. Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet. Bloom Time: March to May. Bloom Description: Red-purple to violet-purple to pink to white. Sun: Full sun. Water: Medium. Maintenance: Medium. Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize. Flower: Showy. Attracts: Butterflies. Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Air Pollution Garden locations

Phlox subulata (moss phlox)

Best grown in humusy, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Best flowering is in full sun, but plants generally appreciate some dappled sun in the hot summers of the deep South. Good soil drainage is important. Plants grow well in sandy or gravely soils and tolerate hot, dry exposures better than most other species of phlox. Plants will self-seed in optimum growing conditions. Cut back stems after flowering by 1/2 to maintain form and promote denser growth plus to stimulate a possible light rebloom.


Viola 'Helen Mount' (Viola tricolor) Viola tricolor has small flowers that bloom from spring to fall in shades of purple, lavender and yellow. It makes a nice groundcover, spreading and self-sowing around larger plants in the garden.

Viola tricolor 'Helen Mount' reseeds prolifically, but it doesn't interfere with other perennials. It comes up wherever it likes, even in part shade. Viola flowers are edible, which makes them a perfect addition to the herb garden.

Viola 'Helen Mount' (Viola tricolor)

Viola tricolor is a host plant for several butterfly species, including Variegated Fritillary, Great Spangled Fritillary, and Gray Hairstreak.

Common names include Wild Pansy, Johnny Jump-Up, and Heartsease. Also known as Viola cornuta 'Helen Mount'. Hardy in zones 4-9.

Viola 'Helen Mount' (Viola tricolor) / Viola Compact V. Hybrida 'Sorbet Coconut'

height 6"

Sowing Viola tricolor 'Helen Mount' Seeds:
Sow indoors 8 weeks before the last frost date. Or sow outdoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Barely cover the seeds. Full sun to part shade. Spacing 4".

Viola walteri 'Silver Gem' /

Pansies and Violas Pansies and violas are not only beautiful; they are also signals that spring has arrived. The pansies and violas we grow today have greatly improved over the past decade. Now there are dozens of colors, color combinations, bloom sizes and even some distinctive plant habits.

Pansies and violas are very cold-tolerant plants. Grown outdoors and acclimated, they will easily handle temperatures down to the mid 20s and will continue blooming. If the temperature drops any lower, the existing flower buds are usually damaged, but the plants live on.

Ideally, pansies and violas like lots of sun in the spring and early summer, but they tend to struggle with too much summer heat. A great setting would be one that gets full sun before the trees are fully leafed out and dappled shade during the summer.

Pansies and violas are perfect for containers. Great by themselves, they also combine well with other early spring blooms such as sweet alyssum and snapdragons. Tuck a few into a summer mixed planter for some early color while the summer plants fill out.

Transplanting: Pansies and violas have a very fine, fibrous root system, so ease them out of their pots. The outside of the root ball may be a mat of white roots. Make several shallow cuts through these roots to encourage outward growth. Plant them at the same depth they were growing. Pansies ''t do well when planted deeper.


Nigella 'Miss Jekyll Mix' (Love-in-a-Mist) Nigella 'Miss Jekyll Mix' blooms in shades of pink, blue and white. The flowers appear in June to July from an early spring sowing. It makes a nice bulb cover.

Nigella 'Miss Jekyll Mix' is a good filler in the garden. It's also wonderful for cutting. The long-lasting blooms gradually deepen in color before the petals finally drop off cleanly. They are followed by intriguing, decorative seed pods.

Nigella 'Miss Jekyll Mix' (Love-in-a-Mist)

Nigella damascena is an heirloom flower that has been grown in gardens since the 1600's. Also known as Love-in-a-Mist. Easy to grow. Self-sows in abundance. Deer resistant.

height 18". [an annual garden flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. It is native to southern Europe, north Africa and southwest Asia, where it is found on neglected, damp patches of land. Wikipedia].

Nigella 'Miss Jekyll Mix' (Love-in-a-Mist) colors and seed pod

Sowing Nigella 'Miss Jekyll Mix' Seeds:
Sow outdoors in early spring or fall. Sow on the surface or barely cover the seeds. Thin to 6" apart. To prolong the bloom season, make successive sowings every 4 weeks. Full sun.

Wandering Jew

Purple Queen Plant, Purple Heart Plant, Heart Purple, Purple Hearts, Wandering Jew Plant, Purple Wandering, Aka Wandering, Heart Wandering, Garden Bahcemden

How to Take Care of a Wandering Jew Plant Wandering Jews are beautiful plants known for their solid or variegated leaves. These hardy perennials thrive outdoors as groundcover or in pots which allow their tendrils to cascade. They are relatively easy to care for and incredibly simple to propagate, making them great houseplants.

Wandering Jew

Wandering Jew plants are native to South America and prefer lots of sunlight and warm temperatures, around 55–75 °F (13–24 °C). This shouldn't be a problem if you're going to keep the plant inside; however, you'll need to make sure conditions are suitable if you plan on growing the plant outside. Refer to Part 2 about getting enough sunlight.

The Wandering Jew plant grows best in zones 9-11. According to the U.S.D.A. map, much of the South and a narrow strip of the West Coast make up these zones.

Wandering Jew

Choose an adequate pot for your plant. You can use a regular gardening pot with a saucer or a hanging basket. Regardless of what you choose, make sure there are holes for water drainage.

If you use a hanging basket, remember to turn it daily so it gets equal amounts of sunlight. Be sure to choose a pot that's not too heavy, especially if you plan on hanging it.

You might want to pick a plastic pot instead of a ceramic one for this reason. A lighter pot will also make it easier to move inside in case of frost.

Pot your Wandering Jew plant. Fill the pot about two-thirds full of your potting soil, then place the plant in the center of the pot. Add soil to surround and fill in the sides. Gently press down on the soil around your plant and water it till the soil is completely moistened.

Give your plant enough sunlight. If you can, give them a combination of direct and filtered sunlight. An eastern facing windowsill is a good spot for Wandering Jew plants. They'll receive bright indirect light throughout the day, but watch to make sure the space doesn't become too hot in the afternoon. If so, move the pot a few feet away or use a curtain to filter the light.

If the plant primarily remains outside, find a spot that receives indirect sunlight. This could be on a porch that gets morning sun for several hours. Just make sure that it's not sitting in direct sunlight without any shade for most of the day.

Water your plant often. Wandering Jews like the soil to be moist, but they ''t want to drown! Every day, stick your finger inside the soil. If it feels dry, add enough water to completely moisten the soil. Excess water should run out of the bottom of your pot.

If you've set your pot on a saucer, be sure to empty the saucer when it fills. Make sure not to water straight into the crown of the plant or it may rot.[3] You can water the plant less during the winter months, when its growth slows.[4] Simply let it remain a little dry for a bit longer before watering.

Fertilize regularly.Every two weeks, give your plant some liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer that has been diluted with an equal part of water.

Liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer is considered to be an all-purpose fertilizer made up of ten percent nitrogen, ten percent phosphorous, and ten percent potassium. Read the container's instructions carefully, as some liquid fertilizers may actually be powders requiring you to mix in water.

Fertilizing is only necessary during the heaviest growing season, from spring to early fall.

Prune your plant. To keep your plant from becoming leggy, pinch back or cut the stems above the leaf node. ''t be afraid of cutting too much! You can prune back about a quarter of the plant. This will encourage the plant to fill in rather than continue to grow out through tendrils.

The best time to prune is during the spring and summer months, when the plant is putting on the most growth. After you've pruned, give the plant a chance to put on new shoots and fill in.

If you find your plant is too dense and bushy, you'll need to prune around the base so that the plant can get adequate circulation and sunlight.


How drip irrigation can save the world From water conservation to less pollution to women's empowerment, a founder of Netafim explains why drip irrigation is the future of agriculture.

© K Martinko -- A jojoba plant receives water from a subsurface dripper line.

Agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of the world’s water use, growing food crops, bio-fuel, fodder for livestock, and fiber for clothes (i.e. cotton). Only 20 percent of the agricultural sector irrigates its crops, and yet that segment is responsible for 40 percent of the planet’s food. Irrigation is key, Barak argues, to improving crop yields.

There are different forms of irrigation. Four percent of farmers who irrigate use drip irrigation. Twelve percent uses pivot irrigation, another fairly efficient form of irrigation, while the remaining 84 percent uses flood irrigation.

Flooding is inefficient; it requires great quantities of water, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions, emitting methane, and contaminating aquifers. Often it requires women and children in poverty-stricken countries to spend many hours hauling water in buckets by hand, making it difficult for them to pursue education or complete other tasks.

Enter drip irrigation, which Netafim has been promoting since 1965. The idea is to give the plant whatever it needs, at the right time, and to irrigate the plant, as opposed to the soil. This is 'e via plastic ‘drip lines’ that lie either above the soil or sub-surface. Water is controlled at the source, whether it’s a reservoir or tank, and the soil around the plant receives a small, steady, and equal amount of water when the valve is opened.

There are countless benefits to this system, Barak tells us. Not only does it use 60 to 70 percent less water – a precious limited resource on our planet today – but it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions through more precise use of fertilizers, which are pre-mixed in the water before irrigation. It allows farmers to grow crops on hilly land, as only level ground can be tilled when flood irrigation is required. Drip irrigation reduces nitrate leaching and heavy metal absorption in the soil.

It increases crop yields significantly. Barak shows pictures of greenhouses in the Netherlands and Israel, where tomatoes and strawberries are grown with drip irrigation, resulting in much higher yields than in fields. For example, the average yield of tomatoes in one of these greenhouses is 650 tons per hectare, compared to 100 tons/hectare in a field using flood irrigation. Barak tells us that the resulting crop is of better quality, too.

Drip irrigations can break the poverty cycle. While Netafim is best known for its high-tech, computer-controlled irrigation systems that can provide large-scale farmers with real-time field data, the company also sells very basic Family Drip Systems, which can be used off-grid by relying on gravity to transport water from a holding tank through lines in the fields.

These are an affordable option for the planet’s 500 million subsistence farmers, who currently provide 80 percent of the developing world’s food. Many of these farmers are women, and to be less tied to the backbreaking job of watering crops is incredibly empowering.

© K Martinko -- A view of Kibbutz Hatzerim, where Netafim began in 1965.

Smart irrigation valve adds connectivity and automation to any hose Zilker aims to bring smarter watering to more yards, without adding a costly sprinkler system.

© Zilker

Smart watering and irrigation devices keep popping up like mushrooms after a broken sprinkler head, and considering how much of an average home's water use is for the outdoors (30%), and how much of that gets wasted from inefficiencies (about half), it's probably high time that more of these types of devices are readily available. According to the US EPA, landscape irrigation is said to account for about one-third of all residential water use (to the tune of some 9 billion gallons per day), so cutting out most of those watering inefficiencies can have a significant impact on home water consumption.

However, the latest entry to the smart yard and garden market might just fill that need, as it's a drop-in water valve that adds a host of convenient features to any hose bibb, allowing for more control over your outdoor watering, even without having a sprinkler system. The Zilker system includes a small bridge, or hub, which is installed inside the home to communicate with one or more of the valves, and the valves themselves, which are designed to thread onto standard hose fittings, one per zone or hose.

© Zilker

With the Zilker bridge and valve in place, the flow from the hose can be controlled automatically, through a combination of scheduling and the inclusion of local weather conditions, as well as manually (with a single on/off switch on the valve), and by using the iOS app, water delivery from each valve can be set by either the desired inches of water to apply or by the desired amount of gallons.

Multiple valves can be set up with each bridge, and a single hose bibb with a 4-way adapter on it could be used as a multi-zone controller with one valve for each watering line, with each valve configured to a different schedule for varying yard watering needs. Users can have one zone for watering trees and shrubs, one for watering the lawn, one for the garden, etc., and because these can all be above ground, using standard garden hoses, it's possible to have a smarter watering system for much less work and money than installing a new irrigation system.

Zilker is currently in a crowdfunding phase with a pretty ambitious Kickstarter campaign, where early bird backers at the $129 USD level can reserve a bridge and valve (with additional valves at $59 each), which are expected to be delivered to backers in the spring of 2017. More info can be found at Zilker, where the company mentions that many cities have rebates for purchases of water timers like theirs, so your end cost may actually be less than your pledge.


© Zilker

Neem Oil instead of pesticides

How You Can Use All Natural Neem Oil In The Garden Neem Oil gives the homeowners an alternative to using chemical pesticides in their garden. I’ve personally been using Neem oil for decades!

The oil comes from the extracted fruits and seeds of an Indian tree called Neem or the Azadirachta indica tree. The tree remains evergreen throughout the seasons.

Epsom Salts

21 Epsom Salt Garden “Cheats” You don’t Want To Miss!

Annual Ryegrass versus Cereal Rye Annual ryegrass is a grass. Cereal rye is a grain... As Different as Apples and Oranges.

Among the most popular cover crops are annual ryegrass and cereal rye. But because they share the word “rye” in their names, many growers and seed dealers confuse the two cover crops.

Basically, annual ryegrass (lolium multiflorum) is a cool season grass while cereal rye (Secale cereale) is a grain, with growth characteristics much like wheat. The seed of cereal rye is much larger (56 lb/bu) than annual ryegrass seed (26 lb/bu.). Each plant has characteristics that allow it to excel in certain circumstances. Knowing the differences – and best applications of each – will facilitate success and profitability.

Annual ryegrass, like many cover crops, is good at building soil, reducing runoff and erosion, sequestering nitrogen, improving infiltration and boosting organic matter. It is easy to establish in the fall with adequate moisture. And for best results, it needs 45 – 60 days of growth before freezing temperatures. Annual ryegrass is more susceptible to winterkill, where no snow, combined with very low wind chill, and multiple freeze/thaw conditions are culprits.

Many farmers look for a cover crop capable of breaking through various layers of soil compaction. Annual ryegrass is markedly better than cereal rye, especially below 24 inches, because row crops will follow the annual ryegrass roots deeper for nutrients and moisture that otherwise would not be available. “In a dry year on a fraigpan soil, I’ve seen a 50 bu/ac boost in corn yield, where one part of the field is no-till and the other has had six years of annual ryegrass as a cover crop,” said Dan Towery, a crop advisor with Ag Conservation Solutions, in W. Lafayette, IN. Mike Plumer, an agronomist and Extension educator with the University of IL, said he would never recommend cereal rye for a compaction problem.

Cereal rye is one of the most common cover crops. “You can plant it later than many other cover crops and '’t have to worry about winter kill,” Towery said.

While cereal rye will survive alright in low rainfall, it doesn’t do well in excessive moisture. Annual ryegrass, on the other hand does fine in a wet climate. Cereal rye grows fine in low soil fertility and sandy soil, while ARG prefers fertile soil but does well on poor, rocky soils, and will outperform cereal rye in denser, clay soils.

Management of cover crops. Cereal rye can ‘get away’ from growers in the spring during a wet period, producing plants more than six feet in height. That mat of residue on the surface can become a spring problem for getting the soil to dry out and warm up. According to a PurdueUniversity paper, that excess of biomass can be difficult to plant into if burndown is not timely. On occasion, cereal rye has also had an allelopathic effect on corn growth early in the season.

Annual ryegrass, on the other hand, is generally burned down when it reaches 8 – 16 inches in height. With far less biomass than cereal rye, annual ryegrass has more flexibility as it doesn’t zap as much soil moisture.

Other differences. While both annual ryegrass and cereal rye sequester nitrogen, cereal rye has more biomass (above ground) in the spring, especially if allowed to grow. Its growth can tie up nitrogen. It is advisable to eliminate the cereal rye while less than 16 inches in height. In Midwest trials on annual ryegrass, it appears that up to 80 lb/N/ac is available to the following row crop from the residue after burndown. That residue breaks down more quickly than cereal rye.

While higher biomass is a plus for cereal rye during the fall, winter and early spring (good weed control), it can also slow the warming and drying of the field. Annual ryegrass, while effective with weed control, has also been shown to reduce field population of Soybean Cyst Nematode.

Video: Cover Crops - Comparing Annual Ryegrass to Winter Cereal Rye Feb 2012 covercropdave

Video: Selecting Cover Crops - Dave Robison covercropdave

Video: Big Cover Crop Radishes--Are they good or not so good? covercropdave

Video: Cover Crops - Tillage Radish VS Oilseed Radish Canada

Video: Dan Forgey_Adding Cover Crops to a No Till System

Video: Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 4 No-Till Systems Living Web Farms

PLANTS THAT FERTILIZE OTHERS Garden Style San Antonio: Cover crops are an easy and economical way to provide extra natural fertilizer to your landscape or garden’s soil. And they have the ability to go "where no root has gone before.”

The most commonly used cover crop plants used are elbon rye, Dutch white clover and hairy vetch. Planting your cover crop can be 'e in one of two ways. The seed mixture can be broadcast over your current vegetation or you can till your soil and apply the seed to the ground. Both methods can be 'e now to just before the end of the dormant season if the weather has been mild. Be sure to softly rake soil over the seed to reduce movement of the seed and predation from birds. If your ground is dry prior to application, it is recommended to apply a small amount of water before planting to aid in germination.

It’s best to plant your crop a minimum of four weeks prior to the first freeze of the year to allow for full establishment and prior to your spring planting date, your crops should be cut or tilled under before they bloom or seed. However this year, the weather is already in turmoil so planting is pretty much anytime in the next six weeks.

By giving your soil a little extra care during the winter time with the use of cover crops, you can provide your spring plants with a natural fertilizer — no man-made hydrocarbons — that will help them grow and be productive almost immediately.

Winter — Good Time to Build Soils by Lynn Byczinkski, for Johnny's Selected Seeds: Winter is a good time to be working on soil improvement, and you ''t have to go out in cold weather to do it. By planting a cover crop in summer or fall and letting it overwinter, you can improve soil organic matter and soil fertility, suppress cool-season weeds, prevent soil erosion, and create a better seedbed for spring planting.

