How does a garden grow?

November 8th, 2012 Posted in bees, butterflies, chickens, compost, cover crops, fall plants, garden bloggers, garden design, garden designers, garden projects, lawn replace, mulch, native plants, plant propagation

Often I’m asked, “How do people have such great gardens? I can NEVER do that.” Well, yes you can!

Silke's Dream salvia, purple lantana, skeleton-leaf goldeneye

All it takes is patience, a plan, personality, and passion. Oh, and lots of blisters. Now, this is not to say that I had a plan! When I started, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted a crape myrtle that we could see from the den window.

Linda's first garden

I’m kneeling here, since I set my camera on a tripod for a self-picture, and I’m much taller than the little tree. I snagged some free rocks to encircle my first little garden. Clueless about plants, I bought a bag of dahlia corms. I was mighty proud of this, let me tell you!

This was before nurseries promoted native and hardy adapteds. Quickly I figured out that dahlias are not Texas plants. And believe me, I’m still learning what actually works for me. But with more patience then pennies, my den view is a lot more dramatic these days.

Linda's new garden no lawn

But I’m not finished!  As I’ve mentioned before, last spring we decided to put in a path to replace dead grass.

Linda's path project

Over the summer, I thought about what I wanted to do about the section near the island bed.  Eventually, I ordered more stones and roughly painted in the plan to complete the lawn-free picture.

outlining new path area

den path with new stones

In our original work, I planted a few frogfruit plants (Phyla nodiflora) in one section to soften and cool the stones. Butterflies, bees and other beneficials flock to them constantly.

frogfruit groundcover between path stones

They’ve done so well that I’ve added some to the new stones (and more, as soon as I can lay my hands on this tough native groundcover). The first ones have been so prolific that I’m also dividing some to fill in the gaps. Their long stems root easily, so I just cut a section from the mother plant and dig up the rooted plant.

frogfruit in stone pathway

By next spring, this picture will have changed again when it fills in! During Christmas, I’ll work on the edging.  I haven’t decided whether to build up the original edging with roadbase or to use leftovers of the 6′ x 6′ dry stack stones for the vegetable bed (more on that in a few weeks). Sometimes, patience pays off to give you the answer!

stone path in progress

To spare you my early mistakes, this week on CTG, designer and garden coach, Diana Kirby, presents Design 101.

Diana Kirby Central Texas Gardener

Tom was booked as director of iACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas), so I stepped in. Yowsers!

Linda Lehmusvirta Diana Kirby Central Texas Gardener

Diana points out the essentials for planting: size, sun, soil, and compatible conditions. Then she recommends looking at the long-term picture: how do you want to use the space? What’s your style?

Diana Kirby drought tough no lawn design

Diana Kirby pathway design

She explains how to use color and texture.

Purple fountain grass and prickly pear

Lindheimer muhly and Salvia leucantha

Diana stresses the importance of including destinations for your eye and to reinforce your own sense of style.
Diana Kirby design focal point

purple bench duranta Lucinda Hutson design

Ragna shells focal point

Find out more about Diana’s designs, her garden coaching and to follow her beautiful, instructive blog!

Another question CTG often gets: what is the difference between soil, compost, and mulch? I remember when I was confused about mulch and compost, too (and thought I could just stick a plant into my heavy clay soil and be done with it. Oh brother!). So, this week, Daphne explains the difference and how they work together for a healthy garden.

soil compost mulch

Now, to show you that I wasn’t totally clueless in my first garden: I gathered what few leaves I had and scavenged more to scrunch into my beds, back in the days when buying even a bag of mulch at the grocery store was a financial luxury. Eventually, I made my own compost in a bin from wooden pallets left over from KLRU deliveries.  These days, I just have piles behind the shed, but I also buy bags and sometimes yards. And I often add decomposed granite or expanded shale to up the drainage even more.

Cover crops for vegetable beds fascinated me from the first. This week, John Dromgoole explains how Austrian winter peas, hairy vetch, crimson clover and elbon rye return nitrogen and compost to fallow winter beds destined for summer crops. While they’re growing, they’re a  natural “mulch” too!

John Dromgoole cover crops

On tour, visit Molly O’Halloran and David Brearley’s first garden, where they renovated their 1915 house and garden on Austin’s east side from devastation to drought-tough style, vegetables, and safe harbor for chickens that supply organic eggs for Molly’s yummy recipes!

I’m still figuring out gardening, but CTG is here to help us!

Until next week, Linda

  1. 10 Responses to “How does a garden grow?”

  2. By Nicole on Nov 8, 2012

    Love the first bed from the designer with the purple, blue plants, and orange highlighting.

    I have a questions for you and any other followers of this blog. Is hummingbird season over? Should I stop putting out nectar. Things were extremely active at one of my feeders in September, and then I got lazy about refreshing my feeder every 48 hours. Not sure if the hummingbirds just started boycotting it for cleanliness or if they just took off for other areas…

    any comments?


    Linda reply on November 9th, 2012 3:37 pm:

    Hi, Nicole! First, I am so honored! That first picture is in my garden. I don’t consider myself a designer at all, but now I’m whooping! You can do the same thing with Salvia greggii, Skeleton-leaf goldeneye daisy, and purple trailing lantana.

    Next, my hummingbirds are gone. I know there are some that stick around but mine do not. So, this weekend, I will take off the feeder, clean it with a light bleach solution, rinse well, and put away until next year. My hummers always come back to the same spot! When I hear their twitter in April, I get out the feeder!

    But yes, they will boycott if not cleaned. However, yours are probably just gone. Now, go ahead and set up a finch feeder to have cute birds all winter. The thistle is rather expensive but it is worth it. Do just get the plain thistle (nyger seed–not one of the mixes).


  3. By Molly on Nov 9, 2012

    Linda, your “before” and “after” crape myrtle pictures are just amazing! Beautiful understory there. Thanks for sharing this inspiration with those of us who are “still learning”.


    Linda reply on November 9th, 2012 3:34 pm:

    Thanks, Molly! Believe me, I’m still learning. I learn a lot from YOU, by the way!


  4. By renee (renee's roots) on Nov 10, 2012

    Linda, great job stepping in as CTG host. And your garden is looking fabulous. Somebody call Fine Gardening magazine!


    Linda reply on November 10th, 2012 4:16 pm:

    Renee, you are just too kind! I think someone just needs to call a dump truck!!


  5. By Carol on Nov 10, 2012

    Linda, I just watched this week’s episode. Enjoyed you hosting the show and topics! I’m still “all over the place” in my garden design. CTG’s helpful tips and guests are much appreciated! Now getting ready for a possible freeze on Monday night….


    Linda reply on November 10th, 2012 4:15 pm:

    Hi, Carol! How very sweet! I am SO not a host like Tom, so I appreciate your vote of confidence. Yes, I’ve got my rowcover ready!


  6. By Desert Dweller / David C. on Nov 10, 2012

    That first segment on the couple and their garden’s progress, chickens, etc. really speaks to me. Always nice to see what mortals do on a typical lot, including how they solve issues like poor drainage. You’re a good stand-in for Tom S., too!


    Linda reply on November 10th, 2012 4:15 pm:

    David, thank you! Believe me, Tom is the one I want at the host helm!


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