October 4, 2006

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People in urban areas will begin to see an increase in activity among certain insects in the fall, said Wizzie Brown, Texas Cooperative Extension entomologist for Travis County. With recent rains, this activity likely will include fire ants building surface mounds (such as the one shown here) as a means to escape water-saturated soil. (Texas Cooperative Extension photo by Dr. Bart Drees)

  Fall will bring increase in urban insect activity

By Paul Schattenberg
Texas Cooperative Extension

As fall arrives, urban residents can expect increased activity among many insects, said a Texas Cooperative Extension expert.

"Fall is the time of year when several types of insects begin to relocate or find a place to overwinter," said Wizzie Brown, Extension entomologist in Travis County.

Fire ants likely will be among the most noticeable, she said.

"With the recent rains, people will be seeing fire ants and fire ant mounds once again," Brown said. "The fire ants went underground to find moisture during the drought. But with the recent rains, they will start to build larger, more obvious mounds to help them get out of water-saturated soil."

That means fall is an excellent time to treat for fire ants, Brown said.

"If you treat in the fall, then you will have fewer fire ants in the spring," she said. "The Travis County Extension office and other Extension offices throughout the state can help coordinate neighborhood-wide fire ant management programs to ensure effective control with minimal impact on the environment."

Fall is an active time for other arthropods too, Brown added.

"When the weather gets cooler, these creatures, which include scorpions, cockroaches, earwigs and millipedes, go looking for more hospitable habitats in which to overwinter," she said. "They use 'hiding behavior' as a survival mechanism, and this often leads them to look for shelter in homes. So it's important that people understand they may have some unwanted insect guests during the fall."

Amphipods, also known as scuds, and sowbugs (pillbugs) also tend to move into peoples' homes during the fall, usually to escape excessive ground moisture after heavy rainfall, she said.

Much of the "home invasion" by insects can be reduced by exclusion techniques, Brown said. These techniques include: trimming branches hanging over roofs, pruning shrubs touching the house, sealing pipe penetrations, cracks and crevices with caulk or expanding foam, repairing window screens, replacing weather stripping around doors and windows, storing firewood away from the home and turning off outside lights at night.

If treatment is necessary, use a pesticide labeled for that particular insect and read and follow all label instructions, she said. And remember, not all arthropods are harmful. For information on common insect problems, call the county Extension office or visit the Texas A&M University Extension Entomology Web site at http://insects.tamu.edu/extension.

  The garden reader:
Two companions for a hike in the Hill Country

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

Jan Wrede. Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of the Texas Hill Country. Texas A&M University Press, 2005. $23.00. 246pp.

Brian Loflin and Shirley Loflin. Grasses of the Texas Hill Country. Texas A&M University Press, 2006. $23.00. 195pp.

It’s autumn, with our Texas heat abating, and so going outdoors is somewhat less of an ordeal. Now is the time to reconnect once again with mother nature. And there are two excellent recent books designed to help us renew that contact.

Jan Wrede's Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of the Texas Hill Country is not just another wildflower guide. It is also intended for anyone who, like me, has struggled to name native forbs lacking the sort of flowers that usually enable us to identify them. So, for instance, Wrede offers large bright photographs of bluewood, snakewood, buffalo gourd, bearded swallow-wort and Lindheimer's silktassel — plants commonly absent from wildflower guides.

Wrede, who is the director of education at the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, also provides succinct but insightful notes for each plant. There is indeed an education condensed into these notes. We learn, for example, that some southwest Native Americans used the branches of the desert willow to fashion bows and to weave baskets. Our close attention is also directed to desert willow flowers, where purple streaks serve as runway stripes guiding pollinating bees to nectar.

Brian and Shirley Loflin's Grasses of the Hill Country is equally valuable, and perhaps in some ways more so. Those of us with typical lawns — vainly trying to carry on an 18th-century English tradition — might not be too favorably disposed toward native grasses, especially when they sprout up uninvited in our otherwise well-manicured front yards. But used as ornamentals in home wildscapes and in containers, Texas native grasses are spectacular.

Skeptics need only glance at the full-page, rich photos (with detail-enhancing black backgrounds) in the Loflins' book. It won't be long before any doubts about the beauty and gardening merits of native grasses will evaporate. Exposure to Grasses of the Hill Country is an instance of familiarity breeding desire, not contempt.

The Loflins' guide also provides helpful information on each grass, especially data pertaining to wild habitat and home cultivation specifics. A wealth of information, designed for the lay reader, accompanies each entry.

Grasses of the Hill Country is, of course, at heart a field guide. It is a perfect companion for the autumn hiker with a yen to know the names of the breathtaking seeding grasses ranging along and beyond the trail.

Both books are gorgeously produced — glossy pages, lavish photos, and pliable but sturdy covers. If you are curious about or already appreciate Texas native plants, you will treasure these two nature guides. Just don't make the mistake of loaning them. It won't be easy to get them back.


  Readers' Gardening Tips

Sandra Williams suggests the following method of creating plant stakes: "Cut bamboo between internodes, leaving enough length to include 12 inches to go in-ground and enough height to reach just under bloom. Cut a length of wire around 12 inches and form a small circle in center. Bend ends of wire at right angle to circle and place in opening of bamboo. Experiment to get dimensions just right for your plants."

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...

Exposure to light triggers germination of many annual weed seeds so use mulch whenever possible to reduce the amount of labor required to keep your garden weed free.



'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 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 arboretum.sfasu.edu.

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 t-landry1@tamu.edu 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 sbrueggerhoff@wildflower.org.

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 www.npsot.org.

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 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 sbrueggerhoff@wildflower.org.

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 www.texasgourdsociety.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.

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 www.main.org/aog.

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 www.dogc.org.

  Book Sale:
  Garden Bulbs for the South

In Garden Bulbs for the South, acclaimed garden expert Scott Ogden introduces Southern gardeners to more than 200 warm-climate bulbs that will perform wonderfully in their garden — bulbs new, exotic, extraordinary, or unjustly neglected. A bulb for any need and any reason — many of which will return to increase in beauty. With nearly 200 gorgeous, full-color photographs, Garden Bulbs for the South is an inviting way to take the guesswork out of bulb planting. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $24.50 while supplies last!

  Gourds in Your Garden

At last! Ginger Summit's complete, easy-to-use guide to help you identify popular gourd shapes; plan and prepare your garden; grow, train and harvest a bountiful crop of gourds; and prepare your gourds for use, from recipes to art projects. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $21.30 while supplies last!

  The Louisiana Iris

A comprehensive guide to the culture of the Louisiana Iris, Marie Caillett and Joseph K. Mertzweiller's The Louisiana Iris represents more than 200 years of combined experience of the editors and 18 other contributing members of the Society for Louisiana Irises. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $29.84 while supplies last!

  Roses in the Southern Garden

In this valuable review of 100 antique roses, from and for southern gardens, G. Michael Shoup shows each rose as a separate personality. Included in Roses in the Southern Garden are hundreds of evocative photographs illustrating creative and imaginative gardens blended with Old Garden Roses. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $37.36 while supplies last!

  Southern Lawns

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!

  Texas Wildscapes

Noreen Damude and Kelly Conrad Bender's Texas Wildscapes helps gardeners design gardens to provide habitat for native wildlife. More importantly, it furnishes lists of beautiful and useful native plants appropriate to the specific region of Texas in which you live. This book is not available through the on-line bookstore. Limited supply available.

 $26.63 while supplies last!

Order any of the above books 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
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