Bastrop Gardens

I had a great time taping for TWC news at Bastrop Gardens today! They sell slag glass which is way cool to use as an accent in your landscape because of the way the light reflects through it. The segments were about salvias and I learned a lot! I had been wondering about mystic spires salvia and found out that is a hybrid with indigo spires as one of the parents (don’t know who the other parent is) but it is very compact compared to indigo spires. I got a few new (to me) types of Verbena that look similar to ‘homestead’. Also grabbed a Slavia buchananii. Deena at Bastrop Gardens told me it is a native of Mexico but was named in England because the new species was discovered in a greenhouse belonging to some dude named Buchanan. There is a nice labyrinth and fun demo gardens at Bastrop Gardens. It is not far from Austin, only a mile east of the Berdoll Pecan store (pecans from outer space). http://bastropgardens.com/  
    
   

Almost too late for perennial cut backs

I was cutting off the dead tops of perennials like zexmenia, inland sea oats, tropical milkweed, gregg mkstflower and lantanas last week and seeing how our warm winter and early spring weather has motivated the plants to start growing already, at least two weeks earlier than normal. If you haven’t cut back your perennials yet, you should do it now. I have gotten the most questions about trailing lantanas because they are still blooming. It is important to cut them down even if they are blooming because if you allow them to grow they will become totally humoungous and swallow your garden this summer. They also will have some dead stems and dead leaves on them that will look ugly and interfere with the new spring growth.  

 

Seed Saving

On Tuesday Dec 8 from 6-8 I’m teaching Seed Saving at Sustainable Food Center. Register at

http://sustainablefoodcenter.org/get-involved/classes-events/seed-saving

Seed saving is one of the most important things that home gardeners do. Industrial agriculture has caused the decline and loss of thousands of varieties of food crops, resulting in smaller gene pools. Home gardeners have the option to grow these rare plants and save the seeds, preserving them for all of humanity.  More on this in future blogs. 

Maybe you caught my latest TWCnews segment about seed storage and saving? Keep them sealed in a conatiner in the fridge! http://www.twcnews.com/tx/austin/lifestyles/2015/12/6/your-home–seed-cataloging.html

Fun at the Austin Herb Society Holiday Bazaar

I had so much fun talking with friends and potential new customers.  There were other really cool booths with jewlery, lots of herbal products like soaps and body care. I was especially excited to connect with a woman who distills her own essential oils from herbs. I’ll be back next year! I gave out lots of info about my favorite plants, a recipe for herbal tummy tea, how to garden with birds and how to prune roses. Hopefully folks will call me up for home consults this winter to prep for spring planting time! 

    
   

Upcoming Events

Austin Herb Society Holiday Bazaar

Tues Dec 1 9:30-noon at Zilker Botanical Garden. Visit me at my table where I’ll be selling gift cards for my services and dishing out good gardening advice! Other vendors will be there with plants, jewlery and garden art! 

Tuesday Dec 8 Seed Saving Class 6-8 at Sustainable Food Center. Seed saving is a basic skill all gardeners should have. Come learn how seed saving in your home garden could save humanity, then pat yourself on the back. $15 Register at http://sustainablefoodcenter.org/get-involved/classes-events/seed-saving

Herb Society Holiday Bazaar

Join me on Tues Dec 1 2015 from 9:30-11:30 at Zilker Botanical Garden (inside the garden center building) for the annual Austin Herb Society Holiday Bazzar. I will have a booth there to give out advice and sell gift cards for my services. There will be other vendors selling herb plants, jewlery and other herb-related goodies. I hope to see you there. 

Logro Farms

Last week I made an afternoon trip to Logro Farms, located on Fitzhugh Rd off 290 west. It’s next to Jester King Brewery and Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. The mushroom farmers take the spent grain from the brewery and use it as media to grow oyster mushrooms, a gourmet variety popular with chefs. They sell the mushrooms to the pizza place next door, making for a hyper-local, extremely sustainable food system. Other chefs are buying uo the oyster mushrooms too. They are also growing hydroponic produce for the pizza place in a very tidy greenhouse. The mushrooms are grown in a special little building that is padlocked to maintain just the right conditions for them and to prevent contamination from other organisms, so I didn’t get to go in there. Ryan, one of the owners, told me they have plans to expand the mushroom production and lots of ideas for how to use the leftover spent mycelium (kinds like mushroom roots). Also, a few weeks ago my husband and I celebrated his birthday at Jester King Brewery, and our friend Joel who works there gave us some samples of the beer they brewed with smoked sea salt and the oyster mushrooms. It was unusual to say the least and would pair well with steak. 

