Read This: A garden care guide for DIYers in Central Texas

Let’s Care for Texas Plants distills Colleen Dieter’s experience as a professional gardener into an easy-to-digest format for home gardeners.… Read More

The post Read This: A garden care guide for DIYers in Central Texas appeared first on Digging.

July 16, 2023

A couple years ago, Austin gardening expert Colleen Dieter handed me a “DIY zine for DIYers” she’d written and published in booklet form. Titled Let’s Care for Texas Plants, the 3-part series distills Colleen’s 12+ years of experience as a professional gardener into an easy-to-digest format for the home gardener in Central Texas.

I put the booklets in my towering to-read pile, and there they sat — until I heard her mention her zine on the call-in radio show that she co-hosts with Leah Churner, Horticulture Hangover on KLBJ (which I listen to via the duo’s engaging and informative podcast, The Horticulturati). Oh yeah!, I thought. I dug the booklets out of the pile and sat down with them over lunch. And I immediately wanted to share them with local readers because they’re packed with useful and straightforward information about caring for gardens in our uniquely challenging climate.

Let’s Care for Texas Plants consists of 3 volumes. Volume 1 is about maintaining and improving soil, turf, and trees. It includes basic gardening info, including Colleen’s must-have tools, her compost tea recipe, and directions on when and how to spread compost and mulch. In the introduction she pithily answers the question a lot of people have about caring for native plants:

“Gardeners often ask me why we should care for…plants that are supposed to be native or well-adapted and low-maintenance. ‘Low-maintenance’ is not the same as ‘no maintenance’. In their native homes in Texas, these plants would have been trampled by…herds of buffalo or burned by the regular wildfires that were a part of this region’s ecosystem for eons. I don’t know about you, but my yard lacks wildfires and herds of buffalo. So our jobs as gardeners is to imitate these forces of nature. These plants won’t die without trimming, but they won’t look good without trimming.”

Volume 2 covers perennial care, with maintenance tips for around 30 commonly grown perennials in Central Texas. Colleen points out that in our climate, some perennials go dormant in summer instead of in winter, like columbine, and others remain evergreen year-round, like damianita: “This little plant can leave you scratching your head as you figure out how to maintain it. It’s evergreen, making it hard to know when to cut it back….[A]s it ages it starts to get ugly….It’s also confusing because it doesn’t seem to bloom at the same times year after year.” So true!

Volume 3 is about the care of ornamental grasses, bulbs, succulents and other xeric plants like nolina and dyckia, groundcovers, and roses.

Illustrations showing how to prune plants from Let’s Care for Texas Plants

While there aren’t photographs in the booklets, Colleen includes simple color illustrations. I particularly like the ones in Volume 2 showing where on a particular plant to make pruning cuts depending on the season. Illustrations in Volume 3 showing how to divide grasses and other plants are also helpful.

Colleen’s zine is available through her website, where she sells print copies and a digital version. I don’t know if any local nurseries carry it, but they should. One suggestion though: in the next printing, a clearer, simpler design for the covers, especially for volumes 2 and 3, would be better. With the collage-style covers, I had difficulty understanding what each volume was about. A simple illustration and consistent title font and style would be easier to grasp at a quick glance.

Colleen’s plant care zine is the how-to that every new gardener in Central Texas needs — or new homeowner, if you’ve inherited a bunch of plants you have no idea how to care for. As Colleen points out, “If you read dozens of books about selecting plants for your yard and carefully chose them from the nursery, then dutifully followed exacting planting instructions while installing your plants, you may be surprised and bewildered, as I was, how little information there is about what to do next.”

Let’s Care for Texas Plants fills that void. It’s a must-have for any gardener in Central Texas, especially newbies. But even experienced gardeners will learn something new.

Disclosure: Colleen Dieter gave me a copy of Let’s Care for Texas Plants, and I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my personal opinion.

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Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance; simply click this link and ask to be added. The Season 7 lineup can be found here.

All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

The post Read This: A garden care guide for DIYers in Central Texas appeared first on Digging.

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