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I have gardened in Texas all my life- from Corpus Christi in the Coastal Bend up to Leander in the Texas Hill Country near Austin. I was interested in plants from about 10 years old I guess. I remember my Aunt Leah Raetzsch in Lake Charles, Louisiana giving me some plants and having to moisten them in the hotel bathtub on the way back to Texas. All that said, some say gardening in Texas is tough. I've never known anything different. This Summer was a drought in the Hill Country. Last Summer was a monsoon season... The little lake by our house had part of County Road 273 under water for over 2 weeks...One of my rosemary bushes got so tired of wet feet it gave up and died. It rained almost every day. This year, I watered my tomatos and peppers almost every day. Smart and handy people have drip systems or Earth boxes... We must mulch to conserve water in Texas. Part shade is needed for some plants that say "full sun" in other parts of the country. I am trying some rhubarb in partial shade this fall at the suggestion of a local nursery. Also planted a couple of apple trees. I also love wild Texas food plants like Mulberry and Dewberries. Also ornamentals like American Beauty berry, Agarita, etc.

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Call it beginner's luck, but my first year gardening in Texas has vastly exceeded my expectations. I think it may have a bit to do with obsessive seed packet reading and drip irrigation but more to do with raised beds full of Hill Country Garden Soil.

Once we got the hang of what parts we needed, putting together a drip system went smoothly and now we have something we can build off of. If it wasn't for drip irrigation, my laziness would have taken over and the garden would be non-existent.

I'm wondering how to maintain soil vitality without having to import anything in the way of amendments. We compost yard and food waste, so that will help and brew compost tea. Chickens may also be in the future. Is there anything that has worked magic for you?

Also, can anyone recommend a particular prickly pear variety for making jam?
I love Medina organic products like their Hasta Gro. http://www.medinaag.com/medina.swf I also have some great bagged organic fertilizer from the Natural Gardener www.naturalgardeneraustin.com

8648 Old Bee Caves Rd
Austin, TX 78735
(512) 288-6113

The Dirt Doctor always has good advice: http://www.dirtdoctor.com/view_question.php?id=795

I've never made prickly pear jam- have eaten them as well as nopales. We used to make wine and jelly out of the native Mustang Grapes...
It seems we are back to drought conditions in Texas this year. We use lots of mulch and soaker hoses and drip irrigation. North Texas may be in a little better shape this year than the Austin area. Texas growing can be tough. I was spoiled when I lived in Iowa for 8 years and it was as close to growing heaven as I have ever known. Soft loamy soil you can dig with your toes, full of nutrients left by glaciers, watered by the snow melting every year, cold enough to kill off garden pests and almost tropical in the summer time. Still I missed Texas and found my way back home to start my own minifarm.
My great grandparents were farmers in Mississippi and most of my extended family has grown a garden. My father is the gardener in my immediate family and I caught the organic bug from him while growing up in suburban North Texas.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Isn't that farming in Texas?
Carol in TX

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