September 27, 2006

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Subterranean termites (above) closely resemble agricultural termites, which are usually found in pasture areas. Because both termites look alike to the untrained eye, homeowners should seek professional advice if they discover termites in their yard. (Photo courtesy of Louisiana State University)

  Agriculture termites invading urban lawns in south central Texas

By Paul Schattenberg
Texas Cooperative Extension

Termites traipsing through turfgrass in urban areas of South Central Texas are most likely no cause for alarm, said a Texas Cooperative Extension expert.

"If you see termites in your lawn, there's a good chance they are what are known as agriculture or desert termites," said Molly Keck, Extension entomologist for Bexar County. "These are not the same as subterranean termites, which are the kind that do serious damage to homes and other property."

Agriculture termites are usually found in large fields in rural areas, she said. They are most attracted to pasture areas used for grass or hay production, especially coastal bermudagrass fields.

"These termites are generally found in a more arid and dry climate like West Texas," Keck said. "But they're fairly common in south central Texas too. Normally they're prevalent in rural areas, but we've been seeing a lot more of them in urban areas."

Agriculture termites are being found in urban areas such as San Antonio because the drought has forced them closer to the soil surface in search of moisture and nourishment, she said.

"Unlike subterranean termites, which usually feed on dead wood, these termites prefer live forbs, weeds and grasses," Keck said. "They eat soft plant tissue, and in urban settings they feed almost exclusively on grasses."

Agriculture termites can be found on all types of turfgrass in the south central Texas area, she said. But while they look almost identical to their subterranean counterparts, there is one significant behavioral difference.

"They build mud tubes on grass blades and weeds," she said. "These tubes give them protection against predators and heat. And while almost all termites build mud tubes, subterranean termites don't build them on grasses or other soft plant material."

Agriculture termites in urban areas pose no threat to structures, but in large numbers can damage or destroy turfgrass and may require control. In addition, Keck said, they may require control when found in grass- or hay-producing rural areas.

"If control is needed, people in urban settings should use a pesticide labeled specifically for termites," she said. "Those in rural settings should look for pesticides labeled for use in the appropriate location and which contains Malathion as the active ingredient."

Mud tubes should be broken up using a rake or heavy chain before the pesticide is applied, she said.

Because agriculture and subterranean termites look so much alike to the untrained eye, people who are uncertain as to the type of termite they have on their property should consult a professional for identification, Keck said.

"Homeowners can either call a pest control professional or bring a specimen of the termite to the local Extension office for identification," she said. "Identification at the Extension office usually takes about five minutes and is free."

The Extension office in Bexar County is at 3355 Cherry Ridge Dr., Suite 212, in San Antonio. The phone number is 210-467-6575.

It's never too soon to teach children about gardening, and here a young gardener picks her first squash. (photo by Chris S. Corby)

  What gardeners think about kids gardening

Ninety-seven percent of all U.S. households, or an estimated 107 million households, said they thought schools should provide gardens and hands-on gardening activities for kids, according to a recent nationwide survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the National Gardening Association (NGA). Of that total, 39 percent of households felt that gardening activities should be implemented in schools whenever possible, 24 percent felt that gardening activities should be offered as an extracurricular activity only, 19 percent felt that gardening activities should be implemented in every school, 14 percent said gardening activities should be implemented in schools whenever convenient, and only 3 percent said gardening activities should not be offered in schools at all.

The survey, entitled "What Gardeners Think," was the first poll conducted by NGA to address attitudes about kids gardening. It was an outgrowth of NGA's annual National Gardening Survey, which since 1973 has tracked trends in the consumer lawn and garden market.

The survey also found that people value the extensive benefits of involving kids in gardening activities:

  • 45 percent of all U.S. households said, "Teaching kids about gardening could help them respect and better relate to the environment."
  • 42 percent said, "Gardening is a good way to involve kids in experiential learning."
  • 26 percent said, "Gardening engages children who may be hard to reach otherwise."

"These findings are not surprising to NGA, which for more than 30 years has been supporting educators with plant-based learning materials and curriculum ideas, as well as supplying grants and awards to worthy school gardening programs across the country," says NGA President Mike Metallo. "Recognizing the growing need to enable students to engage in experiential school gardening programs, NGA has established an exciting new initiative called the Adopt a School Garden program to link private and corporate donors with schools in need of funds for plant-based education projects."

Research has consistently demonstrated that plant-based education not only enhances learning of science and a variety of other academic subjects, but it also can have a positive impact in other important aspects of children's lives, including increasing awareness of health and nutrition; building self-esteem; improving attitudes toward school and the environment; enhancing social, physical, and psychological development; and nurturing creative thinking and problem solving.

