Rule # 1: Don't try planting Pansies for the summer...they won't make it. Thankfully, this is not one of the many errors I made--I had read Dale Groom's Book before I started gardening.
Rule # 2: Always intersperse Bean plants with your other plants. Beans take nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil. Which pretty much means constant fertilizing. Awesome.
Rule # 3: Butterflies like large plantings of the same color. This is because they are nearsighted. Also, if you want Black Swallowtail Butterflies (and caterpillars), plant parsley, dill, fennel and/or carrots--the larger the plant, the more caterpillars there will be.
Rule # 4: Don't drown your plants. This little gem was given to me by my "Moisture+pH+Light meter" I bought myself for Christmas. And "Thanks, but I think I figured that one out already"
Rule # 5: When in doubt, go native. If you can't get plants to grow, stack the odds in your favor: go native.
Rule # 6: When wanting to grow wildflowers, be lazy. Wildflowers tend to look like weeds when they're small. So, be lazy and wait for everything to bloom before deciding if it's a weed or not. I personally scattered wildflower seeds for 2 years before I learned this lesson. I probably pulled out most of our wildflowers thinking they were weeds. Now I've learned: Be lazy.
Rule # 7: Remember, gardening goes almost year-round down here. All this really means is that if your garden fails miserably in the spring/summer, plant a summer/fall crop of the same plants. Perhaps they'll do better.
Rule # 8: If you're going to grow a vegetable garden, you really ought to do it in raised beds. Especially if you live west of Mopac. The limestone is just so close to the top of the soil that you're really planting things in rock. Make it easy on yourself--build a raised bed.
Rule # 9: Probably the biggest thing that guarantees success in a veggie garden is going out and spending time in your garden. The sooner you know of problems, the sooner you can get those problems solved. Then your garden can go back to being productive.
Rule # 10: For all you Austin
Newbies out there: Even though it is hot as Hades down here, you'll
need to plant your veggies in a full sun location (or at least a
location that gets 8 hours of full direct sunlight). Remember, some
veggies are water hogs (like tomatoes), and you might have to water them
every day. Heck, last year (2009), during the 56 days of uninterrupted
100+ degrees, I was watering tomatoes 2 times a day.
Rule # 11: If you have
hummingbird feeders, you should really leave one up through the winter.
Both Rufous (a hummingbird common in the western part of the US) and
the Black Chinned overwinter in Texas.
Rule # 12: If you put up a bird
nesting box (and you really should), don't be surprised if it takes a
little while for a new couple to move in - birds tend to prefer
Rule # 13: When watering plants,
don't just stand there waving a spray of water over them - that doesn't
get the soil saturated, that just gets the top to look a little damp.
This is especially true if you're watering plants that are mulched. You
have to hold the water in the same location in order for the water to
actually get THROUGH the mulch.
Rule # 14: When covering plants in the cold, you can't do
"lollypops" That is, you need to actually have the sheet touch the
ground. The reason for this is because it's the ground giving off heat
that keeps the plant alive, the covering is just keeping the heat in.
Rule # 15: If you want your plants to do AWESOMELY, you should give them a good drench of Seaweed, Fish Emulsion, or Compost Tea every once in a while. In fact, one guy I know does Seaweed on the first Saturday of the month, Fish Emulsion the second, Compost Tea the third and Water on the fourth. His garden looks AMAZING. And now I know why my garden doesn't look like that.