May 31, 2006

Welcome to Texas Gardener's Seeds, the weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners. Please do not reply to this e-mail as the sending address is not monitored. See the bottom of this newsletter for information on how to subscribe, unsubscribe, or contact the editors.

(Photo by Deborah Corby)

  Gardening gets kids outdoors for health and wellness

Medical professionals have increasingly expressed concern that children spend too much time indoors, watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet. These behaviors, coupled with poor diet and exercise, are taking a toll on the nation's youth. An estimated 16 percent of U.S. children are obese, and 9 million children ages 6 to 16 are overweight, according to federal health officials.

Next month, most school-age children will begin their summer vacations. And while a "do-nothing summer" might sound ideal to kids, this inactivity can lead to longer-term health problems. As parents struggle to find new, creative ways to keep their children healthy this summer, many are turning to an activity that is centuries old: gardening. With key sponsorship support from The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, the National Gardening Association created to help parents find innovative ways to get their children involved in gardening and the outdoors. On the site, parents can find advice on a range of topics, from kids' favorite plants to ideas for creating fun, fairytale-themed gardens.

"Any activity that gets parents and kids outdoors working together is a great idea," said Rich Martinez, Chief Environmental Officer for ScottsMiracle-Gro. "Spending time in the garden can be easy, fun, and shows great results you can be proud of. You do not have to take on a massive landscape project to experience the benefits of simply getting outside and improving your environment."

From mowing the lawn to planting petunias, a child can burn from 250 to 500 calories an hour on a variety of gardening activities — about the same as fast walking or light jogging. Gardening can also benefit several different muscle groups, promoting strength and flexibility. Fruits of labor in the garden — fresh vegetables — also encourage a healthier diet. offers a wide range of simple ideas to making getting outside an enjoyable, beneficial, and educational experience. The Web site features how-to gardening projects, a Parents' Primer, garden-themed curricula, plus a School Garden Registry where teachers share their stories of how kids benefit academically, socially and personally from gardening experiences.

NGA president Mike Metallo says, "We are thrilled that ScottsMiracle-Gro is committed to bringing the gift of gardening to kids through the Web site. There's a great deal of research indicating that gardening presents physical, psychological and education benefits that help children achieve higher test scores; get exercise; connect to the environment; develop social skills; and improve their attention, focus and self-esteem. Plus, they like to eat the nutritious vegetables and fruits they grow!"


  Use care and caution while mowing the lawn

Do you remember the carefree days of summer and running barefoot with the feel of the cool green grass between your toes? Now, keeping the lawn nice and trim is not the backbreaking chore it used to be, thanks to riding and walk-behind mowers. However, lawn mowers can be dangerous, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) advises people to use extreme caution when operating these tools.

Caring for lawns can be a great form of physical activity that enhances a person's overall health. Unfortunately, thousands of Americans suffer deep cuts and lacerations, sprains and strains, fractures, and even loss of fingers and toes due to improper use of a lawn mower each year. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 230,500 people were treated in doctors' offices, clinics and emergency rooms for lawn mower-related injuries in 2004.

A lawn mower is not a toy; it can be dangerous if not used properly, said Jeffrey Anglen, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, AAOS Fellow and President-elect of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA). It is important to follow the proper precautions when using these powerful machines, including teaching kids to stay away from any and all running lawn mowers. Children should never be allowed to ride on the mower, even with parents. If children lose their natural fear of the mower, the results can be disastrous.

Most injuries sustained from lawn mower use and treated by orthopaedic surgeons are preventable. To trim lawn mower-related injuries, the AAOS recommends the following safety guidelines:

—Read the instruction manual prior to using a lawnmower, especially whenever attempting to repair or maintain the mower. It's also important to pay special attention to specific safety hazards and new features.

—When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure it is working properly.

—Do not remove safety devices, shields or guards on switches.

—Add fuel before starting the engine, not when it is running or hot.

—Before mowing the lawn, it is very important to conduct a simple walk through of the yard to look for any debris or toys that may interfere with proper operation or may be deflected at you and others near you.

—Use proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending when removing objects from the yard.

—Be sure the motor is turned off before inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment. Never try to dislodge dirt or grass from the lawn mower blades while the machine is running. Use a stick or broom handle when removing debris; do not use your hands or feet.

