Texas could have its best wildflower season in almost a decade


For Dallas-Fort Worth, last fall was the wettest on record with 29.21 inches of rain from September to November, according to the National Weather Service. In October alone, Dallas-Fort Worth picked up 15.66 inches, nearly four times the area’s 4.21-inch average for the month.

Daniel Cunningham, a horticulturist and project manager with Texas A&M AgriLife Research, said North Texas is beginning to see promising signs of this year’s wildflower season, with basal rosettes already growing in dense patches across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 

“Higher-than-average rainfall in most of North and Central Texas definitely bodes well for our bluebonnet forecast,” Cunningham said. “We’ve had ample rainfall this winter as well, assuring that moisture is not likely to limit their growth.” 

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Want to plant fruit trees? Here’s your explainer on chill hours and pollenizers

With January’s colder weather, fruit trees may not get much of gardener’s attention. But a little thought now should produce fruitful results down the road.

While many D-FW nurseries offer a great selection of fruit trees in containers, some specialty crops are more readily available as mail order or through reputable online sources. Most commonly these trees are shipped bare rooted — completely dormant young plants without soil surrounding the root zone. Without the added weight of the soil, these specimens (just as vigorous as their containerized counterparts) are easier and cheaper to ship. The one caveat, though, is that the window for shipping and planting bare root fruit trees is limited.

More at https://www.dallasnews.com/life/gardening/2019/01/01/want-plant-fruit-trees-explainer-chill-hours-pollenizers

Crash course in craft cocktails: How to infuse liquor with local, sustainable ingredients

One way to get into the holiday spirit is to warm up with liquors infused with locally sourced flavors from the garden.  

Infusing alcohol with fruits, herbs and other botanicals is certainly not something new and has been done for centuries. In fact, your local store is probably filled with flavored vodkas, whiskeys and other liquors containing the essence of various plant-based compounds. 

Going local and sustainable

The craft kitchen movement is helping bring back seasonal, wild-crafted spirits. Several local restaurants strive to elevate ingredients, support local producers and reduce waste in the kitchen, with these principals spilling over behind the bar itself, delivering more intense, higher quality botanicals to the glass.

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5 types of living Christmas trees that actually grow well in North Texas

Full disclosure: I hate artificial plants. Last week I jokingly told a co-worker that if anyone put artificial plants on my grave, I would come back and haunt them. But Halloween is long over, and Christmas music is playing almost everywhere you go. So let’s talk Christmas trees.

As a horticulturist whose sole purpose is growing (and teaching folks how to grow) plants more sustainably, many of the people I run into still believe that artificial turf, plastic interior plants and even artificial Christmas trees are more sustainable because they use less water and fewer fossil fuels or that they save a tree from being cut down. But most of the time, that really isn’t the case. In fact, there are a number of environmentally friendly reasons to buy a real Texas-grown Christmas tree from a local tree farmer or cut down the tree yourself as a family outing to make lasting memories.   

More at https://www.dallasnews.com/life/gardening/2018/12/10/5-types-living-christmas-trees-actually-grow-north-texas

9 trees to plant in Texas now that will be rock stars in spring

Best trees for spring

When is the best time to plant a tree? I’ve always loved the classic response of “20 years ago”. But I like to add that the second-best time is now! Here in North Texas, trees actually can be planted any time of year other than summer. While we do see folks trying to establish trees in June, July and August, it’s not really practical with our extreme heat and frequent drought. Water loss through the leaves (transpiration) during hotter periods exceeds the moisture that can be taken up by a young root system, which causes undue stress.

The absolute best time to plant trees in Texas is in the fall, which is why our state goes against the grain of most of the country, celebrating Texas Arbor Day the first Friday of November. However, if you missed planting, it’s not too late to get trees that are native or adapted to the region in the ground. With cooler temperatures and plenty of soil moisture (due to record fall precipitation), planting your favorite ornamental tree now will give you a head start in establishing spring colors. Here are a few of my favorite showy tree specimens that you just might dig as well.


9 winter veggies for North Texas that tolerate freezing temperatures

Fall has always been a favorite time to garden in Texas, but why stop there? There are quite a few veggies that when planted now yield sweeter, tastier roots, stems or leaves when tended through winter.

The entirety of North Texas sits in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8a, which means our 30-year average of extreme low temperatures puts us in the range of 10-15 F. Not to say we can’t get much cooler, but most years we know (roughly) what to expect.
Most of our cool season vegetables can handle frosts when temps dip below freezing, while others fare better when protected in a cold frame or row cover for hard freezes. But there’s a select group of crops that are pretty tough, producing through the biting cold and tolerant to temperatures 12 F and below.

Read more at https://www.dallasnews.com/life/gardening/2018/10/15/9-winter-veggies-north-texas-tolerate-freezing-temperatures

These 5 plants look pretty in your yard, and then you can eat them

Some years, gardening around north Texas is pretty rough. Late or early freezes, drought, extreme heat, pest insects or disease can all hinder our best efforts at cultivating fruits and vegetables. I am, however, fascinated by finding solutions to those challenges. Fortunately, there are many ways we can try to overcome the formidable growing seasons: improve soil, select better adapted plants, use more efficient irrigation systems. But there’s another solution: Eat the yard.

Not everything, mind you, and certainly not anything that you can’t 100 percent identify. But if you look in your landscape, you’ll likely find plants that have been eaten for thousands of years. Nature was once mankind’s grocery store, offering a variety of foods and provisions. Some of those plants also happened to look pretty. The nursery industry took those plants, improved their ornamental value, and sold them for their aesthetics alone. Now it seems like most of our culture has forgotten about the edible value of these plants.
But you can still find common landscape plants that grow in and around our subdivisions that are pretty delicious in addition to looking good and growing with little care. Here are some of my favorites:

7 herbs to plant in the fall and use in your holiday dishes

As cooler temperatures prevail, perhaps the best time to plant perennial herbs is here. You may grow them for culinary value, but you might be surprised how many cold-hardy herbs look as good as they taste when added to the landscape.

Here are a few of my favorite ornamental herbs that thrive in North Texas year-round. Plant them now to use all through the holiday season and for seasons to come.

More at https://www.dallasnews.com/life/gardening/2018/09/14/7-herbs-plant-fall-use-holiday-dishes

Learn how to make ‘seed bombs,’ which can bring more wildflowers to North Texas

The seed bomb garden trend has exploded on the North Texas landscape lately. Also called seed balls, seed bombs are seeds encapsulated in compost and clay, which forms a protective barrier, minimizing damage by pest insects, birds or soil-borne diseases. Then when the next heavy rains come, the clay coating disintegrates and ample moisture gives the seeds the best chance for survival.

Compost adds nutrients and beneficial microbes but also helps the ball hold water, working like a sponge, keeping seeds wet during the germination process. The technique has gained popularity as a practical way to revegetate degraded soils.

Read more at https://www.dallasnews.com/life/gardening/2018/09/04/seed-bombs-bringing-wildflowers-north-texas

Can your HOA stop you from composting and saving water? What to know about a little-known law change

With record-breaking heat and drought conditions, gardening in North Texas is a challenge in itself. But in some neighborhoods governed by homeowners associations, gardeners have faced additional constraints when attempting to save water and drought-proof their landscapes.

While HOAs offer benefits of increased property values and neighborhood attractiveness, most have landscaping rules that require a certain aesthetic standard. These standards often restrict the type of plant material, sometimes even to plants not well-adapted to the Texas climate.

Read more at https://www.dallasnews.com/life/gardening/2018/08/27/can-hoa-stop-composting-saving-water