June 21, 2006

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Copper Canyon Daisy is an excellent choice for a Xeriscape landscape. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)


  Water-efficient landscapes

"Most discussion of water conservation has focused primarily on practicing water conservation techniques inside the home. As a result, most homeowners are well-schooled when it comes to conserving water indoors, but not as savvy when it comes to curbing water waste outside the home," said Dave Johnson, director of corporate marketing for Rain Bird, manufacturer of irrigation products and services.

Rain Bird recently released A Homeowner's Guide to Water Efficient Landscapes, a whitepaper that focuses on providing insight, suggestions and solutions for incorporating water-efficient landscapes at the residential level.

In addition to water conservation, the benefits of a water-conserving landscape include increased real estate value, lowered home-energy costs, more pleasant outdoor environment, fire-safety, and erosion control.

Creating a water-conserving landscape requires careful planning. "The most efficient irrigation systems divide the landscape into separate irrigation zones to accommodate different watering needs of plants," according to the white paper. Turfgrass, for example, requires more water than established shrubs and trees.

Careful planning includes accommodating existing landscape characteristics such as natural slopes and areas with poor drainage. It also includes consideration for wind patterns and the wear and tear of heavy foot traffic.

Xeriscape landscaping, which involves replacing thirsty turfgrasses and non-native plants with wildflowers and native plants, has resulted in decreased outdoor water usage by as much as 60%, according to a study quoted in Rain Bird's white paper.

Automatic irrigation systems utilizing drip irrigation and rain, wind and freeze sensors that turn the systems off when not needed also improve water conservation.

Copies of the white paper can be downloaded from the Rain Bird Web site at http://www.rainbird.com/iuow/whitepapers.htm.

Squash seedlings thrive in the home garden with the efficient application of drip irrigation. (Photo by Skip Richter)

  Ten tips for smart watering in your own backyard

Experts estimate that Americans use nearly 408 billion gallons of water per day. On average, 50 to 70% of home water is used outdoors for watering lawns and gardens.

That's why the Irrigation Association (IA) has named July Smart Irrigation Month. The organization's goal is to raise awareness of the importance of water conservation in the lawn and garden. According to IA, most homeowners are sending their watering dollars down the drain.

Technological advances in home watering systems are making it easier than ever to preserve this resource and save money at the same time. "Smart" watering systems, from computer-assisted programmers to inexpensive drip watering kits are now available to homeowners.

The Toro Company, which manufactures and markets irrigation products, suggests 10 things you can do to conserve water right in your own backyard:

1. Put a layer of mulch around your plants. Mulching helps to retain moisture and prevents evaporation. A generous amount of 3- to 5-inches is best.

2. Install a drip irrigation system around your shrubs, hanging baskets, flower and vegetable gardens. Drip irrigation systems use 50% less water than conventional sprinklers, and they're more efficient because they deliver the water slowly and directly to plants' root systems.

3. Install a home irrigation system with a rain sensor. Many states and local water districts now require rain sensors. Homeowners who have irrigation systems use less water on their lawns and gardens than those who don't. Watering efficiently, and only when your plants and lawn need it, can save a great deal of water. Rain sensors interrupt the watering program if it rains, saving even more water.

4. If you already have a home irrigation system, make sure you're getting the most out of your timer. New technology makes it easy to program and monitor your watering needs. Consider upgrading your timer. Automatic, programmable timers save more water than mechanical models.

5. Don't fertilize during hot, dry weather. Applying fertilizer can actually enhance drought problems. When you do feed your lawn and garden, use a slow release fertilizer.

6. Raise the blade on your lawn mower. Closely cropped grass requires more water.

7. Recycle your grass clippings back into your lawn by using a mulching mower. You'll not only conserve water, you'll save time while mowing.

8. Cut back on routine pruning. Pruning stimulates new growth, and new growth requires more water. Only prune your plants when they wilt or their leaves die out.

9. If you use a hose and portable sprinkler, buy a hose end timer to regulate your watering time.

10. Sweep your sidewalks and driveway rather than hosing them down.

See Skip Richter's article "Landscaping with 2020 Vision" (Texas Gardener, May/June 2006) for additional information about landscaping with water conservation in mind.


  Readers' Gardening Tips

From Helen DuPree: "It is harvest time in the fruit orchard and gardeners should consider using honey instead of sugar to sweeten fruit, either with dry pack (1/2 cup honey per pint of dry fruit), or by adding a thin-to medium honey syrup. You can make honey syrup by mixing one cup of honey with three cups of very hot water. Milder, lighter honey is best for use in freezing fruit since it won't overpower the flavor of the fruit."

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 Bexar Land Trust is hosting meetings in June to introduce the public to the idea of establishing community gardens in San Antonio. The next two are Wednesday, June 21, 6:00 p.m. at Presa Community Center, 3721 S. Presa and Thursday, June 22, 6:30 p.m. at YMCA, 1213 Iowa. The gardens will be neighborhood-based, open to the public and maintained by a co-op of interested parties from the area. The purpose of these initial meetings is to inform interested members of the community about different kinds of community gardens such as flower, vegetable, meditation, therapeutic, children's, passive recreation, and playgrounds. It is an opportunity for the Bexar Land Trust to meet members of the community who have an interest in seeing a park in their neighborhood. They can then begin to identify locations within the various neighborhoods that would be appropriate for a community garden. For more information about this event or the Bexar Land Trust, please call (210) 222-8430.

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, www.bamboocentral.net 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 info@texasherbs.org.

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 www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays.html 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 jijams@dallasarboretum.org.

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 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 www.cleburnearea.info/herbies/.

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 www.npsot.org.

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.

  "Late bloomers" featured in July/August Texas Gardener

Contributing Editor Skip Richter discusses 18 "late bloomers"—plants that bloom during a tough Texas summer—and provides numerous tips for fall gardening success. Frequent contributor William Scheick provides important information about selecting and growing rain lilies.

Also in this issue: Tips on grilling fresh veggies on the grill, raising caterpillars without risking your garden, growing grapes at home, and growing mushrooms.

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  Two hats are better than one!

Let your friends and neighbors know that you are proud to be a Texas Gardener with this top-quality cap. Heavy construction, six-panel, pro-style brushed cotton twill, low-profile khaki with dark green bill and logo. Buy one cap and received a second at no additional charge.

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Texas Gardener's Seeds
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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

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