—Never let children go on or near lawn mower equipment. Children should not be in a yard while the lawn is being mowed.

—Wear proper gear while mowing lawn, including protective boots, clothing, safety eyeglasses and shoes. Ear protection may also help protect against hearing damage due to prolonged noise exposure.

—Make sure that you and other adults and children around you are never barefoot when the lawn mower is operational.

—Use caution when mowing hills and slopes. Never use a riding mower for steep hills, and mow across a hill with a push mower instead of upward and downward.

—Mowers are not transportation vehicles. Only one adult should use a riding mower at a time. Children should never be allowed to ride on or drive riding mowers.

—Do not cut the grass when it is wet.

—Do not leave the lawn mower unattended when in use. If you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine.

—Never consume alcoholic beverages prior to or while mowing the lawn.

For additional lawn mower injury prevention tips and more, please visit the AAOS's public and patient education Web site, Your Orthopaedic Connection, or call the Public Service line at 800-824-BONES.

(Photo by Kerry L Reed)

  Organic tips for fall gardening success

By Brenda H. Reed
Freelance Writer

Important steps of preparing your garden for any season include basic garden clean up. In Texas we experience sunscald of tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables, so as soon as the plants in the summer garden have become unusable, remove them from your garden. Dispose of or burn any diseased plants. Put the plants that do not appear to be diseased into your composter or compost heap. Pick up any tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers that have fallen onto the ground and use them or compost them as well. I use the last fruits I pick for saving seed for the next season. Keeping the garden clean and disposing of spent plants is very important in preventing diseases in the soil and for controlling insect problems.

Basic Composting

Making compost is a year-round activity. The secret to successful composting is to have a good mixture of material. If the heap or composter is kept too wet you will end up with a messy, stinking sludge; if kept too dry, composting will be very slow. When adding wet materials, such as grass clippings or kitchen scraps to the composter or heap, fork the materials in with a hay-fork. Add ingredients to compost any time you need to, just try to avoid adding thick layers of wet or dry materials. If you do add a thick layer of dry materials, water the dry ingredients. If adding a lot of wet materials to the composter, add some dry material such as newspapers that are printed with soy ink, old envelopes, old paper egg cartons, crumpled cardboard, etc.

You can use a homemade container, old garbage cans, make a compost heap on the ground or purchase a composter. No need to spend much money on one though; nature will do the work for you. I use a composter. My husband built one for me and we also make piles on the ground if I have a large amount of plants or grass clippings. I add rabbit manure, chicken house litter, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves and pine needles to the composter. I have never made more compost than I use. It is excellent for the garden soil and I make potting soils of different types, depending upon what it will be used for. Potted flowers, vegetables, or herbs really love a side dressing of compost or to be fed compost tea. Finished compost is an invaluable source of nutrients for plants, whether potted or in the garden. Compost also improves soil structure and helps combat soil-borne diseases and pests. Composting is very important and necessary for organic gardening. It can be added to your garden anytime. I like to add compost to the garden during the spring and summer and after the summer's end cleanup in preparation for the fall garden, we add it and till it into the soil.

To read the rest of the article: Organic Tips, continued.


  Gardening Tips?

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas Gardeners to use in future issues of the newsletter. Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Upcoming Garden Events

The Hunt County Master Gardeners will host a Garden Tour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 3, in Greenville. The tour will feature unique and outstanding local area landscapes. Admission is $5 per person. For more information, call (903) 455-9885.

The San Antonio Daylily Society will hold a plant sale and show from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., June 3, at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels.

The Arlington Organic Garden Club will host its 11th Organic Garden Show from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 10, at Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center St. at Vandergriff Park, Arlington. The show will feature lots of plants, organic products and information. Admission and parking are free. For more information, call (817) 483-7746.

The Wichita County Master Gardeners will host "Thru the Garden Gate Tour" from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., Saturday, June 10. This tour will take you thru seven of Wichita County's Master Gardeners' own private gardens. Five of the gardens are in Wichita Falls and two are located in Burkburnett. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and $1.00 for children and can be purchased at the County Extension Office at 600 Scott, Suite 200. This tour is a wonderful opportunity to get some great ideas on what you can put into your own garden area. The Master Gardeners will also be available to discuss gardening with you and answer any questions that you may have.

