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Book Update: Gardening Under Lights

Sep 11, 2017

It has been a whirlwind the last few months with speaking engagements around the country and finishing up my book edits. Gardening Under Lights is geared towards new and experienced gardeners & growers (even industry folks) who want to learn about grow lighting and gear, extending their growing seasons, and growing all sorts of edibles and ornamentals indoors.

The book is now heading into art production and layout. Start looking for promotion and pre-ordering on Amazon this winter with release date the spring of 2018. Kindle pre-ordering is already up on Amazon. Woo! You are getting a sneak peek of the cover, which could still change slightly before pre-order. I'll update you here on any updates once finalized.

Gardening Under Lights details everything a gardener or hobbyist needs to know to garden indoors. Part One starts with the basics of photosynthesis, the science of light, and how to accurately measure how much light a plant needs. Part Two provides an overview of the most up-to-date tools and gear available. Parts Three and Four offer tips and techniques for growing popular ornamental plants (orchids, succulents, bonsai, and more) and edible plants (arugula, cannabis, oregano, tomatoes, and more) independent of the constraints of volatile outdoor conditions. Gardening Under Lights is a highly-detailed, accessible guide for seed starters, plant collectors, and anyone who wants to successfully garden

And new news, I just singed on for another book with Timber Press, tentatively titled  Propagation, Simplified, set for release in spring 2019. Stay tuned for details.

MOON CARROT: I’m freaking out over this plant!

Aug 17, 2017

Every time I visit new gardens, I always end up obsessed with at least one plant. On my most recent trip to Denver for the Perennial Plant Association Symposium, I came across just such a plant at several gardens through out my stops around the area.

MOON CARROT!!

This plant is killing me. I must have it. My precious.

I mean...look at it:

No...look at it!

The space orb blooms atop the beautiful blue/silver foliage is just too much. Not to mention, Seseli gummiferum was covered in pollinators. They were just as crazy about this plant as I was. I love the feathery silver foliage of artemesia, but inevitably 'Powis Castle' overgrows its welcome and I end up ripping it out. Perhaps this is my solution plant...

So, what is it? Well, Moon Carrot is a biennial, or short-lived perennial, that grows about 30" tall. It prefers rocky alkaline soils at high elevations...but I'm pretty sure as long as soils are well-drained, we can enjoy this beauty here. I'm gonna make it happen. I'm on a quest for seeds at the moment, but I'll report back once I have Moon Carrot in my garden.

New Plants: Keep your eyes out for these new silver beauties!

Aug 14, 2017

If you love plants like I do, then you're probably just as easily excieted as I am to get the skinny on the latest new plant releases from the world of horticulture. Summer is always filled with lots of work travel for me, including visits to a number of high-profile industry events. At such events, breeders and brokers put on their new plant dog and pony show so us plant geeks get a preview of what's to come.

My very, very, very favorite new plant at all of the shows this summer is Senecio 'Angel Wings'. Now, I'm easily swayed by silver foliage, but there is just something about the these big floppy leaves - I can't take my eyes off of them. Now, the scoop on this baby is that quantities will be limited next year...but I suspect demand will be big.

Silver seemed to be en vogue in the new plant offerings, with at least one other Senecio on display, 'Crushed Velvet'...

Another fabulous silver overing was Calocephalus brownii...

I'm in love!

Pilea peperomioides plugs have arrived!

Aug 10, 2017

If you're into houseplants, you may have found yourself hunting for the ever elusive Chinese Money Plant, or Pilea peperomioides. This succulent foliage plant's popularity has exploded in Europe, but supplies are terribly limited here in the States. Even for someone like myself who works in the horticulture industry, it's been tough to get my hands on this beautiful plant.

I had to work pretty darn hard and do some serious networking to finally score some babies...but they are here! Thanks to D.S. Cole Growers, I'm now coaxing along some pilea plugs in the indoor plant lab.

The plugs were rooted out, but according to their source, were being a bit stubborn about putting on any new growth. So I bumped them into 2" pots and put them under HO T5 supplemental lighting for 12-hours a day.

The little buggers are still being stubborn for me too...but hopefully soon we'll see some plantlets sprouting. Stay tuned!

Hot Summer Harvest; in-season edibles

Jul 10, 2017

Dallas weather might be blazing hot right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still harvest fresh flavors from the garden or from your local farmer’s market. Summer recipes are easy and flavorful when you use fresh ingredients that are local and in season.

My favorite in-season vegetable (technically a fruit) right now is the heat-loving pepper. Peppers don’t start maturing in the garden until things really heat up. Once they do, peppers such as jalapeno, habanero, pablano, Anaheim and many other hot peppers, will produce en masse. Sweet peppers can be a bit more challenging to grow in our hot summers, but you can still find them in season at the market.

Sweet or hot, you can never have too many on hand. Pickling peppers and making a variety of salsas that include both roasted tomatoes, tomatillos and fruit are all easy and delicious. Think outside the box when it comes to salsas and include unusual flavors from the garden including sweet peppers, basil, or cucumbers.

There are plenty of other in-season fruits and vegetables for the summer table. The hot days beg for cooling recipes that include sorbets, summer salads, and chilled soups. Or, eat your veggies raw to cool yourself down.