Winter Rye: Hardiest winter cover crop to stem erosion and build soil

The best winter cover crops differ from region to region, by growing zone and the crop's winter hardiness, but from a management perspective there are basically two types:

Winter-killed: Crops that are killed by cold, but have sufficient biomass to protect the soil.

Winter-hardy: Crops that remain alive through winter and resume growth in spring.

Winter-killed Cover Crops

Oats are an example of the first type. Sown in summer, they will put on a lot of growth, and often maintain active growth into early November, dying slowly after several hard frosts. The winter-killed mulch and root mass will hold the soil in place, however, until the following spring.

Other plants that may be grown for winter-killed mulch include field pea , oilseed radish , and rapeseed .

The disadvantage to this type of cover crop is that you have to clear the land and plant the cover crop early enough to get significant amounts of biomass to hold the soil over the winter. That could mean cover-cropping only on ground that grew spring vegetables, or it could require undersowing the cover crop in a summer crop such as corn. The big advantages of a winter-killed cover crop is that the mulch is easy to till under in spring, and the land can be planted right away.

Winter-hardy Cover Crops

The second type, cover crops that live through winter or that go dormant and renew growth in late winter, can usually be planted after summer vegetable crops. They will grow in fall and establish root systems that protect the soil over winter.

Depending upon growing zone, the peas, clover, and ryegrass are winterkilled, while the rye and hairy vetch regrow in spring.

Some examples of crops that will survive winter (depending on winter low temperatures) include winter rye , winter wheat, hairy vetch , Austrian winter peas, and crimson clover . Winter rye and hairy vetch are recommended for the northern United States.

If deer are numerous in your area, take note that they seem to like winter rye over most all winter cover crops. You may want to consider sowing a mixture of medium red clover and oats, as the deer do not like oats as much.

Another practice would be to sow forage turnip around the perimeter of the field to satisfy the deer's hunger. Sown by mid-August, turnips will generally grow slowly until temperatures fall below 20°F/-6.6°C. While turnip bulbs remain grazeable even after freezing, they begin to deteriorate soon after a thaw.

Winter Cover Crop Chart

Johnny's Farm Seed & Cover Crop Comparison Chart

Mother Earth News: Grow Cover Crops for the Best Garden Soil If you want to grow lots of food, think of beneficial cover crops as essential in your garden.

Consider cover crops your most important crops, because the requirements for abundant food crops — building soil fertility, improving soil texture, suppressing weeds, and inhibiting disease and crop-damaging insects — can be best met by the abundant use of cover crops, season after season.

5 Benefits of Cover Crops

Soil Fertility. A vast array of soil organisms decompose once-living plants into nutrients easily taken up by plant roots, and add to your soil’s humus content (the final residues of organic matter in your soil, which assist nutrient uptake, improve texture and hold moisture). I grow organic matter in place using cover crops because, in many ways, a living cover crop is even better than adding manure and compost for fertility.

The area of most intense biological activity — ultimately the definition of soil fertility — is the rhizosphere, the zone immediately around plant roots. Plants release nutrients through their roots to feed their buddies in the soil — beneficial microbes and mycorrhizal fungi — that increase access to water and convert soil nutrients into forms more readily utilized by plants. If the intense bioactivity in the rhizosphere is the key to fertility, imagine the contribution of closely planted cover crops with vastly more root mass than more widely spaced food crops.

Soil Texture. Mycorrhizal fungi (beneficial fungi that grow in association with plant roots) produce glomalin, a substance which glues microscopic clay and organic matter particles into aggregate clumps, stabilizing the soil and making it nice and crumbly. This crumbly texture is more porous to oxygen and water. Bacteria encouraged by cover crops produce polysaccharides, which also act as soil glues.

Grass and grain cover crops with fine, dense root masses loosen soil texture as they decompose. Others, such as sweet clovers and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, grow deep, aggressive taproots that break up soil compaction.

Erosion Prevention. A cover crop’s tight canopy protects the soil from the drying and scouring effects of wind and the forceful impact of heavy rain. The loosened soil structure achieved by cover cropping allows rapid absorption of rain and prevents runoff.

Soil Moisture. Organic matter added by cover crops acts like a sponge in the soil, absorbing rainwater and holding it for gradual release to plant roots. Thus, gardens that have been home to regular use of cover crops become more resistant to drought.

Protection From Weeds, Diseases and Insect Damage. Garden beds frequently planted with cover crops will have fewer problems with weeds. Cover crops suppress weeds, out-competing them for water and nutrients and shading them under a tight canopy, sometimes releasing chemical compounds that inhibit germination of weed seeds (a phenomenon called allelopathy).

Plus, the roots of cover crops release nutrients that feed beneficial microbes in the soil. These microbes then suppress pathogens that cause root diseases. Some cover crop plants, such as rape, rye and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, inhibit root-knot nematodes, which can be disastrous to beets, carrots and other root crops in some regions.

Cover Cropping Strategies

The most important strategy of all is: Do it now! When I complete a food crop harvest in fall, that same day I plant an overwinter cover crop. If I harvest a spring crop such as lettuce from a bed that I won’t be planting again until fall, I sow a fast-growing interim cover crop that does well in summer heat, such as buckwheat or cowpeas. The best time to plant a cover crop is anytime a bed is not covered by a food crop or mulch.

The easiest way to incorporate more cover cropping is the half and half strategy: I dedicate every other garden bed to cover crops for an entire year. I may grow several fast-growing covers such as cowpeas and buckwheat in succession, or a cover such as sweet clover, which takes a full year to yield all its benefits. In the following year, the beds previously in cover crops now grow food crops, and vice versa. This strategy allows you to grow mulches in place.

Using a scythe or sickle, you can cut cover crops that produce a lot of biomass — hairy vetch, rye, and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids — and lay them out as mulches in an adjacent bed that’s planted with food crops. Most cover crops cut when in their vegetative growth stage will regrow to produce even more mulch. If you can’t give half of your garden space to cover crops, how about one bed out of three? Or four? Or even 10?

It’s possible to grow both a food crop and a cover crop in the same bed at the same time. Under tall-growing crops with a small footprint, such as tomatoes or pole beans, plant an undersown cover crop, such as low-growing Dutch white clover or perennial ryegrass. If such a cover has already been established, leave it in place as a living mulch and open up holes for large transplants such as tomatoes or broccoli, or open up rows for beans.

Shade-tolerant species — annual ryegrass, cereal rye, hairy vetch, some clovers — can be sown as overseeded cover crops into existing crops such as corn or brassicas up to several weeks before harvest. The cover crops will grow slowly under the existing canopy, then come on strong when the food crop has been removed.

Try frost-seeding a cover crop into overwintered grains. In late winter, broadcast the seeds — small round ones such as clovers work best — into the grain beds. Winter freezes and thaws will work the seeds into the soil, where they will germinate in spring rains. The grain could mature into a food crop for feeding your pigs or chickens while serving as a nurse crop to establish the clover, which will grow rapidly after you harvest the grain.

Some species work as reseeding cover crops. Subclovers (cool-season legumes) will die back in winter, but the seeds they leave behind will remain dormant through much of the next growing season, then sprout in the fall to establish a new cover.

Permanent cover crops are appropriate in orchards, vineyards and border areas never planted with food crops. Keeping these areas in mixed flowering species — perennials such as clovers, or annuals that reseed themselves such as crucifers — protects the soil, supports pollinators and encourages insect diversity.

Encouraging lots of different kinds of insects is the key to preventing crop damage, as the bug-munching insects will help you control the crop-munching insects. In high-traffic areas, covers that can take a good deal of wear are in order, such as annual ryegrass and white clovers.

Planting Cover Crops

Plant cover crops with as much care as your food crops. Make a furrow for larger or more vigorous seeds, such as cowpeas or sorghum-sudangrass, sow thickly, and then cover with soil.

For smaller seeds, such as clovers, crucifers and small grains, scatter, rake in, and tamp the bed with the back of a garden rake to ensure good soil contact. To speed germination, apply a light mulch and water occasionally.

Seeds of vigorous covers, such as annual ryegrass, oats and hairy vetch, will germinate if left on the surface, especially if broadcast just before a soaking rain.

You can plant a food crop as soon as the cover crop is killed unless there could be a temporary problem of allelopathy or nitrogen tie-up (keep reading for more information). In such cases, wait about three weeks or so before planting.

Killing a Cover Crop

It’s better to avoid deep mechanical tillage, which disrupts soil life and breaks down soil structure. Tall, heavy stands of cover crops, such as rye and hairy vetch, are a nightmare to till in with a power tiller in any case. So what’s the best way to kill a cover crop so decomposer organisms can break it down to feed your soil?

Remember that a cover crop in the vegetative stage (i.e., not flowering) usually regrows after being cut. Most cover crops in the reproductive stage (i.e., flowering), however, will die if cut. A complete no-till strategy that works for most covers is to cut the cover just above soil line after it has flowered, and transplant crops such as tomatoes, peppers or broccoli through the severed tops, leaving the cut tops and cover crop stubs as a mulch.

For small areas, use a hand sickle for the cutting. (We’ve found a used butcher knife also works well. — MOTHER) Or, use a heavy field hoe to chop cover crop plants just below the soil surface to kill them without disturbing the soil deeper down. Another option is to loosen the soil with a broadfork and pull the cover plants out by the roots, again laying them on a bed as mulch. As your soil becomes more friable, the broadfork may not be necessary.

My favorite way to till in a cover crop is to place a hardworking flock of chickens on the bed. Allow them to roam inside a chicken tractor or temporary fencing

Use Cover Crops to Improve Soil Cover crops solar-charge your soil and improve soil nutrients. Here is what you need to know about cover crop planting methods and reliable cover crop options for your region.

During the summer, buckwheat (Fagopyron esculentum) is in a class by itself as a cover crop. Seeds sown in moist soil turn into a weed-choking sea of green within a week, with many plants growing 2 feet high or more and blooming in less than 30 days. Should you need to reclaim space that has been overtaken by invasives, buckwheat can be your best friend.

In my garden, buckwheat has been a huge ally in cleaning up a spot overrun by dock, bindweed, and other nasties that grow in warm weather. For two years, each time the noxious weeds grew back, I dug them out and planted more buckwheat.

Throughout the battle, the buckwheat attracted bees and other buzzers in droves. Fortunately, even mature buckwheat plants are as easy to take down as impatiens — simply pull the succulent plants with a twist of the wrist, or use a hoe or scythe to slice them off at the soil line. You can let the dead plants die into a surface mulch and plant through them, gather them up and compost them, or chop them into the soil.

In late summer, while the soil is still warm, you have a fine opportunity to try barley (Hordeum vulgare), a fast-growing grain that’s great for capturing excess nitrogen left over from summer crops, which might otherwise leach away during the winter. Barley often suffers from winter injury in Zone 6, and is often killed altogether in Zone 5 and above. This is good! The dead barley residue shelters the soil through winter, and dries into a plant-through mulch in spring in cold zones.

Early fall is the best time to grow the dynamic duo of soil-building cover crops — oats (Avena sativa) mixed with cold-hardy winter peas (Pisum sativum). When taken down just before the peas start blooming in spring, an oat/pea combination cover crop is the best way to boost your soil’s organic matter and nutrient content using only plants. Both make a little fall growth when planted in September, and in spring the peas scramble up the oats.

On the down side, one or both crops can be winterkilled before they have a chance to do much good north of Zone 5, and in more hospitable climates it will take some work to get the plants out of the way in spring. Do it by mid-April, because the job gets tougher as the plants get older. Cut or mow them down first, and then pull and dig your way through the planting. A heavy-duty chopping hoe works well for this.

Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) needs a good head start on winter, too, but it’s hardy to Zone 4 and gives a huge payback in terms of soil improvement, and saved time and labor. Unlike many other cover crop plants, you can quickly kill hairy vetch by slicing just below the crown with a sharp hoe. When hairy vetch is beheaded about a month before it’s time to plant tomatoes and peppers, you can open up planting holes and plant through the dried mulch — no digging required.

Late fall is not a lost season for cover crops, but in most climates you’re limited to cereal rye (Secale cereale), the cold-hardiest of them all. Rye will sprout after the soil has turned chilly, but be sure to take it out early in spring, before the plants develop tough seed stalks. Or let your chickens keep it trimmed; leave the birds on the patch longer in spring and they will kill the rye for you. If you’re looking for a cover crop you can plant in October for cold-season poultry greens, cereal rye is probably the best choice.

In any season, you may find many more great cover crops in seed catalogs, or among your leftover seeds. As you consider possibilities, think about plants that quickly produce an abundance of leaves and stems, but are easy to pull up or chop down if you decide you '’t want them. Bush beans, leafy greens, or even sweet corn can be grown as short-term cover crops, along with annual flowers such as calendulas and borage in early spring, or marigolds and sunflowers in summer. Teaming up a flower with a cover crop plant is always fun, whether you’re planting sulphur cosmos with cowpeas in summer, oats with dwarf sunflowers in late summer, or bachelor’s buttons with crimson clover in the fall. Whatever you do, just '’t leave your soil bare or you’ll be missing out on a chance to capture solar energy to recharge your food web.

Fava Beans and Other Cover Crops Crop rotation is a very important aspect of a healthy garden. If you plant the same types of plants in the same space year after year, you will deplete the soil and provide a breeding ground for plant diseases and pests. Different types of plants have different rotational needs, for example members of the garlic and onion family should only be planted in the same ground once in 4-5 years, while cole plants about once in 3 years. It is wise to make a rotation scheme for your garden depending on what is necessary for the plants you grow. Crop rotations do not necessarily happen on an annual basis, for example you may follow garlic which is harvested in June or July, with a plant like turnips that can be planted in August and harvested a few months later.

In between other crop rotations, many people plant cover crops. A cover crop is one that is not necessarily intended to be grown for food, but rather the primary purpose of it is to improve the ground and keep it covered. Ground that is unused for too long will erode and accumulate weeds, and planting a cover crop can avoid this. One particularly useful type of cover crop is the family of leguminous nitrogen fixing plants. As well as loosening and improving the workability of the soil, these plants will take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the ground, leaving the ground richer in nutrients than before the plant was grown. Often cover crops are turned into the ground by digging or with a garden tiller after they are grown, leaving the ground richer in organic material. Some example of common cover crops include winter rye, different types of clover, field peas, beans, yellow mustard, buckwheat, Phacealia tanacetifolia(a type of flower), as well as many other plants.

Phacealia tanacetifolia

Phacelia tanacetifolia: A brief overview of a potentially useful insectary plant and cover crop a versatile plant that is used extensively in Europe, both as a cover crop and as bee forage. It is also being increasingly used in California – especially in vineyards. Phacelia is quick to grow and flower and grows well in dry soil. It does a good job of limiting nitrate leaching when planted in early fall. It winterkills at about 18°F.

Phacelia's habit of flowering abundantly and for a long period can increase beneficial insect numbers and diversity, because it provides high quality nectar and pollen. It's also useful as a cut flower with its unusual and attractive blooms, strong stems, and long vaselife. Because phacelia germinates well at cool temperatures and grows quickly, cut flowers can be available by mid-spring.

Phacelia tanacetifolia is an herbaceous, non-leguminous, flowering annual in the Hydrophyllaceae family. It's native to the arid southwest region of the United States and Mexico. Height ranges from 6 to 47 inches. The foliage appears ferny, and the flowers are in flat-topped clusters in shades of purple or occasionally white. Spring- and summer-planted phacelia flowers approximately 6 – 8 weeks after germination. Flowering continues for 6 to 8 weeks. Phacelia is a long-day plant and requires a minimum of 13 hours of daylight to initiate flowering (roughly mid-April to early September in the mid-Atlantic).

Phacelia is comparable to buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) in many ways. Cultural differences are that buckwheat germinates more readily - especially at higher soil temperatures, and phacelia is more tolerant of cold and drought.

Phacelia seed needs dark for good germination – bury the seed a 1/4 inch. Phacelia seed also requires cool soil temperatures for germination (although it will grow well in hot, dry soil). Research reports indicate the optimum soil temperature for germination is between 37 - 68°F (soil temperatures closely follow air temperatures). Wet or compacted soils reduce germination success.

Planting phacelia thickly or with an appropriate nurse crop may be one approach to counteract possible germination difficulties under suboptimum conditions. A nurse crop such as buckwheat germinates reliably quickly and serves to protect the ground from erosion and shelter the second crop as it germinates more slowly. Suitable nurse crops when phacelia is used as an insectary planting would be quick-germinating insect-friendly herbs and flowers such as borage (Borago officinalis), cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus), achillea (Achillea millefolium), and buckwheat. Planting phacelia before a rain or lightly irrigating after planting may improve germination rates.

Phacelia is highly attractive to honeybees, bumblebees, and syrphid flies, and these insects are valuable pollinators. Syrphid fly larvae are voracious feeders on aphids and young caterpillars. Phacelia is also reputed to attract other beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps and minute pirate bugs. It provides both pollen (for protein – needed for egg production) and nectar (for carbohydrates – needed for energy).

Phacelia campanularia Desert Canterbury Bells-Phacelia campanularia Desert Canterbury Bells-Phacealia tanacetifolia

Phacelia is a bumble bee paradise I finally discovered what the Europeans have known for a long time: phacelia is incredible as a spring-planted cover crop.

It can handle frosts, so it can be seeded early. I seeded this phacelia on May 2 in Maine. Once it has germinated, which I found it did much better in spring than in August, it can handle dry conditions extremely well. It practially didn’t rain the entire month of May here, and you wouldn’t know it from looking at the phacelia during that time. It has incredile, bee-licious flowers. Bumble bees especially love it, but I saw a few honey bees in there, too.

Now for the bad news (other than the tarnished plant bug). Phacelia is hard to find and can be very expensive. Luckily, because much of it is imported from Europe, I have found that you can get 10 kg bags (22 lb), so you '’t have to go for a full 50 lb bag like many cover crops. At Walnut Creek Seeds, it’s $4/lb and they recommend seeding at 6 lb/acre. I’m actually not sure what my seeding rate was, but I think it was a bit higher than that.

Phacealia tanacetifolia ~ [right- A month and a half after seeding, these cover crops blanket the ground. The intent is for them to die during the winter. Foreground: phacelia, sudex/crimson clover, forage radish… other brassicas.]

Annual. Prime beneficial-insect plant. Lavender-blue, fragrant flowers are loved by people too.

A quick-growing plant which makes a fine, feathery but dense carpet that shades and holds the soil but allows moisture to trickle through.

Phacelia attracts pollinators and beneficial insects that prey on pests. Makes good compost material.

Regional differences matter

What might be a great cover crop mix for one purpose in one area might not work well in another. For instance, sudex, when seeded with forage radish in late August in Maryland, can put on a lot of biomass and be a nice grass companion to radish (see photo above). In Maine, however, the risk of early frost is too high to make sudex a reliable fall cover crop (see below). Crimson clover, which generally winterkills in Maine, will overwinter in Maryland. Get familiar with the hardiness of different cover crops, plan, and plant accordingly. Among brassicas, there are wide differences in cold tolerance, as there are among clovers.

Cover Crops for Winter Gardens Plant several weeks before first frost to establish. No need to fertilize. Remove summer garden debris and loosen soil. To protect the seeds from birds, cover with row cover until seeds germinate.


Elbon or cereal rye (not annual rye)
Cut to the ground several times in winter to return nitrogen-rich leaves to the soil '’t let it seed!
Pest benefit: The roots of rye trap nematodes and kill them.

Other crops for nematode control include mustard and marigolds (in summer).

Crimson clover

Also medicinal, attracts bees to pollinate crops, high nitrogen addition

Hairy Vetch

You may need to inoculate with Rhizobium bacteria for germination.

When it’s time for summer crops, cut down the tops but leave the roots in the soil. Plant your new summer crops right alongside them to retain moisture, increase soil life and naturally nourish with nitrogen

Giving a little back with cover crops Cereal rye, a lush, grassy plant that thrives in cool weather, is the cover crop most familiar to area gardeners. Some throw the seeds over their lawn for a verdant view in winter when lawn grasses go dormant. In vegetable plots, though, the grain — not to be confused with winter rye grass — proves it's more than just a pretty plant. Its roots trap root-knot nematodes, microscopic worms that cause the demise of tomatoes and other veggies.

“There is something on the microscopic level that binds up the nematodes in the soil. It's not going to wipe them out or anything, it's just going to lessen the population,” says Brian Wille, general manager at Douglass King Seeds. The San Antonio company typically sells Elbon rye, the best-known cereal rye, in a 50-50 mix with hairy vetch or Austrian winter peas.

Vetch and peas, both cool-season legumes, enrich the soil with nitrogen.

Legumes convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia nitrogen, a form that plants can use, Wille explains “That process is known as fixation.” In garden lingo, plants “fix nitrogen” in the soil, and nitrogen feeds foliage.

“I know (farmers) who have sworn they didn't need to fertilize because they put out peas in winter,” says Wille. “Before all the chemical fertilizers, in the pre-World War II era, this is how they did it. They would plant things like alfalfa, peas and vetch for a season and ... follow it with corn or cotton.”

A 10- to 15-pound bag of rye and vetch seed costs about $15. A pound covers about 1,000 square feet. Wille calculates that 1,000 square feet of winter peas, allowed to grow through the season, could produce the nitrogen equivalent to about 12 pounds of 15-15-15 fertilizer.

Gorham has grown cowpeas in her garden for summer vacation. With just enough rainfall to sustain the cover crop, she pulled some to make room for fall veggies and let the rest grow until frost.

In nature's complex and mysterious way, legumes get help from bacteria to make the nitrogen conversion. A specific species of rhizobia bacteria works with each legume species to accomplish the switch. Seed companies inoculate legume seed with the appropriate bacteria.

The inoculant, a powdery substance that isn't harmful to humans or animals, has a shelf life of one to two years, Wille says, so consumers should ask when the seed was treated. Purchased alone, inoculant costs about $7 for a pouch that treats 50 pounds of seed.

When it's time to plant the next crop, the cover crop goes to work in another way. Once it's cut, the clippings can be tilled into the soil or left on top of the ground like mulch. “It's like using fresh grass clippings and skipping the compost pile,” Gorham says. “You're kind of composting in place.”

Cereal rye and buckwheat provide organic matter, improving the soil structure. Legumes add nitrogen. Growing a mix helps keep balance.

The material can be tilled into the garden, but many farmers and home gardeners opt to plant through the fresh mulch because turning the soil is disruptive. “It takes a year or two for the soil to recover. And when you till, you're also grinding up earthworms,” Wille says. “By keeping (the clippings) on the surface, that allows the soil to mellow.”

In another month or so, when it's time for a different crop, Keel plans to discard the mustard greens and buckwheat plants, and he hopes they will have drawn toxins, especially lead, from the soil.

Soybeans Most cover crops grow very well here in Texas, but my favorite cover to grow is soybeans. They are a quick cover crop, taking only a few months in the late spring to summer garden.

If my garden isn't empty, and it very seldom is, I'll plant soybeans in whatever section or row in the garden that is empty for a brief period of time. Personally, I am crazy about the immature beans (Edamame) I harvest from my soybean cover crops. (More about edamame later in this article.)

Soybeans are a nitrogen-fixing legume. They associate with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to get their nitrogen from the air. This process involves a symbiotic relationship between leguminous plants and various strains of Rhizobium bacteria found in the soil. The bacteria actually infect the plant roots (in a good way), causing small nodules to grow. Within these nodules, the bacteria extract nitrogen from the air and fix it into forms the plants can use to make protein. In return, the bacteria receive sugars from the plant for their own nutrition. That is why farmers rotate soybeans with corn - to take advantage of this legume's nitrogen-fixing ability.


Gardening tips

Think twice before over-seeding your lawn with ryegrass. When you plant a cool-season grass like rye into an existing lawn, you create work for yourself "winter mowing," and the next spring the rye will suppress the warm-season turf, making it weak and susceptible to weeds and disease. The only time we recommend planting rye is on a large area of barren soil such as you would find in new home construction, in order to reduce erosion during the winter. The rye should then be mowed and rototilled into the soil before planting a warm-season turf in the spring.


CTG San Antonio Wonderland garden in San Antonio|Ragna & Bob Hersey|Central Texas Gardener

Silver Pony-foot

Silver Pony-foot [Dichondra argentea] Common Names: Silver Dichondra, Kidneyweed. Light: Full Sun/Part Shade, Height: 1?-5?. Spacing/Spread: 2' – 5'. Evergreen: Yes. Color: Silver/Gray Foliage. Interest: Year around foliage interest.

Texas Native: Yes, plant is Texas native. Wildlife habitat: Provides food/shelter for bees, butterflies and birds.

Austin Native Landscaping: “Silver Ponyfoot is a wonderful ground cover for drought tolerant landscaping. This attractive Texas native plant is an evergreen, disease and pest resistant and will thrive in both full sun and part shade. We rely on silver ponyfoot in many of our xeriscape flowerbed designs. Sprinkle it in the front of your waterwise landscape and between other plants. With time it will form a thick silvery mat that will beautifully complement other elements of your choice. Works beautiful in pots, where the plant gracefully spills over.”

CTG Plant of the Week: Silver Ponyfoot Need to replace some lawn in a sunny spot? Native groundcover silver ponyfoot can do that for you, with striking silvery foliage that covers an area like a living carpet. The silver color of the leaves may be what first catches your attention, but when you look closely, you might find the shape of them even more appealing. Flat, almost heart-shaped, and slightly cupped, the leaves of silver ponyfoot provide an interesting structural element to any garden space.

As with many groundcovers, silver ponyfoot is equally happy to drape from an elevated perch as it is to crawl along the ground. Whether that perch be an urn on a 3 foot pedestal or simply a 3 inch border of steel edging, you’ll be pleased with the result.

Silver ponyfoot is quite happy in xeric, sunny areas of the garden, and will be more mannerly in those spots as well. But if given a little shade and plenty of moisture, you may find silver ponyfoot will quite vigorously leap past the boundaries you set for it.

Most descriptions list a height of 6 to 12 inches, but I doubt you’ll ever see the upper end of that range. As for width, silver ponyfoot sends out little runners that look kind of like small feet. Similar to strawberries, these runners put down roots at the nodes and a new plantlet is formed, giving this plant the ability to roam far and wide if not kept in check.

Silver Ponyfoot Grows best in mineral-rich soils. Too much clay and organic matter will rot its roots.

Woolly Stemodia

Stemodia lanata Stemodia lanata Sessé & Moc. ex Benth... Woolly Stemodia, Gray-woolly twintip... Scrophulariaceae (Figwort Family)... Synonym(s): Stemodia tomentosa

Native only to coastal and southern Texas and adjacent Mexico, Woolly Stemodia is a silver, whitish, or greyish plant that is great for the foliage alone....and then it blooms, with tiny lavender or white flowers that are best appreciated at close range. It colonizes densely by stolons and in sandy soil can blanket an area in its velvety white leaves. Quite suitable and attractive for trailing over the edge of a pot or wall, it dies back where winters are cold, but in warmer areas, it is reliably evergreen.

Woolly Stemodia

Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov Bloom Notes: Small, scattered flowers. Usually purple with white throats and violet venation, but can also be entirely white. Native Habitat: In dunes and sandy soils on slopes in scrublands and plains. Mainly along the Gulf Coast and in the Rio Grande plains.

Growing Conditions: Water Use: Low Light Requirement: Sun Soil Moisture: Dry Soil Description: Deep, sandy, well-drained, acid or calcareous soils of plains, brushlands, slopes, dunes, and beaches. Saline tolerant.

Use Ornamental: A dense foliage groundcover, evergreen in mild winters. Conspicuous Flowers: yes Interesting Foliage: yes Fragrant Foliage: yes Deer Resistant: High

Warning: This species and others in the same genus are accumulators of selenium, a soil element absorbed by plants that is poisonous to livestock if sufficiently concentrated. Humans should generally avoid ingesting plants that are toxic to animals.

Woolly Stemodia

Propagation Material: Seeds , Softwood Cuttings Description: Fresh, untreated seed or rooted cuttings. Stems root at the nodes and can easily be cut and transplanted.

CTG Plant of the Week Deer-resistant Woolly Stemodia (Stemodia lanata) is native to coastal regions of Texas where deep, sandy soils are most prevalent. It works in many soils, but they must be well-drained.

It spreads quickly across the ground, blanketing an area with bright, silvery-soft, almost-white, fuzzy leaves. Growing only about 6 inches tall and spreading to about 3 feet wide, Woolly Stemodia is a great filler in the front of garden spaces, especially raised beds, where it can cascade over onto the ground. It also does great in containers, spilling over the edge for dramatic effect.

Full sun is best, but afternoon shade is okay too. Woolly Stemodia flowers from late summer through fall, but the blooms are fairly insignificant. Small white or light lavender flowers stay very tight within the leaves, making them almost unnoticeable.

Woolly Stemodia

Once established, Woolly Stemodia should be watered sparingly. If the crown of the plant stays too wet, it will begin to rot from the center.

Unlike some groundcovers, Woolly Stemodia stays pretty much within bounds and requires very little maintenance to keep it looking good. Listed as hardy to zone 8, it’s a perennial that can die back to the ground in winter, so prune back all the top growth in late winter. Sometimes the leaves can get a bit straggly and unattractive later in the season, once temperatures are off the charts. If that happens to your plant, simply shear off the straggly parts, which will reinvigorate the plant for new growth.

Central Texas Gardener

Peter’s Purple bee balm--CTG Plant of the Week Peter’s Purple bee balm is one of many great Monarda species for Central Texas. ‘Peter’s Purple’ bee balm has been around a while, but it can be hard to find sometimes. Research at the Dallas Arboretum has shown it to be extremely resistant to powdery mildew, a necessary quality for survival in our landscapes. Like its relatives in the mint family, Peter’s Purple creeps easily into surrounding areas of the garden, so be prepared to dig and divide it yearly to keep it in bounds. It isn’t hard to dig up, and transplants easily, so it’s a great pass-along plant.

From late spring through late summer, Peter’s Purple will be covered in gorgeous light purple blooms that are irresistible to hummingbirds. Bees also go crazy for this plant, hence the common name: bee balm.

It is deer resistant, though!

It loves the heat and full sun, but can take light shade, and is very drought tolerant, as well as tolerant of both well-drained and clay soils. It needs a little supplemental irrigation during the hottest, driest times of the year, otherwise, be careful not to overwater.

In shady areas, Peter’s Purple will get lanky and may be unable to support its height and fall over.

Listed as hardy to Zone 6, this Monarda breezes through even the coldest Central Texas winters. It will go dormant in winter, so cut it back to return in spring.

Shooting quickly up to four feet tall, a single 4 inch transplant will also easily grow to a two foot wide clump in its first year.

Coneflower--CTG Plant of the Week Echinacea purpurea Native coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is an easy-care, herbaceous perennial for sun to part/bright shade.v Purple coneflower can reach a height of about 2 feet, and perhaps an additional 12 to 18 inches, including its flower spikes, but each plant stays very compact in width, at only a foot or so.

Cluster in groups of 3-5 for the most impact. In the right conditions, coneflower will seed out for even more. It’s easy to move them in early spring.

Producing striking individual light pink to purple flowers from spring all the way through fall, Echinacea is very drought tolerant and should be watered sparingly, in only the hottest, driest of times.

The flowers are long-lasting and attract lots of pollinators to nectar and pollen, but are pretty unattractive once they fade. You may be tempted to dead-head, but try to resist that urge: the seed heads are a great food source for small birds.

There are lots of cultivars out there, and most of them do well in the same planting environment as the native, but may not provide seeds for native birds.

The stems of Echinacea remain entirely just below the soil surface, so you’ll need to be extra careful that this beauty doesn’t stay too wet. In droughty years, this won’t be too hard, but in years with lots of winter and spring rain, the plants may rot, especially if you have any amount of clay in your soil. To combat this, loosen the planting area with expanded shale, and even consider planting on berms. And be sure not to overwater.

Mexican Flame Vine--CTG Plant of the Week Mexican flame vine grows quickly in warm weather, producing brilliant orange flowers that Monarch butterflies and countless pollinators can’t resist.

Mexican flame vine may be evergreen and bloom all year in warm winters and in zones 9 and above, but tends to be an annual in zone 8 and colder. Even if it has to be replaced each year, this plant is well worth the effort for its wildlife benefit and showy flowers.

It must have a trellis or some other support, since it quickly grows to 10 to 12’ tall and about 2’ wide.

Plant in full sun or light shade and water regularly, but '’t overwater. The only problem we’ve ever noticed with this plant in our demonstration garden is die-back at the base in times of heavy rainfall. If that happens and you lose the plant, increase the drainage with amendments or a berm in future plantings, and also be sure to keep mulch away from the base.

Possumhaw Holly--CTG Plant of the Week Possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua) is a native deciduous, medium-sized shrub that can be trained into a small, multi-trunked tree. Covered with striking red berries all winter, possumhaw holly brings beauty to what might otherwise be a colorless winter landscape. Those berries are also a great winter food source for birds. Also known as winterberry, for obvious reasons, possumhaw holly does well with very little care or maintenance, although you might want to prune it a bit, to shape it.

Plant in full sun or light shade, and water sparingly once established. Getting only 15 to 20 feet tall and branching to almost as wide at maturity, possumhaw holly tends to have a twiggy growth habit that some may not find attractive. But if you have an area that you tend to leave a bit on the natural, even wild side, this shrub will look right at home.

Cuban Oregano--CTG Plant of the Week Variegated Cuban oregano is a gorgeous tropical herb that not only looks great in the garden, but, like its cousin, common oregano, is also useful in the kitchen.

Since it’s native to tropical regions, it will almost certainly be an annual in your garden, but I think it’s well worth the time. If planted in containers and brought indoors when there’s a potential for frosty temperatures, it may last a few seasons, but really, it will look better and be more robust if you replace it each spring.

The leaves of variegated Cuban oregano are large and bright, making it a striking addition to any area of the landscape. Its name derives from the fact that it is commonly used in Cuban cooking, not from its native habitat, India.

As with most herbs, good drainage is important, and a bit of compost in the soil is also good. Cuban oregano will tolerate light shade, but will thrive in full sun. Water well, but sparingly.

As with most herbs, Cuban oregano has soft, succulent leaves and will rot if it stays too wet. Getting about a foot and a tall and about as wide, Cuban oregano fills in nicely and makes a great addition along borders and beds.

Abraham Darby David Austin Rose In winter 2016, Kristen Rosin won her Abraham Darby rose in our online contest. Since then, she can’t resist stopping to smell the roses!

Indeed, this is a very fragrant shrub rose, with lovely, delicate pink /apricot flowers. This rose was named to celebrate inventor Abraham Darby, who, with his son and grandson, played an important role in the industrial revolution.

Most roses bred by English plantsman David Austin are breath-taking, and many will do well in our climate, so if you’re planting roses, you should consider them. But do your research. Some are not as tolerant of our heat as they would need to be to survive here, and others have challenges that you need to be aware of. Like this ‘Abraham Darby’, which needs support in order to look its best.

A garden obelisk, with an open center for the rose to grow through, would be best. But if you’re a picky gardener like me and can’t find one to suit your aesthetic, consider arranging three or four trellises into a circling to contain your rose.

As with most roses, you’ll need to plant ‘Abraham Darby’ in bright sunlight and water it regularly, and it will benefit from protection from the heat of late afternoon blasting sun. It should be pruned regularly, but not as hard as hybrid teas and many other roses. Shrub roses prefer to be just that: shrubs.

Viewer pictures this week feature butterflies. Kyla Rodgers discovered a newly opened Gulf Fritillary chrysalis on her red yucca. Soon after, it flew off to get its first meal in her lovely garden.

And Kerstin Chapman has been raising Monarchs at home and in her classroom. This one was #42 of the Monarchs raised in her butterfly cage at home. Here’s another on a Gregg’s mistflower. She’s got lots of native wildflowers in her backyard and in May discovered many leaves with eggs and early instars of Monarch larvae.

