Getting Started in the Garden (podcast)

Aug 27th, 2015 | By | Category: Featured Articles, podcast, the show
Texas Getting Started Garden Guide

Texas Getting Started Garden Guide

Garden to plate. Farm to table. Food gardening. Home cooking.  These are the things we usually talk about on the radio show and this website, along with other food related topics.

This week is a little different.

No talk of food or food gardening –today it’s just about plain old gardening. After all, we love beauty, and like using fresh flowers and other greenery as decorations on our dinner tables (okay, count that as our only food reference today).

You can grow that living decor yourself if you know what to plant, how to plant it, and how to care for it.

Interested? Then I have a book for you.

Mary Irish is a garden writer who currently lives in Castroville, Texas, and whose 2013 book from Cool Springs Press is:  Texas Getting Started Guide (Grow the Best Flowers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines & Groundcovers).

I met with Mary in the cafe of Book People bookstore where we — naturally —  talked about how to get started growing anything in Texas.

“It all starts with the soil, or lack of it” she said. “Like many places in the west. Texas — especially south and central Texas — has very alkaline soils and need plants that can adapt to that. And many parts of Texas – particularly the Hill Country — don’t have a lot of soil.”

I told her it’s not uncommon to hear a Texas Hill Country gardener say: “Nature has a wicked sense of humor. She gives us 300 days a year to garden, and only three inches of soil to do it in.”

“If that much,” Mary laughed. “It’s not unusual to find only an inch of soil before hitting limestone,” she said. But she added the deep prairie soils can be just as bad. “They don’t have great drainage; they stay cold a long time. And, if you get a good soaking rain, the soil stays wet, and that can cause problems for plants,” she said.

What’s an ornamental gardener to do? The short answer is compost. For the long answer read her book Texas Getting Started Guide (Grow the Best Flowers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines & Groundcovers).

It’s a compendium of some of the best ornamental plants for Texas, and features regional advice, and care, companion planting and design, growing tips and more. Not all plants listed in the book are native, but they are all well adapted – with an emphasis on drought tolerance. The lovey color photos, many taken by Mary Irish’s partner in crime — her husband, Gary — will help gardeners visualize these plants in their own yards and gardens.

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  1. My husband and I just moved to Austin from New York City where the most we grew were some herbs on our terrace overlooking the East River. I have never lived in a house, only apartments. We are about to move in to our first house in about 3 weeks. One of my goals is to learn how to garden, something I have learned is quite a challenge in this area. This book will be my Bible, my go-to on what to expect and how to do it. It will be an invaluable resource.

    Thanks for considering my request.

  2. I just retired and finally have time to practice some of the principles I believe in…organic gardening and getting in touch with nature. As I leave an environment of high stressed rat racing, I want to return to state of balance through gardening and bird (and other critters) watching. My grandfather taught me the love of dirt, vegetation, sunshine and water. When I see new furrows or freshly weeded beds, I can still hear that NC drawl say, “That is some purdy dirt!” With this book as a guide, I return to a slower pace and a place where hard work and “purdy dirt” bring satisfying results. Many thanks for helping me achieve this state of grace.

  3. My 12 year old son wants to garden with me. It seems to be a coming of age thing for him. He stated that he doesn’t want anyone else cutting the lawn or growing the garden. He wants to do it! I really want to learn more about Texas plants and the soil here so I can become a more adept outside gardener. I’ve always done well with indoor plants but never spent too much effort outside, except herbs gardens. We would love to have a copy of the book to help in our efforts.

  4. I garden in some of that Hill Country thin soil and have had some luck with plants, especially herbs, but am always trying to see what I can do better or differently. I have used the trial and error process and there is probably a better way.

  5. We are in the process of designing a landscaping plan that can work with native Texas plants. And then next year we will be planting our 30 ft x 30 ft vegetable and herb garden with raised beds that my husband is building this fall. This book would come in very handy as we move forward with our gardening adventure!

  6. We are revitalizing our school garden and we have been cooking in the school kitchen. This book sounds like it would fit right into our program, injecting it with fresh ideas. We would love to peruse the pages for tnew school beautification suggestions. Plus, I would just really enjoy reading it, educating myself, if you will.