Texas: Lawn & Garden Tax Holiday!

May 1, 2020

Lawn & Garden Tax Holi​day ​Memorial Day Weekend 2020

Saturday, May 23 - Monday, May 25, 2020

The Lawn & Garden Tax Holiday was created in 2016 to encourage responsible water use in Texas. Over Memorial Day Weekend, retailers can sell select water saving products without charging sales tax (includes all plants & more). Below is a list of the items that qualify for the sales tax exemption:

Picture WaterSense Products During Memorial Day Weekend, retailers do not need to charge sales tax on any product tax free that displays a WaterSense label or logo. These items can be bought for either personal or business purposes.

Water-Conserving Products

Consumers can also purchase certain water-conserving products tax free. Unlike WaterSense-labeled items, these items are only exempt when purchased for use at a residential property.

Items are tax free during the holiday that are used or planted for:

  • conserving or retaining groundwater;
  • recharging water tables; or
  • decreasing ambient air temperature, and so limiting water evaporation

Examples of items that qualify for the exemption include:

  • a soaker or drip-irrigation hose
  • a moisture control for a sprinkler or irrigation system
  • mulch
  • a rain barrel or an alternative rain and moisture collection system
  • a permeable ground cover surface that allows water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points
  • all plants, trees and grasses
  • water-saving surfactants
  • soil and compost

Examples of items that do not qualify for the exemption include:

  • construction/building materials
  • awnings and other items used to create shade
  • air conditioners
  • ceiling fans
  • sprinklers

Plant a Container Victory Garden 2.0

April 16, 2020

This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and their members. See original post here: https://ngb.org/2020/04/08/container-victory-garden/

Grow a Container Victory Garden? Yes, You Can!

James H. Burdett did not address container growing in The Victory Garden Manual, but times were different in 1943. Today, growing edibles in containers is probably one of the fastest emerging trends we are seeing. Plus, with vegetable breeders working on more compact varieties, your choices for what to grow in a confined space are countless.

Ten Tips for Growing a Container Victory Garden 2.0:

1. Don’t underestimate the size of container needed for growing some vegetables.

Bigger is almost always better, but with larger containers comes a need for more soil and thus weight becomes a consideration, especially if you plan to move your containers often. Drainage is very important in a container as is soil depth. Good guidelines for choosing containers are provided in this article. For some additional vegetable container guidelines, this article will help.

2. Just as with in-ground plantings, you need enough sunlight.

Containers need 6-8 hours of sun per day to produce, but unlike in-ground plantings, you can move containers around to get more sunlight. Consider using containers with wheels, or otherwise easily movable containers, so they can receive enough sunlight.

3. What about wind? Are you on a corner balcony of a tall high-rise?

Think about how the wind might impact fragile plants or even topple the containers. Consider clusters of containers. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, with plants providing some needed humidity for their neighbors, but also some plants can protect other plants from wind.

4. Vining crops need trellises

not only for support but also to grow upwards, saving horizontal space which might be at a premium.

5. Soilless potting mixes are great for containers, providing good drainage with less weight (less chance of soil compaction).

The larger the container, the more potting mix you’ll need which means less frequent watering.

6. Consider drip irrigation or self-watering containers depending on your availability to water frequently enough.

Container gardens do require more frequent watering (sometimes multiple times each day if it’s hot and dry) than in-ground plantings.

7. Proper fertilization is more important for container plantings.

More frequent watering can wash out some of the nutrients a plant needs to produce vegetables.

8. As with in-ground plantings: Know your zone and know your last frost date…

without that knowledge, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

9. Think combinations!

Why not plant basil with a tomato plant? Or put beans with carrots? Spinach and onions work well together too. Some vegetables are pretty enough to be front and center and act like ornamentals!

To make it even easier, many suppliers and garden centers have searchable options for varieties that grow well in containers. Here are a few:

    1. All-America Selections
    2. Johnny’s Selected Seeds
    3. Burpee
    4. GardenTrends/Harris Seeds
    5. Park Seed
    6. Territorial Seed
    7. True Leaf Market
    8. West Coast Seeds

10. And last, but not least, don’t forget to plant some flowers for pollinators!

Flowers that attract bees are good and necessary no matter how or where you plant your vegetable garden.

