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Texas Getting Started Guide

encore air date: December 14, 2013

original air date: November 7, 2013

Are you new to gardening, just new to Texas, or looking for new drought-tough plants? Horticulturist Mary Irish puts us on the right path with her latest book, Texas Getting Started Guide. Daphne’s Plant of the Week is creeping germander, a silvery groundcover that stands up to water restrictions!

Problems in your new raised vegetable bed? Get her easy fix. Wrap up you holiday gift list with John Dromgoole’s tips on forcing indoor bulbs for friends or your own living room.

Question of the Week

My seeds are dying in new raised bed vegetable gardens. What’s wrong?

It’s all about the water! Many of us build raised beds when we’re on heavy clay soil, on rocky sites or just to separate them from other parts of the garden. We fill them with top soil/organic mixes. That’s all fine, but there are a few key adjustments to be made, right from the start.

When we purchase soil mixes, they’re likely almost completely dry. So when we fill our beds with them, they’ll have no capacity to hold water until we mix them. This will normally take several days, adding water, then mixing, then adding water and mixing again, until the soil is uniformly moist.

It’s not a bad thing to have lots of organic matter in this mix, but once organic matter becomes completely dry, it’s very difficult to get it moistened again. So a big mistake that many gardeners make is building the bed and planting right away, then starting a watering regime. If that’s the case, most of the water added to the soil will drain right through in little rivulets, providing almost no moisture to your new little seedlings. And with very little root mass, seedlings can’t stay dry for too long.

So this combination sets up a situation of almost certain failure, leading many people to wonder just what exactly is going on. We tend to imagine: terrible hordes of invisible insects, or horror of horrors, a soil-borne disease. But those are not usually the case.

So if you’ve had this trouble, go out and dig around in your garden bed. If there are pockets of dusty soil, do some good mixing and try again.

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Plant of the Week

Creeping Germander

Creeping Germander

Various species of creeping germander in the genus Teucrium all do great in Central Texas gardens. With flowers from pale pink to light lavender and striking silvery gray foliage, this lovely little mounding plant will surprise you with its cheeriness. It's very drought-tolerant, making it the perfect plant to add to your garden if you're trying to be more water conscious. But perhaps even better, it tolerates soggy conditions much better than many other low-water use species. It rain occasionally, and sometimes in copious amounts. Creeping germander won't rot at the first sign of a cloudy day. Plant Teucrium in full sun for best floral display, but if you have a shady spot, it'll be okay there too. Most species mound to about 6 to 10 inches, but spread much further. If you find that your germander is creeping out of control, simply divide it as you would perennials in your garden. Creeping germander is evergreen, but can easily be divided in early spring, just as it's beginning to take off with new growth. It's so versatile, it can be planted in low beds, in the very front, accentuating taller plants in the back; overhanging the wall of a taller bed, accentuating the architecture of the bed' or allowed to creep amongst paving stones, enhancing the look of paths, softening those rough edges and making them much more inviting. For best floral performance, and to keep from getting too leggy, give your creeping germander a good shearing in mid-to-late spring. It's cold tolerant all the way down to zone 5, so there'll be no need to protect this plant from potentially frosty winter nights. In warmer winters, creeping germander will perk up and begin to flower very early, and will keep right on blooming right through fall.