December 13, 2006

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Arbor Day Foundation announces 2007 National Poster Contest

"Trees are Terrific...and forests are too!" is the theme of the 2007 Arbor Day National Poster Contest. Sponsored by Toyota, the 16th annual contest of The National Arbor Day Foundation provides children across the country with an understanding of Arbor Day and the important benefits of trees, while inspiring them to learn about the value of our forests as ecosystems. Toyota has supported the education and tree planting efforts of The National Arbor Day Foundation since 2001 and has invested more than $2 million in Arbor Day programs.

More than 75,000 classrooms are expected to participate in this year's national contest, which is open to fifth grade students in any state that has a designated Arbor Day coordinator. The Arbor Day National Poster Contest is an important component of the fifth grade science curriculum and can be easily added to teachers' lesson plans. The poster-related activities correlate with national science, geography and art standards.

Each participating state will select a state winner, who will compete in the national contest. National winners will be announced in Washington D.C. on National Arbor Day, April 27, 2007.

The national winner, his or her parents/guardians and teacher will receive an expense-paid trip to the National Awards Weekend at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Neb., June 1 through 3, 2007. The national winner also receives a $1000 savings bond, a lifetime membership to The National Arbor Day Foundation and a framed color copy of the winning poster. In addition, a tree will be planted in the winner's honor. The national winner's teacher will receive $200.

Second and third place winners will earn savings bonds worth $500 and $250 respectively and their teachers will receive awards of $100 and $50. The second and third place winners will also have trees planted in their honor.

A complete listing of state coordinators, including email addresses and state deadlines, are available at, or by writing to: Poster Contest, The National Arbor Day Foundation, P.O. Box 85784, Lincoln, NE 68501-5784.  Lesson plans and poster contest rules are available by request at the above address or by emailing

Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska in 1872, National Arbor Day is celebrated each year on the last Friday in April. Some states observe Arbor Day on different dates according to their best tree-planting times. Visit for a listing of each state's Arbor Day.

The national competition is sponsored by The National Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota. The National Arbor Day Foundation, a million-member, nonprofit educational organization, is dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. Visit for online learning opportunities and educational materials, including lesson plans that correlate with National Science Standards.

Robert Puckett, a doctoral candidate in the department of entomology at Texas A&M University, puts out a phorid fly trap. He invented the trap to help determine whether released phorid flies, used to control fire ants, are reproducing and spreading out.

Robert Puckett's phorid fly trap. He utilized a pizza tent, or pizza tripod, to make the trap. Phorid flies, the tiny black specks, are trapped on the prongs by a sticky substance.

Phorid flies caught on a trap invented by Robert Puckett. Phorid flies, which are used to control fire ants, making them difficult to see and trap. (Texas Agricultural Experiment Station photos by Edith Chenault)

  Texas A&M doctoral student builds better fly trap

By Edith A. Chenault
Texas Cooperative Extension

Thomas Edison said success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. But Robert Puckett showed he could build a better fly trap phorid fly trap, that is with 90 percent inspiration.

The doctoral candidate in the department of entomology at Texas A&M University took a pizza tent and applied what he knew about the biology of the phorid fly to make a successful trap. Pizza tents also called pizza tri-stands are the gadgets in take-out pizza boxes that keep the top from caving in.

Puckett, also a Texas Cooperative Extension assistant in the department of entomology, knew from his studies the phorid fly likes to perch on a blade of grass or whatever is handy when it is waiting for a fire ant that it can parasitize. The female phorid fly will attack the ant, laying its eggs in the body. The larvae burrow their way up to the fire ant's head, growing and releasing enzymes that decapitate the ant.

Puckett's trap uses fire ant midden, which is essentially the fire ants' trash heap, to attract phorid flies. The decomposing dead fire ants release a plume of chemicals called kairomones, which attract phorid flies.

"The ant bone yards seem to be an integral part of the biology and host-finding behavior of the phorid flies," Puckett said.

But looking for phorid flies is worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. They are tiny, smaller than the head of a straight pin.

Puckett tried traditional traps, but the insects are so minute they could fly in and out without getting trapped on the sticky walls.

He began trying to think of ways he could take advantage of the insects' perching habits. Puckett felt something with multiple prongs and a solid base coated with a sticky substance would do the trick.

"We were sitting around eating pizza," he said, when the idea struck him.

The pizza tent, turned upside down, had multiple prongs and a solid base. He coated the prongs with Tanglefoot insect trap coating, something like the coating for flypaper.

The trap is placed in a dish that contains midden. That "kairomone gumbo" of the decaying fire ants attracts flies, he said. The flies perch on the trap "to study the situation" and are caught, he added.

The trap is more efficient in terms of time and personnel than the standard methods, Puckett said. Instead of counting flies for a couple of hours around a disturbed fire ant mound, he can place the new trap out every mile using global positioning system technology. He then will go back to collect them 24 hours later.

The passive trap also successfully collected flies during all of the tests in the field, he added. Other methods varied from 10 percent to 60 percent success.

