Austin Seed Library

I'm proud to be a founder of the Austin Seed Library.  A few years ago I grew Armenian Cucumbers in my veggie garden. They were amazing. Day after day I harvested armloads of these delicious, refreshing treats in the hottest part of summer. I made pickles, I made cocktails, I made salad after salad... The smooth, ribbed skin and crisp texture make this variety a delight. The cucumber beetles ate away at them day and night but the plants couldn't care less. It was my gardening dream come true.

The next year, I wanted to plant them again. But I couldn't find the seeds anywhere! I searched all of my normal local nurseries, seed catalogs and asked friends. But I finally had to break down and do a random google search for them. The only place I could find them was Burpee. Now, I don't have anything against Burpee, but what if they go out of business? Where will I get my seeds? What if they decide to not carry Armenian Cucumbers anymore? This is when I decided to take up seed saving.

On a larger level I started to wonder if it is wise for our food to be in the hands of profit-motivated companies. I started reading and researching more, and found that many of our vegetable varieties have gone extinct or face extinction because commercial farmers do not grow them. It's up to home gardeners and small scale farmers to keep these rare treats alive.

I also learned that you can hone the genetics of your little veggie plants by saving the seeds year after year. You can create what gardeners refer to as a "Landrace", which is perfectly adapted to your soil and climate in your specific garden. This will be valuable to us as we are starting to face the consequences of climate change, especially in the already extreme climate of ATX.

The seed library is currently a small group of dedicated volunteers who love, love, love seeds. We are having a seed swap and kickoff meeting on April 7 from 2:30-4:30 at Sustainable Food Center.  I hope you can join us.


Rare Tree Alert!

I was very excited to find this Texas Madrone tree on the side of the road near Lake Travis Middle School. It's not in great shape but still cool to see. I may try to collect some seeds from it this fall. It is unusual to see them east of the Edwards Plateau and they are notoriously hard to grow and not widely available at nurseries. I love them for their strange, smooth, white and red bark, and their red, velvety fruits. 


Did Harvey Damage Your Trees?

High winds and saturated soil can cause big problems for trees. Certain species of trees are more susceptible than others. Need help assessing the damage and risk?  Ask me! I'm an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. Call or text me at (512) 944-3504. I hope you are all safe and sound! Thanks, Colleen

This Anacacho Orchid tree has a snapped branch after the storm. Do you know how to properly remove a damaged limb? Improper pruning can cause more harm than good. Ask me for advice.  

This Anacacho Orchid tree has a snapped branch after the storm. Do you know how to properly remove a damaged limb? Improper pruning can cause more harm than good. Ask me for advice.  

Is Dead Grass Stressing You Out?

Woodland Landscape Workshop at Natural Gardener Saturday August 12 at 10:00  

Are you struggling to make your shady yard look good? Colleen Dieter with Red Wheelbarrow Landscape Consulting will share her pro tips and tricks for eliminating struggling turfgrass to make a woodland garden that is soothing and lovely. Colleen has been helping black thumb homeowners with their Austin yards for 14 years. Check out her blog for more info at

Do you need help with your landscape? Do you know someone who can benefit from our services? Call Colleen at 512-944-3504to set up a consultation.


North American Butterfly Association Certification

I recently got certification for my home butterfly garden! I got a nice sign for the garden and the pride in knowing I did a good job providing the butterflies with resources they need. Here are some photos from my butterfly garden lately. Feel out of touch with nature? A small patch of butterfly plants in your yard can cure you. Call me for a consultation to get advice about how to create a butterfly haven: 512-944-3504. Learn more about getting certified at

Lantana 'Dallas Red'. I had three planted but only one grew back after the short severe cold snap we had this winter. Lantana provides nectar as a food source for butterflies, and the shape of the flower makes it easy for them to sit while they drink.

Lantana 'Dallas Red'. I had three planted but only one grew back after the short severe cold snap we had this winter. Lantana provides nectar as a food source for butterflies, and the shape of the flower makes it easy for them to sit while they drink.


Pink Flamingo Muhly Grass gives butterflies a place to sit and feel protected during bad weather. The cactus fruit provides another food source for butterflies if allowed to fall and rot on the ground. The grey shrub in the background is Mountain Butterfly Bush, it's orange flowers provide another source of nectar. 

Texas Sage 'Lynn's Legacy' has purple flowers and greenish silver leaves. It provides food for caterpillars before they grow into butterflies. It thrives in my yard because I have well-drained soil and I do not water it. 