Educators recognize the value of school gardening programs, and more and more schools today are including some type of school garden and gardening activities in their curriculums.


  Readers' Gardening Tips
"I'm organic," writes Judy Johnson, "so I use corn gluten meal twice a year (mid February and mid September) to eliminate weeds the next season. Plain old vinegar will also kill weeds when sprayed directly on them, but is also good for the soil, so there's no worry of pesticides!"

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. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and keep your head in the shade! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Changes in the weather are more likely a few days after a full or new moon because the moon moves the tides and the flow of water around the planet.



'Pam Puryear' Turk's Cap, one of several plants being introduced by Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, at this year's Fabulous Fall Festival October 7. (Photo by Greg Grant)


The Plantmobile at last year's HerbFest. HerbFest returns to Austin on Saturday, October 21.

  Upcoming Garden Events

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center hosts "The Buzz About Bees: Native Texas Bees, " with Dr. John Neff, Ph.D., Friday, September 29, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Join Dr. Neff for a fascinating look at bee biology in Texas: nesting and foraging habits, why they are vitally important to our ecology and suggestions for enhancing local bee populations. Learn the difference between the "archetype" European honey bee and the different species of solitary native bees. Lectures are free to the public. Parking lot opens at 6:00 p.m., speaker reception at 6:00 p.m., lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary, but seating is limited. For more information, contact

There's a new music scene coming to the San Antonio Botanical Garden. On Saturday, September 30, Gardens by Moonlight will offer popular, high-charged live music performances from 7 until 11 p.m. Gardens by Moonlight will feature a rare San Antonio performance by the Grammy-winning band "BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet." Joining BeauSoleil at the top of the bill is former San Antonio resident Monte Montgomery. Also performing are Seth Walker, Wilber Beasley and Body & Soul, The Ron Wilkins Quartet, Django's Moustache, Mariana Scuros-Ornelas, and Buttercup. Under the fall moonlight, visitors can indulge themselves on a variety of culinary treats ranging from cold Asian salad to barbequed shrimp on a stick. Drinks include sodas, wine, imported beers and others beverages. While the music plays, Gardens by Moonlight guests can wander through the unique areas of this vibrant San Antonio institution. Visitors can experience the formal gardens, the exotic conservatory and stroll along the newly renovated Texas Native Trail, exploring the Texas Hill Country and the East Texas Piney Woods surrounding the small lake. In the Lucile Halsell Conservatory area, exquisite granite sculptures of renowned artist Jesus Moroles are displayed. In the Formal Gardens, Roger Colombik's 35-foot bronze ship sculpture and four bronze and stone vessels can be viewed. Beautiful lighting adds to the glowing spell of the evening, capturing the bright white blooms and aromatic scents of night blooming flowers jasmine, moonvine and brugmansias. Advance tickets for Gardens by Moonlight are $12 per person and are available September 11 through September 29 at area Starbucks and the Botanical Garden's Garden Gate Gift Shop. Tickets are $15 at the gate; $12 for Botanical Society members. Tickets are non-refundable. The gates open to the public at 7 p.m. There is free parking at the Garden, plus free parking at Terrell Plaza, 1201 Austin Highway, with free and frequent shuttle service to the Garden starting at 6 p.m. In case of inclement weather, a rain date is set for Sunday, October 1. The San Antonio Botanical Garden is located at 555 Funston @ North New Braunfels Avenue. For more information, the public can call the Garden at 210-829-5100 or visit its website at

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.

Malcolm Beck, the founder of Garden-Ville ands a master practitioner in the field of organic growing will speak at at informational luncheon October 1 at The Inn at Dos Brisas in Brenham. Mr. Beck began his career in sustainable agriculture as a family farmer in the 1950s, raising and selling organic produce near San Antonio, Texas. Later, he turned to helping others find alternatives to conventional agricultural methods and materials through his business, Garden-Ville. Beck has contributed many articles to American Horticulturalist and several garden handbooks, and hasd written several books, including The Secret Life of Compost, Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening, The Garden-Ville Method and The Texas Bug Book. For more information on how to attend this lecture, call (979) 277-7750.