Look for these edibles that are also in season now:

Okra
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Summer Squash (and blossoms!)
Green Beans
Figs
Eggplant

Too Hot? Bring the Garden Indoors

Jul 5, 2017

It’s too dang hot outside. I don’t blame you if you want nothing to do with your outdoor garden at the moment. So why not take a break from the heat and focus your green thumb on your indoor garden? Now is a great time to refresh the indoors with some easy-care houseplants. Here are a few of my favorites for brown-thumbs and small spaces:

ZZ Plant: Short for Zamioculcas zamifolia (hence the nickname) is about as forgiving as a houseplant can be. ZZ plants can be grown in low-light indoors and hold up to rare waterings. If you forget to water or don’t have bright light in your home this one’s for you.

Mother-in-law’s tongue: Sansevieria sp. earned their common name for their sharp, tongue shaped leaves. But it’s their tough-as-nails constitution that makes them the perfect plant for hardcore plant abusers. Again, this plant will tolerate now light conditions and sparse waterings. I once tortured one in my office during grad school just to see how long it could go without water. It made it 9 months before it ever showed the slightest bit of stress.

Chinese evergreen: Aglaonema sp. are easy to care for and new varieties offer up striking foliage colors. The new Aglaonema ‘Red’ sports wide tropical leaves splashed with shades of red and pink. Chinese evergreen will tolerate low-light, dry indoor air and forgetful waterers.

Now is a great time to feed your gardening need, but still stay out of the heat, by freshening up your home or office with a few new houseplant companions.

Bloomers that Beat the Summer Heat

Jun 23, 2017

If you recently looked at the temperature forecast for the upcoming week you probably ended up uttering something along the lines of “ugh”. With temperatures soaring into the high 90s, most of us are beginning to spend more time indoors. Despite the heat, your garden doesn’t have to look dull; there are some plants that still strut their stuff in the midst of our ridiculous summer temperatures. Here are a few of my faves:

Old fashioned zinnas simply don’t get the attention they deserve these days. If you’re looking for easy to grow, heat-tolerant annuals you can grow from seed, there’s hardly a better performer than tall zinnas. I throw seed out in the garden in spring, step away and let them do their thing with little to no follow up care. They make great cut flowers as well.

See those white and yellow daisies in the background of the photo? Those are shasta daisies. Shasta dasies are an easy and low-maintenance perennial plant that puts on an impressive show of spring-like blooms all summer. Again, a great cut flower.

Begonias are as stable of the summer garden here in Dallas, but often you’ll see the common garden begonia looking less than perky in August. Begonia ‘Bonfire’ bucks that trend and puts on a spectacular show through the heat of summer.

Mexican bird of paradise is not only stunning in the landscape, but stunning when temperatures seem unbearable. This large tropical shrub makes quite the summer statement and the hummingbirds love it.

Hibiscus of all colors and sizes thrive in our intense summer heat. Their large and brightly colored blooms will bring your summer landscape to life; plus fill it full of butterflies.

There are many tropical summer bloomers that not only take the heat, but look great right through it. If your patio containers need a refresh, now’s a good time to hit your local garden center for heat-tolerant bloomers.

More Rain to Come?

Jun 19, 2017

I think most of us have been shocked by the heavy doses of rainfall and flooding we've experienced the last few springs in the Dallas area.  We just had another rainy day and more storms may be coming through.  While rain is usually more than welcome around these parts, excess rainfall does present some challenges to our landscapes.

Be sure your rain barrels are covered to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

Some of the issues you may be having in your garden as a result of all the extra moisture include increased insect and disease populations. Fungal diseases are especially happy right now. Black spot on roses, sooty mold on ligustrum, entomosporium leaf spot on photinias and Indian hawthorn to name a few.  Brown patch, gray leaf spot and take all root-rot are in just about every St. Augustine lawn in town. Reduce the frequency with which you’re watering and limit any supplemental watering to the early morning. Night watering breeds lots of fungus. If it’s rained in the last week, do not run your sprinklers.

Insects that have been a problem this spring include whiteflies, mealy bugs, slugs, pill bugs and tent caterpillars. Slugs can be treated with Sluggo, a natural product, pill bugs can be knocked out with Spinosad and caterpillars treated with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  Mosquito populations are also booming due to the consistent moisture. Mosquito larvae can also be killed using the granular form of Bt, available in both bits and dunks. This is the best method (besides eliminating standing water) to prevent mosquito infestations. Visit your favorite local garden center for great tips on how to handle these diseases, pests and treatments.

Remember that your established landscape (trees, shrubs, turf) only needs an average of 1” worth of rainfall per week; be it from actual rainfall or your irrigation system. Water-wise and drought tolerant plants need less. So as long as the rainfall continues, keep those irrigation systems turned off. Once the rain subsides, you can add back in a weekly watering if you feel your plants are beginning to show signs of stress; as well as watering your foundation. Twice-per-week lawn watering is typically only ever needed in late-July and August when temperatures soar to the 100s. Even then, healthy lawns with a deep root system won’t need watering that often. New plantings will require additional waterings until they root-in and become established. Remember that Dallas watering restrictions are permanent and are still in place despite the recent rains.

Even if you see our expansive clay soil cracking after heavy rains, realize that there is probably still a fair amount of moisture in the soil beneath those cracks. Those cracks are a result of the clay soil quickly shrinking at the surface as temperatures rise after heavy saturation.  Over-watering your lawns and landscapes will only lead to more root rot diseases and overblown insect problems


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