RSS Feed

WELCOME TO DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ

Above: Nasturtiums, Watercress, Lavender, Fennel, and Broccoli

Gardening in North Central Texas is enough to make you throw away your trowel.  Our summers are hot enough for a blast furnace.  Our winter chill can freeze pipes and coat trees with ice.  We’re pummeled with spring storms and hail, but when we most need the rain, not a cloud is on the horizon.  Dallas’ unforgiving black clay forms clods hard as rocks and is so alkaline, its pH is off the chart.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ shares our journey through the triumphs and missteps of gardening in our North Texas heat, clay soil, limited water, and high alkalinity.  In the world of gardening, there is always a story to be told and sage advice to share.  As we dig, trim, harvest, and cook, we’ll give you the best information we can gather from our “hands on” work in the Earth-Kind/WaterWise Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road in Dallas.

DALLAS GARDEN BUZZ is written by Dallas County Master Gardeners, volunteers trained by the AgriLife Extension Service, an agency of Texas A&M University.

Friend or Foe?

Being a master gardener means –sharing   gardening wisdom—sometimes thats easy:”No you really should not order grass seed from the Sunday supplement magazine.”

But other times  its not so easy.  And that brings up the question of the moment:  “Is this bug good or bad”  Or worse,  “friend or foe”?

Ladybug, The Gardener's Friend, Known for Eating Aphids

Ladybug, The Gardener’s Friend, Known for Eating Aphids

 

First ask your questioner “what makes a bug ‘good?”  Of course–they eat “bad” bugs–everyone knows that.  But this is the thing  insects are most often specialized  in is their eating.  You, for example, might have a great wish to eat ice cream–but if there is no ice cream–carrot sticks or even–chocolate cake–might do.  Most insects are not like that.  They eat what they have, over a very long time period,   been designed to eat.

So, that means if you want the so-called good bugs in you garden–what do you also need in your garden??  Oh no–its bad bugs!!!  Yes its true  and its the only way.  You really must rethink the whole situation.

Red Wasp, a Beneficial Insect, Not a Foe

Red Wasp, a Beneficial Insect, Not a Foe

 

Balance is what the garden needs. That isn’t something that happens overnight or even stays that way once its achieved.  Remember playing on a seesaw?  It took awhile to get the perfect balance–and then someone jumped  off!!  Thats how it can seem.

But with healthy soil,  a diversity of plants, as many native as possible, and reasonable maintenance  you will have some amazing experiences of natures ability to make  what first seem like problems into beauty.  Oh yes–watching ladybug larvae eating aphids –well its beautiful in its on way.  The wasps that eat some monarch larvae also eat those caterpillars that love the broccoli.

 

So, When you are asked “friend or foe?”  Well ask you questioner to pull up a chair–it may take awhile.

Susan

Pictures by Starla

 

Cardboard for Weed Control

At our old garden, we faced the  problem of all other gardens: weed invasion. At our new garden, we are making a concentrated effort to try to reduce the problem of weeds. You may have seen some of our Master Gardeners carrying cardboard from trash picks ups, we even get calls from friends donating “nice cardboard.”

Lisa Hauling Cardboard to The Raincatcher's Garden

Lisa Hauling Cardboard to The Raincatcher’s Garden

We prefer the plain brown stuff, stripped of packing labels and any plastic and broken down please.

We lay it down, overlapping seams, with 3-6 inches of mulch on top. Several layers of cardboard is permissible and  more mulch equals less weeds.  Some say to water the cardboard to make it more pliable. Of course, during this rainy year we have not had to do that.

Cardboard Peeking Out From Under Mulch, More Mulch to be Added

Cardboard Peeking Out From Under Mulch, More Mulch to be Added

And here’s a word about our mulch selection: you can see our mulch looks organic.  We use chopped up tree trimmings, not purchased mulch.  If you are buying mulch (we prefer free), don’t buy the colored mulch that has dye added.

Mulch Close-Up

Mulch Close-Up

Besides cardboard and mulch, what do you need?  Willing labor!

Thank You Judy, Abbe, and Michele!

Thank You Judy, Abbe, and Michele!

Our most recent mulch drop off came from Dallas Arborilogical Services. More is needed to build our beautiful, weed free garden. For drop off information, call the Dallas County Master Gardener hotline, 214 904 3053 and say The Raincatcher’s Garden sent you.

Ann

Pictures by Starla

BUTTERFLY PLANTS: I LOVE YOU, BUT IT’S TIME TO LEAVE

 

Variegated Fritillary on Salvia

Variegated Fritillary on Salvia

My side yard has a new unwanted hedge of plants in pots.  These are plants that should be planted in the new butterfly plot at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.  They are not. They sit in pots.  At my house.

The plants have been living in my side yard for two weeks.  They remind me of adult children who move back in for “just a few months, Mom,” and a year later you’re still sharing the washer with their yoga pants.

