About Mary Kay Pope

Mary Kay is an asset to Backbone and a wealth of knowledge! Many customers come in and ask for her by name for all their plant questions. It's no wonder why, as Mary Kay has 43 years of experience in the horticulture field. She holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Ohio State University, and a TMCNP and a TCLP from Texas Association of Nurserymen, and a Specialist in Urban Trees Certification from Texas A&M.

Growing Potatoes

The old-timers always said to get your potatoes in the ground by Washington’s Birthday. Well, now that Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays have been combined, I guess we’ll have to say to get them in by “President’s Day”! Plan ahead by getting your seed potatoes about 5-7 days before planting. You will want to cut them into pieces with each containing an “eye”, and put them in a paper bag with some dusting sulfur to help prevent disease problems. Shake the pieces around in the bag until they are coated with [...]

By | 2018-02-14T11:47:48+00:00 February 14th, 2018|Plants|

Spider Mites on Italian Cypress

Treat Italian Cypress NOW! I’ve often mentioned that we have these “windows” for controlling insects and diseases on plants. For those of you who have Italian Cypress planted in your landscape, don’t miss this opportunity to apply dormant oil to prevent spider mites from infesting your plants this spring. I have had great success with one application of All-Season’s Spray Oil in February on Italian Cypress to suppress this damaging insect which often shows up in March. There are a few guidelines to go by for successful results: Temperatures must [...]

By | 2018-02-07T00:50:11+00:00 February 7th, 2018|Insects|

Winter Lawn Watering

Many people are asking whether to water their lawns in the winter. In Central Texas, that can be a loaded question. Some winters, the temperatures do not drop low enough for a long enough time for our lawns to even go dormant. In that case, if we do not receive ½” of rain, we would advise watering about ½” every two weeks. During our colder winters, when grass turns brown and goes dormant, the roots still remain viable and grow very slowly.  In the absence of rain, a monthly watering [...]

By | 2018-01-29T16:42:18+00:00 January 29th, 2018|Lawn Care|

February Gardening

VEGETABLES:             All the crops mentioned in January may be planted in February as well.  Onions should be planted before mid-month.  Seed Swiss chard, carrots, turnips and radishes directly into the garden. Cover seedlings during hard freezes. The cool-season greens, lettuce, spinach, mesclun greens and mustard greens should be planted early in the month from seed. Potatoes are usually planted around President’s Day.  Choose varieties such as Kennebec, Red Lasoda or Pontiac.  Cut seed potatoes into sections with at least one “eye” per section. Lay them out to dry in [...]

By | 2018-01-29T16:43:50+00:00 January 29th, 2018|Lawn Care, Plants|

Remediating Freeze Damage in Plants

It is a “given” in Central Texas that certain popular varieties of plant material will sustain a freeze, eventually, that will cause extensive damage or even death. I receive many questions, daily, following an unusually cold period, about how to deal with plants that appear to have frozen and what to do with them. Here are a few that may have experienced damage, and some suggestions on how to deal with them. Little John Bottlebrush: Although this plant is rated for Zone 9, it is used extensively in this area, [...]

By | 2018-01-22T17:22:25+00:00 January 22nd, 2018|Plants|

Cabbage Loopers

Keep those Loopers off your cabbage! If you have ever grown members of the Crucifer family, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish or turnip, you have probably experienced the wrath of one of three hungry caterpillars. The Cabbage Looper, the Imported Cabbageworm and the larvae of the Diamondback Moth can all make your beautiful vegetable leaves look like Swiss cheese! Imported Cabbageworms adults are probably the most conspicuous of the three. They appear as a white to yellowish butterfly flitting about the garden laying their eggs on your plants! [...]

By | 2018-01-15T14:01:22+00:00 January 15th, 2018|Insects|

Plant Fruit Trees NOW

I am sure you all have heard the old adage, “the best time to plant a tree was ten years ago!” Well, I am here to tell you that it is TRUE! Because some varieties of fruit trees can take a few years to give a good harvest, it is even more important to plant them AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Planting them in the fall gives them a jump-start for spring-their root system will be well on the way to becoming established, and better able to survive the Central Texas [...]

By | 2018-01-08T13:36:42+00:00 January 8th, 2018|Fruit & Nuts|

Asparagus Planting Guide

Plant asparagus roots or crowns in late winter/early spring (January-February in Central Texas). Prepare beds with heavy amounts of compost and organic fertilizer. We recommend using a mycorrhizal root inoculant (MicroLife 6-2-4 contains both fertilizer and microorganisms) at the time of planting, as this has been shown to greatly increase yields in asparagus. Be sure to plant in full sun (at least 8 hours) and make sure that the soil drains well. Because once asparagus gets started it becomes very well established and difficult to eradicate, you should plant asparagus [...]

By | 2018-01-02T13:49:32+00:00 January 2nd, 2018|Vegetable Gardening|

Poinsettia Care after Christmas

With any luck, your Poinsettias have made it through the holidays unscathed, and you are wondering what to do with them now. Many people treat them as a “seasonal” florist plant, discarding them and replacing them next year with new ones. However, if you hate throwing perfectly good plants away, you might be interested in learning how to keep your Poinsettia growing until next Christmas, and how to make it bloom again. Here are some steps to help you succeed: Locate a sunny window to grow your Poinsettia in until [...]

By | 2017-12-26T13:36:01+00:00 December 26th, 2017|Plants|

WINTER FLOWERS? Yes! CAMELLIAS!

Central Texas has very few plants which bloom in the winter. Azaleas bloom spring and fall, with some new varieties blooming all summer. Loropetalum blooms in February, as does Texas Scarlet Flowering Quince and Texas Redbud. But what about winter bloomers? Camellias come to us from eastern and southern Asia. One species, Camellia sinensis, is the plant from which our tea leaves come. The ornamental Camellias which do well in our area are Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) and Sasanqua Camellia (Camellia sasanqua). The most familiar of the camellias is the [...]

By | 2017-12-18T14:52:44+00:00 December 18th, 2017|Plants|

What Makes Onions Bulb?

Have you ever planted onions, only to be disappointed in the size of bulb produced, or even have no bulbs produce at all? Here are some guidelines to ensure bulb production of onions in your garden. Choose the right variety: onions are characterized by the length of day required for them to produce bulbs. “Long-day” varieties will quit forming leaves and begin forming bulbs when day length reaches 14-16 hours. These varieties do better in the NORTHERN STATES. They are often the little onion “sets” you find at the box [...]

By | 2017-12-11T10:53:43+00:00 December 11th, 2017|Plants|

Protecting Your Plants in the Winter

Do you have a plan for keeping your tender plants alive this winter?  Are you wondering which plants will need protection? The first thing you need to know is what hardiness zone your plant is classified in. Is it zone 10, like the Bougainvillea? Or zone 9, like Lemon Grass? The hardiness zone determines the minimum cold temperatures that a plant will tolerate. It is just a guideline, however, as other factors will also need to be considered. A tender plant that is well established going into the winter will [...]

By | 2017-12-04T17:31:45+00:00 December 4th, 2017|Plants|