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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Thursday, January 25, 2007


A NEW BLOG DIRECTORY FROM AUSTRALIA Stuart at Gardening Tips’n’Ideas has set up a garden blog directory featuring a blog search engine and a world map dotted with Garden Bloggers. Go to his website , also linked at left, and click the banner to see how it works. You can also add your garden blog to the map. Guess what city has the most blogs so far!

DIVAS OF THE DIRTLate January is the time each year when our annual edition of the Divas of the Dirt Diary is posted, and it went up late last night. If you’re interested in reading about what the Divas have done lately - garden projects, photos, theme song and new recipes - the adventures from 2006 can be found on the Divas of the website, http://www.divasofthedirt.com/

SATURDAY- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center! Diva Candy relayed this notice:
Tree Talk and Winter Walk 2007, January 27, 9 am - 5 pm.
Join the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in celebrating our annual Tree Talk & Winter Walk on Saturday, January 27, where we will be helping you in “Barking Up the Right Tree”. Our event features a robust Tree Sale, with more than 80 species from which to choose. Purchase the perfect native tree for your urban landscape. Join us for walks and talks, such as how to identify & maintain native trees, & explore the importance of trees in the urban landscape. The day will include a Tree Planting demonstration, and activities for children & families. Don't forget to stop on by our Gift Store, where children's author Michael Todd will be signing copies of his book Texas State Bird Pageant from noon to 3 p.m. You can also get a 20% discount on selected items while shopping at the store (what a deal)!
This one-day free event is packed with organized walks, talks, demonstrations, children’s activities, and useful information on trees including proper tree care, maintenance, planning and landscaping with trees. Join tree experts including: arborist Don Gardner, forester Jim Houser with Texas Forest Service, arborist Guy LeBlanc, and Flo Oxley and Philip Schulze with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center . Also on hand will be participating organizations providing information about their tree related programs: TreeFolks, FireCap, and the Texas Forest Service. Enjoy the Urban-Wildland Interface exhibit, and discover information you can use for landscape planning and maintenance regarding fire safety.
Sponsored by KGSR. For more information and schedule, visit our website, at: www.wildflower.org.
Stephen Brueggerhoff, Public Programs Manager
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Avenue
Austin, TX 78739-1702
THINKING ABOUT COMPOST Carol in Indiana [May Dreams Garden] runs the Garden Bloggers book club, with the January title called Teaming with Microbes. I’m looking forward to reading all the posts and plan to read this book eventually. While I can't do a book club post, I do have thoughts about compost.
We were composting long before we read books by Roger Swain, Eric Grissell and Michael Pollan, or had even heard the name Ruth Stout, practically the Patron Saint of Composting. We began subscribing to Organic Gardening Magazine in the middle seventies, receiving this issue in 1978.
I grew up knowing about composting in a general way: Grandma Anna had a cement bin in the alley behind her Chicago garden, complete with access door set into the front, and my dad made compost from the time we moved out to the suburbs. Philo built a compost enclosure at our first house, and when moving from one house to another in 1987, although he was willing to leave the firewood for the new owner, the whole compost pile was shoveled into sacks and hauled to our new garden.

Now our mulching mower helps the grass clippings break down where they fall. We also use this mower to chop most of the fallen leaves, digging them into the vegetable garden so they can compost over winter. We chop some leaves to use as mulch on some woodland-style beds and borders. I crack & snip smaller sticks to mix in with the mulch, and occasionally put citrus peels through the blender with water, pouring the slurry in garden beds. But we no longer have a designated compost pile or bin.

Our Northern yards were narrow and long with space for a compost pile a reasonable distance from the house. But this neighborhood has irregularly-shaped lots that are wide but very shallow, with short, winding streets. Our lot and the other 4 lots with which we share property lines don’t have right angles – they’re more like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Since we have no ‘out-of-the-way corners’, from any given location in my yard it’s a very short distance to a dwelling, whether my neighbors’ or my own. Instead of being manufacturers of compost, we have decided to be consumers of compost.

And you know what? It feels pretty valid to me. We can buy all sorts of compost from local organic dealers, sometimes going to the you-dig places like Garden-Ville and the Natural Gardener. We buy a great deal of Texas Native Hardwood Mulch, made by a firm here in Central Texas; using it helps keep tree trimmings out of the landfills. We buy organic liquid composts and soil activators like Medina Soil Activator and Terra-Tonic, Medina Hasta-Grow and LadyBug products.
Although we enjoyed our years of making our own compost, buying organic compost products is a good thing, too, encouraging these companies to continue composting on a large scale.


  1. Oh, good. Thank you for allowing me to feel less guilty about not composting. Like you, I buy rather than make my own organic compost, and I'm glad that counts for something. ;-)

  2. I like Stuart's new idea. I noticed which city has the most blogs :) I need to add mine.
    I'll check out your lastest edition of the 'Divas Diary'. Should be lots of fun :)
    The Tree Talk and Winter Walk sounds like fun too. A nice activity to add a bit of interest to the colder months.

  3. We started reading Organic Gardening and Farming about the same time (it was still "and Farming" then). My first husband has all those old issues, though.

    When I visited your garden, I did wonder where you'd put a compost pile...it's a very irregularly shaped yard.

    I'm glad I can dump mine behind the shed. I never have enough (witness my drive for Christmas tree clippings)--especially now that we don't have a truck to pick up a yard of this and that at the Natural Gardener.