Using the butterfly garden plan, I made a list of plants required for that garden.   We needed almost 200 plants.

Plant sales are a little cheaper, but you have to know what you’re doing:

Get there early.  I am convinced most shoppers get up at 4:30 a.m. to line up two hours before the doors open.  If you’re pulling in the parking lot with your coffee in a to-go cup about 10:30, it’s not worth the drive.  The shelves are bare at that point.

Plant sales are the closest thing Dallas has to a crowded New York subway.  You’ve got to elbow your way to native-this and hard-to-find that  (saying ‘excuse me’ after each grab—this is, after all, The South).  My genteel mother would have been appalled.

Don’t kid yourself. A tiny old Prius will not be big enough for the drive back with your new acquisitions. You’ll have to beg your patient friend Judy-with-a-truck to pick up all the leftover purchases the next day.

Which brings us to why I have about 200 Plants In A Pot in my side yard, and why I know each of them intimately.

North Texas has been in a severe drought for six years.

I purchased the plants two weeks ago.  Six hours after I unloaded them to my side yard, I hauled them back into the garage because of impending “damaging 60 mph winds, hail, and possible tornadoes.” Out into the sun. Thirty minutes later, back into the garage. This has gone on for days. The plants are confused.  I am exhausted.

Last week I emptied 5 inches of rain from the rain gauge. It is too muddy to till the site for the new butterfly garden.  It is too wet to even think of planting.

The forecast is for 85 degrees and sunny today.  Severe thunderstorms are predicted for tomorrow.

Elizabeth

To read more about our Butterfly Garden Plans click here.

Picture by Starla

First Field Trip at The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

West Dallas Community School fifth graders came to our new gardens last week. Composting, Butterflies, Vermiculture, and Herbs were the subjects of the day!

The Wonder of Worms, Nature's Composters in the Palm of Your Hand

The Wonder of Worms, Nature’s Composters in the Palm of Your Hand

How to “host” butterflies in your garden, how to provide nectar sources, these were some of  the topics in butterfly class.

Jane and Judy Teaching West Dallas 5th Graders

Jane and Judy Teaching West Dallas 5th Graders All About Butterflies

“Along with milk and vegetables, kids need a steady diet of rocks and worms. Rocks need skipping, holes need digging, water needs splashing, and bugs and frogs and slimy stuff need finding.”  *

Linda teaching the science of herbs!

Linda Teaching the Science of Herbs

Our free, garden field trips provide this type of outdoor learning experience.  Science is taught in a hands on, interesting way. For more information about our school field trips, please click here.

West Dallas Community School, we are so glad you are back!

Ann

Pictures by Starla

*Quote  by Go RVing!

 

 

Hardy Amaryllis

Our dear friends Evelyn and the late Harold Womble, have shared Hardy Amaryllis bulbs with us at the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road and now at Midway Hills.  Their home is graced with a  large bed of these bulbs that have multiplied over the years and ended up in their son’s gardens and friend’s gardens. Their original bulbs came from Evelyn’s family home place in Brownwood.

Evelyn, Hardy Amaryllis and Daffodils, All Blooming!

Evelyn, Hardy Amaryllis and Daffodils, All Blooming!

Hippeastrum x johnsonii, the St. Joseph’s lily, blooms in early April in Dallas. The bright red blooms, trumpet shaped, are striped with white. The strap like foliage lasts late into the year and looks tropical.

Because the bulb perennializes so well it is often called the finest amaryllis for southern gardens.

Hardy Amaryllis and daffodils 2015

In Perennial Garden Color, Dr Bill C. Welch calls the bulbs “living antiques because they are tangible symbols of success for generations of Southern gardeners.  Many have been lovingly handed down among the families that contribute cultural diversity and richness to our gardens.”

We will now have our own supply of “living antiques” thanks to Harold and Evelyn.

Ann

Pictures by Starla

Berms and Tree Planting at The Raincatcher’s Garden

We are excited about our new orchard.  Peaches, plums, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, and grapes, figs, and blackberries will be part of our future crops and future recipes.

Dig in to this video to learn the purpose of a berm. We built berms around our trees in the orchard. This is also useful information for other types of tree planting.

 

Next Tuesday, March 3rd 10-noon, we will be awaiting the arrival and planting of large container grown and balled and burlapped trees. Last week a Ginkgo tree was planted. Next week: Chinquapin oak ,Mexican Oak, Lacey Oak, and Cedar Elm. All tree huggers invited!

Best cinematographer: Starla

Our recipe list here.

Ann

 

How to Plant a Bare Root Tree

The Academy Awards are over for 2014.  This film was not released in time for review. Watch our film, How to Plant a Bare Root Tree, and see if you agree it really has merit.  Remember Elizabeth’s article about our orchard and the selection of the fruit trees and why we chose Halford stock. TAKE IT AWAY ERIC!

 

Ann

Movie by Starla

Best Actor: Eric

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 311 other followers

%d bloggers like this: