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Springing Into Action Creates Summer Satisfaction

When arctic winds find their way down to Austin, many Central Texas gardeners begin planning for spring. Our short, mild winters are an important time in the annual effort to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers, for this is the season when we improve the soil, prune back the dead growth, sow seeds and fantasize about a garden that our neighbors will envy all summer long.

The Natural Gardener is a Hill Country treasure. John Dromgoole and his crew can show you how it’s done in their vegetable, herb, butterfly and xeric (low water) gardens.  

There are folks all over the Hill Country who can help you design and build the garden of your dreams. Start with soil from Garden-Ville, where top-quality organic materials have been produced since 1957. If you need rocks for your garden, RA Materials in Comfort is the place to get everything from stepping stones to slabs. And you can dress up your plot with outdoor art from Sol’stice Garden Expressions in Dripping Springs, where kinetic sculptures move with the wind and one-of-a-kind fountains flow. For that hard-to-plant rocky area in your yard, stop by Spicewood Spines and choose a cactus. Their selection of succulents provides an amazing glimpse into the diversity of the desert.

Don’t wait — our winter’s almost over, and the garden you plant today will pay dividends all summer long.


Main Article

Winter Preparation Creates Spring Vegetation

In the winter, a young gardener’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of mulch, and with the last of the cold weather just a few weeks away, many Central Texans are already planning their planting. Seed catalogs arrive, sowing visions of vivid wildflowers, fragrant herbs and succulent vegetables in our eager imaginations. We’ve forgotten the trials of last-years insect infestations and the dismaying sight of the half-eaten melon that we nurtured for weeks until some fur-covered creature decided to take first dibs. So, filled with the optimism that warm weather brings, we head outside to examine our empty gardens, and dream of all that a little hard work and compost can deliver.

For many Hill Country horticulturalists, the first stop of spring is at The Natural Gardener. The success of their vegetable and herb gardens makes most of us green (with envy, of course). The butterfly garden, xeric (low water use) garden, orchard and vineyard will show you what comes of showering the earth with lots of love and care. At this South Austin horticultural mecca, you can shop for home-brewed compost tea, every variety of soil and mulch, pots, tools, seeds and starter plants while you visit with the miniature donkeys, chickens, cats, goats and Pepper the parrot. The owner, John Dromgoole, hosts the longest running organic gardening talk show in the U.S., and provides gardening advice each week on local television stations KXAN and KLRU. You can also find all kinds of advice and a detailed growing calendar on his website. His staff is well-versed in the vernacular of vegetation, so if you don’t know your hoe from a hole in the ground, this is the place to go.

Over in Fredericksburg you’ll find Wildseed Farms, a 200-acre feast of flowers that delights more than 350,000 visitors each year. They offer seed and starter plants for over 100 varieties of wildflower — everything from African daisies to zinnias. But don’t just come to shop; this is an experience. Stroll through the 3,000 square foot Butterfly Haus to wonder at the variety and beauty of these delicate creatures, then take a walk through the flower fields to see acres and acres of magnificent blooms. Take a break at the Brewbonnet Biergarten and sample local beer and wine or stock up on jams, jellies and salsas. You’ll also find jewelry and ladies apparel, gifts, toys and a unique selection of gardening tools.

When you’re ready to get started on your own plot of perennials, you’ll need good soil. The folks at Garden-Ville have been producing organic products since 1957, and offer compost, mulch, fertilizers, insect control products, herbicides and fungicides in addition to all kinds of growing mixes. Malcolm Beck, who founded Garden-Ville with his wife more than 50 years ago, still tests each product for quality and effectiveness.

Spending time in your garden is both a prerequisite and a privilege, so you’ll want to add a path that keeps your plants protected and allows you to wander without trampling tender shoots. Visit RA Materials in Comfort. They offer boulders and blocks, slabs and stones that you can use for walls, edging, trails and decoration.

Many cultured cultivators also add art to their creations, and one of the best places for garden art is Sol’stice Garden Expressions in Dripping Springs. There you’ll find some of the most innovative and engaging outdoor sculpture in all of Central Texas, including pieces that move with wind and water. And while you’re building the garden of your dreams, don’t forget you live in Texas — add a cactus or two to the mix. Spicewood Spines is the place to go for stunning succulents of all types. You’ll be amazed at the color and variety of blooms these hot-weather friends produce.

Warm winds and sunny skies will be here before you know it, so now’s the time to tend your garden. Come June, you’ll be real glad you did.


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Gardening Events are Springing Up

There are more than a few gardeners in Texas, and they like to get together to find out what works well. If you can, get to one of these events — your greenery will be glad you did.

  • Everything's Coming Up Roses — February 5, 10 am to 12 pm — Travis County Master Gardeners presents a discussion of Earth-Kind and Antique roses with Travis County Master Gardeners Carolyn Williams and Holly Plotner.
  • Kerrville Garden Club — February 7, 1 pm — Judith Anderson will talk about butterflies.
  • Fredericksburg Garden Club — February 9, 2 pm — Meet at Memorial Presbyterian Church, 607 N. Milam.
  • Planning and Planting the Spring Vegetable Garden — February 12, 10 am to 12 pm — Travis County Master Gardeners presents a hands-on seminar on plant & seed selection to ensure gardening success.  
  • Kerr Cactus & Succulent Society — February 15, 7 pm — meets at Butt-Holdsworth Library, Kerrville.
  • Taking Care of the Lawn — February 19, 10 am to 12 pm — Travis County Master Gardeners presents two sessions on lawn care covering how to establish a new lawn and promote lawn health.
  • Fredericksburg Native Plant Society — February 22, 7 pm — meets at Gillespie County Historical Building.
  • Herb Society Seminar — Feb 26, 9:30 am to 11:30 am — provided by Austin Herb Society.
  • Rainwater Harvesting Workshop — February 26, 9 am to noon — at Cibolo Nature Center, Boerne.
  • City of Austin Green Garden Festival — February 27, 12 pm to 4 pm — talks and tips to help you create and maintain a yard that is attractive, cost-saving and earth-friendly.
  • Organic Gardeners' Plant Sale — March 5, 8 am to 2 pm — at Zilker Gardens, presented by Austin Organic Gardeners.
  • Chickens in the Garden — March 12, 10 am to 12 pm — Travis County Master Gardeners explain how to select breeds, raise chicks, build and maintain a coop and protect chickens from predators.
  • Natural Landscape Design Class — Mar 19 — at Cibolo Nature Center, Boerne. Pre-registration required.
  • African Violet Show & Sale — March 19-20 — presented by the First African Violet Society.
  • Zilker Garden Festival — March 26-27, 10 am to 5 pm — an Austin classic!