Blog posts from February 2016

Killing Plants Like a Pro

Feb 26, 2016

Too often, noob gardeners and plant lovers are discouraged from further cultivating their green tendencies due to the killing: The killing of their plants. Guess what think you've got black thumbs? Puhlease. Let me assuage some of your plant-death guilt by telling you that as a professional horticulturist, I've killed way more plants than you ever will in your lifetime. EVER. And guess what else? That's ok and I'm going to keep doing it. With relish.

The world will not end and you get to try again. In fact, killing plants is the only way you really learn how to grow them the right way (good thing it doesn't work that way with puppies).

People get really touchy about this subject. Many, after killing only one plant, give up plant-keeping and gardening althogether; before they've really even gotten started. Is it sensitivity? Or Ego? Do we think we're entitled to get everything right, all the time, the first time? C'mon. Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to enjoy both the fleeting joy and the wisdom you'll gain from killing a few plants now and again.

Same goes for cut flowers and blooming gift plants. Why must they be permanent? What do we think they owe us? C'mon. Surround yourself beauty. Even the fleeting kind. It's worth it.

OH, and the best part of killing plants? You get to buy more. I'm just sayin'.

So forgot to water the philodendron in your living room and overwaterd the echeveria, both to death. Show me your dead philodendron and I'll show you the 100 I've murdered.

Walk it off. Go buy more. Figure it out. I BELIEVE IN YOU.

Now, go get your garden on this weekend. No excuses. Toughen up cupcakes

Fresh Asparagus Anyone?

Feb 22, 2016

Now's the time to get to planting some of the most desirable homegrown veggies. Specifically, asparagus.  Asparagus needs to go in the ground before mid-March.

There aren’t many perennial vegetables we have the luxury of growing here in Dallas. Asparagus is an exception that can establish and produce for up to twenty years. When harvested and prepared fresh, you’ll enjoy spears that are much more tender and flavorful. While there are some tricks to growing great asparagus, overall it’s less challenging than you might expect. Basically, asparagus needs climates that have a hard freeze in the winter (check). They tolerate high soil pH, which we have here in Dallas (check). They also need lots of sun (double check). Beyond the basics, there are a few more tips for planting a great stand of asparagus.

Looking for something unusual? Try asparagus ‘Purple Passion’.

Remember that your asparagus can live in the same spot for 20 years or more and it doesn’t like to share. Dedicate a sunny raised bed just for your asparagus in a sunny location. While you’ll read that asparagus tolerates some shade, I’ve found that without a good 6 hours of direct sun, plants can become thin and weak. Asparagus likes being in a spot where the late-winter sun will warm up the soil early on. Loosen the soil with plenty of organic compost, some composted manure and expanded shale.

You’ll buy asparagus crowns bare-root from your local garden center now. Look for 1 or 2 year-old crowns. You won’t be able to harvest your asparagus until the 4th season in the ground, so 1 or 2 year crowns will give you a jump start.

Soak your crowns for about 20 minutes before you plant. Dig trenches in your bed 12-inches wide and 6-8 inches deep. Spread the roots out, growing point up, and set in trench about 1-2 feet apart. Back fill your soil and mulch the bed. Keep the beds weeded as asparagus doesn’t like competition. Asparagus is a heavy Nitrogen feeder so be sure to fertilizer well through the growing season. Keep consistently moist in summer, but not wet. Know that asparagus plants grow into 5-foot tall feathery plants…so give them some space!

If you like to experiment, you may want want to grow an heirloom variety or a purple-stalked variety like ‘Purple Passion’.

Now, this is just a quick asparagus primer. Be sure to stop by your local garden center for all the best tips and tricks to growing fantastic fresh asparagus.

Time to Prune Fruit Trees in Texas

Feb 4, 2016

It’s just about that time to prune your fruit trees, while they’re still dormant. Fruit trees are treated a bit differently than shade trees when it comes to pruning. While we never want to over-prune or over-thin our large shade trees, smaller fruit trees are often heavily pruned each year in order to produce the best yields of fruit. Timing your fruit tree pruning can be a bit tricky, especially with our fluctuating weather here in Dallas. Your goal is always to prune as late as possible, but before any bud break occurs on your tree. Some fruit trees will start blooming by mid-February, so now’s the time you need to start pulling out your pruning gear.

Each variety of fruit will bloom at a different time. The best approach to timing your pruning is to prune the later blooming trees first, followed by the earliest bloomers. That means you’ll  start with apples and pecans (although large pecans should be pruned by a professional tree care company). Peach and plum trees will follow, as they bloom the earliest here in Dallas.

Hard pruning of fruit trees should begin the first year they are in the ground. Hard pruning to properly shape the tree continues each winter for the next several years. As trees mature, you’ll perform lighter maintenance pruning. Depending on the type of tree, you’ll either train it using the central leader method, or the open center method.

Apples, pears and plums should be pruned using the central leader method. This means you allow the tree to grow a central main trunk that is tall than all the surrounding branches. The rest of the tree is shaped into a pyramidal form.

Heavier fruiting trees, such as peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds, perform better when pruned using the open center method. By removing the central leader branch, you’ll create more of a vase shape to the tree. This allows more sunlight to reach all of the central branches and reduces branch breakage.

You’ll also need to do some “thinning” and “heading”.  When you thin branches, that means you’ll remove them at their base. This allows more light into the interior of the tree. “Heading” involves pruning off the tip of the branch in order to encourage more fruiting lateral branches.

If you have fruit trees and have fallen behind on necessary pruning, or you’re thinking about planting new fruit trees, now’s the time to pick up a fruit tree pruning book to learn the best techniques.

Haven’t planted fruit trees yet? Now’s the perfect time. Local garden centers should have a good stock of fruit trees that are appropriate for our climate and can give you a primer on pruning.

Originally published on D Home blog.

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