the show

Growing Grapes

air date: February 5, 2015

What are the best grapes to grow for wine and table? Jim Kamas, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Viticulture & Fruit Lab, heads us to backyard vineyard success with tips from his new book, Growing Grapes in Texas.  On tour, landscape architect Tait Moring is into recycling. To frame his hilltop garden with respect for the earth, he’s cycled native plants and wildlife back in since he arrived to Bermuda grass and a chain link fence.  Jim Kamas takes on this week’s question: Can we grow blueberries in Central Texas?  Plant of the Week is pears. Find out which ones to pick and how to grow them.  It’s time to start asparagus crowns, too! John Dromgoole explains how to plant, prune and harvest.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Hillside Native Garden for Wildlife

Landscape Architect Tait Moring is into recycling. From native stones to ashe juniper branches, he frames his rocky hilltop home with respect for the earth.  He’s cycled native plants and wildlife back in since he first arrived to Bermuda grass and a chain link fence.  In his multi-layered garden, artistic expression defines each new encounter from the most intimate to the holistic relationship to the land.



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Question of the Week

Can we grow blueberries in Central Texas?

Blueberries are one of the most difficult crops to grow with our soil and water here.

Most species of blueberries were evolved in the Southeastern United States or in other parts of North America where soils are quite acid. Blueberries like a soil pH between a 4.5 and 5 and that’s simply not what we have here (typically 7.5 to 8.5).

And the reason why that is important is because blueberries are one of the few plants that have no root hairs. They’re entirely dependent on a mycorrhizal affiliation with a fungus that infects the plant that actually benefits both organisms. The blueberry plant feeds the fungus, and the fungus acts as the root hairs and helps in the absorption of water and nutrients.

So when you plant blueberries in our soil and use our water, the mycorrhizal fungi simply die and the blueberry plant will show you every single nutrition deficiency known to plant-kind. Again, blueberries like high organic matter, they like acid soils, they cannot tolerate water that has calcium or sodium in it.

So if you really want to grow blueberries there are ways to get around this by planting in a container. The ideal medium for blueberries is half sand and half peat moss. The pH of peat is between 5 and 5.5, and the high organic matter is perfect for the growth of these mycorrhizal fungi. You don’t really need to worry about inoculating these plants. They come inoculated from the nursery; you simply want to create an environment where they will survive.

The other thing that’s going to be a necessity is the collection and use of solely rain water. Using city water that is high in calcium will simply kill the mycorrhizal fungi and the blueberry plant won’t survive.


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Plant of the Week



First, fire blight is an issue with pears. If you’re growing in Central Texas you can get away with less fire blight tolerance and higher fruit quality. Ayers, Warren and Le Conte are probably higher quality and you don’t need to worry as much about fire blight. Now if you’re growing in the eastern part of the state, over near Beaumont where you get high rain fall, the fire blight tolerance is going to be absolutely essential. In the eastern part of the state, varieties like Keiffer, Maxine, and Moonglow are probably the ideal varieties. Do you need another pear for pollination? Yes, you do, and it must be a different variety. Two different varieties of pears that bloom at the same time are ideal for fruit set. How many chilling hours do we need?  This is the number of hours below 45° for dormant trees to flower and set fruit. Most pears adapted to the Southern part of the United States are relatively low chilling. 450 to 500 hours is plenty. So we get plenty of chilling in most of our areas. And, because they are a little slow to bloom, we rarely get problems with spring frost. Find out more on Texas A&M University Fruit and Nut Resources.