    My neighborhood email list surprised me last week... several people reported rats in their houses. Their exterminators told them not to compost. And now they don't. I've seen possums, armadillos, and raccoons but never any rats. I don't put animal products in my compost, of course, and there are plenty of unleashed cats around. So I was surprised anyone reported a rat problem.

    Heads up, you hoighty-toighty Californians that want to raze our neighborhood and build McMansions. 78704 has rats! (And chickens, and goats, and pigs.) Maybe you'd be happier someplace else. We'd be happier if you were somewhere else.

  4. Okay, MSS - I wasn't going to mention that part, but you said it first! We also know people who have had close encounters with rats and mice. Those rodents, plus the armadillos, possums, raccoons and giant flying cockroaches are reasons why some distance between house and composting activity is necessary.
    We have a shed which could hide the pile, but it's too close to one neighbor, and the space is full of the boxes for utilities.

    Kerri - I'm hoping to get to the tree event - it does sound like fun, and maybe there will be a tree meant for me.

    Pam - we made compost at our other Austin house and had very mediocre results. In this climate, places with large heaps, like GeoGrowers and Texas Native Hardwood make good stuff!


  5. Annie, congrats on finishing the Diva's 2006 website! And your info on gardening well without a compost bin will certainly help and inspire a lot of gardeners. Do you mind if I include it in the Garden Bloggers' Book Club post, anyway? I did offer that if someone couldn't read the selected book, they could just write about soil or compost in general.

  6. Sure, Carol! I wasn't sure if this post qualified, but you're right - there are probably other people in a similar situation.


  7. "although he was willing to leave the firewood for the new owner, the whole compost pile was shoveled into sacks and hauled to our new garden."

    *laughing* Yes!

  8. Oh, Annie, that is so funny, moving your compost in sacks to a new house! I love it! And I don't blame you for not leaving that precious cargo behind.

    I also applaud your decision not to make your neighbors look at your compost pile. We have that situation here too. One of the neighbors has his pile "tucked away" in the back of his yard where it can't be seen from his own house, but it's front and center for the occupants of the next house down! Split rail fences don't do much to hide the "view".

  9. Lots of things to look at (and think about!) - Can't wait to take a look at the Divas of the Dirt website! The Tree and Winter Walk sounds so nice - wish it was a shorter drive! Now, regarding compost - I think my parents had a little compost pile during my entire childhood, and I now have on tucked away in a bamboo patch in my backyard - not a fancy official one, but a space where I tend to dump misc. 'stuff'. I've always had this philosophy that one should always keep their yard's carbon (instead of bagging it up to be disposed of) - so all of the leaves from my live oaks get blown or mowed or mulched and placed on beds somewhere. I'm a leaf freak in fact, and often stop along the road and pick up other people's bags of leaves. I simply can't get enough! Hope you're having a good weekend.

  10. Annie, I loved checking out the Divas website. When you get a second, can you please explain what you mean by "Austin Bat-shape Bed," though?

  11. Jenn and LostRoses, it was pretty funny 20 years ago, too - my husband was so triumphant as he drove off with the loot!

    Pam, that is the ideal, and I'm glad it works for you. We did the same thing in IL - had a chipper which let us keep all the tree trimmings on-site, too.

    Kim, Austin has a huge bat-colony which is a tourist attraction, with a viewing park, statues and souvenirs, etc. The Mexican Freetail bat is kind of a mascot - hockey team is called Ice Bats and there's some drink called "Batini Thyme" using the local Tito's Handmade Vodka.

    Well anyway, as I dug that bed it began to look like an Austin bat to me. I thought that was sort of cool so I added a large Cuphea llavea, or "Bat-faced Cuphea".
    In August I posted a photo of the red & purple variety, but the one in the bat bed was pale pink, white & violet. You have to look closely to see tiny faces with standing up ears.


    Of course as all the vegetation filled in, the shape became less defined, but I still call it the bat-bed.


  12. I can't say that we have composted anything unless you call throwing dirt on the remains of veggies after juicing, composting. The earthworms seem to love it tho. But we don't juice anymore so that's the extent of that. I do throw out coffee grounds on the blueberries and eggshells for selected plants after I heard that apparently many plants are calcium deficient according to Mike McGrath the 'You bet your garden' host on NPR.

    The township has a huge composting operation which we have visited regularly. You can either get compost or woodchips and is a great boon for the gardeners although I wonder a lot about the pesticides and herbicides that could be lurking in the compost. Hopefully the heat and rain leached all that stuff out but you never know.

    You Divas have too much fun.

  13. Coffee grounds! How could I have forgotten to mention all the pounds and pounds of coffee grounds that go on the magnolia, Michelia, Camellias, Loropetalum, etc.

    Ki, we do have fun - they are wonderful women.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  14. Annie, I love that! :) And I keep thinking that I have to grow some bat-faced cuphea, even just as an annual, because it's so cute.

  15. Guess which large city has the least garden bloggers? Ashamed to say it's Chicago, your old hometown. Mr. Brown Thumb and I are but two of very few full-time garden bloggers.

    I'm trying to read your many interesting posts. I was surprised to find that Austin could be so cold, or isn't that very unusual ?

  16. Welcome, Carolyn!
    Austin has 4 seasons, with many deciduous trees and freezes every year. But the patterns are quite erratic, due to wind patterns and that middle-of-the-continent thing. We were down to the twenties on the 16th, then had a spectacular weekend in high sixties for the Austin Marathon... last year the race started with ice on the roadsides so this was a great improvement!



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