Melody's Gardening in Central Texas


You Can Learn to Garden in Central Texas

Gardening in our part of the world is quite a challenge, but with the right plants and the right techniques you can be a successful Central Texas gardener. Visit the pages above to find the plants that do best in our area and how to take care of them.

In the pages of my site, you will find plant recommendations for Central Texas. In addition to my own personal recommendations, you'll find that I have added two designations to some of the plants in my list. One designation for plants that have proven their worth here is the Texas Superstar plants. Texas A&M scientists have tested these and proven that they are tough and easy to care for in our area. You can learn more about these at www.Texassuperstar.com. There is even a searchable database there that you can search by your ZIP Code. The other designation is the Earth-Kind plants. Under the direction of Texas A&M University's horticultural department, plant experts, including Master Gardeners, conducted tests to see which plants could earn the Earth-Kind designation. I have been to the field where some of the roses were tested and I can tell you that these tests were severe. During a very hot and dry summer, these roses were not given any supplementary water, yet they still bloomed well. I even took one little rose home with me to test myself in my garden. I am sorry to say that it did not make the cut. An Earth-Kind plant must be very tough and easy to care for indeed! You can learn more about them by going to the website http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/EarthKind/. Many of the photos used on the following pages were used by permission of the Aggie horticultural people from the websites cited above.

View Handout on Gardening Year Round
Preparing for Spring Handout
Fall Gardening Notes
Butterfly Gardening Handout
Read this article on possible danger of asbestos in vermiculite.
About Me
Email me your gardening questions.

book coverRead my new eBook, Cool-Season Gardening in Central Texas. This book is a guide to gardening in the cool, pleasant seasons of the year; a time when you can grow flowers and vegetables with the least trouble with insects, diseases, and stress due to heat and drought. Go to this link at Amazon: Cool-Season Gardening in Central Texas. If for some reason the link doesn't work for you, just go to www.amazon.com and look in the Kindle Store. Search for the book by its name.



Events Around Central Texas


List your gardening event here. Just send me an email.

Jessica Due to the many requests we have received, we have included a list of Internet resources on poisonous plants. Be sure that if you have a question about poisoning, call your physician or vet immediately. When planning your garden, these links will help you know what plants can be a problem:


Visit TEXAS GARDNER MAGAZINE, the magazine especially for Texas Gardeners.


General Practices

1. Know the light and watering requirements of all your plants, and the best time of the year to plant them. 

2. Enrich the soil. Our soils here are heavy clay with a high pH. The cure to poor soil is to amend with at least 40% organic matter. The best organic material is shredded leaves and rotted compost. Peat moss is not a good amendment material. It tends to form a crust over the soil that does not allow water to penetrate. If you use it at all, be sure that it is moist when added to the soil mixture and never let it dry out completely.  Do a soil test to determine what nutrients your soil needs. Contact your County Extension Service to get details on a soil test.

3. After planting, cover all bare areas with mulch; that is, partly composted material, shredded leaves, shredded tree trimmings, or shredded cedar. This will keep the ground cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and will break down to form organic matter in the soil. Do not worry about this material robbing nitrogen from the soil. It will not do this as long as you keep it on the surface and do not till it into the soil. This mulch will save you much work watering and removing weeds.

4. Plant during or before a rain in the fall for best survival rate.

5. Never pack down the soil when planting anything, and do not walk on the beds. Always use stepping stones or paths and keep off the soil. This is absolutely vital!

6. Do not mix plants in a small bed that have different water and light requirements.

7.  Plan, plan, plan!  Make your mistakes on paper, not in your yard.  Study out what to do and how to do it before you act.


Here is a list of the best books on gardening for our area:

Great garden Easy Gardens for North Central Texas-- I was wowed by the great organization of facts and pictures in this . Even though its title indicates that it is for North central Texas, gardeners in all of the Central Texas area will find this indispensable. It is the best-organized information that I have yet seen on plants for our area. It has hundreds of wonderful photos too. This belongs on every Central Texas gardener's bookshelf. A great new addition! It may be hard to find, since it is so new, but you can find it at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Home Depot.

Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac--an essential month-to-month reference to gardening in our state, written by a well-recognized authority on Texas gardening.  It has activities to do each month, as well as essays on various gardening subjects that you will need to know that month.  If you could only have two gardening books, I would choose Easy Gardens for North Central Texas and Texas Garden Almanac.  Between the two of them, you will have at your fingertips the answer to almost any conceivable gardening question.

