Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Primal Texas Gardening Resources

After the suffocating summer we endured last year (and a shortage of bees), my wife and I had trouble getting much of anything started in our vegetable patch for this past fall/winter. That said, we were more than ready to get the early spring vegetables going in our garden. Ready enough to start planting in February. In these unseasonably warm first few months of the year… we decided to gamble. We planted a number of seeds in the last week of February, waited two weeks and planted more. Things are looking good as we seem to have survived March without a frost or freeze.

My wife and one of last year's turnips!

Hope springs eternal this time of year. We all have visions of what we want our lawn and garden to look like; lush, green, bountiful. And before reality starts flooding in, we head to the store to stock up on seeds, fertilizers and supplies. Know that not all stores are the same… and where you get your supplies may play a role in the success of your garden.

Just as I would encourage you to buy your produce from as local of a source as you can… buy seeds and seedlings that will thrive in your area, as well. This is less likely to happen in your big box stores advertising on TV. Think about it… Wal-Mart buys toothpaste in large quantities and distributes the exact same product in their stores all across the country. Using the same model (to manage costs in their purchasing department), Home Depot/Lowes will buy their seed packets, tomato seedlings, and “5-gallon bucket” trees in bulk and ship them out to stores in every corner of the country. Toothpaste works just as well in Washington as it does in Texas. Apple trees don’t. But that doesn’t stop the folks in orange aprons from trying to sell me an apple tree for my yard in Dallas, Texas. It may grow, but it will never thrive or fruit like it would in a more hospitable climate. [I wonder if they try to sell citrus trees/shrubs in Anchorage, AK?]

The big box stores are hoping to wedge their way into our lawn and garden dreams (and wallet)... regardless of our regional realities. Fear not. There is usually someone in town that sells not only what you need. Yes, the small businesses I will refer to are trying to get into your wallet, as well. I’ve found that you get a better return on your investment from them, though.  Support your local gardening store. The folks working there have lawns and gardens just like yours… and will more capably answer any question you have about any problem you might be facing. Chances are, they have (or someone else working there has) faced the same obstacle.

I walked into Redenta’s last summer with a couple of leaves that looked like they’d endured shotgun blasts and a half eaten tomato covered in tiny black bugs.  They were quickly able to tell me (the inexperienced gardener) that I had cabbage loopers (punching holes in the leaves) and a furry critter dining in our garden.  The flea beetles were of little to no consequence.  Verdict?  Spend more time with the plants, picking off cabbage loopers and other pests as I see them.  If that wasn't enough... a spray form of bacilulus thuringiensis (bt) that kills cabbage loopers, but is not harmful to humans, pets, birds or beneficial insects.  As for controlling the furry critter?... Get a dog.  Or buy some fox urine.  The scavenger just needs to know that a predator of some sort has already "claimed" that area.

When I presented the same pieces of evidence to the folks at Home Depot, we spent five minutes looking for somebody who might know what to do... and then found a couple of poisons to spray throughout the garden.

In summary, just as you would buy local produce to eat... grow local produce variants.  If you want to know what works in your area, ask the fine folks at your local gardening store.  Listed below are a few of the places I use (and would recommend) in the Dallas area.  Please feel free to chime in with a comment if you have any other recommendations in the Dallas market or elsewhere in the Lone Star state.
  • Redenta’s - Fantastic, friendly staff...  They'll tell you what they're growing, what has worked and failed for them, and will make recommendations specific to your yard and its soil/lighting.
  • Roach Feed & Seed - Great stock and knowledgeable staff.
  • Dallas Arboretum - The people who work here love what they do... to the point that their work/love carries over into their personal gardens.  Small stock, but this place is a treasure trove of ideas and knowledge.

1 comment:

  1. UNT has an heirloom seed program.