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Tomato and Pepper Top Picks

encore date: March 17, 2016

original air date: February 20, 2016

What tomatoes and peppers should you grow this year? Randy Thompson from Sunshine Community Gardens makes his tried and true picks. Trisha turns all those weeds coming up into natural, nutritious fertilizer for vegetables and ornamentals. Daphne answers: What’s the fastest way to kill a container succulent? Plus, see why she makes smoke tree Plant of the Week. On tour, Dani and Gary Moss turned a barren yard into a charming destination, including their Chicksville hen house.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Dani & Gary Moss

Dani and Gary Moss know how to work. They haul boulders, built an English conservatory and a Chicksville hen house all by themselves. Plus, they design gardens with wildlife and whimsical appeal. When they want to add a touch of art, they make it themselves. Gary welds to suit the purpose and Dani catches the light with her stained glass. Adventure is their credo, especially after spending four years on a Prevost bus when they went to look for America. On their return to Austin in 2010, they brought home ideas to put their creative stamp on their new garden.

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Question of the Week

How did I kill my container succulent?

A common question: how did I kill my succulents in my indoor terrariums?

Although these types of indoor arrangements are quite striking, especially in magazine articles and books, and they definitely have the potential to be grown indoors, having success with them can be tricky.

If you’ve lost your succulents, it’s down to two reasons: over-watering and lack of sunlight.

The potting media used in most pre-planted terrariums is usually too organic for most succulents, but even if the growing media were perfect, over-watering would still be problematic, since there’s nowhere for extra water to drain out.

Many people have told us that they water their terrariums once a week, which is most likely far too much.

Lack of sunlight is a problem on its own, but it leads to more problems when succulents are over-watered. Since the plants are not receiving enough sunlight to photosynthesis, they aren’t growing; and if they aren’t growing, they aren’t using water.

So it’s an endless feedback loop, leading to the demise of your adorable little miniature plants.

Solution: Try placing your succulent terrarium in a very bright window of your home, and watering it very, very sparingly. After you’ve watered the terrarium, pick it up and test the weight; you’ll be able to feel the difference in the weight of the container as the moisture evaporates or is used by the plants.

And if you’re like the rest of us, including me, and your terrarium is now empty, consider replacing the succulents with more tropical species that can handle a little more water and relative humidity. African violets, small-leafed ferns and ivies, or even mosses, would be good choices.

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Plant of the Week

American Smoke Tree

American Smoke Tree

Cotinus obovatus

Sometimes called Texas smoke tree, this small, multi-trunked tree packs a big punch. The late spring flowers are absolutely stunning.  Mainly, we grow it for its striking form and foliage. The leaves, which emerge slightly pink, changes to a deep, bluish-green, then finally to a striking magenta in the fall. Smoke tree is best planted as what landscape architects call a “specimen.”  That means that it should be set apart from much of the rest of the landscape, allowing it to draw the eye to its stunning beauty. Back to those flowers, which are how the plant received its common name in reference to smoke. Six to ten- inch flower clusters have reddish-gray to deep purple, very long, thin petioles, giving them the appearance of puffs of smoke. Smoke tree gets 15 to 30 feet tall and about half as wide and is widely planted in the Southeastern U.S., where they’re native to rocky soils and often found on mountainous terrain. The more you can mimic its native region, the better, so water sparingly and don’t fertilize this tree. Our viewer photo this week comes from Bell County Master Gardener Rowena Fengel  of her lovely yellow bearded iris blooming in January. She mentions that it’s no wonder plants in her garden in Temple are confused, since it was 78 degrees at her house on Christmas day!  That’s Texas weird weather for you!

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