Thursday, May 30, 2024 May 30, 2024
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The Online Effort to Educate North Texas Gardeners

How Callie Works-Leary is working to create a new community of gardeners in her backyard.
Callie Works-Leary founder of The Garden School
Jonathan Zizzo

The Dallas Garden started as just an Instagram account, a separate social media page where founder Callie Works-Leary could talk soil and seeds and fertilizer without inundating her friends-and-family followers with all the dirty (literally) details of her gardening exploits. Launched last April, the IG page was where the longtime home gardener and former greenhouse plant propagator could share her expert tips on everything from how to grow tomatoes on a patio to when you should get your cucumbers in the ground—all with a focus on growing in North Texas’ unique climate.

“I just kept getting wonderful feedback,” she says, “from people who were saying, ‘Thank you so much. It’s so hard for me to find information online that is specific to our area.’ ”

The dearth of digital resources for North Texas gardeners—combined with a shelter-in-place order that shut down in-person gardening classes and prompted people all over town to try their thumb at pandemic gardening—meant more and more Dallasites were desperate for information on what to plant where and when. “I thought this was such a unique opportunity to reach out to a new generation of gardeners,” says Works-Leary, who grew up in Dallas and is a certified Texas Master Gardener. 

She also created a blog where she could take deeper dives into subjects such as starting seeds indoors and planting bulbs. The blog eventually led to The Dallas Garden School, which she debuted in October with an online garlic-growing workshop. As the new year rolled around, Works-Leary added more classes to the schedule, including an eight-hour introductory course on gardening in North Texas, as well as classes on growing heirloom tomatoes and building raised beds. She has plans to cover topics such as native plants, houseplants, and ornamental grasses. All of the courses, which range from $39 to $175 each, are in a digital format that allows students to log in at their convenience. 

“My goal is to create a community,” Works-Leary says. “It’s not just a one-time class. You are enrolled in something where you get lifetime access to all the videos and the materials, and then you can also join monthly live meetings covering seasonal topics.”

February Garden Checklist

  • Prepare vegetable garden beds for spring by amending soil with plenty of high-quality compost. If your soil is compacted and slow-draining, add some expanded shale.
  • Plant winter vegetables. By transplant: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kohlrabi. By direct seed: beet, radish, carrot, turnip, collard greens, mustard greens, kale, lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard.
  • This is your last chance to start tomato seeds indoors for spring transplanting. The key to great tomatoes in North Texas is getting them in the ground before April.
  • Divide summer- and fall-blooming perennials.
  • Plant seed potatoes and asparagus crowns.
  • Prune roses. Valentine’s Day is an easy date to remember for pruning back roses. Cut out dead canes, and cut plants back by two-thirds. Wait to prune climbing roses until after their spring bloom.
  • Prune dormant perennials and ornamental grasses.