the show

Orchids Made Easy

encore date: December 17, 2016

original air date: November 19, 2016

Orchids, those sensual flowers that can bloom for months, may seem challenging to the indoor gardener.  Jessica Robertson takes the mystery out of growing them, even for beginners. Why is it that some cold-hardy plants freeze in containers? Daphne’s got the answer.  Hankering for homegrown potatoes? Travis County Master Gardener Caroline Homer shares her tips for spectacular spuds.  And make room for tasty leeks, with Trisha’s tips on how to grow, divide and use these perennials. Get Trisha’s leek recipes. On tour at Dell Children’s Medical Center, gardens that nurture health, peace and young patient therapy unite top medical technology with nature’s healing power for both staff and families.


Question of the Week

Why don’t some cold hardy plants make it in pots over winter?

I was really excited when we got this question, since most people don’t think to ask, but just assume that their container plant died from the top freezing back. When plants are in containers, the roots are actually more exposed to temperature and other climatic extremes.

Soil is actually quite insulating, so being planted in the ground provides a measure of protection from the elements, at least, for the roots. If a plant is listed as hardy into your actual USDA zone, that would be appropriate for being planted in the landscape, not in a container. The top may freeze back, but if the plant is able to return from the roots, one of the descriptive characteristics of plants known as horticultural perennials, the winter is easily survived.

In a container, heat is rapidly radiated away. So if you have winter hardy plants in pots that die-back to the ground in winter, consider moving them into your garage for the winter season, or at least overnight on the coldest nights.

And this concept, of soil having insulating properties, should also be remembered when protecting tender landscape plants from extra cold nights. When you cover your plants, be sure to enclose the base of the soil, which will radiate heat into the air around the plant, thus protecting it, and weigh down the sides so that no cold air can get inside your protected “bubble.”


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Plant of the Week



Solanum tuberosum

Homegrown potatoes are quite easy to grow, as described beautifully by Travis County Master Gardener, Caroline Homer, blogger at The Shovel-Ready Garden. Here’s her full post on how she did it. Last year she ordered Kennebec and Red Pontiac seed potatoes from a certified organic supplier in mid-January. She kept the potatoes in the dark until February 7, about a week before planting. She cut anything bigger than a goose egg in half, making sure there were eyes on each piece. Then, she dipped the cut ends in sulfur to prevent rot. She put them on a tray indoors in a sunny spot to get the eyes to sprout. In mid-February, she planted them in a 4 x 8 raised bed, about eight to 10 inches apart and barely covered them with soil. When the potatoes sprouted leaves on stalks about six inches tall, she covered them with garden soil up to the very top leaves. She covered with row cover during the freeze, but still got frost damage. Luckily, the plants sprouted new leaves. As the leaf stalks grew, she hilled them up with more soil until the bed was full to the top and watered deeply about once every week or so if rain didn’t come. On May 7, she rummaged around and got new potatoes. The early red potatoes were much bigger than the mid-season Kennebec, so she left the Kennebecs alone for another month. As with other vegetables, plant potatoes in full sun and water regularly through the growing season. Be careful not to overwater, as the succulent tubers will rot. Viewer Picture goes to Jason Lantz for his gorgeous Red Admiral butterfly on cilantro flowers. Remember this inspirational photo in late spring, when your cilantro has bolted, is looking pretty scary and might even be covered with aphids. Those flowers are very important for butterflies and other insect pollinators.