Texas Sage 'Lynn's Legacy' has purple flowers and greenish silver leaves. It provides food for caterpillars before they grow into butterflies. It thrives in my yard because I have well-drained soil and I do not water it. 

Got Concerns about Trees?

Some customers of mine had a tree growing near the street. They often park their cars in the shade under this tree. During our first walkthrough consultation I noticed the tree was leaning at pretty severe angle over the street, and I identified it as a species that is weak-wooded and prone to decay. I informed the homeowners that parking under that tree on a windy day would be unwise, and they were concerned about the safety of folks walking under the tree. 

Last year I achieved one of my long-term goals of becoming an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. I'm proud to say that my training helped those customers, who had the tree removed shortly after my consultation. Upon removal we could see extensive rot in the center of the trunk. There's no shortage of windy days in Central Texas, so it's smart to have your trees at the front of your mind when thinking about your landscape. 

Check out the two photos below. I took them last year when I was visiting Chadwick Arboretum, where I had my first gardening job as a student back in 2000, where I got my horticulture chops. I love the tag that shows how much money a tree is worth and the services that tree provides, especially reduced atmospheric carbon. Call me for tree advice! 512-944-3504. And take a look at the tree benefits calculator here.


How home vegetable gardeners are saving humanity

Hey home veggie gardeners! Did you ever wonder about GMO seeds, heirloom varieties or hybrids? They are confusing terms and can be intimidating. If you are a home veggie gardener, you might grow a fantastic crop of cucumbers or beans, only to be disappointed because you can't find the same variety for the next growing season. If you saved your own seeds, you would have them for the next season and you would be helping maintain varieties of vegetables that may go extinct otherwise. Seed saving is easy, fun and subversive. It's an empowering act that makes a real difference to humanity. Of all of the things I can teach you, this is the most important.

Feel confused about heirlooms vs hybrids? Ever wonder "what's the deal with GMOs?" Did you ever grow an amazing crop of tomatoes only and then feel disappointed because the following season you can't find that variety again? Are you wanting to make a significant impact on humanity? I'm teaching a class about seed saving at SFC in Austin on May 13 from 2-4 PM. All of these topics will be covered! Learn how small scale gardeners can make a difference.

Sign up for my class here.


Fun facts about Texas Bluebonnets

Today we shot the Garden Journeys segment for Spectrum news in the Mueller Orchard. It looks incredible now- my photos do not live up to the real thing. There are six species of bluebonnets that grow in Texas. And it diplomatic move to Texas Legislature designated all six as a Texas state flower and any future cultivars or varieties that are discovered will also be designated as the Texas state flower. Of course Texas would have more than one state flower...better than all those tiny states with only one. You may be lucky enough to spot bluebonnets in shades of pink white or maroon or light blue. In Central Texas we know Lupinus texensis best as a deep, dark blue flower that colonizes large swaths along roadsides and in disturbed waste places. They can grow in these tough places because they are legumes- members of the Fabeacea family along with peas, beans, Redbuds and Texas Mountain Laurels. Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with a special soil microbe. All plants need nitrogen to make leaves and stems. But soils in disturbed areas- like those along roadsides- usually don't have enough nitrogen to support most plants. The little soil microbe that lives with the legumes, including bluebonnets, can grab nitrogen out of the atmosphere and "fix" it so the bluebonnet can use it. In return the bluebonnet gives the microbe some sugar that it makes in it's leaves. The microbes make a tiny home on the roots of the legumes and it looks like a little nodule. The plants attract the microbes by exuding stuff that the microbes like out of their roots. Pretty cool!!! The Mueller Orchard is full of bluebonnets right now and is easy to park near and walk into if it is time for your annual bluebonnet photos. The orchard is at the corner of Manor and Berkman roads. 


Spring Woodland Wildflowers

Many of my customers ask me to help them when their grass dies under large trees. Shaded, woodland yards have become my specialty. In the early spring we have many great choices for blooms in shaded yards. These flowers take advantage of the extra light they get when the trees loose their leaves and they thrive during the cool season then go dormant in the summer heat. White yarrow and purple spiderwort, shown in the photos here, are two of these spring ephemeral flowers that thrive in shade in Austin. Oxalis, Columbine and Baby Blue Eyes are also great choices. I typically pair them with a plant that thrives in summer but dies back in winter like Purple Heart or other types of Tradescantia. That way the plants cover each other when one or the other is going through their ugly dormant time.

There's a reason why it's called spring.