Note: Currently there is a very high interest in gardening. Please be aware that many online suppliers are experiencing extremely high demand. Thus, there may be shipping delays and inventory shortages. Please be understanding and supportive during these strange times of uncertainty.

SUCCULENTS: Little Prince of Oregon Plant Unboxing!

March 31, 2020

Unboxing: Succulents for Your Indoor Garden

If you know me, you know I'm a big fan of tiny plants and unusual succulents, and am always on the hunt for new plants to collect. With many of you sheltering in place right now and spending a lot of extra time with your gardens and houseplants, I thought now would be a great time to share one of my favorite online retailers of unique plants.

I recently received a box of amazing Petite Prince succulents (some in their Plant Poppers line) from Little Prince of Oregon Nursery and wanted to share some of the amazing tiny plants they sent me. I'm often asked which type of succulents can be grown indoors with lower light levels, so I in the video I thought I'd share some of the plants I received that are perfect for beginners or indoor gardeners without a lot of space, specifically species and varieties of Haworthia.

At the end of my video I list all of the species Little Prince included in my box, and below I've added photos and descriptions of the species they currently have available at their retail shop. There were a few species I received that they don't quite yet have available, so I'll include those on a future post once they are ready!

Available Plants Included in my Unboxing

Click on the images of each plant if you want to visit the Little Prince retail shop!

Haworthia chloracantha var. denticulifera

So, I believe the current accepted botanical name for this plant is Haworthia chloracantha var. denticulifera - however it may be sold under the synonym Haworthia angustifolia or Haworthia angustifolia var. denticulifera (but I understand these to be older now synonyms - if you ave updated info on this please let me know!)

is an easy-to-grow haworthia featuring adorable, narrow, lanceolate leaves in a dense clump. I love this species because it looks fairly different from many other Haworthia. Tiny and compact for tiny pots! Low to Medium light.

Alligator Plant, Haworthia tessellata

Haworthia tessellata is an interesting, star-like rosette of thick, rough, green succulent leaves with distinct veining that looks oddly like alligator skin. In full sun the tough leaves will turn brownish-red in color. I absolutely love the striking leaf pattern on this species and it can be kept in truly tiny pots. Low to Medium Light.

Thimble Cactus, Mammillaria gracilis fragilis

This adorable, compact-growing cactus, nicknamed Thimble Cactus, features bright green cylindrical offsets each with a network of white spines. The offsets have a tendency to roll off, so handle with care. In fact, you won't always find this species shipped from online sources because it's so delicate (hence the subspecies fragilis). You need bright light for this cactus so place it under grow lights.

Echeveria globulosa

Echeveria globulosa is an adorable succulent with tiny, chunky, pointed leaves growing in a dense rosette. SO PHAT. New growth will emerge lime green and upright, but mature to blue-green and more outward-facing. Medium to bright light.

Echeveria chihuahensis

Echeveria chihuahensis features chunky, scalloped, bluish-gray succulent leaves with pink margins and tips in a rosette. The pink color intensifies when the plant is joyfully stressed. A really beautiful and colorful tiny specimen for medium to bright light.

Haworthia ‘Universe’

This form of Haworthia features thin, upward turned lanceolate leaves with white spots and ribs. Provide a well-drained soil away from reflected heat. Once established, water infrequently during the hot season. Fabulous foliage contrast and texture. Low to Medium Light.

Fairy Washboard, Haworthia limifolia

Nicknamed Fairy Washboard for its characteristic white, raised ridges, Haworthia limifolia is sure to impress! Features dramatically whorled, outward growing leaves. Haworthia is a small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. Low to Medium light.

Leatherpetal, Echeveria rusbyi

Echeveria rusbyi, also called Leatherpetal, features adorable rosettes with dusty pinkish brown to blue-green leaves. Will grow in a tight cluster of rosettes. Displays white to yellow, star-shaped flowers with red banding. Medium to Bright light.

Zebra Plant, Haworthia ‘Superfasciata’

Haworthia ‘Superfasciata' is a s temless, clustering succulent with green pointed leaves wearing white spots. A small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. It will bloom in summer with small white flowers. Provide a well-drained soil away from reflected heat.Low to Medium light.

Haworthia herbacea

Haworthia herbacea is a slow growing succulent featuring yellowish-green foliage with firm, hairy spines and glassy white edges. Pointed leaves curve upwards in a dense rosette that is low to the ground. It will bloom in summer with creamy-white flowers with pink tips. Low to Medium Light.

Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf’

Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf (Sedum x Echeveria) is a wonderful hybrid succulent known for its pastel colors and repeating blooms. The rosettes feature pointed, blue-green succulent leaves flushed with pink. Displays an explosion of bright, yellow, star-shaped flowers on a thin stalks. Medium to Bright light.

Haworthia ‘Super Big Band’

Stemless, clustering succulent with green pointed leaves wearing white spots. A small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. It will bloom in summer with small white flowers. Provide a well-drained soil away. Low to Medium light.

Calico Hearts Plant, Adromischus rupicola

Look at these chubby, speckled leaves! Adorbs! (Kinda reminds us of a frog.) Adromischus rupicola, aka Calico Hearts Plant is a dwarf, succulent shrublet that grows up to 3 inches tall. If you are lucky enough to get a bloom, the flowers are pale yellow and sit upon a tall fluorescence. Medium to Bright light.

Echeveria graptopetalum filiferum

SO PRETTY...Echeveria graptopetalum filiferum is a gorgeous rosette with a delicate, fine red filament that tips each leaf. A small, slow-growing, low maintenance plant. Provide a well-drained soil away. Low to Medium light.

Little Prince or Oregon did not pay to sponsor this post or my video. I do have affiliate links with them for their retail shop. I just happen to love them and they are super nice people - and they have fab plants!

Plant Parenting: Seed Sowing Tips

March 29, 2020

Seed Starting Success

When you are first starting out, sowing seeds can be tricky & scary. Here's a few tips to help get you started successfully:

  • Check the seed packet for optimal germination seasons and temperatures to decide whether to start them early indoors, or direct seed them in the garden.
  • Check the seed pack to see if pre-soaking, scarification, or stratification is recommended or required (I explain all techniques in my book Plant Parenting).
  • Before planting seeds, be sure to thoroughly moisten the growing media, pellets, or plugs.
  • Plant your seeds at the depth recommended on the packet. Typically, you can plant larger seeds deeper and smaller ones more shallowly. You should sow some seeds, such as lettuce, on top of the soil and lightly press them down.

When sowing these pepper seeds, I placed two seeds per cell, approximately 1/2 inch beneath the soil surface.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

  • Always make sure that containers (especially large ones) have drainage holes.
  • Maintain proper moisture for germinating seed by using a mister bottle. The addition of a thin layer of coir or vermiculite can also aid in keeping even moisture.

I added coir to the top of these seeds to help conserve moisture.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Keep in mind: you won’t always achieve 100 percent germination from a group of seeds, whether you buy new seeds or harvest and keep for the next season. You can sow two seeds per container, cell, or plug, so if one seed doesn’t germinate, you have a backup.

  • Use a humidity dome or other type of clear plastic cover to maintain high humidity around your germinating seeds, until seedlings have sprouted and started to grow their first set of true leaves.

If you want a more detailed tutorial on seed starting, be sure to check out my propagation book Plant Parenting!

Plant Parenting: Direct Seeding into the Garden

March 28, 2020

Depending on your climate, starting seedlings indoors ahead of garden planting time is advisable. However, some types of edible plants can, and should, be direct seeded either into the outside garden, or into the final container in which they will grow until harvest. Direct seeding is good for quick turn crops, such as lettuces, as well as for root and large-seeded crops that do not transplant well, such as carrots, beets, turnips, cucumbers, beans, corn and squash.

Carrots are the perfect crop for direct seeding.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

The days-to-harvest number on the packet is calculated from the date of germination in the garden when you direct seed.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

The days-to-harvest number on the packet is calculated from the date of germination in the garden when you direct seed.

I direct seeded this mixture of edibles and flowers above that includes calendula, kale, Swiss chard, borage, bush beans, and lettuces, into my vegetable garden. I sowed the seeds directly into the garden beds when outdoor temperatures were favorable, rather than starting transplants indoors. The days-to-harvest number on the packet is calculated from the date of germination in the garden when you direct seed.

This weekend I'll be direct seeding bush beans and bush squash out into my garden beds. What about you?!

