Winter Watering by Janet Laminack

“Should I be watering my lawn and shrubs this time of the year? It is extremely dry but has also been very cold and below freezing temperatures.”


You should definately water during the winter

This is a question I recently received from a local resident. It’s a great question and I have some answers for anyone else who may also be wondering that very same thing.

Yes, watering shrubs and perennials, especially before we have freezing temperatures, is recommended. Watering helps insulate the plants and can help them survive unusually low temperatures better. This is especially beneficial if you have perennials that are a little tender for our area or when temepratures drop below our normal temperature range. I also like to recommend watering evergreen shrubs and trees in the winter. Since they still have their leaves on they have more desiccation in the winter than deciduous plants. When we get warm, windy days, the soil is likely to dry out and plants with leaves could be losing moisture. Shrubs and trees without leaves may not need water as much. They aren’t moving water through their system, but their roots are alive and could be damaged if they dry out too much. And you are more likely to get freeze damage with roots in dry soil rather than roots in a well-watered soil.



Evergreen shrubs lose water even in the cold months

When thinking about watering your lawn, think about watering St Augustine like a tender plant with evergreen leaves. St Augustine does not like the cold weather.  Bermuda grass is much more cold tolerant and goes very dormant in our winter. It does alright with supplemental irrigation when we’ve been very dry for a long time.

Watering before a freeze will protect the roots of trees, shrubs and lawns

Watering before a freeze will protect the roots of trees, shrubs and lawns

The last thing to know about watering is not to do it during freezing temperatures. Turn off your automatic sprinkler system, icy landscapes are not our goal. Wait until we get a warm up and then give everything a good soak. You won’t need to water as frequently during the cold season, but about once a month, when we are dry will be very beneficial.


It is time to think about planting asparagus, onions and potatoes in North Texas

It’s getting to be time to start planting onions, asparagus and potatoes! Check out our vegetable gardening information under North Texas Gardening at While you are there, you can find out about our upcoming classes and be put on our e-mailing list.   And as always, if you need more information or just have landscape or gardening questions contact us, at  940.349.2892, email, we are here to help.

The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers 2014 Grower’s School

In my opinion, my friend Kim Haven of Billabong Fresh Flower Farm has the best job in the world. She makes her living growing flowers. Kim is part of a movement that is creating a resurgence of American floriculture. Right now, approximately 90% of the cut flowers sold in the US are grown oversees. Thirty years ago, only 10% of cut flowers sold in the US came from abroad. More and more people like Kim are using their knowledge and love of horticulture to try and recapture market share that has slowly been lost to foreign competition.


A lovely bouquet grown by Kim Haven of Billabong Fresh Flower Farm in Hempstead, Texas

Here in Texas we have several growers who are making their living by producing high quality flowers, grown in a responsible manner, to the cut flower trade. With the support of The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, these growers have developed a community that works together to help each other grow, market and sell their beautiful products.

If you have ever thought of turning your flower growing hobby into a business, now is the perfect time to get started. The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers is holding their 2014 Grower’s School at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on March 3 and 4. This year’s conference features several leaders of the field to vase movement from all across the country. Below are highlights of some of the presentations.


These lovely “boot bouquets” are bursting with beautiful flowers grwon and arranged by Frank and Pamela Arnosky of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers in Blanco, Tx

Frank and Pamela Arnosky of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers in Blanco are the true pioneers of this market. Frank and Pamela Arnosky are the owners of one of the most successful field grown flower farms in the U.S. (and probably the whole world if the stats were checked). Starting with nothing but a chain saw and a dream, they have built a business that now provides the absolute finest quality, locally grown, fresh cut flowers to companies like HEB, Central Market and Whole Foods. Frank will pass on his growing knowledge in his presentation “Seeds or Plugs? Both?” and Pamela will provide you with the information you need to get your product into supermarket chains and also teach you how to harvest and handle your crop post-harvest.