Almond Verbena Aloysia Virgata Almond verbena is a must for anyone who loves summertime fragrance! This large, shrubby plant is an should be planted in full sun, or only light shade, and given plenty of room to grow.

This plant does get very tall, usually very quickly. My experience has been in the range of 10 to 12 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide.

Be sure to plant near a patio or porch to get the full effect of its strong, but lovely, delicately sweet fragrance. Almond verbena is a repeat bloomer, usually from late spring all the way through fall, maybe taking a break during the hottest time of an extremely hot, dry summer.

And when in flower, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds will be attracted to it like magnets.

Listed as hardy to USDA Zone 8, in most warm climates, almond verbena will be deciduous, especially in mild winters. But even if it doesn’t die back to the ground, it will perform best if you treat it as you would other root-hardy perennial shrubs, shearing it back to the ground in late winter. This hard pruning forces almond verbena to put on all new growth, making it fuller, greener, and bushier. A little light pruning in mid-summer can reinvigorate the plant for fall growth.

Plant almond verbena in well-drained soil and water sparingly, but regularly. Once a week watering should be fine, and fertilizer is not needed. This easy-care, root-hardy shrub would make a great addition to any low water-use garden.

Rusty Blackhaw

Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum Viburnum Rufidulum Rusty blackhaw viburnum is a lovely little native that can be found growing all over the state, from east to central Texas, mostly along streams and the edges of woodland area.

In its native habitat, you might find a specimen growing up to 30 feet tall, but normally it’s much smaller in the landscape, 10 to 20 feet tall and equally as wide, or a little wider.

Also in its native habitat, it’s quite often a shrubby, understory tree, but in a landscape setting, will look quite striking as a stand-along specimen, planted in full sun to part shade.

The dark green leaves are lustrous and shiny, surrounded by clusters of bright white flowers in spring. Those flowers produce beautiful blue fruit in the fall, and about the same time, the leaves begin to turn a stunning pinkish mauve to dark purple.

Rusty blackhaw can grow in almost any soil type, as long as it’s well-drained. Hardy to zone 5, this deciduous small tree requires very little water once established, and makes a striking addition to any garden.


Pigeonberry Rivina humilis Pigeonberry is one of my absolute favorite groundcovers for shade. This lovely little Central Texas native has many attractive qualities, not the least of which is that it flowers and fruits almost continuously throughout the growing season, a quality which is quite rare.

Very few plants flower and produce fruit at the same time, or even produce fruit for extended periods, and pigeonberry fruit are a great food source for many different species of birds. Deer resistance is moderate but we’ve seen it in deer browsed gardens.

Each pigeonberry plant will grow to only about 12 to 18 inches tall and equally as wide, so in order to cover a large area in your garden, it might be best to start pigeonberry from seed directly in your yard. A typical seed packet is listed to cover about 20 square feet, making this plant a very economical choice if you need to fill in a lot of shady space.

Pigeonberry can take full shade, partial shade, and dappled sun, but shouldn’t be planted in super bright or full sun areas. It needs very little care or maintenance once established.

During its first year, you should water pigeonberry once a week or so if we’re not getting any rainfall, but once established, you’ll only need to water sparingly, if at all. During times of heavy drought, even if you '’t water pigeonberry at all, it will simply go dormant and reemerge once rain comes or water is given.

Listed as hardy to zone 7 and hardy well below freezing, pigeonberry will be deciduous in light winters, and reliably perennial after even the harshest Central Texas cold snaps. Pigeonberry makes a great addition to both formal garden beds and to wilder, more natural areas of the landscape.

Mexican Mint Marigold

Mexican Mint Marigold Tagetes lucida Perennial Mexican mint marigold is a great substitute for tarragon, which dislikes our hot, humid climate.

A native of the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico, Mexican mint marigold tolerates our heat and drought. Plant transplants after the last spring frost.

It tolerates many different soil types, but good drainage is a must. Give it full sun to part sun and water regularly until it’s established. In summer, give it a weekly deep watering.

Getting only about 18” tall and wide, this compact perennial is perfect in small spaces.

Harvest its distinctive anise or licorice-flavored leaves throughout its growing season from spring through frost.

In fall, bright yellow marigold-like flowers attract migrating butterflies and other pollinators.

Usually it freezes to the ground in winter. Whether it does or not, shear back to the ground in late winter or early spring. Only the harshest of winters will kill it to the roots.

If flowers are left to seed, it can reseed but doesn’t go too far afield, making this repopulating characteristic a positive quality for most gardeners.

Sunflower Helianthus annuus Daphne’s pick of the week is sunflower, Helianthus annuus, a lovely annual that many people may not consider planting, due to its simplicity, but a good one to consider.

There are a multitude of different varieties to choose from, so pick a flower type, a size, and plant away. Or, pick several. Sunflowers are very easy to start from seed and grow very quickly once they’ve sprouted. Because of this, it’s uncommon to find them for sale as seedlings. So purchase seed packets and plant directly in the garden.

Sunflowers '’t need a lot of space in width, but many get very tall. Plant the seeds close together, 9 to 12 inches apart, and in full sun.

The common sunflower is bright yellow and blooms from mid-summer through early fall. You can plant the seeds anytime and they’ll sprout, but if planted too late in the summer, the plants will die before they have a chance to produce blooms.

Sunflowers are annuals, so you’ll need to plant again each year, normally in late spring or early summer, once temperatures have reliably warmed into the 70’s and days are bright and sunny. Not only do bees and butterflies love sunflowers, but songbirds do as well, as the seed heads are very nutritious, and yummy. Sunflowers require very little water and reseeds easily, so if you want to control where it grows in your garden, remove the flowers before seeds can drop off.

Occasionally, sunflowers will form a double head, as this one did in viewer Nancy 'ner’s garden.

Evergreen Sumac

Evergreen Sumac Rhus Virens This native evergreen shrub thrives with very little care or attention.

In full sun, evergreen sumac will get large, bushy, and rather round, but if grown in dappled shade, it will have a more open, lithe appearance, getting about 10 feet tall, and potentially just as wide.

The bright green, shiny leaves, often with red-tinged petioles, make this a very attractive ornamental shrub.

Blooming in late summer, the flowers are small, but lovely; a beautiful creamy white that attract bees and other tiny pollinators. The resulting red, fuzzy fruit is a great boon for birds and other wildlife, making this a great addition to any naturalist’s garden or landscape. And it’s edible for us, too!

Evergreen sumac also responds well to light pruning, making it a good choice for natural hedges, perhaps separating one section of the yard from another, or screening out an offensive view.

Native to rocky hillsides with almost no soil, evergreen sumac performs surprisingly well in areas with a little heavy clay. It needs virtually no supplemental irrigation once established, and no fertilization at all.

It is, however, quite a yummy snack for deer, so be prepared to protect it during its first few years in the ground, until it gets large enough to recover from being nibbled on.

Yaupon holly

Yaupon holly Ilex vomitoria This is a great native evergreen shrub for us that can be used as a screen. It doesn’t need to be hedged, though, so select the variety that fits your space. It only needs gentle pruning to shape if necessary.

In nature it can get very tall, but in our landscape it usually gets 12 to 25 feet. Many nurseries carry dwarf cultivars.

This is a dioecious plant, meaning that there are separate male and female plants. Female plants produce showy flowers, followed by bright red berries in the winter to attract birds. The males do not, so it’s ideal to select your yaupon in late fall or winter to know if it’s a female.

It has small deep evergreen leaves and interesting bark with pale gray and patches of a grayish white. Native Americans used it in a drink.

White Butterfly Ginger

White Butterfly Ginger Hedychium They come in many different forms, but my favorite type is the plain old white version. It’s extremely fragrant. If you’ve ever appreciated the smell of a gardenia, Butterfly ginger is at least that fragrant if not more. It will fill up a whole room.

These bloom in the summer and late fall until the first frost. White butterfly ginger is fairly hardy for our area. If you mulch it, it comes back just fine. It doesn’t like sun, so you need to provide it a shady spot, like under a live oak. It also wants a little extra water. The foliage, 4-6' tall, is a wonderful vertical texture to the shade garden.

There are other types of butterfly ginger that have coral or orange blooms that are very beautiful but not as fragrant as the white.

Verbena Superbena Purple This is a great verbena cultivar. Verbena ‘Superbena Purple’ has really dark green, fuzzy foliage, against vivid purple flowers. It loves full sun and is extremely drought and heat tolerant. It flowers all summer long with those beautiful purple flowers.

They’re very long-lasting flowers and they do fall naturally from the plant without looking messy, so this plant does not require deadheading.

Do allow room for it to spread, since it gets up to 4' wide. It’s considered a groundcover, getting only 6-12? tall, so it fills in nicely under tall plants or spilling over edging. You could also use it in a hanging basket. It attracts butterflies, a super bonus for ‘Superbena’.

This plant grows very quickly. It doesn’t need much fertilizer. All you need to do is apply a light application of compost or slow release fertilizer.

It’s hardy to 15°, so in hard winters it may be an annual.

Turks Cap

Turks cap Malvaviscus arboreus This is a great native shubby plant to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Best yet, this is one that takes some shade. It grows in filtered sun, too, like underneath trees. It can also take more hours of sun, though it’s an understory that doesn’t prefer complete sun.

This perennial dies to the ground in winter but emerges soon in early spring. It flowers from late spring to first frost.

It’s another great native plant for us, which is seen all around our area and woody areas and natural growth. It does die to the ground in winter and come back from the roots. It really likes full sun but it also does great and will flower for you in shade. It flowers late in the spring and also early summer after many of our other wildflowers have gone to seed and are no longer flowering. It has gorgeous red flowers so it’s perfect for a little burst of color after much of your garden may have stopped flowering. It can get as tall as 6 feet so you may need to prune it to keep it in bounds. It’s listed as low water use so you only need to water it occasionally especially once you’ve established it. Depending on how much spring rainfall we’ve had. It may get frozen back by extremely cold temperatures such as we’ve seen this winter but if that happens, the plant will come back from seed links.


Thryallis This is one of the most exciting, fairly new to us plants that has come along in the last decade. Thryallis has beautiful yellow blooms that just go on and on throughout the warm season.

For us it is a semi-hardy plant. If we have an exceptionally cold winter, it can die to the ground, but it will come back, and most years it doesn’t even die back. Thryallis likes a lot of sun. While it will grow in shade, it just doesn’t bloom as well.

You can allow it to be a large, open loose bush to about 6' tall, or you can keep it dense and low with periodic shearing. Some people plant them in a mass as a low hedge. Just remember that the more you shear, the fewer flowers that you’ll have.

It doesn’t have any common pest problems and one of the best things about it (if you promise not to tell the deer) is that they '’t really like this plant. So, for you in deer country, this is a good colorful shrub for you.

Texas Redbud

Texas Redbud These excellent small ornamental trees are native to the western parts of the state. The eastern types will grow here, and you see them all over town, but they are not as drought-tolerant they’re are not as hardy of a plant.

The Mexican redbud is more of a bushy type plant with a lot of fine-textured branches. It features wavy leaves and grows 12-15' tall and wide. The Texas redbud is taller at about 15-20' feet, with bolder branching. Both bloom in the spring and are beautiful trouble-free trees as accents or in a small garden.


Plumbago Plumbago auriculata This perennial shrub really loves our summer heat. And it’s one of the soft blues we can grow that visually cools things down when it’s hot. You can also pair it with a white blooming variety.

They bloom non-stop from late spring to the first freeze. In some winters or in protected sites, they may remain evergreen. Other times they will freeze to the ground. Simply cut them back and they’ll re-emerge in early spring. In really cold areas, they benefit from a layer of mulch to protect the roots in winter.

Other than that, plumbago is basically maintenance-free. No need to fertilize or worry about insects. Once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant, but may need supplemental water when things stay really dry.

It grows in sun, but it also grows really well in partial shade, as long as it gets adequate light. At maturity, it will be 3-4' high and 4-6' wide.

Pentas lanceolata

Pentas Pentas lanceolata Also called Egyptian star clusters, this versatile annual does well in sun or part shade. For very bright shade, pentas are an excellent choice. These summer bloomers come in a variety of shades, including lavender, red, cherry red, pinks and white. The new Butterfly series is a more compact plant.

But all pentas attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees to their nectar.

They want good well-drained soil. Pinch back to promote flowering. Some years they may make it through winter in a protected spot, but generally we treat them as annuals to feed the wildlife through the summer and the fall migrations.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Oakleaf Hydrangea Thanks to Robin Mayfield for suggesting this great plant for shade. Unlike other hydrangeas, Oak Leafdoesvery well here. This is a shrub-type hydrangea that works wonderfully in shade. It has large, oak-shaped leaves that are 4-12 inches long. It has beautiful, cone-shaped clusters of bright white flowers, and the color doesn’t vary with our pH. It’s native to the southeastern U.S. in woodsy areas.

It’s quite a large shrub with multiple stems, and it can get 6-10 feet tall, and equally as wide. Morning sun is best for flowering, but it will take full shade, though the leaves will be the main interest in full shade. In dense shade, the leaves will be much larger and deeper green, the plant will be taller and it won’t have as many flowers.

It’s a deciduous plant. In fall, the leaves that turn bronze remain on the plant into the early winter.

It’s hardy to below zero, but it also tolerates our heat. But in the extreme heat that we had two summers ago and this last August, if it was planted in full sun, it would have suffered.

It doesn’t like wet feet, so plant it where you have good drainage. But be sure to water it when we do have a drought situation.

Montezuma Cypress

Montezuma Cypress Montezuma cypress is a Southwestern native that really does well here. I like it because it holds its foliage longer into winter than other types of cypress. I like that fine textured leaf foliage that’s a completely different look than our other trees.

Along the rivers of Central Texas, you’ll see the native cypresses that grow quite well. These are a good choice. If you get a seed source from this area, that’s a good one to use. The Eastern cypresses produce knees in our landscapes. Those in the swamps of Louisiana will grow here, but if it’s a little wet you get those knees coming up and that’s not really desirable.

Montezuma’s a different species. Not only does it hold its foliage longer, it can take drought quite well. It can grow up to 60-100' and 25-50' in width.

Mexican Plum

Mexican Plum Prunus Mexicana This plant is native to our area. It’s a deciduous tree with beautiful, fragrant spring blooms in February and early March. These white flowers, similar to apple flowers, are highly attractive to bees.

It is a Prunus species like other plums, and so it does have similar flowers and it will look similar and have a similar shape. This tree is very small, about 20-25' tall, so it makes a nice specimen tree in smaller yards.

The branches are thin, and the canopy spreads very wide. It’s very open so this tree makes a nice sculptural element in the winter. It also has very interesting bark as it ages. This bark peels and is very dark with stripes so it’s a very interesting element as well.

It uses low to medium water, which is also great, takes full sun and – it’s rare for a tree – but it also takes light shade. Most any soil type is fine and this tree does have edible fruit from mid-summer through fall. The fruit is dark purple and has a very thick skin so many people like to make jams and jellies out of it instead of eating it fresh.


Planting Sage Seeds Direct seed in spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow 2-3 seeds 1/4" deep in individual containers, thinning to one after germination. Plant 6-12 inches apart.

Sage Seeds Sage is a delight in the garden. Planting sage seeds provides you with a beautiful, undemanding ornamental shrub with blue/green leaves. The aroma of sage is often associated with fall recipes. It is a perfect match for beans, squash, sausages and poultry.

Plant sage seeds indoors, in spring with bottom heat and then plant out seedlings in a sunny, well drained location when summer has arrived. Exercise some patience as it can take several weeks for germination. Once sage has become established it is carefree and will provide plenty of leaves for fresh use or for drying.

Sage, Broadleaf Sage is an aromatic perennial plant that is actually part of the mint family. The plant produces grayish-green leaves that are used in many popular food dishes, most notably in the preparation of sausages.

- Natural mosquito repellent.

- The leaves can also be used as a digestive and nerve tonic.

- Excellent as a border plant around the garden.

- Grows well in containers.

- Easy to grow from seed and can be sowed directly in the garden.

Day to Maturity | 75 days

Plant seeds inside 6-8 weeks before transplanting outside.

Jerusalem Sage Phlomis fruticosa Jerusalem sage blooms in the spring with beautiful bright yellow whorls of flowers along long stems. But all year long, this perennial is noted for its silvery gray, velvety foliage that looks a bit like sage leaves. In fact, that’s how it got its common name, but it is not a sage.

This plant wants as much sun as possible, though will accept hours of shade, and wants well-drained soil. Prune after flowering to clean it up and fill it out. It’s very drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Heavenly Cloud (Texas Sage) Leucophyllum This sage is one of my favorites because the flowers are fragrant. As with all Texas sages, it blooms more when the air is humid. One of the things I love about this plant is that it is quite a bit shorter than most of our Texas sages, so you can actually enjoy it in a container.

Developed by Texas A&M University, ‘Heavenly Cloud’ sage is a hybrid between L. frutescens ‘Green Cloud’ and L. laevigatum. Mostly evergreen, this cultivar has medium green leaves and lavender flowers. It can grow to 6-8 feet wide and tall but is easily pruned for a more compact shape in a small space. (This picture is of Leucophyllum frutescens).


Lowrey’s Legacy Cenizo’s azalea-like lilac blue flowers are some of the largest and most attractive blooms of any Texas sage on the market because of the reliable and continuous profusion of flower displayed throughout much of the year. It is also a Texas Superstar™ plant.

Bronze Fennel

Bronze Fennel Foeniculum vulgare This is a beautiful perennial herb that adds texture, color, and flavor to your garden. Even if you '’t like to cook with it, it’s a very attractive plant and a great butterfly host plant for many butterflies, including the swallowtails.

This herb gets about 3 feet tall (possibly taller, and you can cut it back) and about 18-24? wide. You '’t have to relegate it to an herb bed. Its color and texture make a beautiful accent in your perennial beds.