Texas Bug Book --This is a written by J. Howard Garrett (The Dirt Doctor), and Malcolm Beck, a Central Texas expert on organic gardening. It explores the many insects, both good and bad that we have in our area. There are many pictures to help you identify what's bugging your garden, and a recommendation on how to get rid of the bad bugs. This is an essential guide for one of the big problems we face in Texas.

J. Howard Garrett's Organic Manual (2nd Edition)--This is the essential manual on organic gardening in Texas, with plant lists, pest and disease controls, month-by-month guides on what needs to be done. Don't try to garden here organically without this!

Texas Wildflowers--You'll appreciate this guide on Texas wildflowers, which comes with plenty of pictures for identification.

Lasagna Gardening--This is one of the best s ever written on gardening the easy way. It was instrumental in changing forever the methods we use to put in new beds--no more aching backs for us after putting the advice in this book to use. It also has sections on growing individual vegetables. This is another essential book, written by Patricia Lanza.

Howard Garrett's Plants for Texas--We couldn't garden as effectively without this essential reference to all the wonderful plants to use in our Texas gardens. Lots of pictures too.

Plants of the Metroplex--Another plant reference by Howard Garrett. It is especially for gardeners living in the region from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Waco. It is a great guide, with cultural recommendations included.

Herbs for Texas--Guide to the herbs that grow best here with lots of pictures and helpful advice.

Rodale's Garden Answers--Wonderful guide to everything concerned with gardening, with many formulas, things to make, solutions to problems, and all organic.

Decorating Your Garden, A Bouquet of Beautiful and Useful Craft Projects to Make and Enjoy--by Mickey Baskett. This has many artistic projects to make your garden beautiful. One favorite project shows you how to make a cement patio look like it is paved with rocks. Really great ideas!

The Art of Pebble Mosaics--This is one of the most unique garden books ever written. It has clever ideas about things you can make for your garden using pebbles. It must be seen to be appreciated!

Making Concrete Garden Ornaments--This will open up a whole new world to you. You can make the most wonderful garden pots, lanterns, statues, and stepping stones with cement. I love this . See my projects page to see the Japanese lantern I made following the instructions in this work.

Have any questions not answered here? Comments about the site? Email us and we will get back to you right away!

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Melody Fitzgerald

ABOUT ME

I am Melody Fitzgerald, a McLennan County Master Gardener. I have lived in Central Texas all my life. My family and I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and my parents came from Utah and settled in Central Texas before I was born.  Gardening in Texas is not the same as gardening in Utah or, for that fact, anywhere else! I started this website to give Central Texans a place to learn about gardening here. Many gardening books do not contain the right advice for gardening in Central Texas. They may even be written by someone who has never visited Texas.

Why gardening in Central Texas?

Our state is so huge that gardening conditions vary dramatically from one area to the next. What works well on the east coast of Texas is different than what works in the Panhandle, the Valley, or far west Texas. Central Texas is in its own separate area, being neither west texas nor east texas. We are too far north to have the winters they have in south Texas, but we have milder winters than even Dallas, just a little further north than us.

Exactly where is Central Texas?

For horticultural purposes, Central Texas  is a region starting on the North at Alvarado, continuing clockwise to the east to College Station, then south to Austin, west to Goldthwaite, and back north to Alvarado. If you are outside this specific area by no more than 25 to 50 miles, most of what we discuss in this website will work for you, but don't commit huge amounts of your landscaping dollars to plants recommended here without checking with local experts.

My Bio:

After God and family, gardening is the thing I love most. I have been gardening under our tough Texas conditions for over 40 years. As a Master Gardener, I give lectures on gardening and engage in gardening projects for the community. Master Gardeners do not get paid to speak or do projects. We offer these things as a public service. Our primary goal is to educate the people in our county on the subject of gardening. To become a Master Gardener, I underwent 52 hours of training and 52 hours of public service. To stay a Master Gardener, I am required to continue to acquire training and participate in projects in the community. I work with a great bunch of people.

I am a mostly-retired marketing consultant, but nothing makes me happier than to be out in my garden with dirt under my fingernails and leaves stuck in my hair.

All my life I have met bewildered people who came from somewhere else to settle in Texas. None of them knew how to grow plants here. I come from Utah Mormons who could grow huge vegetables and flowers like pansies and tulips all summer. It is a bit more of a challenge here. I became aware that people need guidance on how to grow things in Central Texas. We have a unique climate here, with special challenges such as uneven spring temperatures varying as much as 40 degrees in just a couple of days, and a tough bunch of insect pests that thrive in 100 degree droughts. To be successful, we have to adapt. We have no reason to feel sorry for ourselves if we choose from among the wonderful native and adapted varieties of plants that have made Texas there home--just like we have.

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