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Half-Pint Urban Prairie + Native Fruit Tress

air date: April 4, 2020

Let’s get growing native fruit trees! Horticulturist Karen Beaty from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plucks a few for big and small gardens to feed us, the birds, and beneficial pollinators. To demonstrate the beauty and value of the Blackland Prairie, University of Texas at Austin students are seeding the future at the Half-Pint Urban Prairie. Daphne identifies those crawling critters on your house, explains why to diversify our plantings, and why to eat your dandelions! Grow a bountiful harvest of healthful sweet potatoes with Travis County Master Gardener Sheryl Williams.

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Episode Segments

On Tour

Seeding a Sustainable Future at the Half-Pint Urban Prairie

University of Texas at Austin students are seeding the future at the Half-Pint Urban Prairie just down the street from the iconic campus tower. A project of the student-led Campus Environmental Center, they broke ground in February 2019 to demonstrate the beauty and importance of the Blackland Prairie ecoregion.  Along with illustrating sustainability and water resourcefulness for cities of the future, the students are honing leadership skills to graduate with them.

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Interview

Grow Native Fruit Trees: Karen Beaty

Let’s get growing native fruit trees! Horticulturist Karen Beaty from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plucks a few for big and small gardens to feed us, the birds, and beneficial pollinators. Host: John Hart Asher.

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Question of the Week

What are these critters crawling on my house?

Coe Vander Zee started seeing hundreds of these critters on the house after having some landscape work done. We checked in with AgriLife Extension entomologist Wizzie Brown who tells us that these are millipedes, which are actually beneficial in the garden, where they normally stay. But they seek shelter in rainfall and drought, or if their habitat is disturbed. Just carry them back into the garden if they’re somewhere you don’t want them, whether on your house, or if they come inside. 

Now, why should we diversify our planting designs? Diversity in the landscape not only provides more interesting shapes, sizes, and colors for us, but also attracts a diversity of natural organisms. Many insects and diseases are host-specific, or at least host-preferential. If you have a variety of plants with different growth habits and bloom times, you lessen the likelihood of being completely wiped out if your garden is invaded by hungry pests. 

When selecting plants at the nursery, what does sun, part shade, and shade on those plant tags really mean? 

Well, somewhere in the world, they mean exactly what they say. But quite often, that doesn’t apply to the sunny southern U.S. I recommend that you do a little internet research, or better yet, give your county extension office a call, to get the local scoop before planting, especially if a label says “full sun.” The sun is more intense in Central Texas, accompanied by higher heat, so many plants that would do just fine in full sun in northern regions will completely fry here under our death ray. But some plants do like both sun and shade, or bright-filtered light. If in doubt, protection from the extremely harsh rays of late afternoon is almost never a bad idea.

And, about those dandelions! Some people may consider them weeds, but they’re a nutritious food source for pollinators on warm winter days, and we can eat them too.  

Alex Wolff tells us how his Italian-born grandmother, Evelyn Waters, looked forward to “Dandelion Day.” 

He relays his story for us: “When I was a kid growing up in the D.C. suburbs, my Nonni and I used to spend one weekend, usually in March, walking around her neighborhood in Reston, Virginia, picking dandelion greens. At the end of the day we would have piles of dandelion greens, ready to be taken home for one of my favorite meals of the year. On Dandelion Day, she would sauté the greens with a seemingly insane amount of fresh garlic, and serve it with a dough similar to pizza dough, shallow-fried in oil. We put the greens on the dough, and feasted!” 

Alex’s mother Lisa Wolff shared the yummy recipe with us.

In Shelly McDaniel’s habitat garden in Houston, mild temperatures meant Monarch butterflies visited her still-blooming datura. She even found a Monarch caterpillar. Then while visiting Buchanan’s Native Plants Nursery in Houston, she spotted even more butterflies, including a Monarch on lantana. Red Admiral butterflies clustered too, on alyssum.  

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Backyard Basics

Start Sweet Potato Slips: Sheryl Williams

Grow a bountiful harvest of healthful sweet potatoes with Travis County Master Gardener Sheryl Williams. See how and why to choose dry, wet, or soil options.

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