The SFA Mast Arboretum's annual Fabulous Fall Festival plant sale will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 7 at the Stephen F. Austin State University Intramural field on Wilson Drive, between College and Starr in historic Nacogdoches. A great selection of rare, unusual, and Texas-tough trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous perennials, grasses and groundcovers will be available. Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate and contributing editor/columnist for Texas Gardener magazine, will introduce his pink 'Pam Puryear' Turk's Cap, 'Buttercream' Lantana, and the 2006 Texas Superstar, 'Henry Duelberg' Sage. Many of the rare Aromi hybrid deciduous Azaleas will be offered as will a good number of the rarely available, Texas native, Southern Sugar Maple (Acer barbatum). Proceeds from the plant sale help support the SFA Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, the Pineywoods Native Plant Center and educational programs. Please help support these great Texas treasures. For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit

Castro Garden Club's "Fall Tour of Homes" in Castroville will take place October 7, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets will be available September 1 and can be purchased in advance by writing Castro Garden Club, P.O. Box 10, Castroville, TX 78009. Tickets will be sold the day of the tour at the Landmark Inn State Historic Site. Ticket price will include admission to the Landmark Inn State Historic Site, courtesy of The Friends of the Landmark Inn, to visit the newly renovated Gristmill. Proceeds from the tour will benefit Castro Garden Clubs special projects. Admission: $12.00 per person. For more information contact: Priscilla Garrett, (830) 931-2262; Bonnie Keller, (830) 931-2614; or Joan Menard, (210) 677-8979.

Ernesto Velez Koppel of Colombia will lecture on his country's flower industry October 11 at Texas A&M University. His talk is the second in the Distinguished Lecture Series on International Floriculture. Koppel is the Association of Colombian Flower Growers and Exporters board of directors chair. The lecture series is sponsored by the Texas A&M horticultural sciences department's Ellison Chair in International Floriculture. The presentation will include background on what led to the formation of the Colombian flower association, known as ASOCOLFLORES, its current activities and its plans for the future. Koppel also will describe the group's global impact. For further information, contact Tammy Landry, program coordinator, at or (979) 845-7342.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center hosts "Dying to Know What's Bugging You?: Forensic Entemology, " with Dr. Donald Tuff, Ph.D., Thursday, October 12, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The three branches of forensic entomology are: Urban, Stored Product, and Medicocriminal Entomology. Dr. Tuff will address the Medicocriminal branch, which is concerned primarily with violent crimes and strives to determine the postmortem interval (PMI), or the time since death, to discovery and possible significant factors about the site of death. Lectures are free to the public. Parking lot opens at 6:00 p.m., speaker reception at 6:00 p.m., lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary, but seating is limited. For more information, contact

The McLennan County Master Gardeners will sponsor The Texas Superstar Seminar, Sunday, October 15, 2 p.m., at Carleen Bright Arboretum, Woodway (near Waco). Dr. Jerry Parsons, horticulture specialist with Texas Cooperative Extension in San Antonio, will conduct the lesson. If you have never heard Dr. Parsons speak, don't miss this chance to hear one of the most knowledgeable and funniest horticulturalist in Texas. For more information, call the Extension office (254) 757-5180 or Barbara Vance (254) 741-0000.

The Austin Herb Society celebrates Herb Awareness Month in October with HerbFest, Saturday, October 21, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, located in the Burger Center, 3200 Jones Rd., off I-290 between Brodie Lane and Westgate Blvd. No entrance fee for shoppers, free parking. For additional information, call (512) 468-9126.

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

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 2006 Annual Garden Tour in Victoria County will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 28 through 29, showcasing five gardens at historic homes in Old Victoria. Imagination will be fulfilled beyond garden gates with the theme "Nature's Beauty Beyond the Gate" in fall and pre-Halloween garden settings. Highlighted garden plants will be catalogued in educational materials and for plant sale identification on the weekend of the tour. Guided tours at $18 per person are scheduled from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Sunday. Individual garden tours are $5 per garden. Workshops will be conducted on culinary cooking and holiday decorating from the garden for additional fees. For further information, contact Victoria County Extension Office at (361) 575-4581.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center hosts "The Amazing World of Dragonflies and Damselflies," with Dr. John Abbott, Ph.D. Thursday, November 2, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Explore the amazing world of dragonflies and damselflies with Dr. John Abbott. Through breathtaking photography, Dr. Abbott will review their habits, riparian habitats and the many wonderful species particular to central Texas. Lectures are free to the public. Parking lot opens at 6:00 p.m., speaker reception at 6:00 p.m., lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. No reservations are necessary, but seating is limited. For more information, contact

The Texas Gourd Society will hold its 11th annual "Show and Tell" at the Waco Convention Center, Waco, November 11 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The two-day show will include gourd artists, seminars, demonstrations and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 free. For more information, visit

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.

Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7:00 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit

The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 676-4326 or visit

  Grow great grass

If you're tired of your neighbor bragging about his superior lawn, this is the book for you! Southern Lawns provides complete step-by-step instructions for planting and/or maintaining every major type of southern grass lawn, including Bermuda Grass, Centipede, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass. In addition to a special "month-by-month" section with activity lists for every month of the year, author Chris Hastings includes a complete glossary of lawn care terms. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $26.62 while supplies last!

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  Fiber Row Cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(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.

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