The trap is inexpensive. Puckett and his committee chair, Dr. Marvin Harris, professor of entomology with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, are considering distributing them to grade schools and scouting groups so they can learn more about phorid flies. At some point, they also may distribute these to Extension agents and Master Gardeners to help in the observation of distribution areas, Puckett said.

Tracking phorid flies is important because the U.S. Department of Agriculture and researchers at University of Texas, Texas A&M and elsewhere are releasing phorids to test as part of the arsenal against red imported fire ants. The phorid flies are native to South America and appear to be important in regulating fire ant densities in their native range.

"The initial inoculative release of the flies costs about $10,000 dollars per site, and, if successful, the flies will reproduce and expand on their own to attack fire ants over hundreds of square miles," Puckett said. "Releases are not always successful, and we want to know what factors are affecting outcomes."

Puckett is studying those factors phorid fly habitat, potential expansion corridors, and parasite-host interactions as part of his doctoral research.

Other researchers in Texas and Florida have taken his idea and adapted it to their research, he added.

Dr. Sanford Porter with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Gainesville, Fla., and Dr. Larry Gilbert with the University of Texas collaborated with Puckett on this project. Puckett's work is funded by the USDA Agricultural Research Service.


Retired physician thrives on Master Gardener program

By Rod Santa Ana III
Texas Cooperative Extension

When Harlingen physician Dr. Bob Hatcher was contemplating retirement and ways to fill his newfound leisure time, he came across Texas Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

He enrolled in the class of 2002, and it's been a perfect match ever since, he said.

"I was a complete novice to the horticultural world," Hatcher said. "But the Master Gardener program offers an excellent class that gave me a good knowledge base to develop a horticultural interest around native plants. As a result, I've become a much better steward of the native plant population along the arroyo in Harlingen."

Hatcher has also spent a lot of his retirement time sharing his horticultural expertise with the community, a requirement of becoming certified as a Master Gardener.

"My interest is in native plants, which was part of the course and taught to us by Frank Gonzalez," he said, "so I've helped develop and promote butterfly gardens and native plants that attract the amazing bird population that we have in our area."

After becoming certified, Hatcher offered to mentor students in subsequent classes. His most recent effort has been to help create a butterfly garden at the Los Indios Family Learning Center, one of nine such community facilities in Cameron County.

"That butterfly garden near the international bridge has been a roaring success," he said. "The plants are doing well, we conduct tours of the garden, and the kids just love it. It's a great learning experience for them."

In January, Hatcher will assist in erecting two large rainwater collection tanks at the family center.

"It's been lots of fun," he said. "It's kept me occupied, and I've learned a lot."

Applications are now being accepted for the next Master Gardener class in Cameron County, to be held every Friday, except holidays, for 10 weeks beginning Jan. 19. Classes will be at the Expanded Nutrition Program office in Harlingen.

Dr. Enrique Perez, an Extension agent in Cameron County, said the classes cover plant growth and development, plant diseases and insects, soils and basic landscaping.

Topics will also include home fruit and nut production, vegetable gardening, tree care and management, composting and Xeriscaping.

"Lots of folks want to become certified Master Gardeners," Perez said, "but they may not be aware that the course requires graduates to then go out into the community and teach others what they've learned. It's about increasing knowledge and giving to the community."

To become a Master Gardener, students must complete 50 hours in the classroom, then volunteer 50 hours of community service.

"The need for a self-sustaining, civic horticultural effort here in the Valley is great," Perez said. "We're looking for people who have the inclination and the time to learn about horticulture from experts, then go out into the community to seek the resources they need to teach gardening and landscaping to school kids, youth organizations, civic groups, city beautification efforts, or anybody that calls into our office wanting gardening or landscaping advice."

The fee for the program is $140, which includes books and classroom materials. To apply, contact Perez at (956) 361-8236. Applications are due by Dec. 15.

  Readers' Gardening Tips

"Coffee grounds make an attractive mulch for indoor plants," writes Judith Tye. "The slight acidity of the coffee grounds help counter our alkaline water, and when you water the plant, there is a nice aroma."

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 be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Mice can be a real pest in the garden because they like to eat seeds and bulbs. Old-timers used to dip pea and bean seeds in paraffin before planting because the paraffin repelled the pesky rodents.


  Upcoming Garden Events

Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens, Galveston, at the fifth annual Festival of Lights November 18 through January 6. This entertainment-filled celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 18, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Transforming its lush garden setting into a winter menagerie of lights, Moody Gardens will be adorned with more than a million twinkling lights and dozens of light displays. In addition to experiencing the lights, guests can also strap on a pair of skates and slide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink or listen to holiday music performed by area bands. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or see the giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will show a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Several special holiday packages are also available for groups of 30 or more that can include luxury bus transportation, event admission and the holiday buffet. Special Festival of Lights packages are also available at the Moody Gardens Hotel November 18 through January 6. For more information, please call (800) 582-4673 or visit

The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host "Coffee Day," Saturday, January 13, 2007, 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Just in time for the crisp wintry air, this annual family day event features coffee tastings and other exotic treats. Coffee Day is a celebration of tropical plants for edible pleasure and medicinal purposes, derived from the jungle. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit

Harris County Master Gardener Fruit Tree Sale & Symposium will be held Saturday, January 13, 2007, at the Harris County Extension Office, 3033 Bear Creek Dr. Houston. Preview 8 a.m.; workshops 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.; sale 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.; lecture and demonstration topics and times TBA. For more information, call (281) 855-5600 or visit

The Texas Cooperative Extension will host the 45th annual Blackland income Growth Conference January 16 and 17, 2007, at the Waco Convention Center, Waco. Among the sessions of interest to gardeners are "Rainwater Harvesting for the Homeowner" led by Billy Kniffen, county extension agent, and "Controlling Weeds in Lawns, Flower Beds, and Vegetable Gardens" led by Dr. Paul Bauman, extension weed specialist. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Admission fees vary. For addition information, see

Urban Harvest will host its annual fruit tree sale Saturday, January 20, 2007, 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Emerson Unitarian Church, 1900 Bering Drive, Houston (West of Loop 610 between San Felipe and Westheimer). A pre-sale talk discussing the fruit trees available at the sale begins at 8:00 a.m. and continues until 9:20 a.m. There will be a large selection of citrus trees, as well as trees that produce peaches, plums, apples, pears, figs, pecans, grapes, blackberries, persimmons, and more. For more information on fruit varieties and directions to the sale, check the Urban Harvest website beginning in December.

The Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association will present the 6th annual Texas Conference on Organic Production Systems, "The Local Food Revolution: Bringing Texas Home" January 24 through 27, 2007, in Mesquite. Speakers include Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow from the Leopold Center and Jessica Prentice, chef, educator and author of Full Moon Feast. Included among the activities will be farm tours, a new farmers workshop, and an organic home gardening workshop. For additional information, call (877) 326-5175 or visit

Vegetable growers, processors and gardeners can renew their production and marketing skills at the fifth annual High Plains Vegetable Conference in Canyon. The January 25, 2007, conference will feature information relevant to marketing, pest management, food safety, biosecurity and agriculture. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. at the West Texas A&M University Alumni Banquet Facility at the corner of North Third and 25th streets in Canyon. The cost is $25 per person before Jan. 15, and $30 per person at the door. This fee covers all materials and lunch. Door prizes donated by agribusiness exhibitors will be awarded. The morning session will focus on marketing strategies, potato breeding, head and moisture stress, and integrated disease management. The afternoon session will address weed and insect control, a Texas Department of Agriculture pesticide update, biosecurity and agriculture, foodborne diseases and food safety. For registration or exhibit information contact Russ Wallace or Wendy Durrett at (806) 746-6101.

Highland Lakes Master Gardeners and Texas Cooperative Extension will offer classes to become a Master Gardener starting February 1, 2007, on Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. for 11 weeks in Marble Falls. Class size is limited so call the extension office at (512) 756-5463 or go to to get additional information on the classes and the Master Gardener program. Answers to additional may be obtained by calling Robert Yantis at (325) 388-8849 or Carol Kowing (830) 693-5377.

The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host "Chocolate Day," Saturday, February 10, 2007, 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Activities include chocolate tastings, chocolate mint plant giveaway, exotic fruits tastings, and children's crafts. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit

The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the Ninth Annual Hill Country Lawn & Garden Show March 31, 2007, at the Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls. It is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free Admission and seminars. It features garden related vendors, demonstrations, a children's booth, raffle and seminars by Malcolm Beck, Bill Luedecke and the Antique Rose Emporium. For more information go to or call (325) 388-8849.

The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host a Spring Plant Sale, Saturday, March 31, 2007, 9 a.m. until sold out. Purchase healthy, hardy plants suitable for the San Antonio environment and get expert advice from SABG volunteers, many of whom are Master Gardeners. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit

The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society presents its 21st Annual Herb Festival May 19, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens in Fort Worth. The Festival will feature the sale of herb plants and herb-related products. There will also be a silent auction, crafts, music, demos, food and much more. Special event speakers will be Randy Weston of Weston Gardens and Mary Doebelling of Our Thyme Garden. Admission is $5 for adults. The Botanic Gardens are located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd Dr., Fort Worth. For more information, please visit or call (817) 966-7126.

The San Antonio Botanical Garden is sponsoring a trip to Italy September 4 through 15, 2007, featuring Italy's villas and gardens. Escorted by Bob Brackman, the Director of the Garden, an exceptional itinerary has been designed for lovers of leisurely travel and beautiful homes and gardens. Famous for their gardens, Italians still build on their ancestors' legacy with the creation of exquisite country villas surrounded by terraced, fountain-filled gardens that have become symbolic of Italian style. Experience the rich cultural heritage of Italy. Visit special gardens, famous museums, the important cities of Florence and Rome, plus the Lake District, and the small villages which make Italy so charming, such as Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita and Tuscan villages. Feast on fabulous Italian cuisine and enjoy la dolce vita. Land cost per person sharing is $3550 plus air, which includes a $100 tax deductible donation, most meals and gratuities. For more information, contact Marianne Martz of Fuller Travel at (210) 828-6311 or

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

The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.

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