Give it full sun in well-drained soil. If it gets too much water or the soil is not draining properly, it is prone to rot.


Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera There are over 200 species of aloe, but we are most familiar with this one because of its gooey sap. It’s in everything from sunburn gel to nutritional supplements. It’s an easy succulent to grow.

It does best when almost completely ignored, so '’t over water it or pay too much attention to it. It is sensitive to frost, so it’s best in a container that you can bring in and protect.

It also rots easily, so '’t overwater or use any compost in the soil around it. Use about half sand, half potting soil in your containers for this plant.

It does love the heat, but it gets scorched in a full day of intense summer sun here in Texas, so it will do fine in a little shade. It will usually be a deeper green in those lower-light intensity areas as well.

Aloe vera produces a lot of offsets, little plantlets that emerge at the base of the stem of your original plant. They can get pretty scraggily if left to their own devices, so it’s best to divide them once those plantlets have begun to get out of control in the container.


Manfreda Manfreda There are many different species in the genus Manfreda. You may also find hybrid Agave/Manfreda crosses, called Mangaves. All are native to the southern US, Mexico and Central America and are great succulents for your garden.

One species of Manfreda is known as Texas tuberose. As with most succulents, Manfredas require loose, airy soil with excellent drainage. Gardener Brent Henry has clay soil so he mixes in decomposed granite to improve drainage. His Manfredas get partial sun with most of the sun in the afternoon, but shaded by a bur oak. He gives them practically no water, and all have survived hard freezes and tough droughts just fine.

They bloom reliably every spring with a 4 foot spike. Manfredas have a low-growing, rosette habit and '’t take up much space in the garden. With their long, sometimes curly leaves, they also look great in containers, especially when the container color plays off the spots on the leaves.

Mexican Tithonia

Mexican Tithonia Also known as Mexican sunflower, this hot weather annual in the sunflower family is a great addition to any sunny bed.

It thrives in our Central Texas heat, but does need a little supplemental irrigation at the hottest, driest summer months. Of course, keep new seeds watered lightly daily until they germinate and do keep the new seedlings moist but not too wet.

Be sure not to overwater, especially if you have clay soil. And '’t be fooled by its small stature when purchased: Tithonia can get up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, although dwarf varieties are available. There are many varieties that vary slightly by color and size.

The leaves are rather coarse-textured and fuzzy. The brilliant flowers keep on coming all summer into the first frost. Sometimes, it takes a break in August, provide a little water, and shear lightly on a regular basis to remove spent blooms, it will flower even more prolifically.

Tithonia is an annual, and can be planted in spring from either seeds or transplants. Since it does get so tall, be sure to put this plant in the back of garden bed, to highlight smaller perennials or groundcovers. Tithonia is irresistible to butterflies, so this plant should be a must-have in any wildlife garden.


Mint Our plant this week is an herb. There are many different species of mints, and even more cultivars to choose from, but the most commonly grown are peppermint and spearmint.

If you have the right conditions, mint’s the easiest plant to grow in the world. Mint’s normally listed as needing full sun to perform well, but I found that here in scorching-hot Texas, my mint does much better with about half a day of shade.

It needs well-drained but fertile soil. Mix in lots of compost if you’re planting it in garden beds. In a container, use a high quality potting mix, and add perlite, vermiculite or compost if the mix seems a little heavy.

You should keep it moist without drowning it. Mint will visibly wilt if it needs water. If it hasn’t gone too far, it will perk back up in just a few hours after you water it or at least by the next morning. Keep it mulched, both in the ground, and in your containers, to reduce water loss.

To keep it bushy, pinch or cut back frequently. That’s a good thing, since even the scent is quite refreshing. Add it to recipes, teas and other drinks. Sprinkle some over a salad.

It can be invasive, since it sends out long stems that form roots as soon as they touch the soil. New stems can also emerge from the soil quite a distance away from your original plant. So, if you’re worried about it running through all your beds, plant it in a container.

There’s no need to buy more than one plant of each variety, because it does grow so quickly. Instead, try several and experiment with their different flavors. You can also plant it from seeds, but starting from a plant is much faster, especially if want to include several types.

Mint’s a perennial. If it dies back during the winter, simply cut it back. The new plant will emerge from the soil as soon as temperatures warm up. Usually, it will remain evergreen for us.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel Sophora secundiflora This native shrub/small tree is an evergreen that is extremely drought tough. Even in years of extreme drought, they survive when other natives have died. It is a slow grower, but well worth the wait. It’s an excellent screening or accent tree.

Height at maturity: 10-20 feet tall; 8 to 12 feet wide

Light: full sun is best but can take part shade.

Soil: Adapts to most soil types but wants good drainage. Do not over water once it is established. It has a very long tap root, which makes it drought-tough (but also harder to move!).

Flowers: Large scented flowers in early spring that attract all kinds of beneficial insects. Many people describe the fragrance as grape Kool-Aid!

Why not bloom: Maturity is one reason. The other: pruning off flower spikes, which form very quickly in spring, just after this year’s flowers. These knobby growths may look odd, but they represent next year’s flowers. Mountain laurels should only be pruned at trunk branches to shape (if necessary).

Also, Texas mountain laurel can be attacked by the Genista caterpillar. In one day, they can defoliate a tree, so be sure to apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) at the first outbreak. Most likely, you will only have to spray once, but in intense invasions, you may not need to reapply. This foliar application will disrupt the caterpillars’ digestive system and they will stop feeding and die in a few days.

Deer resistance: Yes.

Seeds: The seeds are poisonous if swallowed, but not dangerous otherwise. Once fully mature, the seed pods turn dark brown or gray, and the seeds inside are dark red. The seeds have a very heavy seed coat, making them hard to germinate. But if you wish to try, it’s best to harvest the seed pods before they are fully developed and plant the seeds before they have turned red.


Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, is a beautiful cool-weather annual, perfect for a little winter cheer. There are so many different beautiful cultivars of this plant, it will be hard for you to choose just one.

Nasturtiums are also edible, and that includes the flowers and the leaves. The flowers do make a beautiful addition to the top of any salad. Nasturtium flowers can also be lightly dusted in sugar and used to decorate a holiday cake. They’re also lightly fragrant, and although they may not last long in a vase, only a couple of days, they really brighten up a room in part of cut flower arrangements.

Seeds are easily sprouted right in the garden, which make them great for gardening with kids.

Plant nasturtium in full sun for the best floral performance, but a little shade is okay too, and be careful not to overwater.

The biggest problem with nasturtiums might be choosing just one, or even a few, of the gorgeous cultivars to plant. In addition to different flower colors, including white, yellow, orange, pink, red, and all variations thereof, there are also different sizes; from more upright choices, to more trailing choices, and everything in between.

The leaves are also beautiful–round, and water lily shaped, and most are a deep, luscious green. But there are also cultivars with variegated leaves, which can be quite stunning too.

Since seed packets are sold across the nation, seed companies have to put pretty generic information on them. So the seed packet that you get might say to plant nasturtiums in the spring, after all danger of frost has passed. And that would be true for more northern climates.

But here in Central Texas, where we barely get cool before we start to heat back up again, nasturtiums really thrive in winter gardens.

Pride of Barbados Caesalpinia There are two very common species of Caesalpinia in the nursery trade: pulcherrima and gillesii, and both are quite beautiful.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima is most commonly known as Pride of Barbados or Red Bird of Paradise. It has orange-yellow flowers and is a little bushier than Caesalpinia gillesii, which is most commonly known as Yellow Bird of Paradise, because it has all yellow flowers.

Both plants love the heat, need full sun, and prefer very well-drained soil. These plants will bloom all summer long with very little supplemental irrigation, so be careful not to overwater them. Both plants may freeze to the ground in winter, but not always.

For many gardeners, the Yellow Bird of Paradise doesn’t freeze to the ground in winter. If it does, just cut it back, and it will return in spring.

Pride of Barbados, the orange flowered one (Red Bird of Paradise) is more frost tender, and does freeze to the ground in our winters more often than not. Usually it will return in spring but younger plants may be slower to emerge.

Both plants can get up to about 8 feet tall, but Pride of Barbados is generally a little shorter and bushier, mostly due to the fact that it freezes to the ground most years. And both plants get about 4 to 6 feet wide, so give them plenty of room.

Both plants attract hummingbirds and butterflies and are considered to be deer resistant.

Queen’s Wreath, Coral Vine Antigonon leptopus Queen’s wreath, also known as coral vine, is a beautiful, sun-loving vine that can also take a little shade.

A great addition to any wall or trellis, it can easily spread to 20 feet wide and, with good support, twice as high. You might spot it even climbing up telephone poles or other urban structures!

It grows very quickly, making it a nice choice to cover up a bare wall or block an unsightly view. But this rapid growth can be challenging to keep in check, so coral vine is sometimes labeled aggressive, and is best avoided in landscapes adjacent to natural areas.

Because of its rambling habit, Queen’s wreath should be given plenty of space to roam. Although it may be deciduous in warmer winters, it’s more often perennial in Central Texas.

Because it grows so rapidly, shearing it to the ground in winter is recommended. In cold winters, it will naturally freeze back, but will return after cutting.

It will very quickly emerge from underground tubers in the spring, and will be back to its full stature in almost no time. Although you should prune to shape it and keep it in bounds, heavy pruning will remove the flower buds, and believe me, you '’t want to rob yourself of the show-stopping floral display in late summer.

The relatively large, light green, heart-shaped leaves are also quite pretty, but when queen’s wreath is in full bloom, you likely won’t even notice that it has any leaves at all! Flowers are normally rosy pink, but light pink and white varieties may also be found.

Bees and butterflies will also flock to its late summer to fall flowers.

A native to Mexico, coral vine is often found in heirloom gardens in the Gulf South, and the white flowering variety looks especially striking when planted alongside red roses. Trellised or arbored climbing roses can also serve as support for queen’s wreath vine, creating a stunning combination that makes a bold statement in any garden. This vigorous vine is also very drought tolerant, thriving just fine on once a week irrigation during the driest, hottest of times.

Snapdragons These cool weather annuals are favorites for kids and overwintering beneficial insects! You can select from just about any color scheme you want for vibrant color all winter.

Wait to plant them until temperatures have cooled off in November. They do prefer cool, moist soil. They do want sun to part sun, and '’t perform well in heavy shade. But you can plant them in November around deciduous trees that let in the light.

Kids love to pinch off individual flowers and play with the dragon-mouths. Pinching off the flowers just encourages the plant to produce more.

Snapdragons are annuals that usually die off with the first sincere heat. In some cases, they will hang around for another year, but consider them annuals in most gardens.

They attract beneficial insects all winter, so are a wonderful addition to fill in dormant perennials, as container accents, and to replace your summer annuals for dynamic cool weather color.

The seeds are very tiny, and can almost take a month to germinate, so it is probably best to start with transplants out in the garden. If you do plant indoors, they won’t germinate well in cold soils, so you’ll need to use a heat mat, and they also '’t germinate in cold soil outdoors.

Sweet Potato Vine Ipomoea batatas Although edible, the sweet potato vine is generally grown as an ornamental. These perennial (or often annual) vines are a wonderful addition to any garden. They look absolutely gorgeous spilling over a tall container. You can also allow the vines to cover the ground and fill in large areas. They thrive in our heat and can take the full sun, but they also do well in light shade or bright filtered light.

Soil: Most soil types, as long as well-draining, or well-draining container soil.

Light: Sun, shade, filtered light, heavy shade but less vigorous. In full sun, it will need more water.

Size: Trailing to several feet unless cut back. Cuttings are easy to root.

Flowers: None. These plants are grown for their foliar attention. Two very common cultivars are ‘Marguerite’, which is chartreuse green, and ‘Blackie’, which is deep purple. The very intense colors of these plants make them a perfect mood-lifter in the summer heat.

Water: Sweet potato vines require very little water once established (except in full sun).

Hardiness: They are listed as hardy to USDA Zone 8b, or 15 degrees F, so in a hard winter, they might freeze and die. Replant again in spring. Certain cultivars may be even more frost tender, so be sure to protect them from the cold, whenever possible.

Deer: Supposedly resistant.

Texas Persimmon Diospyros Texana Texas persimmon is also called black persimmon due to the color of the ripened fruits.

This wonderful little native tree is beautiful and simply striking in the landscape. It has a beautiful pale gray bark that begins to flake off once it reaches maturity, much like a crape myrtle. Although I called it a small tree, it can actually get quite large with adequate water and sunlight, up to 20 feet tall.

But Texas persimmon could just as easily be referred to as a shrub, especially if used as an understory plant under cedar elms and live oaks. Since it does perform well under other trees, it makes a good choice for potentially-challenging, shady areas of your yard.

It’s amazingly drought-tough, surviving even the toughest of hot, dry Central Texas summers on very little supplemental irrigation. It’s also a great wildlife plant, providing both food, with its gorgeous black fruit, and shelter for birds and small mammals. If you prefer less of a “wild” look, you can prune Texas persimmon to raise the canopy and make it less shrubby.

Be aware that there are both male and female plants, so if you want the fruit, you need to purchase a female. But if you’d rather not attract wildlife and clean up the mess, ask the nursery for a male plant, although those are less commonly found.

But you’ll probably want the fruit, because it is delicious!

Tatume Squash Thank you to garden blogger Caroline Homer for her picture and hands-on advice! Tatume squash is a prolific producer. It’s a must-have for any vegetable gardener, especially if you’re converting some lawn space and growing vegetables for the first time. It’s easy to grow and will likely produce more fruit than you can possibly eat.

Caroline tells us that she plants the first or second week of March. Tatume prefers to sprawl on the ground, rather than be trellised, so give it plenty of space: 6 to 8 feet on all sides.

If you’ve ever grown squash, you’ve come face to face with the dreaded squash vine borer, which destroys squash plants in the blink of an eye. Although it’s not immune to these insects, Tatume does tolerate the damage better than any other squash choice for Central Texas gardens.

It also thrives in full sun, requiring very little supplemental irrigation: twice a week deep watering is usually sufficient to keep Tatume growing and blooming, and fruiting through early summer. If you find that you’re getting more squash than you can handle, simply harvest some of the blooms to use in salads.

Many vegetables benefit from fertilization throughout production season, but Tatume will perform just fine if only fertilized lightly at the time of planting. Caroline simply adds a little 8-2-4 at planting time.

Tatume squash is an heirloom variety, so you may have to shop around to find seeds. Producer Linda note: I snagged some at a local nursery!

Winecup Callirhoe involucrata Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) is a native groundcover perennial that blooms in spring. They form a sprawling evergreen mat to explode with vivid purple flowers in March or April. You can also find varieties with white flowers. They bloom for weeks, opening in the morning and closing at night. Extend their blooming time by deadheading spent flowers.

Light: Sun to part shade.

Soil: They grow in many soil types, as long as it is well-drained. They like shallow, gravelly areas, even preferring the small cracks between landscape pavers to a richly amended garden bed. In heavier soils, loosen it with decomposed granite or compost. '’t mulch them heavily with wood mulch. A little is fine as long as the area dries out.

Size: groundcover to 6-12? tall, can spread to 3' wide.

Water: Need very little. Overwatering can cause the fungal disease, rust.

When to plant: Plant seeds in October or November. Transplants can go in any time, though not in summer’s heat. The perfect time is fall or spring. They do re-seed in good conditions.

Pruning: Deadhead flowers to extend blooming time (unless you want seeds!). Trim back dead growth in late summer to encourage a flush of growth in the fall. Winecup should also be pruned back to its base in late winter, before the new spring growth emerges.

Zinnias Heat-loving, drought-tolerant annuals

Zinnias trace their parentage to South America and South Texas

Require well-drained soil

Sun or afternoon shade. Zinnias will not perform well in semi-shade.

Butterflies love them!? Plant in containers on the patio or porch for a close-up view.

If possible, water by hand or with drip irrigation. Early-morning sprinklers will wash away nectar that attracts the butterflies.

Easy to start from seed, or get nursery transplants

Plant after soil has warmed up in late spring/early summer

You can keep seeding throughout summer

Fertilize regularly to promote top performance all summer

Classic, old-fashioned zinnia:
Zinnia elegans

Many colors (including green!)
Are susceptible to powdery mildew
Best planted from seed; can keeping seeding throughout summer
Must be deadheaded to keep them flowering and attractive

New varieties:

Less susceptible to fungal disease
'’t require deadheading
Dahlia-like flower up to 6? across
12-18? tall

Slightly smaller flowers
Extremely durable in heat

Narrow-leaf zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia)
Flowers about 1? wide
About 12? tall, make low masses of color
Flowers almost completely cover the leaves
Tidy plant for edging walkways or for containers
Only comes in 3 colors?gold, deep yellow, and white.
The white is a nice annual substitute for blackfoot daisy for gardeners in heavy clay

Short Stuff
12? tall
big impact on short stems

Profusion zinnia
Intensely vivid colors
Very profuse! ?

Oregano Oregano comes in all different types, varieties and cultivars. All are very drought tough and all require good drainage.

Oregano’s so easy to grow, even in a container, that you’ll never need to purchase it in the produce section ever again! Or buy dried out oregano!

On top of that, it makes a great groundcover and in fact, without an intervention, oregano will creep steadily across any garden bed that you plant it in. much the same as many of its other minty relatives. There’s no reason to isolate it in an official herb bed; include it as a groundcover to border walkways or accent beds.

Oregano spreads by rhizomes, and so it’s very easy to dig up a hunk of it and transplant it to another area of your garden, or to give to friends.

Some cultivars get much taller than others, so be sure to get the right one for your space.

Full sun is great, but a little shade is fine too. Oregano will do fine on once a week irrigation and performs best with a little organic matter in the soil.

In warmer winters it may remain evergreen but will still need to be sheared back all the way to the ground to encourage new growth in early spring.

Some cultivars flower easily, while others rarely do. But this plant is grown for its leaves, so you really '’t want it to flower anyway.

After vigorous spring growth, it’s a good idea to shear oregano back quite a bit, otherwise it tends to get leggy and flop over, which doesn’t hurt anything, it just doesn’t look too attractive.