Home Harvest: The BEST Roasted Tomato & Rosemary Recipe

March 19, 2020

A Favorite Tomato & Rosemary Recipe

Ok, for something yummy to do while you are #stayathome ... One of my all time favorite and EASY recipes from the garden (or kitchen) are roasted cherry tomatoes with fresh rosemary. It's my favorite thing to do with my garden rosemary and garden tomatoes when they are ripe (but store bought is just fine too). I picked this up from my friend @robingillculinary and I eat it on EVERYTHING! Ok, maybe not on cake but you catch my drift. It makes the best easy party food (even for your parties of one or two right now) and you can put it on just about anything from crackers to cream cheese to chicken or other roasted veggies. You're the boss.

As you can see I like to make my favorite breakfast with it. I throw some in the skillet with a yard egg fried over easy, then top a piece of sourdough toast. Takes 5 minutes and you'll feel like you're brunching at your favorite breakfast spot.


So, here's what you do:

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Fill a large casserole baking dish with cherry or saladette size tomatoes
  • Cover generously and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper
  • Chop a few garlic cloves and throw them in in
  • Snip 4-5 long stems (8-10") of fresh rosemary from garden/patio
  • Strip a few rosemary leaves and toss into tomatoes
  • Lay the rosemary stems across the top of tomatoes - that's it (it will seem like a lot of rosemary...it isn't!)
  • Pop in the oven uncovered for 20 minutes(depending on your oven -smaller cherry tomatoes may be 15 minutes, larger may be 20-25 minutes)
  • When tomatoes have begun to wrinkle and pop and a have little browning you can remove and cool (or serve warm, but not right out of the oven because those 'maters will pop in your mouth and burn you!)

Serve cold or warm on EVERYTHING. With the amazing flavors and juices from this easy dish, you can make just about anything you top it with taste instantly amazing. I always have rosemary planted in my landscape beds - it's the perfect foodscape ornamental/edible, but even just a single pot of it on your patio will pay off big time. ENJOY!

Plant Parenting: Optimum Temperatures for Seed Germination

January 24, 2020

Seed Germination Temperatures

It's that time of winter where many of you may be starting seeds indoors. Both air and soil temperature affect the speed and success rate of seed germination and growth. Each type of plant has a different optimal temperature range, based on its natural environment. Be sure to check the seed packet for specific optimal temperature ranges for germination.

Different types of seed will germinate faster than others. This basil ‘Genovese’ (below) is clearly an overachiever, when compared to the slower tomato and pepper seeds sown at the same time.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Many seeds germinate well in the 68°F to 80°F (20–26.6°C) range for both soil and air temperature. If temperatures are too cold or too warm, some seeds take a very long time to germinate or may not germinate at all.

If you want to speed up germination, or are starting seeds in a cold room or garage, try using a seedling heat mat, that goes under your seedling tray. Seedling heat mats can warm the soil or growing media temperature about 10-15°F. You can also purchase controllable thermometers for your heat mats.

Plant Parenting: Tips for Avoiding Damping Off in Seedlings

January 17, 2020

Damping Off Disease

Damping off is a disease that is extremely frustrating for seed starters. It's usually a combination of several soil borne pathogens that move in quickly to take down seedlings as they are germinating. If your young seedlings turn brown or black at the base of the stem, then topple over, your you see mold-like growth on your seedlings, damping off may have set in. Typically, properly managing and balancing moisture is the key to preventing damping off.

Dealing with Damping Off

There are a few tips you can employ to decrease your chances of the disease attacking your seedlings:

  • Avoid adding fertilizer to your seeds before or right after they germinate. Fertilizers can encourage fungus and mold growth.
  • Commercial growers will use synthetic chemicals to prevent damping off, but you probably don’t want to do this in your home or for edible crops. A handy alternative is to water your seedlings with a hydrogen peroxide solution. Hydrogen peroxide oxygenates the soil, which kills off many fungi and bacteria. Mix 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to 2 cups of water and then use the solution to water or mist your seedlings.
  • Keeping excess water off the foliage will help reduce fungal disease problems. As seedlings grow, you’re best to shift from a spray bottle—which wets the foliage—to small watering cans or squirt bottles, so you can deliver water directly to the root zone without getting water on the foliage.
  • Don't leave your germination humidity dome on too long. Once seedlings have germinated and are developing true leaves, you can usually remove the humidity dome so excess moisture doesn't build up and breed disease.

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