Garden Club Discusses North Texas Gardening

Speaker Ed Tavender with Garden Club members (left to right): Judy McMillan, Barbara Murry, and Linda Stuart (photo by Erminja Maganja)

Erminja Maganja, Publicity Chair

For its February meeting, the Garden Club hosted Ed Tavender, nursery manager at the family-owned Fossil Creek Tree Farm & Nursery in Fort Worth, to discuss gardening in North Texas. Ed has worked with owners Terra and Josh Richards since they opened the business in 2011. Ed’s style was friendly and casual, akin to having coffee with a knowledgeable friend. He acknowledged the challenges of gardening here and provided some tips for consideration.

Soil Quality: A plant is only as good as the soil it’s growing in. Local soils are clay-heavy and nutrient-poor. Have your soil tested. It’s inexpensive and worth the effort. This DCMGA link has information about how to take a soil sample and send it to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Testing Lab: Amend the soil before planting. Add top soil or planters mix. Add slow- or controlled-release grow medium with nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, beneficial for growth. Ed recommended using 12-6-6 for trees, shrubs, and ornamentals. Add natural fertilizers like Zoo Poo. (Really! It’s part of the Dallas Zoo’s recycling program.)

Proper Watering: The most common mistake is overwatering. Clay soils don’t percolate well, so water pools around the root ball, which leads to disease and rot. It’s better to water more frequently using less volume than to soak your garden.

Be Adventurous: Try something different—every garden has unique soil and light conditions. You may be successful in growing a plant that doesn’t typically do well here (azaleas, peonies, red leaf maples).

Don’t Rely on the Internet or Plant Tag: Our combination of soil, temperature, and sunlight conditions is not typical. Get plant recommendations from a nursery garden coach on plant selection to match your specific conditions and preferences.

Plants that Do Well: Holly—drought tolerant, thrive here; hundreds of varieties. Select one that fits your needs for size and sunlight. Juniper—excellent screening plant. Brodie Juniper love it here; Blue Points don’t. Texas Sage—heat and wind tolerant, drought resistant; many varieties (Renegade, 5- to 6-foot; Silver Star, slow-growing, 4-foot bush). Magnolia—provided they are properly tended.

Ed generously brought 55 one-quart potted spring flowers as door prizes. Recipients could choose from gerber daisy, primrose, and green- or red-leaf wax begonia. Over 75% of our 62 members and 10 guests in attendance went home with a hint of spring.

Coming up on Monday, March 20, is our annual plant exchange. As gardeners begin winter clean-up, plant division, and bulb thinning, we share our abundance through this long-lived tradition. Members share plants that have proliferated and take home something new. Bring what you have—bulbs, indoor and outdoor plants, or seeds. Include a note with your exchange plant for the new owner to be aware of its characteristics and needs (size at maturity, color, and sunlight and water requirements). Importantly, you need not bring a plant to attend the meeting and join in the fun. There’s usually plenty to share!

For questions about the Garden Club, contact Erminja at [email protected] or 916-804-5551.