Cover Crops for Winter Gardens Trisha Shirey

Merrideth Jiles’ Citrus Plants

Tropical Edibles For most of these plants I fertilize regularly with an organic fertilizer, especially when the plant is containerized. Keep all of these (including the Dragonfruit) from going bone-dry to protect fruit production and essential oils in the leaves.

Avocado- Persea americana, variety shown is Lila Other varieties for Central Texas include Joey, Pancho, Pryor, Opal, Wilma, and Fantastic. Hardy to 25 young, can take 15 when established. Will need two varieties for pollination. Protect from summer sun when young (can sunscald), but will need full sun afterwards. Growth to 50' can be controlled by pruning out the top leader (branch). Leaves are used like bay to add flavor to soups and sauces.

Cinnamon- Cinnamomun zeylancium Protect from hard frost, may survive short periods of freezing temperatures. Grow in morning sun in a large pot. Prune back to the ground after 2-3 years which will cause the tree to sucker from the roots. These stems can then be harvested every other year and the inner bark removed. This is the cinnamon. The leaves can also be used as a cinnamon flavoring.

Allspice- Pimenta dioica Fresh leaves can be used in cooking and in teas. Grow a large pot and protect smaller plants from extreme afternoon sun. Greater cold tolerance as tree ages, but still must be protected from hard frosts. Plants are male or female, and it is impossible to tell until they fruit, which they do not do reliably here.

Cardamom- Alpinia nutans Evergreen if protected from frost. Turns brown in colder weather, can lose in a frost. Will become rootbound fairly quickly and will dry out faster, so repotting or dividing may be necessary every year. Can grow to 5' plus in the ground, but tends to stay much shorter in a container. Keep in light shade for best results.

Galangal- Alpinia galangal Grows to 5' in light shade. Most gingers do not like our full summer sun. Hardy most years if well mulched in the winter. Do not over water when dormant in winter or rhizomes may rot. Harvest by digging out around plant and remove small pieces of the rhizome as needed. The flavor is stronger than basic ginger.

Aloe Vera- Aloe vera Grows best in shade, either under a tree or on a porch in a large pot. Water when dry, but do not let go too dry or plant with lose vigor and may not recover completely. Divide as needed and share the offsets with friends. Juice can be made from the pulp and of course the inner pulp is also critical for treating sunburns.

Lemon Grass- Cymbopogon flexuosus (East Indian) and citratus (West Indian) We grow both species here in central Texas. East Indian is grown for its lemon flavored leaves. It grows to 2.5' and is marginally winter hardy. West Indian is the lemon grass stalks used in Thai cooking and it taller and more winter hardy here. Both can take full sun to high shade and are drought tolerant.

Kaffir Lime- Citrus hystrix Will probably survive to 25 when established, but protect for insurance. Full sun light shade. Can get very large in a container (10' plus) and has large thorns. Freshleaves are used in cooking. Fruit is very tart and used mainly for zest for most cooks. Care is same for most containerized citrus. Use an organic citrus fertilizer like Citrus-Tone several times per year for strongest growth.

Curry Tree- Murraya koenigii This is the true source of curry in Indian cooking. It will survive most years grown outside here in central Texas in a protected location, although it is probably more reliable in San Antonio. Can sucker and spread by seed, so be diligent about removing new plantlets that crop up underneath the mother plant. Can grow to 10', but can be pruned severely every year to control height. Leaves are best used fresh.

Dragonfruit- Hylocereus sp., variety shown in VooDoo Child Very heat tolerant, but like many cacti and succulents a a little afternoon shade in the summer will keep them nice and green (they tend to get red in the hot sun). Protect from hard frosts. Native to the Americas. Fruit is produced one to two months after flowering (night blooming, fragrant flowers). The variety shown is self-pollinating, but many varieties need a pollinator. Very vigorous cactus vine. Will need a large container eventually and lots of sturdy support to grow on. Tends to begin fruit production when plant weight reaches 10 pounds.

Ausin bulb list

Top Ten Austin Grown Herbs

Top 10 Remarkable Plants for CTG

Tough Plants for SA

SA Aralias & Hoyas list

SA Summer Bulbs list

Plants in General

NOVA: The Hidden Power of Plants tropics, traditional healing, ayuveda, chinese med., later

BBC in the minds of plants later

Nature: What Plants Talk About later

How Plants Communicate & Think - Nature Documentary HD later

Bed edgings

Use existing bricks and broken pavers for edgings.

Timbers, boards

Interlocking Garden Edging - Green, Scalloped by CB Worldwide 4.5* $29.89 & FREE Shipping. 12 FLEXIBLE PIECES - each piece is 6" high by 8" wide for a total of nearly 8 feet

"These are dlso cute and look wonderful surrounding our small garden out front. They are nice and flat which makes it easy to mow around without any damage to the edging or garden. It isn't permanent making it easy to move around and adjust as needed. This is an easy way to prevent grass and weeds from growing over into our garden. It makes upkeep a lot easier and the garden is prettier to look at. I expected these to be cheap looking and flimsy, instead they are much thicker than expected. Very good quality. I didn't have any issues setting these up or installing them."

"Great quality, very durable!! ByMindy W.on June 23, 2016 I have a flower bed at the bottom of the steps going onto my porch I have been looking for an edge to go around it. This was exactly what I needed to edge it. They come in sections that slide together and click to make a hinge. Personally, I believe they hook together better than other brands and styles I have tried. I liked that the bottom has a more spiked shape. It seems to hold it into the ground easier. It's easy to assemble and use. The quality of the product is also amazing. They are built sturdy and seem very durable. "

Dimex LandShark Pound-In Plastic Landscape Edging Project Kit, 20-Feet 4.7* $17.96 FREE Shipping. Made of plastic.

Suncast BSE10TG Edging, Borderstone, 10 Pack 4* $13.75 discounted Prime. Ten 12" sections. About 1" in thickness. When installed about 2"s high. Stands up to weed whacker.

"A great edging option! ByJoannaKon May 31, 2015 Color: Borderstone|Verified Purchase I put these in just over a year ago. They survived a harsh NJ winter and did not move an inch! This was a one-person project--from removing the sod to digging a border and placing the edging. The edging has kept the grass out and the soil and stones in. Sure, it's plastic--but it was easy to snap together and pound in the (loosened) ground. It looks quite natural, and now that the plants have grown it's mostly covered anyway. One of the smartest purchases I ever made! As a matter of fact I am planning another project and I won't think twice about using this edging again."

Master Mark Plastics 95340 Terrace Board Landscape Edging Coil, 5-inch x 40-Foot, Brown 4.3* $20.37 Prime.

How labor intensive is this? Does it require digging to install?
Answer: Yes my wife put in the ground about 1 1/2 " she us a flat blade shovel it looks real nice . They also sell stakes for this edgeing.

"you ''t get ANY stakes with this edging. The same identical product (or so I thought) at the Home Depot comes with a pack of 10 stakes with every roll you purchase. Luckily, I thought of purchasing an 'extra' bag of 10 stakes because we have a lot of curves this is going around.... I just didn't understand why the ALMOST identical product at the Home Depot was the SAME PRICE, but included a ($10 bag) set of 10 spikes for free! Other than this massive problem, the edging is very nice, sturdy, and somewhat rigid. We purchased an electric trencher, but still needed to dig this down. 4 quarts = 1 gallon.

Little Giant P8PURPLE Dura Flex Plastic Bucket for Livestock, 8-Quart, Purple 5* $10.38 Prime. Holds 8 quarts (2 gallons).

"We have two big dogs that need a BIG water bowl and this is what we use. Very thick plastic, well made, yet light in weight. We use extras for all kinds of things around the yard - never seem to wear out."

MILLER CO Flat Back Bucket, 18 quart, Black 5* $11.86 Prime. Heavy duty rubber buckets that are crack proof crush-proof and freeze proof. Flat side rests against wall or fence for stability

Pennington Epsom Salt, 7-Pound $7.77 plus $8.12 shipping [$2.27/lb]. The ingredients are listed as Magnesium - 9.8% Sulfur - 12.9%. The other 77.3% are inert ingredients that are not disclosed.

"High quality epsom salts in a RESEALABLE bag! I love this... Fast shipping, quality product...Excellent product, dissolves fast into solution, and this is a great price."

Epsom Salt By Sky Organics (5 LBS)- 100% Pure Magnesium Sulfate-Natural, USP Grade, Kosher, Non-GMO 5* $14.99 Prime [$3/lb]. Sky Organics Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) is Made in the USA and is Pharmaceutical grade. It is GMO free , Kosher certified and Cruelty Free.

Epsom Salts/Magnesium Sulfate, GreenSense 5 pounds $7.95 + $6.25 shipping. [$2.84/lb]

Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) Fertilizer, 10 pounds by GreenSense $12.95 + $11 shipping [$2.40/lb] Epsom Salt has a neutral pH. It is easily dissolved in water. Will not burn plants if over used. OMRI certified (Organic Materials Review Institute) for organic programs. It is not USP (United States Pharmacopeia) grade Epsom salt for human use.

It is named for the town of Epsom in Surrey England which has a bitter saline spring where the salt was first produced.

Soil Improvement & info about

What we need to know about Soil Bryant RedHawk

Soil Science is a chemical study of dirt, it is not about soil but rather about the base components needed for dirt to be ready to become soil.

There is a problem with the way most people use soil science.

Most people that want to start gardens or farms or any type of growing of plants will be advised “get a soil test” it will tell you what you need to add to grow great plants.

When you take your samples of your land to the lab and they give you your analysis report. There is no mention of the biology that sample contained, only the mineral components, perhaps the particle size break down will be included in a “complete” soil analysis you will also get “micronutrient” lists.

The report will also tell you what to do to get that point we call “normal” but it will again only be mineral additions, pH adjustment amendments and perhaps particle size amendment, all based on what is considered to be “normal, friable, land”.

Nothing about anything biological that needs to be added will be mentioned. Why is this? It is because then we would not be soil scientist we would be biologist or microbiologist. See the problem here?

Soil is Living, Dirt is Inert.

In this thread we are going to gain knowledge about the mineral parts of land.

Then we are going to gain knowledge about the living part and how these parts go together to create the medium that all life is dependent on for life, that we call soil.

Then we are going to learn some methods for getting that hunk of land we call our own to become the best soil it can be for what we want to grow.

Given that land usually contains decent amounts of the right minerals, fair pH range, good enough particle size distribution, enough organic matter to hold good amounts of water. The real issue becomes how to get those minerals into a form that the plants can actually use.

This is not the focus of Soil Science, even though the name indicates otherwise.

This is the goal of this thread, to get all the information needed to arrive at the perfect or as perfect as possible soil condition and health for optimal plant growth.

While having good soil can seem to be complicated, (it can be very much so) it can also be very manageable with the right knowledge.

Perhaps the most important things in this thread will be ways you can determine, on site, what you need to do and how to best accomplish this yourself.

Sure you can use your plants to tell you, but that means that by the time they are showing you something is wrong, it is too late for that crop.

I consider the most important tool for people doing what we are doing to be a microscope, without one you will never know what life your soil contains nor how much of that life your soil contains.

Interestingly enough, that soil life will tell you more than all the comprehensive soil tests you ever have 'e can tell you. Why is this?

Because most likely your land already has the quantities of minerals (at least for the most part) that what you want to grow need to be there.

Without the right soil biota present we are not being the good steward for those plants we want to thrive, nor are we making the best use of most of the water we manage to store in the land.

The goal here is to disperse that knowledge needed to have gardens that even in draught periods of a year or more will produce at least a decent amount of food.

I will end this thread with some step by step methods, along with tests for making sure you are heading to that wonderful place called great soil.

Soil is far from ordinary, and certainly not dirt. It is the home of innumerable numbers of organisms, both easily visible and microscopic. Soil acts as Earth’s recycler, filter, purifier, and storehouse. The soil ecosystem recycles dead organisms into the building blocks of new life, it transforms toxic substances into simple compounds, it renders pathogenic organisms harmless, and it purifies and stores water as it passes through. Soil is a dynamic living system that functions as the interface between land and sky, the living and the dead. Soil is the repository of fertility and life on this planet.

Soils perform five key functions in the global ecosystem. Soil serves as a:

1. medium for plant growth,
2. regulator of water supplies,
3. recycler of raw materials,
4. habitat for soil organisms, and
5. landscaping and engineering medium

A soil that is fine in texture, has good permeability, containing a good amount of humus will hold a vast amount of water. Another important function of soil is to store and supply nutrients to plants. The ability to perform this function is referred to as soil fertility. The clay and organic matter (OM) content of a soil directly influence its fertility. Greater clay and OM content will generally lead to greater soil fertility.

The amount of water a soil can retain against the pull of gravity is called its water holding capacity (WHC). This property is close related to the number of very small micro-pores present in a soil due to the effects of capillarity action. The rate of water movement into the soil (infiltration) is influenced by; texture, physical condition (structure and tilth), along with the amount of vegetative cover on the soil surface. Coarse (sandy) soils allow rapid infiltration, but have less water storage ability, due to their generally large pore sizes. Fine textured soils have an abundance of micropores, allow them to retain a lot of water, but also causing a slow rate of water infiltration. Organic matter tends to increase the ability of all soils to retain water, and also increases infiltration rates of fine textured soils.

Through the processes of decomposition and humus formation, soils have the capacity to store great quantities of atmospheric carbon and essential plant nutrients. This biologically active carbon can remain in soil organic matter for decades or even centuries. This temporary storage of carbon in the organic matter of soils and biomass is termed carbon sequestration. Soil organic carbon has been identified as one of the major factors in maintaining the balance of the global carbon cycle.

The fourth important function: Soil is teeming with living organisms of varied size. Ranging from large, easily visible plant roots and animals, to very small mites and insects, to microorganisms (e.g. bacteria and fungi.) Microorganisms are the primary decomposers of the soil, they perform much of the work of transforming and recycling old, dead materials into the raw materials needed for growth of new plants and organisms. For instance; an earthworm in its burrow excretes its waste (middens) on the soil surface, once deposited there it is further broken down by bacteria and other soil organisms. Organic materials in soil are consumed and digested repeatedly by different organisms on their path to becoming humus.

Soil Quality Enhancing

organic material additions
plant growth
cool, humid climate
vegetative cover
fibrous root systems of plants
minimal tillage operations

Soil Quality Degrading

bare fallow
hot, arid climate
exposed soil
intense tillage

For plant growth, the topsoil is the richest and most valuable part of the soil.

Topsoil formation is a very slow process (in nature, (we are developing methods that enhance the speed of natural topsoil production)), which makes it a non-renewable (within the current standard thinking), (but re-usable) resource in terms of human lifespans.

The most general level of classification in the USDA system of Soil Taxonomy is the Soil Order. All of the soils in the world can be assigned to one of 12 orders.

Soil Orders and General Descriptions

Type -- Description

Entisols -- Little, if any horizon development

Entisols are a very diverse group of soils with one thing in common, little profile (horizon) development. Includes the soils of unstable environments, such as floodplains, sand dunes, or those found on steep slopes. Entisols are commonly found at the site of recently deposited materials (e.g., alluvium), or in parent materials resistant to weathering (e.g. sand).

Inceptisols -- Beginning of horizon development

Inceptisols are soils in the beginning stages of soil profile development. Some color changes may be evident between the emerging horizons, and the beginnings of a B horizon may be seen with the accumulation of small amounts of clay, salts, and organic material. These soils show more profile development than entisols, but have not developed the horizons or properties that characterize other soil orders. Inceptisols are commonly found throughout the world, and are prominent in mountainous regions.

Aridisols -- Soils located in arid climates

Aridisols are dry soils with CaCO3 (lime) accumulations, common in desert regions. The extent of aridisol occurrence throughout the world is widespread, second in total ice-free land area only to the entisols. Extensive areas of aridisols occur in the major deserts of the world, as well as in southwestern north america , Australia , and many Middle Eastern locations. Aridisols are commonly light in color, and low in organic matter content. Lime and salt accumulations are common in the subsurface horizons. Some Aridisols have an argillic (clay accumulation) B horizon, likely formed during a period with a wetter climate. Water deficiency is the dominant characteristic of Aridisols with adequate moisture for plant growth present for no more than 90 days at a time.

Mollisols -- Soft, grassland soils

Mollisols take their name from the Latin word mollis, meaning soft. These mineral soils have developed on grasslands, vegetation that has extensive fibrous root systems. The topsoil of mollisols is characteristically dark and rich with organic matter, giving it a lot of natural fertility. These soils are typically well saturated with basic cations (Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, and K+) that are essential plant nutrients. These characteristics of mollisols place them among the most fertile soils found on Earth. Found in North America from Texas up to Saskatchewan, Canada.

Alfisols -- Deciduous forest soils

Alfisols are found in cool to hot humid areas, and in the semiarid tropics; they are formed mostly under forest vegetation, but also under grass savanna. Extensive areas of alfisols are found in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys in the USA, through Central and Northern Europe into Russia, and in the South-central region of South America. Generally fertile and productive, these soils typically have a high concentration of nutrient cations (Ca, Mg, K, and Na) and form in regions with sufficient moisture for plants for at least part of the year. Natural fertility and productive capacity of alfisols is considered to be greater than that of ultisols, but less than that of mollisols.

Spodosols -- Acidic, coniferous forest soils

Spodosols commonly form in sandy parent materials under coniferous forest vegetation. As a consequence of their coarse texture, they have a high leaching potential. Spodosols are characterized by high acidity, and have a subsoil accumulation of organic matter, along with aluminum and iron oxides, called a spodic horizon. Typically low in natural fertility (basic cations, Ca2+, Mg2+, and K+) and high in soil acidity (H+, Al3+), these soils require extensive inputs of lime and fertilizers to be agriculturally productive. Spodosols are most commonly associated with a cool and wet climate, but also occur in warmer climes such as in Florida, USA. Large areas of spodosol are found in northern Europe, Russia, and northeastern North America.

Ultisols -- Extensively weathered soils

Ultisols are intensely weathered soils of warm and humid climates. They are typically formed on older geologic locations in parent material that is already extensively weathered. Ultisols have accumulated clay minerals in the B horizon. While generally low in natural fertility (basic cations, Ca2+, Mg2+, and K+) and high in soil acidity (H+, Al3+) the clay content of ultisols gives them a nutrient retention capacity greater than that of oxisols, but less than alfisols or mollisols. Large areas of ultisol are found in the southeastern USA, China, In'esia, South America, and equatorial regions of Africa.

Oxisols -- Extremely weathered, tropical soils

Oxisols are the most weathered of the 12 soil orders in the USDA soil classification system. They are composed of the most highly weathered tropical and subtropical soils, and are formed in hot, humid climates that receive a lot of rainfall. Oxisols are located primarily in equatorial regions. These soils are extensively leached, and the clay size particles are dominated by oxides of iron and aluminum, which are low in natural fertility (Ca2+, Mg2+, K+) and high in soil acidity (H+, Al3+). While oxisols are typically physically stable, with low shrink-swell properties and good erosion resistance, these soils require extensive inputs of lime and fertilizers to be agriculturally productive.

Gelisols -- Soils containing permafrost

Gelisols are soils with permafrost within 2 meters of the surface. These soils generally have limited profile development. Most of the soil forming processes in these soils occur near the surface, sometimes resulting in significant accumulation of organic matter. Large areas of this soil occur in the Northern regions of Russia, Canada, and Alaska. These areas become boggy wetlands in the summer, and support large numbers of migratory birds and grazing mammals.

Histosols -- Soils formed in organic material

Histosols are soils without permafrost that are predominately composed of organic materials in various stages of decomposition. They generally consist of at least half organic materials (by volume). They are usually saturated with water which creates anaerobic conditions and causes organic matter accumulation at rates faster than that of decomposition. Histosols can form in wetland areas of any climate where plants can grow such as bogs, marshes, and swamps, but are most commonly formed in cool climates.

Andisols -- Soil formed in volcanic material

Andisols soils form in volcanic ash and cinders near or downwind from volcanic activity. Generally lacking in development, they are not extensively weathered, forming in deposits from geologically recent events. Usually of high natural fertility, they tend to accumulate organic matter readily and are of a ‘light’ nature (low bulk density) that is easily tilled. These soils generally have a high productivity potential.

Vertisols -- Shrinking and swelling clay soils

Vertisols are soils with a high content of clay minerals that shrink and swell as they change water content. The clay minerals adsorb water and increase in volume (swell) when wet and then shrink as they dry, forming large, deep cracks. Surface materials fall into these cracks and are incorporated into the lower horizons when the soil becomes wet again. As this process is repeated, the soil experiences a mixing of surface materials into the subsoil that promotes a more uniform soil profile. Vertisols are usually very dark in color, with widely variable organic matter content (1 – 6%). They typically form in Ca and Mg rich materials such as limestone, basalt, or in areas of topographic depressions that collect these elements leached from uplands. Vertisols are most commonly formed in warm, sub-humid or semi-arid climates, where the natural vegetation is predominantly grass, savanna, open forest, or desert shrub. Large areas of vertisols are found in Northeastern Africa, India, and Australia, with smaller areas scattered worldwide.

There are color maps available online to see the Soil Orders by continent, just do a search for "Soil Orders by Continent"

Obviously we need to know how much of the earth each of these classes occupy.

Entisols = 16% of the world land area or 21 million km squared.
Aridisols = 12% or 15.7 million km sq.
Alfisols = 10% or 13.1 million km sq.
Ultisols = 8 % or 10.5 million km sq.
Gelisols = 9% or 11.8 million km sq.
Andisols = 1% or 1.3 million km sq.
Inceptisols = 17% or 22.3 million km sq.
Mollisols = 7% or 7 million km sq.
Spodosols = 9.2% or 4 million km sq.
Oxisols = 8% or 8 million km sq.
Histosols = 1% or 1.3 million km sq.
Vertisols = 2% or 2.6 million km sq.
Others = 5% or 6.6 million km sq.

Total = 100 % or 131 million km sq.

Much of the land mass of earth, according to the soil orders is not suitable for agriculture use.

As Permaculture practitioners we know that much more land can be utilized for agriculture use, even if in smaller patches than one thousand acres (mean size of current commercial agriculture farms).

You see, soil science only takes into account the perameters deemed significant by chemistry, it does not take into account the Biology factors in any way, shape or form.

It also doesn't take into account that soil types can be improved to the point of becoming very fertile, water holding, nutrient rich soils.

Biome is a term used to classify the Earth’s major ecosystems.

A biome is defined primarily by the climate and predominant vegetation of a region.

The flora and fauna present within a specific Biome reflects the adaptations of those organisms to that particular environment.

The Major World Biomes map is based upon the underlying properties of soil moisture and temperature regimes - which are largely determined by latitude, climate, topography, and the native vegetation that has adapted to these local conditions.

The nature and extent of soil formation and development is closely associated with these local and regional conditions.

Basic Characteristics of World Biomes

• Tundra – Cold soil temperatures, with permafrost. Occurs at high latitudes (>60 degrees) and altitudes (alpine).

• Boreal – a climate of short summers and harsh winters. Mainly coniferous vegetation.

• Temperate – mid-latitude zones ranging from ~ 40 to 65 degrees, deciduous forest vegetation where precipitation is sufficient (>750 mm).

• Mediterranean – occur in latitudes from 30 to 45 degrees. Mild, wet winters, warm-hot dry summers.

• Desert – arid climate with low precipitation (< 250 mm/year) and high evaporation.

• Tropical – refers to latitudes from ~ 5 to 35 degrees. Warm temperatures year-round, with distinct wet and dry seasons (e.g. Monsoons).

• Humid – a climate where average annual precipitation exceeds the amount of evaporation.

• Semi-Arid – Average precipitation of 250 to 500 mm annually.

• Permafrost – a layer of soil that remains frozen year-round.

Interestingly, there are currently permaculture sites, growing good food in all but the Tundra and Permafrost Biome zones.

In 1939, the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, Professor Adolf Butenant, demonstrated that existence is not possible without the presence of Silica. Based on his research carried out at Columbia College in 1972, silica is a vital nutrient that should be provided continuously from food sources. Silica plays a huge role in lots of body functions and it has an immediate relationship with mineral absorption.

The typical human body holds roughly seven grams of silica, a sum far exceeding the figures for other important minerals, for example iron.

Both iron and silica are essential for the human body, meaning they're required for undertaking ongoing metabolic work that's vital to existence. Both elements should be continuously provided.

Many studies prove the favorable influence of vegetal silica taking place on the development of animals and humans. Silica is important to the skeleton and mineralization. Hence, silica’s absence leads to skeletal and penile deformation.

Hormonal disturbances within the human organism are frequently because of a calcium- magnesium discrepancy. Several researches have proven that silica can restore this delicate balance.

Silica also benefits the assimilation of phosphorous.

As a result it may be described as a catalyst in using additional factors.

Brittle bones are really a characteristic of aging.

As calcium within our body leaches, the bones become brittle and weak.

Taking merely calcium mineral cannot correct or stop this threatening and crippling disease since the human body cannot assimilate and take advantage from the calcium, without the existence of silica.

Evidence indicates that, rather than affecting healing, supplemental mineral calcium, on the other hand, speeds up the draining away of bone calcium and thus hastens the degenerative procedure for brittle bones and other alike illnesses affecting the encouraging and connective tissue in the body.

For brittle bones, silica can help stop the discomfort, as well as restore your body’s self-repair process.

Calcium and Silica

Brittle bones’ signs and symptoms attack women mainly after menopause, however the degenerative process begins much earlier within their more youthful days.

More women are dying of fractures triggered by brittle bones than of breast cancers, cervix, and uterus combined. In brittle bones, loss from the bones happens because of inadequate manufacture of the encompassing protein medium in which calcium salts first deposit.

Deficiencies in calcium within the bone matrix result in enlargement of waterways and spaces within the bones, giving these a porous, thinned appearance.

The destabilized bone becomes fragile and might be damaged at any kind of minor injury. The bones might even fracture from normal pressure or stress.

To intent to re-mineralize broken bones, it's suggested that the silica supplement is taken daily.

Bones comprise mainly phosphorus, magnesium and calcium they also contain silica. Silica accounts for the adding of minerals in to the bones, especially calcium. It boosts the healing of fractures as well as reduces skin damage to begin of the fracture.

Increasingly more research evidence implies that via a transmutation process, silica is converted into calcium when it's needed. That's why some researchers make reference to silica like a precursor of calcium. Even if calcium is inadequate, the body can change silica into calcium if the bones need it.

These same interrelations exist in plants and other animals, so it is a needed mineral for a complete biological nutrient regime. The easiest way for us to get silica into the soil for our plants is to use DE, it is also an easy way to get silica into our bodies. [DE is Diatomaceous Earth Amazon: Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade 10 Lb $22.02 prime. Best seller]

When we make compost, we can easily add DE to the mix as we create our heaps, we can also simply spread it over the garden area prior to planting and at anytime during the growing season.

Note from reader: A land based source of silica is horsetail rush. This bottle brush shaped plant is of ancient origin spreads by a network of underground roots and is considered a problem weed by many but it is doing a vital function of accumulating silica in an organically assumable form Therefore should be considered an asset in a permaculture plan.

Plants obtain nutrients from two natural sources: organic matter and minerals, the plants use exudates (phyto to call out to the microorganisms and primary beneficial predator organisms for what they need at that time in the way of nutrients.

Organic matter includes any plant or animal material that returns to the soil and goes through the decomposition process.

Decomposition is actually microorganisms eating the organic materials and minerals, these then become food for larger organisms, so the microorganisms are the bottom of the food chain.

In addition to providing nutrients and habitat to organisms living in the soil, organic matter also binds soil particles into aggregates and improves the water holding capacity of soil.

Most soils contain 2–10 percent organic matter. However, even in small amounts, organic matter is very important, without organic materials there can be no soil.

Soil is a living, dynamic ecosystem. Healthy soil is teeming with microscopic and larger organisms that perform many vital functions including converting dead and decaying matter as well as minerals to plant nutrients. Different soil organisms feed on different organic substrates. Their biological activity depends on the organic matter supply.

Nutrient exchanges between organic matter, water and soil are essential to soil fertility and need to be maintained for sustainable production purposes.

Where the soil is exploited for crop production without restoring the organic matter and nutrient contents and maintaining a good structure, the nutrient cycles are broken, soil fertility declines and the balance in the agro-ecosystem is destroyed.

Soil microorganisms are the most abundant of all the biota in soil and responsible for driving nutrient and organic matter cycling, soil fertility, soil restoration, plant health and ecosystem primary production. Beneficial microorganisms include those that create symbiotic associations with plant roots (rhizobia, mycorrhizal fungi, actinomycetes and diazotrophic bacteria), promote nutrient mineralization and availability (protozoa, nematodes and flagellates), produce plant growth hormones, and are antagonists of plant pests, parasites or diseases (biocontrol agents).

Many of these organisms are naturally present in the soil, although in many situations it may be beneficial to increase their populations by inoculation or by applying various management techniques that enhance their abundance and activity.

Mycorrhizae: We now know that more than 90% of the world’s plants are mycorrhizal, with varying degrees of dependence and benefits derived from this association.

The best known and perhaps the most common mycorrhizal symbioses involve arbuscular mycorrhizae (many crop species), ectomycorrhizae and endomycorrhizae (only woody species; mostly tree and shrub species), although several other types (e.g., Ericaceous, Orchidaceous, Ectendo-mycorrhizae) also exist.

The positive role of mycorrhizae in plant production is well documented, with many cases of growth and yield enhancement, particularly in highly dependent, susceptible plants.

The plant response can be due to various reasons, although in most cases it is due to an increase in effective root area for water and nutrient extraction, since the mycorrhizal hyphal network works as a natural extension of the plant root system.

The plant 'ates carbon to the mycorrhizae in exchange for a greater ability to use native soil resources.

Other benefits of the mycorrhizal association are an enhanced protection against pathogens, improved tolerance of pollutants and greater resistence to water stress, high soil temperature, adverse soil pH and transplant “shock.”

The wide-spread use of mycorrhizal inoculants in agroecosystems has been hampered by the difficulties of cultivating arbuscular mycorrhizae.

This hampers our ability to produce quantities that are sufficient for broad application of the inoculate at affodable prices.

This cost per quantity problem makes the most practical current use of mycorrhizae to be in land restoration and reclamation efforts, along with arbuscular and ecto-mycorrhizal inoculation of tree and crop seedlings in nurseries. Even with production economics being what they are, enhancement of naturally occurring mycorrhizal populations in agricultural fields (and their potential benefits to the growing crops) is feasible and important benefits can be realized through the adoption of management practices that enhance mycorrhizal populations and activities such as reduced tillage, crop rotations and lower N and P applications.

Rhizobia. (The Nitrogen Fixers):

The role of the six genera of the Rhizobiaceae bacterial family in agricultural production has also been well documented.

Rhizobia infect plant roots, once in place they get busy creating nodules where N2 is fixed, providing the plant with most of the Nitrogen it needs for its development.

Well nodulated plants can form an efficient symbiosis allowing them to fix up to 250 lbs. of Nitrogen yearly. Some of this N is added to the soil during plant growth by ‘leaky’ roots, though most remains in plant tissues and is released during decomposition, to the benefit of the following crops or the intercrop.

It should be noted that nitrogen fixing bacteria are adversely affected by large additions of Nitrogen Fertilizers, it will even shut them down or kill the bacteria.

Since nitrogen fixing plants only get their N from the soil and mostly through the active nodules, it is advisable to not fertilize or to fertilize at a low rate (no more than 10 lbs. per acre). It has also been found that the presence of silica is needed for proper utilization of several nutrients including nitrogen in the plant preferred form of NH3.

Previous colonization of the legume roots by mycorrhizae may greatly enhance nodulation by rhizobia, ultimately increasing the potential growth benefits.

Despite the obvious benefits of rhizobial inoculation or management, several factors continue to limit the wide-spread use of this technique to enhance legume yields.

Current practices that are actually working against better yields include: Use of Nitrogen rich fertilizers, Lack of incentives to grow legumes, Environmental constraints (particularly edaphic; e.g., low P-status), Difficulty in producing inoculate and its consequent low availability, Low genetic compatibility of the host legume with the bacteria (low effectiveness), and lack of appropriate political and economic incentives and infra-structure.

There are several methods available to enhance nitrogen fixation:

1. host plant selection (breeding legumes for enhanced nitrogen fixation)

2. selection of effective, compatable strains able to fix more nitrogen

3. use of agronomic methods that improve soil conditions for plant and microbial symbiont

4. methods of inoculation application

It is best to utilize several of these methods to insure best results, no one is particularly better than another so combining techniques is a good hedge for success.

Some legumes are better at fixing nitrogen than others.

Common beans are poor fixers (less than 50 lbs. per acre) and fix less than their nitrogen needs.

Maximum economic yield for beans in New Mexico requires an additional 30-50 lbs. of fertilizer nitrogen per acre. However, if beans are not nodulated, yields often remain low, regardless of the amount of nitrogen applied. Nodules apparently (in this particular case) help the plant use fertilizer nitrogen efficiently.

Other grain legumes such as peanuts, cowpeas, soybeans, and broad beans are good nitrogen fixers, and will fix all of their nitrogen needs other than that absorbed from the soil.

These legumes may fix up to 250 lbs. of nitrogen per acre and are not usually fertilized.

In fact, they usually ''t respond to nitrogen fertilizer as long as they are capable of fixing nitrogen.

Nitrogen fertilizer is applied at planting to these legumes when grown on sandy or low organic matter soils to supply nitrogen to the plant before nitrogen fixation starts.

If nitrogen is applied, the rate is low, 10 lbs. per acre being the norm.

When large amounts of nitrogen are applied, the plant literally slows or shuts down the nitrogen fixation process. It is easier and less energy consuming for the plant to absorb nitrogen from the soil than to fix it from the air. Perennial and forage legumes such as alfalfa, sweetclover, true clovers, and vetches may fix 250-500 lbs. of nitrogen per acre.

Like the grain legumes previously discussed, they are not normally fertilized with nitrogen.

They occasionally respond to nitrogen fertilizer at planting or immediately after a cutting when the photosynthate supply is too low for adequate nitrogen fixation.

In all cases, the more the plants can utilize the nodules the better for the plant.

Nodules that are working well will be pink or red in color, inactive nodules will be green, gray or white.

Plants may even drop inactive nodules.

When we harvest the crop we are removing much of the nitrogen, but by turning under the plant leaves, stems and roots and allowing these to rot, incorporating the matter back into the soil, we can return all the nitrogen left in the plants.

Another benefit is that the active bacteria present in that crops nodules is returned to be available for the next crop planted for sustainability.

Additional symbiotic N2 fixing relationships of plants with microbes include actinomycete (Frankia) relationships with mostly trees and shrubs (and some standard crops such as sorghum), and symbiosis between endophytic, diazotrophic bacteria (e.g., Azotobacter, Azospirillum, Acetobacter, Azoarcus, Burkholderia, Herbaspirillum) and grasses. The Frankia symbiosis is generally exploited in land reclamation and restoration efforts using principally Casuarinas trees to hold soil (e.g., sand dunes) in place but its potential is still underutilized.

On the other hand, research on and use of endophytic bacteria have been well developed in tropical regions, particularly Brazil and Mexico.

These bacteria not only fix N2 but also modify the shape and increase the number of root hairs, helping the plants to acquire more nutrients.

The application of these organisms in inoculants continues to be performed on a wide-scale (mostly in maize, some in rice, wheat, sugar-cane and rice), and yield increases ranging from negligible up to almost 100% have resulted, depending on the crop and bacteria used.

Various other beneficial rhizosphere organisms titled as plant growth promoting bacteria (PGPB) have been used primarily as seed inoculants.

