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Spanish Melting Pot Garden Design

air date: September 13, 2014

How do Spanish and Mexican designs influence our garden melting pot?  Dr. William C. Welch from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension explores early concepts that are current backyard favorites.  On tour in San Antonio, Claire Golden restored her historic mission-styled courtyard that reminds her of beloved gardens in Mexico. Daphne explains why trees are dropping leaves in summer. Her plant of the week is cool-weather cilantro, a staple in Mexican recipes. Trisha Shirey and Ivy Lara from Dripping Springs Garlic Queens salute Mexican cuisine with homegrown garlic.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Mexican Courtyard Garden

Inspired by trips to Mexico, Claire Golden restored her historic mission-styled courtyard in San Antonio. She banished sloping lawn for pleasant outdoor rooms, connected by a central aqueduct, bold plants, and a margarita cantina.

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Question of the Week

Why do oak trees drop leaves in summer?

Thanks to Amy Winn for this great question! Her oak trees are dropping leaves in summer, when they normally do it in spring.

Most likely this is heat and drought stress. When plants get stressed, they take measures to survive that stress. And since leaves LOSE water, when it’s hot and dry they lose LOTS of water.

One summer survival tactic that many plants try is to drop their leaves. Without leaves, they can’t photosynthesize and grow, so dropping leaves in summer, when sunlight is plentiful and plant growth can potentially skyrocket, might seem counterintuitive.

But think about how deciduous and perennial plants survive the stress of winter COLD—they drop their leaves and stop growing, hunkering down until the stressful time has passed.

While leaf drop in summer is not ideal, it might actually be a good sign, a sign that your tree is dealing with the stress of 100° days and lack of rainfall in the best way possible:  by going dormant and waiting for cooler times, instead of wasting energy fighting a losing battle.

During the crazy-hot summer of 2011, almost every live oak in Austin was completely bare by August. But then in fall, when temperatures cooled and we got a little rain, they put on a few leaves before winter and bounced right back the following spring.

Like all plants, oak trees have stored carbohydrate reserves that they can use as a food source while they’re waiting out stressful times. Leaves are actually pretty replaceable, so as long as the environment improves before too long, with cooler temperatures and some rainfall in this case, plants will usually bounce right back with a flush of new leaves in autumn, before going dormant again in winter.

In the case of live oak, those new autumn leaves will keep on photosynthesizing all winter long, until dropping them in spring, and growing an entirely new set.

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Plant of the Week

Cilantro

Cilantro

Cilantro’s an easy herb to grow from seed or transplants. This cool-weather annual is a perfect replacement for summer’s basil. Fall is the perfect time to plant it from seeds or transplants. Plant seeds in October to take over when basil dies back in the first frost.  From seed, it comes up really fast on our cool days and nights. Give newly planted seeds enough water to stay moist until they germinate and grow a bit; then not much water is needed. Plant seeds at two-week intervals to carry them on as long as possible. If temperatures drop below 20°, protect them with row cover. Its feathery leaves on plants about 12-24" can be included in your perennial beds or in the vegetable garden. Harvest leaves by simply cutting what you need, but not all the way to the ground. The plant will continue to grow and produce new leaves for your next harvest. Be sure to have several plants so that you’ll have plenty of cilantro all season long. Above 85° or so, cilantro starts to bolt and flower. Keep the flowers around for beneficial insects that will pollinate your summer crops. When the seed heads brown up, harvest them as coriander for the kitchen. Or, completely dry in the house and store in a cool area to plant again next fall. Full sunlight is fine, but so is a bit of shade, and cilantro isn’t too picky about soil.      

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