This lovely row of zinnias on Rita Anders farm “Cuts of Color” is ready for harvest

Rita Anders is the South Central Regional Director of ASCFG and she has worked very hard to put this workshop together. She is also the owner of Cuts of Color in Weimer, Texas where she grows and sells to Central Market and Farmer’s Markets in the Houston area. She also has a thriving design business where she works closely with her brides to create beautiful weddings full of sustainably grown flowers. Rita will show you how to sell directly at Farmer’s Markets and also teach you how to quickly assemble your products into stunning arrangements.

Cynthia Alexander, of Quarry Flower Farms in Celina, Texas, harvests poppies for her floral customers Cynthia Alexander of Quarry Flower Farms in Celina, Texas grows a variety of roses, Texas natives and other specialty flowers for the floral trade. She uses and teaches sustainable growing techniques on her many farm visits. She also offers a unique wedding experience by letting the bride come to the farm and pick the flowers that will be used in her bouquets and arrangements. Cynthia will teach you all you need to know about developing relationships with florists and how to prepare your flowers for delivery to them.

Right now is an exciting time to be a flower grower in the US. Demand for locally grown sustainable products is high and supply is low. If you have ever thought of turning your hobby into a money maker now is the time to act. You may never get a better chance to learn the ins and outs of this industry from the leading producers of local, sustainable flowers in the country. Click here to go directly to the full schedule of events and a registration form. Happy gardening y’ all and I hope to see you in Fort Worth!

English Cottage Garden Deep in the Heart of Texas

Did you see Downton Abbey this past Sunday?  OMG!!!!  I did not see that coming!!!!  I am not going to spoil anything for any of you that missed it but OMG!  Killing Matthew – yep saw that one coming, but this past episode truly blew my mind!

Downton Since Downton Abbey is such a hit, our friends at KLRU’s Central Texas Gardener decided to do a tie in on their program for the season opener.  I must say, they did “a jolly good job!”  The clip below feature’s a Texas interpretation of an English Cottage garden in Austin.  Click below to see how David and Jennifer Stocker utilized their English heritage to build their beautiful and water wise “English Garden” deep in the heart of Texas.

If you garden in the US, there is a very good chance that a lot of the design principles you use and the plants you choose came to you from the English.   The English are great gardeners and have been for centuries.  Dr. William C. (Bill) Welch from Texas A&M talks with Tom about the many ways that the English horticultural traditions have shaped our views about landscaping, especially in the south.  If you have not heard Dr. Welch speak before, or read one of his many books, you are in for a treat.  Dr. Welch is one of the most knowledgeable horticultural historians in the entire United States.  Enjoy!

Resolve to Grow More Veggies in 2014 by Patty Leander

In a nod to the ubiquitous cell phone and the trend of sharing one’s life in pictures, The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2013 was ‘selfie’. But there’s another word that has crept into our vocabulary that may have more relevance to gardeners: Blandscaping. What image does that one word bring to mind? A cookie cutter landscape? A rectangle of grass? Uniformly trimmed hedges lined up in a single row? I bet it doesn’t make you think of a vegetable garden! A vegetable garden is vibrant, dynamic and engaging. It is full of sights, sounds and creatures and best of all an edible harvest.



This resourceful garden was built using materials available on site – native rock and unused concrete blocks with discarded fencing laid down in the paths to deter weeds. Photo by Bruce Leander.

If your landscaping has become a little too bland try incorporating a few edibles or a small vegetable garden this year.  Be sure to include crops that grow well in your region and start with vegetables your family likes to eat. Mid-January through February is the perfect time for planting broccoli, sugar snap peas, radishes, turnips, beets, Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach here in Central Texas. Check with the local AgriLife Extension office or Master Gardener organization in your county for the best planting dates in your area. 

 Get some exercise while tending your edible landscape, savor the nutritious results and you have the start to a healthy new year!  If you are new to the diverse vegetable kingdom or if the thought of eating turnips, Swiss chard or radishes leaves you feeling underwhelmed, check back here for some tasty ideas for bringing these health-promoting veggies to the table. I’ll be posting some occasional suggestions for preparing the bounty from your garden – you may be surprised how delicious it can be!   