PGPB affect plant growth through direct growth promotion (hormonal effects), induced systemic resistance to diseases, mineralization, substrate competition, niche exclusion, detoxification of surrounding soil and production of antibiotics, chitinases (filamentous fungi helper biopolymer), cyanide and siderophores (Iron chelating compounds).

Several bacterial species and genera have been used as plant growth promoters, including pseudomonads (e.g., Pseudomonas fluorescens, P. putida, P. gladioli), bacili (e.g., Bacilus subtilis, B. cereus, B. circulans) and others (e.g., Serratia marcescens, Flavobacterium spp., Alcaligenes sp., Agrobacterium radiobacter). Probably the most successful have been Agrobacterium radiobacter, used to control crown gall on several plant families.

Bacilus subtilus to suppress Rhizoctonia solani (cereal root rots) infection, and various inoculants (mostly Bacilus-based) termed YIB (yield improving bacteria), used widely throughout China on vegetable crops.

The main limitation to greater use of these techniques is the poor understanding of the interactions between PGPB and the host plant and interactions with the indigenous soil microflora.

Improved understanding of these phenomena will permit a more accurate prediction of the effects of inoculation and its potential benefits.

Even though this is a small part of what goes on in soil, it is important to have an understanding of just how each of the component parts works so we can then understand what they do for us, the grower of plants.

When a plant needs a particular nutrient it puts off a particular exudate that signals the bacteria and other microorganisms that handle that particular nutrient to make it available to the plant.

So this brings us to the question “what is an exudate?” Plant roots are the gatherers and bacteria, fungi hyphae are the providers, waiting for the plant to tell them what the current need(s) are.

Root exudates are a complex mix of organic acid anions, sugars, phytosiderophores, purines, nucleosides, vitamins, gases (CO2 and H2), enzymes, inorganic ions such as HCO3-, OH- and H+ and root border cells.

This concoction is to bacteria and fungal hyphae what cookies, cakes, pie and ice cream, and chocolate are to humans.

These exudates have major direct or indirect effects on the acquisition of mineral nutrients, vitamins and all the other building blocks plants need to grow strong, healthy and large.

Phenolic and al'ic acids exuded directly by roots of N2-fixing legumes serve as major signals to Rhizobiaceae bacteria which form root nodules where N2 is reduced to ammonia.

Some of the same compounds affect development of mycorrhizal fungi that are crucial for phosphate uptake.

Plants growing in low-nutrient environments also employ root exudates in ways other than as symbiotic signals to soil microbes involved in nutrient procurement.

Extracellular enzymes release P from organic compounds, and several types of molecules increase iron availability through chelation.

Organic acids from root exudates can solubilize unavailable soil Ca, Fe and Al phosphates.

Plants growing on nitrate generally maintain electronic neutrality by releasing an excess of anions, including hydroxyl ions.

Legumes, which can grow well without nitrate through the benefits of N2 reduction in the root nodules, must release a net excess of protons.

These protons can markedly lower rhizosphere pH and decrease the availability of some mineral nutrients as well as the effective functioning of some soil bacteria, such as the rhizobial bacteria themselves.

Thus, environments which are naturally very acidic can pose a challenge to nutrient acquisition by plant roots, and threaten the survival of many beneficial microbes including the roots themselves.


"With forty shades of green, it's hard to be blue.
Garg 'nuair dhùisgear! Virtutis Gloria Merces"


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Plant Hardiness:

By Zip 1st freeze 11/12... last freeze 3/20

USDA 8b 1st freeze 12/1... last freeze 3/1

Rainbow Gardening by the Month

Planting Time References

White Flower Farm See plant descr. then click on Growing guide

West Coast Seeds see plant descr. then go to Growing Guides

Johnny's Select Seeds

Patio Gardens

Patio Gardens Patio gardens soften the transition between indoors and outdoors by bringing plants into outdoor living areas. This might involve something as simple as setting up a few window boxes on an apartment balcony, or as elaborate as enclosing an entire porch with trellised vines, potted trees and shrubs, hanging baskets, and containers filled with annual and perennial flowers.

Before you dive into patio gardening, begin by defining what your needs are, what you are trying to accomplish, and what degree of versatility you'd like to have. Then choose containers and plants that best meet your needs.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Do I want edibles, ornamentals, or a mix?
How much sun does the area receive?
Will I need to be able to move the plants around?
Do I want to grow perennials or annuals?
If you plan to grow perennials, trees, or shrubs, determine your hardiness zone. Also, consider whether you want deciduous or evergreen plants.

Lazivore Gardening

5 Labor Saving Tips for the Lazivore Gardener Some time ago, I wrote a Lazivore Manifesto—a thinly-veiled self justification for the fact that while I like home grown produce, I really ''t like doing too much work to get it. After years of over reach and under achievement, I am finally achieving some success with my gardening efforts. So I thought I'd run through a few techniques that can help fellow lazivores to grow more while doing less.

CC BY 2.0 Richard Patterson/Sterling College

Here are some of my favorites.

1. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

I've already talked about mulching as a no-cost way to grow more from your garden, but it's a gardening technique that simply can't be emphasized enough—especially when it comes to reducing your workload too. It reduces evaporation, meaning less watering. It suppresses weeds, meaning less weeding. And it protects soil biodiversity, meaning healthier plants and less trouble shooting.

Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

As an added bonus, as the mulch breaks down it adds organic matter to the soil, further feeding the soil beasties and improving moisture retention for future crops too. From leaf mulch to shredded newspaper, there are plenty of different mulching options available. I'm a big fan of pine straw, at least here in North Carolina—it's cheap, plentiful and doesn't involve chopping down trees. It's also great for us lazivores because it's super light and easy to haul around. (And no, it doesn't make your soil significantly more acidic.)

2. Grow What Grows Best

I'd love to grow bussels sprouts, but they ''t seem to like the humidity here in NC—and I've never had much luck with strawberries either. Garlic, on the other hand, seems to grow for me without trying.

Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

So I grow a lot of garlic. Yes, I do grow a few crops that require a little more care and attention—tomatoes, for example—but I am constantly weighing up relative effort versus reward. Not to mention how cheaply and easily I can get that crop at the local farmers' market or grocery store. (Some things are best left to the professionals.)

3. Eat What Grows Anyway

Yesterday, I found these oyster mushrooms growing in my compost heap. They were the sprouting from the now composting remnants of a (so I thought) failed attempt at growing mushrooms in coffee grounds. This year, I've also eaten potatoes I never planted - courtesy of a previous owner I guess - and lettuce and parsley which has self seeded and gone wild. Learning to keep an eye out for the unexpected edibles is a great way to take the "grow what grows best" principle a step further toward "grow what grows without even trying".

Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

It's worth noting that it is sometimes worth giving volunteers a helping hand—I transplanted the lettuce I found self-seeding, for example, into a vacant section of my plot, and I was also sure to leave it to self seed in case I get the same gift next year too.

4. Ignore the Weeds of August

Some weeds will grow, no matter how much you mulch. So it's worth establishing a selective strategy for how to deal with them. Above all else, at least for the lazivore, it's worth remembering that a weed infestation in April is a much bigger problem than some overgrown weeds in August.

Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

Fully grown crops better equipped to compete with weeds than tiny seedlings, and it's also simply too darned hot to be spending much time in the garden. Let them get a little unruly. Pull back the ones that get out of hand. And then sit back, drink a beer and worry about something else instead.

5. Go Perennial

It should be pretty obvious that perennial crops require less work than annuals. You ''t need to sow seeds each year. You ''t need to water them religiously because their root systems are already developed. And it's easy to mulch them heavily at the start of the season and pretty much forget about weeding for the rest of the year. (Did I mention that mulching is a great strategy for lazivore gardening?)

© Umbria

From malabar spinach to asparagus to blueberries, there are plenty of perennial crops you can incorporate into a traditional veggie garden—or you can go whole hog and plant a perennial permaculture food forest too.

Lazivores Unite: A Manifesto for Lazy Gardening Sami Grover (@samigrover) Living / Green Food April 1, 2011

Image credit: Ewen and 'abel, used under Creative Commons license

Food has become the front line of the battle for sustainable living. Yet while I appreciate the proliferation of blog posts, videos, and books about locavore diets and backyard farming they have, I fear, created a certain ethic around self-sufficiency and the idea of returning to the hard, honest task of working the soil. In principle, I have no problem with that... except that I ''t really like hard, honest work.

It's time that the lazy gardeners among us rise up and take an explicit stand. So, for all the folks who find weeding a chore, who would rather be reading TreeHugger than thinning their lettuce, and who never really understood the point in double digging anyway, I offer you a manifesto for lazy gardening. Read on, if you have the energy.

Even a Small Harvest is a Step Forward

There is, of course, little doubt that growing a significant proportion of your own food is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. But it is going to take time, effort, and skill. By starting small, and by picking your battles, even the most inexperienced and/or simply lazy gardener can enjoy a harvest without breaking their backs.

From easy methods for growing potatoes to three easy vegetables, TreeHugger's own Colleen Vanderlinden has already 'e an awesome job of making gardening both unintimidating and accessible. It's my sincere hope that by adopting the principles laid out below, or at least starting the discussion, the lazy gardeners and foodies among us can take both our philosophy and our practice to the next level. It may even make us better gardeners in the process.

This sucks. Next year I'm leaving the leaves where they fall, and saving on mulch... Image credit: Jenni Grover

Freeze Damage

Is that Tree Alive? Learn How to Test for Life in a Tree video Use thumbnail and scratch bark. Remove the top layer of bark. If dark brown or tan and keep scratching and cannot find any green areas, it is dead.

Winter Differences Of Dead And Live Trees video Far North Bushcraft And Survival. Look up, if you see few fine branches and bark falling off. It is dead. Okay to cut for firewood.

How To Tell If A Plant Is Alive or Dead video scratch test. If you wouldn't buy it, get rid of it.

How to tell if Frost damaged plant is alive video. Are there any buds starting to pop? Brittle? Break off branch; any green in the bark?

Pruning Freeze Damaged Plants video backyardfarmer.

Unexpected Frost and Tomato Damage: Tips and Lessons Learned video. Make sure plastic bags do not touch foliage.


A Quest for Meaning, Mercola and video

“A Quest for Meaning” follows two childhood friends as they travel the globe in search for the meaning of life

Questions about the collective beliefs that have shaped Western civilization are investigated, as are the changes in consciousness we now see as more people are becoming inspired to live more in harmony with the natural world

For many, the way to reconnect with nature is through food — planting, tending, harvesting and eating what they’ve grown. Or, at the very least, knowing where the food comes from and how it was grown

A finite world cannot accommodate infinite consumption. The current system must be replaced with a new system that takes only that which is required, and returns to the earth something that supports the continued cycle of growth

Modern science tells us we’re not only interdependent with nature here on planet Earth, but we’re also interdependent with Universe as a whole. Quantum mechanics also tells us that there’s no way of breaking this unity


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R Rabbits had started eating my vegetable garden so I bought this rot and broadcasted it exactly as recommended. Within minutes I watched a couple of rabbits SITTING IN AN AREA COVERED WITH THE PRODUCT. Needless to say, when I returned the next day there was SIGNIFICANT and DRASTIC damage to the entire garden area.

I bought this product the other day desperate to keep the squirrels from digging in my flower pots and to keep the rabbits from eating my flowers and decorative grasses to the ground. I applied quite heavily hopeful that it would work but sad to say it did not. Not sure what to use now.

We have "critters" stealing mostly green tomatoes, eating 1/2 or more and leaving parts of the them behind. We live in the suburbs, so there are lots of other domestic animals (cats/dogs) and kids to consider. We bought the repellant, applied as directed - we didn't observe any decreased raiding of our tomatoes.

Spray-n-Grow 800-323-2363

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Rid your property of many annoying animals with a single product! With one sniff, taste or touch, Repels-All triggers animals’ natural instinct to escape, driving critters to leave quickly. The name says it all; effectively repels deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, dogs, cats, raccoons, porcupines, armadillos, birds, rats, mice, beavers, groundhogs, skunks, voles, moles and shrews. Use around plants, patios, decks, sheds and more. Safe around children and pets. Lasts up to 2 months, even after rain. Use year-round. Made in U.S.A. Ready-to-use.



Not all yellowing leaves can be attributed to a lack of or need for water. San Antonio might be hot and dry, but there are many plants that like it that way.

Many plants that are advertised as drought tolerant can actually lower your water bill because they can survive the hot Texas summer with little to no extra water from you. But drought tolerant plants only save you money and water if you don’t water them.

While traveling around the city looking at landscapes, I took note of some of the most common over-irrigated drought tolerant plants.

1. Texas live oaks

Texas live oaks are majestic trees that can live hundreds of years and grow in excess of 50 feet tall and just as wide. And their shade is a blessing during our brutal summers. Live oaks are well adapted to the wide fluctuations of our Central Texas climate and they don’t need additional water even during the worst droughts. Several exceptionally large specimens can be seen growing in Phil Hardberger Park — far away from any sources of irrigation.

2. Nandina

Nandina, or “heavenly bamboo,” is a common shrub used in many new landscapes that once established is practically impossible to kill. Nandina grows a dense web of thick roots that allow it to survive long periods of drought without showing any signs of stress. This shrub, originally from East Asia, is so well adapted to the South Texas climate that it has escaped cultivation and is a nuisance in wild areas where it destroys habitat by outcompeting native plants. I’ve noticed a few sprouting up in Mud Creek Park under the live oaks there. The red berries produced by Nandina can be toxic to migratory birds. We strongly discourage the use of Nandina in San Antonio landscapes, but if you do have them they don’t need extra water.

4. Red yucca

Red yucca, or any yucca/agave/cactus, are all plants with very low water requirement; however, I consistently see them under irrigation. Like cenizo, this group of plants will thrive in locations that receive even less rainfall than we do in San Antonio. Adding extra water to them will actually encourage a healthy growth of weeds among the spikes and spines. Any water applied to yuccas is water truly wasted.

3. Cenizo

Cenizo is a beautiful shrub and a true desert plant from far West Texas and the Big Bend area — so actually San Antonio weather is a little too wet for it. Still, every in-ground sprinkler system I see is watering cenizo. Sadly, providing cenizo with constant water can actually hamper one of its most interesting features. A few days after a rain storm, cenizo will be covered in flowers, turning this normally gray-green bush into a purple cloud. To get the most blooms, the plant needs to dry out between rainstorms, otherwise expect a lack luster display.

5. Ligustrum

Ligustrum, also called privet, is a shrub planted as an evergreen barrier, especially in older neighborhoods around San Antonio. There are a few species of ligustrum, all have dark green leaves, white flowers and little black berries. Like nandina, this plant has naturalized and escaped cultivation, degrading local ecosystems. Especially dense thickets of ligustrum can be seen chocking out native vegetation along Salado Creek.

MAKE THE MOST OF HAND WATERING - Garden Style San Antonio There's an art to watering well with a handheld hose. When done correctly, hand watering yields amazing results. It's also an enjoyable, relaxing way to spend time in your landscape.

Hand watering is the easiest, most efficient means of irrigating your landscape. Although it seems time consuming, the effort you put into it often yields the best results with minimal water waste.

And, watering by hand is the only method allowed any day and time during drought restrictions.

Some tips to keep in mind:

~ Apply only the amount of water needed and at a slow, steady rate. When water is applied too quickly, it flows away from the plant rather than down to the roots.

~ Use a circular motion when applying water to allow it to soak in more completely. Watering wands with a cut-off feature are helpful.

~ Direct most of the water to the base of the plant and lightly dampen leaves.

~ Be careful not to overwater large shrubs or trees. Unless they are newly planted, their root systems are well developed and don't need as much water as lawns, even during dry spells.

~ Avoid watering at the hottest time of day; pooled water on the ground will simply evaporate and never reach its intended target. Instead, water in the evening or early at daybreak.

HOW TO USE SAWS WATERING ADVICE - Garden Style San Antonio You can get the current watering advice delivered directly to your email box by signing up for the weekly GardenStyleSA eNewsletter and check the advice anytime at You will find up-to-date watering advice for the San Antonio region. We have watering recommendations for beds and lawns in the sun or shade.


The combined lawns recommendation is for warm season grasses. We don’t recommend cool season grass here in Texas.

All warm season grasses are combined because research has demonstrated that St. Augustine, zoysia and Bermuda grass pretty much require the same amount of water, assuming adequate soil is present. The big difference is the water requirement for lawns in sun vs. shaded areas. If you happen to have buffalo grass, just water it like you would your beds, that is to say, conservatively.


Beds, which we assume here are planted with perennials, are treated much the same way. But beds need significantly less water than lawns, sometimes two to three times less.

How to Use the Watering Advice

The watering advice is expressed in inches applied to the landscape. Depending how you water — by hand, with a hose-end sprinkler or in-ground irrigation system — will determine how long you water. Don’t stress about applying exactly 1 inch or 1/2 inch. Instead, use the advice as a guideline.

The most efficient way to water is with a hand-held hose. This is particularly true for beds where you can apply water directly to the roots. In-ground irrigation systems generally use the most water. Our analysis shows that homes with irrigation systems use on average 53 percent more water than homes without one. If you have an irrigation system you’ll want to carefully monitor your irrigation schedule both for your plants and pocketbook. If you are a SAWS customer, you can schedule a free consultation to get the most benefit (and least water waste) from your system.

As always, we use local weather data and proven scientific formulas to calculate watering recommendations, but our goal is to help you manage your landscape better. So before you water, check for up-to-date watering advice. Your landscape and pocketbook will thank you.

V 5 Watering Mistakes You're Probably Making

Best times to water: 1. early morning as sun is coming up; 2. evening; 3. late evening.

Halloween Moon


In Documents:
38secretsToABeautifulLandscape, by Mike McGroarty
GardenersSecretHandbook, by Mike McGroarty



No Dig Gardening

V No dig, using less compost to grow great plants and have clean soil, Charles Dowding

Lowe's at I10 and Callaghan

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Send comments to,
Professor Colby Glass, MAc, MLIS, PhDc, Prof. Emeritus