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On Tour

Tsukahara and Starkey Native Plant Garden Design

In their garden renovation to a low-water native plant design, Bobbie Tsukahara and Gil Starkey wanted to attract the three B’s: butterflies, birds, and bees. Working with Judy Walther and Troy Nixon from Environmental Survey Consulting, their organic, low-maintenance garden contributes to nature’s gifts, rather than depleting them.

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Question of the Week

How do seeds work? What makes them germinate?

Seeds are tiny packets of carbohydrates, plus a tiny future plant. The first thing that all seeds need in order to germinate is water. When water and oxygen are taken up, the plant embryo can begin respiration and can digest the carbohydrate food source packaged with it and then can begin to grow.

Some seeds are large, and should be planted deeply so that they have plenty of space to expand before they emerge from the soil, while other seeds are so tiny that they require light to germinate. If these seeds don’t sense light, they won’t germinate because they have virtually no stored carbohydrates, hence their tiny size, and so they must have the sun to begin immediate photosynthesis in order to grow.

Some seeds need warm temperatures to germinate. These are the warm season plants-tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, marigolds, and others.

Other seeds need cooler temperatures-lettuce, spinach, spring wildflowers, onion, etc. These temperature-sensitive seeds use temperatures to gauge the time of year, so that they can be sure that it’s the right time to grow.

If you’re not sure, look at the seed packet to see when planting time is right.

If you plant seeds at the wrong time, they are subject to rot or being eaten before they have a chance to germinate.

There are many seeds that patiently wait underground until the time is right to emerge. This includes wildflowers and WEEDS! That is why it is so important to mow down, or cut off annual weed seeds, or pull them the minute you see them!

For the seeds you do want, make sure you check the temperatures they need to germinate. If you plant them too early or too late, weather conditions will kill them before they grow. A seed has one chance to germinate and that’s it!

For seeds you want to keep and replant again: wait until the seed pods dry. Cut them off, clean their coats off, and let them dry. Then, store in a cool dry place until the next season.

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Plant of the Week

Golden Groundsel

Golden Groundsel

Packera obovata

This Central Texas native plant is a great flowering groundcover for shady areas of your landscape, but it also does quite well in morning sun. It's a perennial that spreads by running, above-ground stems that form plantlets on their ends when they touch the soil. Lawn grasses grow in the same manner, so you know that this plant should fill an area in nicely, and quickly. Another great thing about golden groundsel is that with a little water through the winter, it's usually evergreen, so it gives some color to our otherwise brown winter yards. And then in very early spring, this plant bursts into growth and becomes covered in cute, little yellow, daisy-like flowers. Being evergreen and flowering so early, this plant is a great source of pollen for our struggling bee population before other flowers begin to emerge. This plant has survived some of the coldest and hottest, and driest and wettest Central Texas seasons on record, so if you have some bare spots now, and who doesn't, give it a try.