I was talking with my friend the other day and we both couldn't remember the spring season that was more springy than this one. Some well-timed rain and unseasonably warm temperatures have catapulted the plants back into action! But at the same time and seeing a lot of plant fatalities after the extreme cold snap that we had early in the winter. I offer plant shopping and delivery services if you need help replacing plants that died over the winter. At this time of year the nurseries can be really crazy and they can be difficult to navigate if you don't know where to go or what to look for. Here's a pro tip: if you're able to shop the nurseries on Thursdays, you should. Most of the nurseries get truckloads of plants in on Wednesdays so that they are well-stocked for the weekend. So on Thursday you get the absolute best plants and the most stock available with smaller crowds compared to shopping on Saturday. Pack some patience because most of the nurseries don't offer enough parking, and much of the parking lot is taken up with new plants or big cargo trucks full of plants. The nursery parking lot traffic jam is an annual headache for me. Don't go to the nursery in the spring if you're in a hurry. 

Calendula is one of my favorite cool season annuals. A bunch of mine died in the cold this winter when they usually thrive. 

Calendula is one of my favorite cool season annuals. A bunch of mine died in the cold this winter when they usually thrive. 


WEEDING SUCKS! I have been a pro gardener for over 15 years and I really always disliked weeding. The best methods for weed prevention are planting many plants so there isn't a lot of open space for the weeds to grow in, applying a thick layer of mulch to cover bare soil where weeds can thrive and watering as little as possible- heavy weed populations can be caused by overwatering. I recently taped a segment for Spectrum news about my favorite tools for weeding. I will post a link to it after it airs. BUT the best weeding tool is some good music/podcast/book on tape/chatty friend. The sheer boredom is what gets me! Anyway I am also doing a class about tools at Natural Gardener Feb 4 and I will cover weeding tools, and also digging and pruning tools as well. Bring your mystery tools that are collecting dust in the shed- I might know what they are for! I will also cover sharpening and tool care. Check out the event listing here for more info.

Fruit tree classes and Spectrum News Video

I'm really looking forward to teaching my first fruit tree class of 2017 tomorrow! This one is hosted by Sustainable Food Center. Here's a link to my recent Spectrum news segment about how to prune a pear tree. This 2 minute segment just scratches the surface of what there is to know about fruit tree pruning but it gets to the heart of it- opening up the canopy of the tree so it gets better airflow. We can also prune fruit trees to control their size and to limit the amount of fruit they make. I have pruned a lot of fruit trees but one of my new year's resolution is to learn more about grape vine pruning. I have a grape vine that isn't making much fruit and I have carelessly pruned it over the last 3 years. I got it from a friend who planted it in her yard and it never really grew much. We transplanted it to my yard and in the process discovered it had some pretty serious problems with girdling roots, so I root pruned it during transplanting. Anyway it is thriving in my yard and looking great but not making a lot of fruit and I think pruning has something to do with it...also my friend forgot what kind of grape it is. We both think Champanel but not sure, so that makes it hard to figure out what kind of fruit it should be producing. Anyway my next fruit tree class is Feb 11 and there is at least one more following that one this spring. So if you want more fruit tree info come to one of the classes!  Or schedule a consult with me. 

Free Trees for Austin Energy Customers!

I'm an avid volunteer with, and each year they organize these huge free tree giveaways. Even if you have large shade trees in your yard already don't forget to add some understory trees like Texas Mountain Laurels that provide shelter for birds and early spring flowers for hungry bees.  Get more info about the giveaway here

Come get a free tree on Saturday, January 21 from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM at the ACC Highland Mall campus!

Free trees are available for Austin Energy customers, who can bring their ID or utility bill as proof of residence. Available species include Lacey Oak, Mexican White Oak, Montezuma Cypress, Pear, Pecan, Persimmon, Pomegranate, Satsuma, and Texas Mountain Laurel. The trees will be in 5-gallon containers and are approximately 3 – 5 feet tall, depending on the species.

The giveaway is part of the NeighborWoods program, which is a partnership between TreeFolks and the City of Austin to lower summer temperatures and reduce energy consumption by investing in tree canopy cover for Austin area neighborhoods. 

