New Episode: Soil (Biology) is Sexy

white flowering perennial against golden-topped grasses against deep orange and gold flowers
In 1987, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center proclaimed the first week of May as National Wildflower Week to celebrate the beauty and importance of native wildflowers across the U.S. Plants may vary, though perennial firewheel/Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) carpets the country coast to coast. In an Austin front yard pocket prairie, Jennifer Orr layered it with white-flowering shrubby boneset and Mexican feather grass for on-going seasonal dimension.
golden yellow flowers
Engelman’s daisy, a perennial across the Southwest, blooms for weeks, attracting all kinds of pollinators.
bee on golden flowers
This one on my curb gets scalding afternoon sun and reflected heat from the street.
ladybug feeding on aphids clustered on thistle stem
Some plants–native and adapted–are on their way out, attracting plant-sucking aphids. Ladybugs hurry over to scarf them up.
smiling woman on CTG set; Wizzie Brown
This week, Texas A&M AgriLife entomologist Wizzie Brown makes the case to appreciate our aphids. “I know this is a tough sell, but there are many beneficial insects that rely on aphids as a food source, so if you have zero aphids in your landscape then there will be no food available for those beneficials,” she tells us.
alligator-looking insect on yellow aphids
Beneficial insects include syrphid fly larvae (pictured above) along with ladybug larvae and green lacewing larvae. (An “alligator-looking” orange and black ladybug larvae is to the left out of focus.)
brown shell-looking aphids against yellow aphids
You may not see certain parasitoids (tiny wasps that lay their eggs in other insects), but you’ll know they’re around when you spot browned aphid “mummies.”
ladybug and brown aphids on lettuce leaf
There are many kinds of aphids, including these on a lettuce leaf being eyed by a ladybug. Guess she’s picking her lunch options.
tiny yellow egg cluster on leaf
So, she laid her eggs to keep them close to the pantry as larvae. Heads up: if you buy ladybugs, but wipe out their food supply, they won’t hang around. It’s like going to your favorite restaurant to find they’ve run out of everything. And really, folks, no need to buy ladybugs! They’ll find you if you leave their prey alone.

Also, check out Wizzie’s fantastic podcast Bugs by the Yard for lots of fun about backyard bugs. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook for on-the-spot insect videos. I always check Wizzie’s sites for timely reports and identifications.
woman in blue t-shirt on CTG set
Healthy soil is the starting point for a balanced prey-to-predator garden. But what does that mean and how do we achieve it? Soil health specialist Andie Marsh and John Hart explore basic principles that apply to any garden.
smiling man and woman on CTG set
“When I talk about soil, I’m talking about the life in it,” she says. “So, you know, just like you and I have a microbiome, all those microbes that live on our skin and in our guts, plants evolved with microbial partners that provide them nutrients and resistance to pests and pathogens,” she says.
Soil Food Web Relationships with illustrations of fungi and microbes to insects and plants
Andie’s a Certified Lab Technician from Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Soil Food Web School, internationally recognized for its work to restore nature to the world’s soils, and an early influencer of Central Texas Gardener. “Dr. Elaine Ingham is one of the world’s foremost soil biologists. And in her over four decades of research, we’ve come to learn a lot about the soil food web and how it serves plants and how it improves the health of our landscapes. And she stepped outside of academia to create an online program to train people like me who have a huge interest in this field but aren’t necessarily motivated by research but more so motivated by applying the science in the field,” Andie notes.
deep orange and yellow wildflowers
“So that is where soil health comes into the mix; restoring those ancient partnerships between microorganisms and plants so that the plants have what they need in terms of nutrients and pest resistance and improved soil structure.”
smiling young woman in blue t-shirt with a microscope
Check out Andie’s Substack for more about soil ecology and follow her on Instagram!
house painted like octopus in the sea
On tour, an artistic collaboration goes with the flow when stormwater runoff plagued a family’s home.
narrow front yard stream with wispy-leaved tree and one with red leaves
A creative team, including Focal Point Features and Rain Lily Design, led by innovative general contractor Nelson Rockwood, plunged into a whimsical, colorful makeover.
smiling man in tie-dye shirt in front of house painted like an octopus with a mermaid sculpture at front fence
“One of the sayings here in Bouldin Creek that I don’t hear a lot anymore was you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a local artist,” owner Joey Trevino told us on our visit in April and May 2023. “And that’s becoming less and less true all the time as people are being driven out of art, out of Austin who are artistic and creative.”
mermaid sculpture mounted on twirling post in front yard of house painted like an octopus
Local artists, landscapers, and sculptors united to reframe a beige, boxy house into a gregarious octopus and elegant mermaid overlooking tumbling streams framed by native plants. Read the blog for more!
smiling young woman on TV set with small houseplants and watering can
On Backyard Basics, Amber de la Rosa, founder of Central Texas Plant People, joined us just weeks before her wedding to demonstrate plant propagation with stem cuttings. She even brought a sedum from her bridal shower gifts!

It all started as a way to save a few bucks during the pandemic. Quickly, plant swaps among friends grew into a community swap, bringing together all kinds of gardeners from around the region. Follow Central Texas Plant People on Facebook and Instagram for more tips on plant sharing and upcoming plant swap dates!

Watch now!

Thanks for stopping by! Linda