This vegetable “bed” causes visitors to pause and admire the gardener’s sense of humor. Photo by Bruce Leander

There are numerous ways to include vegetables in a landscape, as you’ll see from the accompanying photographs, but there are also universal pitfalls to avoid in the process. It’s easy to get caught up in the garden frenzy of a new season but do try to start with a manageable plan. Believe me when I tell you that vegetables will respond much better when you don’t torture them with the following approach:


Vegetables are living things; they may not need as much time as a pet but they do require regular attention. A garden that is too big means plants will not receive the care that is required to bring them to fruition. 



Vegetable gardens can be as varied as the gardeners that tend them. Some gardeners prefer the contemplative solitude of a morning tending tidy rows of plants. Photo by Bruce Leander


Vegetables growing in the Texas heat may appreciate a little dappled shade at the height of summer but vegetables growing in the cool season need lots of sunlight to counter the cloudy and chilly days in early spring. Farms don’t grow in the shade.



A double row of broccoli grows in a narrow bed bordered by 16x8x8 inch cinder blocks. Lettuce fills the small space within the concrete blocks. Photo by Bruce Leander.


Consult a planting calendar for your area or ask an experienced gardener about planting dates. When planting in the cool season months use a soil thermometer to monitor temperature before planting. Different vegetables thrive at different temperatures and most cool season plants will do best when the soil temperature is in the 40-50° degree range.


Give your plants plenty of growing room so they don’t have to compete for nutrients and water. Follow spacing recommendations for transplants and if sowing from seed be sure to thin to the proper spacing after seed has germinated. 



Some gardens exude energy, enthusiasm and learning, like the vibrant Children’s Garden at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Photo by Bruce Leander


Create a checklist or purchase a gardening to-do guide and stick to it. Allow time for weeding, watering, fertilizing, inspecting and grooming plants. Remove diseased leaves and keep an eye out for harmful insects and hand-pick or spray to keep populations in check.

Remember, for most gardeners growing vegetables is an enjoyable and productive hobby…but when all else fails visit your local farmers market for a healthy dose of locally grown produce.  Here’s to a happy and successful gardening year!



Vegetable gardens naturally attract children and other living creatures!. Photo by Bruce Leander.

Bad End to a Good Year – RIP Goldie

 It is with heavy heart that I announce the passing of the first of our chickens.  Goldie was the middle sized Buff Orpington.  In the past seven months she has filled our lives with much joy and the lightest of brown eggs.  She has only been gone a few hours and she is already missed terribly.


Goldie and Wendy Lou getting ready for bed

I don’t know what happened.  I came home from work yesterday and she ran to the car to meet me.  She, and all of the other girls, were in fine spirits.  I rubbed them and let them pick at my buttons and my ring.  Everything seemed fine.  Just another day.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the coop this afternoon and found her dead, cold and stiff just inside the door of the coop.  She had no signs of trauma.  I felt her tummy closely and she did not appear to be egg bound.  It appears that she just decided to die last night.


This is our sweet Goldie just hours after she hatched.

If any of you have experienced anything like this I would love to hear from you.  My internet searches reveal that this is unfortunately not a rare occurrence.  However, my common sense tells me that nothing “just dies”.  There has to be a reason. 

Tonight the remaining five girls got a more thorough rub down/examination.  I do not want to lose another one.  For those of you that have raised chickens from hatchlings to full grown hens you know how attached you become to them.  While I realize I was not as attached to her as say a dog, I was attached nonetheless.  Her passing has left me feeling a little blue on the last day of the year.

I'll never forget your first night in the big coop.  You were so scared and your rooster was there to calm your fears.

I’ll never forget your first night in the big coop. You were so scared and your rooster was there to calm your fears.

We wrapped her in a pillow case and entered her body in a lovely spot that has a view of the lake, the coop and her friends.  I am sure hers will be the first grave in what will eventually become our pet cemetery. 

Rest in Peace Goldie.  You were a great little hen.