currently in Austin

the show

Heavenly Houseplant Design

air date: February 24, 2018

Come home to houseplant designs that excite stylish statements. Lindsey Mayer and Melissa Hagen from Tillery Street Plant Company plant a few ideas. John keeps houseplants healthy with insect control and fertilizer tips. Daphne answers: “Can you really change your soil pH?” Get a viewer’s tips for growing Satsuma oranges. On tour, Maverick Fisher banished invasive plants around his old house for wildlife diversity and future sustainability.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Back to the Future Design Makeover: Maverick Fisher

When Maverick Fisher bought a 1940s cottage on a sloping lot in east Travis Heights, he went intentionally informal with natives from Texas and Northern Mexico. To banish invasives for a wildlife friendly garden with future sustainability, he worked with designers Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden and Patrick Kirwin.

Watch more "On Tour" videos on YouTube →

Question of the Week

Soil pH: can we change?

Do coffee grounds, egg shells, pine straw, or cedar mulch make any difference to our soil pH?  This measurement of soil acidity or alkalinity factors into what we can grow. 7 is neutral with acidity below 7 and alkalinity above that. Central Texas is somewhere in the 7 range: alkaline.

The answer is both yes, we can, and no, we can’t.

Pine straw has very little effect for us in Central Texas, since we don’t get tons of rain. Here, pine straw dries up before it can decay in a way that would yield any acidifying effects to our soil. So then, you’d need to keep the pine straw relatively wet in order to counter this issue and acidify your soil a bit, but then again, water conservation is very important for us, so is it really a good idea to use more of it to combat nature?

Coffee grounds also have a slightly acidifying effect, but still, it’s short-lived. Do recycle them, though, directly onto your plants or into the compost pile.

For lowering soil pH, using sulfur is the recommendation, and it does work, but only short-term. Sulfur has very little residual in the soil, meaning its effects aren’t long-lasting, so it has to be applied often, far too often to be part of any sustainable approach.

Sulfur is really only recommended in vegetable gardens, and even then, only if plants are struggling and high soil pH is part of the issue.

Sulfur should be incorporated into the soil, not applied to the surface. And in vegetable beds, crops are changed out at least twice a year, which makes multiple applications of sulfur per year feasible. Also, the small square footage of vegetable beds makes the extra inputs into the system less of an issue.

Even still, if you choose recommended cultivars for your area, soil pH will be less of an issue.

But let’s say you have a hydrangea that was given to you by your grandmother, and it’s in a small bed that you can tend and provide extra care for; by all means, add those coffee grounds or pine straw and give that area a little extra water.

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Plant of the Week

Satsuma Orange

Satsuma Orange

Viewer Bev Boyce, who moved to Texas three years ago, shares her tips about growing her satsuma orange. Her tree is growing in a half whiskey barrel and kept in a greenhouse. She has other citrus trees as well, and uses an organic citrus fertilizer. That’s great, because citrus are heavy-feeders, needing regular fertilizer to stay healthy, bloom and produce fruit. Fertilize about once a month through spring and summer, but give them a rest from fall through late winter. Bev gives her trees plenty of space, which increases the amount of sunlight to each leaf, and she uses only high-quality potting mix. She also stresses the importance of not planting too deeply, being sure that the graft union is well above the soil line. In addition to Satsuma, Bev says that Meyer lemons are some of the easiest citrus to grow, and for even more fun, consider starting a Meyer lemon from seed. Water well and don’t prune too much, and be sure to bring indoors or into a greenhouse for the winter, if there’s any danger of temps in the 30’s or even low 40’s. Watch our segment on cold-hardy satsuma oranges! Get Texas A&M fruit specialist Monte Nesbitt’s list of most cold hardy citrus and details for growing.