Speaking of leftover spent mycelium, Ryan was nice enough to give me about 200 lbs of that stuff. So…they grow the mushrooms on spent grain, but they also mix in other byproducts like sawdust and coffee grounds. Mushrooms are not plants- they are decomposers. They grow in this mix of stuff that would otherwise be thrown in a landfill. As they grow they partially decompose the stuff they are growing in, making sort of a kind of unfinished compost that still has the mycelium in it but doesn’t have enough nutrition left for the mushrooms to continue growing. I’m experiementing with the stuff Ryan gave me to see what will happens in a home gardening environment with this byproduct of his mushroom production. 

I put some in my compost pile, to see if it will boost the speed of decomposition in my pile. I scattered some over/mixed it into my newly mulched flower beds to see. If the mycelium would age the wood chips in there to a darker color and if the spent grain etc would add nutrition to the soil for the microbes and my plants. I also “planted” some in a couple of tree stumps and a pile of wood chips to see if they will grow. I also gave some to my neighbors for their compost piles. My one neighbor is composting using black soldier fly larvae so it will be interesting to see if they eat it up.  So far not much has happened but it’s only been a few days. 

I’m thinking I whould go get more of it and put it in its own pile to finish composting. I would like to mix it with granite powder from a nearby granite recycling center and with worm castings. I think that might make the perfect all purpose compost for Austin soils. 

By the way, I heard about all of this thru the Austin Materials Marketplace and the Austin Compost Coalition. Both of these awesome organizations are making huge strides to keep resuseable materials out of landfills! I’m happy to participate in both. 

We shot a news segment out there that was super fun! And you can also grow mushrooms at home with Logro’s home growing kit. 

http://www.twcnews.com/tx/austin/your-home/2015/11/9/immerse-yourself-in-the-world-of-fungal-farming.html​

http://www.logrofarms.com/

Why Monarch Butterflies mean something to me

A few years ago I caught a NOVA special about Monarch Butterflies. As the opening PBS credits were rolling by I remembered two encounters I had with these odd creatures. 

I remember growing up in Cleveland, working with my mom in her “square foot” style veggie garden which also had lots of flowers growing in it. These giant orange and black butterflies would visit the flowers and my mom and I would always notice, comment and delight. I thought the term Monarch was a little overblown because they seemed kind of clumsy and floppy even though they were so striking and lovely. 

In 2001 my husband and I moved to Austin, TX and I had an office job that I hated. I was sitting outside at lunch and noticed a Monarch Butterfly soaring above the 6 story building where I worked. What the hell? I didn’t know they could fly like that. I thought about the butterfly all afternoon. Now the name made more sense. 

Back to the Nova special… I had heard that the butterflies migrated but I didn’t know anything about it. Turns out the fly all the way from Canada to Mexico, many of them crossing the great lakes on their way. I have a major soft spot for Lake Erie, and knowing that every year butterflies fly all the way accross it blew my mind. My mom lives just a mile or so from the shore so no wonder we saw so many floppy butterflies- maybe they were totally pooped from flying accross the lake! 

When the butterflies get into Austin they start to fly together in big groups. I have been lucky enough to see a few of these groups come through Austin, one huge group on particular came through my neighbor’s yard when his Golden Raintrees were blooming. There were so many of them that I could hear their wings flapping and the trees rustling with their weight. It was so weird.  

I found my way from Cleveland to Austin in my life, and knowing that the Monarchs make a similar, but longer, and more harrowing journey endeared them to me even more. I feel so much love for them that I am planting my front yard with plenty of plants for them including as many milkweeds as I can find. Check out my news segment about the Monarchs at Natural Gardener! Have you seen any Monarchs this year? 

Habitat loss from widespread use of herbicides and pesticides due to GMO crops in the argircultural midsection of the US is one cause of a major decline in Monarch numbers in recent years. Please plant some milkweed, limit your pestiside use and go organic! 

http://www.twcnews.com/tx/austin/lifestyles/2015/10/20/monarch-butterflies-migrating-through-texas.html