WHO:  Austin Energy Customers

WHAT:  Free Trees for Austin Energy Customers

WHEN:  Next Saturday, January 21 from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

WHERE:  ACC Highland Mall, Parking Lot D (6101 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX, 78752)

Pear Tree Pruning on Fox 7 Good Day Austin

I'm taping today to promote my fruit tree class for Sustainable Food Center. The segment will air on Weds Jan 11 between 9:30 and 9:50 am on the local Austin Fox morning show, Good Day Austin. I'm pretty excited about it! We are taping out in the Mueller Orchard- if you're in Austin you should visit the Mueller Orchard! It is located between Tom Miller and Manor Rds east of Berkman. I've been consulting on and caring for the orchard for a year now and it's been fun seeing the little trees mature.  

Food Preservation Methods

Check out these cool infographics about food preservation. you can use these techniques to get more deliciousness from your garden or to take advantage of a good deal at the farmer's market. Drying is my favorite method because I am an avid herb gardener. Sometimes I tie a rubber band around the stems of the herbs and hang them up to dry in my kitchen. Rubber bands work better than string because the stems will shrink as they dry and fall out of the string. The rubber band can contract to keep holding them. Here in Austin the weather tends to be dry enough that I don't need to worry about them getting moldy. But I do have to worry about cat hair getting on them! So I have a nice little food dehydrator that my brother gave me as a gift. It keeps the herbs clean as they are drying, but I have to be careful not to leave them in there too long or the essential oils, i.e. the great flavors, get cooked right out of them. During the summer I will park my little dehydrator in the sun outside and the herbs dry well in there without having to plug in the machine. Someday I would like to build an actual solar dehydrator but that is way down at the bottom on my to do list. If you like these infographics you can read the whole article here at

Happy New Year

In 2017 I am looking forward to enjoying the literal fruits of my labors in my home garden. I harvested at least 50 key limes from my little Key Lime tree this fall and winter. They are fragrant little treasures that make the perfect gin and tonic. I handed them out to my friends who came to visit during the holiday season. I even baked a Key Lime pie with a gingersnap crust!!! I recently planted an 'Orange Frost' Satsuma and with a little TLC I have big expectations for loads of fruit in years to come. This is what brings true joy to my daily life, a feeling of simple pleasure and abundance. Feel inspired? I can help you find some joy in 2017 by adding some fruits, veggies or herbs to your landscape.  Please get in touch! 512-217-6955. 

Fall herb gardening

Last week my Garden Journeys segment was about building an herb garden for my friend, Sarah. She and I talked for an hour about what kind of herbs she likes and which ones she wants to try. Sarah and her husband are renting their house so tomorrow we are going to plant the herbs in pots so the garden is portable. Most common culinary herbs are Mediterranean plants that like to dry out between waterings so they do well in pots, since pots tend to dry out faster than in-ground gardens. Sarah's herb garden includes Bay Laurel- so she can grab a leaf or two for recipes that call for bay leaves. She will also be enjoying mint and lemon balm iced tea, oregano for Italian dishes and more. While I was shopping for Sarah I also grabbed some shallots and calendulas for myself. I use calendula flowers in salads, as a substitute for saffron and the dried flowers can be soaked in witch hazel to make a healting toner for skin sratches and cuts. 

Calendula's cheery disposition brightens my Austin garden every fall, winter and sprinf.  

Calendula's cheery disposition brightens my Austin garden every fall, winter and sprinf.  

Compost tea tips from Aaron Crenshaw at Natural Gardener

The TWCNews Austin and San Antonio Garden Journeys episodes that I host are only 2 minutes long, so it can be a chalkenge to get in all of the pertinent info. Aaron, the compost tea brewmaster at Natural Gardener, who appeared on a recent interview, gave me his notes to include in my blog to make sure we get all of his knowledge out there! He says- 

"It is very important to have consistentcy when brewing commercially. 4 most important variables when brewing commercially:

1.  Use rainwater- slightly acidic 5.6-5.8 ph, no chemicals like flouride or chlorine/chloramine, city water can slow bacterial reproduction and in some cases kill off good organisms. 

2. Use good quality compost and amendments- different composts have different bacteria and fungi.  Inlike the Lady Bug Brand Revitalizer and Fox Farms Soil Conditioner. Along with good compost you need good amendments to help the bacteria and fungi. 

3. It is very important to have lots of oxygen and circulation. This will give the organisms plenty of oxygen and food to grow and populate. We use 2 air stones, a circulation pump and an areator for the compost bag. 

4. It is very important to check for life and potency before you sell. We use a microscope." 


Even though Aaron is brewing commercially these are also all good tips for home gardeners who are dablling in making compost tea at home. I believe compost tea is the answer to many gardening problems so I hope you will buy some from a locally owned nursery or try your hand in making it yourself.