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Growing Things

One of my main hobbies is gardening. I focus on vegetable gardening and on landscaping with native plants and trees that attract wildlife (especially butterflies and birds). Any time I have a new yard to work with, the first mission is to eliminate the turfgrass (especially St. Augustine grass). I consider St. Augustine grass to be a personal enemy, and I devote myself to eradicating it. If any part of the landscape is going to be a grass lawn, I try to keep it small and use native Buffalo grass. Buffalo grass makes a greeat lawn for central Texas. It is a native prairie grass that has a beautiful fine texture and it doesn't require any watering. During drought conditions, the grass will go dormant and brown, but it greens up as soon as it gets rain. Best of all, it only needs to be mowed every 4-6 weeks.

For the rest of the landscape, we select landscape plants that are native to our region, so the plants will thrive in the existing soil and without need for supplemantal water or fertilizer. I make an exception to my native-plants-only rule for edible plants in the vegetable garden, or plants that are particularly good for attracting birds and butterflies.


Some before-and after photos tell the story best:

Before: A blank slate

After: Landscaped with central Texas native plants.


Before: Nothing but St. Augustine grass

After: Lots of native plants and a smaller lawn of native buffalo grass. (Click images for full-size)

Vegetable Gardening

For growing in Austin, raised beds are essential. I installed two raised beds in the front yard of the old house, giving almost 200 square feet of gardening area. All of it was irrigated by a low-pressure drip system feeding from the 1000-gallon rainwater tank in the backyard. This area is sufficient to grow enough produce for one or two people, as long as appropriate crops are selected. I have become quite focused on choosing edible plants that give the best "bang for the buck" - that is, they produce the most food with the least amount of water, space, and effort. After all, the potential environmental benefits of growing food in your yard are completely lost as soon as you must use large amounts of municipal water to grow them! I have a lot of opinions on this topic, so I should post more on it soon . . .

Just after installing the second, longer bed.

Both beds in full Winter production mode.

Late spring/summer harvests can produce an overwhelming amount of produce. For 3-4 weeks in spring, artichokes come out in force. The red italian artichoke is one of my favorites.

Winter harvests: Lots of lettuce, root vegetables, kale, and cabbage.





      Copyright (c) 2008 Michael R. Markham -- Updated May 30, 2013