Blanco will host its second annual Lavender Festival, June 10 and 11 in Blanco. Blanco is a small town of 1,500 nestled in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. This fun-filled weekend will include free tours of Blanco's nine lavender farms as well as a lavender market on the ground of the historic old courthouse. The festival coincides with the lavender bloom period which will continue for several weeks after the event. For more information, call (830) 833-5101 or visit

The Texas Bamboo Society will host the 14th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 through 27, from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Darrel DeBoer, will present a program entitled "Bamboo Architecture Around the World." The festival will also feature bamboo plants, crafts, musical instruments, poles, presentations, demonstrations and educational information about bamboo. Admission is free and parking is $3. For more information visit, or call (512) 929-9565.

The Herb Association of Texas and the Antique Rose Emporium will host A Celebration of the Herbal Harvest: A focus on Culinary Herbs, September 22 through 23, San Antonio. The event will include a road trip, cooking classes, herbal refreshments, lectures and a vendor fair featuring locally grown herbs and related products. To register or for more information, contact Beth Patterson at (830) 257-6732 or e-mail

The Garden Conservancy will host a tour of five private gardens in Dallas, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., September 23. The tour is self-guided. The conservancy will also sponsor similar tours in Galveston, October 14 and Austin, October 21. Admission to each garden is $5, no reservations required, rain or shine. For more information, visit or call toll-free (888) 842-2442.

ArtScape, September 23 and 24, 9 a.m. to 5. p.m., is the Dallas Arboretum's first ever fine art show and sale. The two-day art fair is a family-oriented event that will kick off the Dallas Blooms Autumn festival. ArtScape will feature artists from around the country, the Tour de Fleurs race, the Ultimate Tree Houses exhibit, entertainment and many exciting classes. ArtScape will complement Ultimate Tree Houses, a juried exhibit of 12 tree houses that will be on display throughout the garden. In addition, this year's event will kick off with Tour de Fleurs a 10k, 5k and 1 mile fun run. What a great way to start the weekend! For additional information please email

The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners will sponsor a Hidden Garden Tour, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., September 30, at Rockport. Enjoy touring Rockport and some of the area's private gardens plus Green Acres Demonstration gardens. Bus tours will be available for $15 per person and tickets must be purchased ahead. Self-guided tours are $10 per person. A plant sale will occur at Green Acres on the day of the tour. The tour will begin at Green Acres Demonstration gardens, located at the Aransas County Extension Office (611 E. Mimosa — behind Monroe's Furniture on Hwy 35).

The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners will sponsor the annual Hidden Garden Tour September 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Rockport. Enjoy touring Rockport and the surrounding area and tour some of the area's private gardens plus Green Acres Demonstration gardens. Bus tours will be available for $15 and tickets must be purchased ahead. Self-guided tours are $10. A plant sale will occur at Green Acres on the day of the tour. Green Acres Demonstration gardens, located at the Aransas County Extension Office (611 E. Mimosa — behind Monroe's Furniture on Hwy 35) is the start of the tour on September 30. Maps and additional tour information for the Hidden Garden Tour can be obtained by contacting the Aransas County Extension Office at (361) 790-0103.

The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

The Johnson County Herb Society will hold its Herbal Thymes Show and Symposium, October 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cleburne Senior Center, Cleburne. The event will feature speakers, demonstrations herb plants and related products. For more information, contact Esther Chambliss at (817) 263-9322 or visit

The San Antonio chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will host the groups' annual symposium Convergence and Diversity: Native Plants of South Central Texas, October 19 through 22, San Antonio. The symposium will feature guided tours to natural areas, seminars on native plants and a special program on cooking with native plants. For more information, contact (210) 733-0034, (830) 997-9272 or visit

  Gardening With Guineas a staff favorite

If grasshoppers leave little in your garden but the concrete walk and you're seeking a natural solution, then Gardening With Guineas is for you. Jeannette S. Ferguson covers every aspect of gardening with guineas, including reasons for raising them, what you need to know before you buy, solving problems, building housing and much more. This is the book Texas Gardener staff turn to when caring for their guineas and is a must read for anyone considering a flock of these beneficial birds.

 $15.96 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of June and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2006. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ●