the show

Funky Chicken Coop Tour 2012

encore date: March 31, 2012

original air date: February 25, 2012

Get egg-citing tips to raise chickens of your own with Michelle Hernandez and Carla Jean Oldenkamp from the Austin Funky Chicken Coop tour. Take a tour of Carla’s Zen Hen House and organic vegetable garden. Daphne Richards notes when to fertilize plants and lawn. Her pick of the week: Texas maroon bluebonnet. Trisha Shirey transitions winter crops to summer’s harvests.

Question of the Week

How and when should I fertilize my shrubs, trees, and perennials?

After the extreme heat of 2011, your landscape definitely needs a little help this year before the summer arrives.

Although fertilization is not necessary for every plant, every year, I would suggest fertilizing this year, to give your plants a nutrient boost during the spring growing season to help prepare them for the stress of summer. With plant nutrients, a little bit goes a long way and more is definitely not better. If you give your plants too much fertilizer, they’ll put on a lot of new growth and may look great in the spring, but then when summer arrives, they won’t have enough water to support all that new growth and they’ll be even more stressed.

With perennials and flower beds, consider using a layer of compost as your initial mulch. Compost will provide a very small amount of nutrients, which is likely all your perennials will need. For trees and shrubs, use an actual fertilizer product and choose one that is slow-release, meaning that the nutrients will be released slowly over time.

No matter which type of fertilizer you choose, be sure to follow the label directions and don’t over-apply. Also be sure to water your trees, shrubs, and all your plants very well this spring. All the care that you give them now will help tremendously during the heat of summer, when you really won’t be able to provide your plants as much water as they truly need.

Fertilizer timing:

Compost: Jan-June

Trees: late Feb. to March

Roses: mid-Feb. to March

Shrubs and perennials: March to April

Lawns: wait until full green-up and weeds are gone, mid-April to early May.

Watch more Question of the Week videos on YouTube →

Plant of the Week

Bluebonnet (Maroon)

Bluebonnet (Maroon)

Lupinus texensis 'Texas Maroon'

Our pick of the week is a maroon bluebonnet, a Texas Super Star selection. Although you may never see them, maroon bluebonnets actually ARE found in nature, along with a spectrum from white, to pink, to deep blue. The reason we see so many blue bluebonnets, is because of genetics. The blue flower color is dominant and the other colors are recessive. Like our other native wildflowers, maroon bluebonnet seeds should be planted in the fall. But now is the perfect time to plant transplants. When the seeds dry in May or so, collect them to plant next year. In the meantime, the bluebonnet plants will fixate nitrogen in the soil to make germination easier next year. And be forewarned: since bluebonnets are annuals, with the parent plant dying after seed-production, the maroon color will be lost in your population if there are any blue bluebonnets in the area to pollinate them. Bluebonnets perform best in full sun and prefer well-drained soil. The crown of this plant remains at soil level, with only the leaves and flower-stalks elongating, so if the soil is too heavy or stays too wet, your bluebonnets will rot quite quickly. If you'd like, you can allow the seeds to naturalize in your garden, or you can collect them once the pods have dried on the plant. Bluebonnet seeds have a very hard seed-coat and require some physical scarring to soften and imbibe water. In nature, scarification occurs in varying ways, but if you collect seed for resowing, you could use a file to slough away some of the seed coat before planting next October-November.