April 18, 2007

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  The church garden journey of a thousand miles

By Jack Campbell
Freelance Writer

It seemed like an impossible task for an overly ambitious men's senior Bible study group to accomplish. They decided to do something about the unappealing nine acre church grounds at Bannockburn Baptist in Austin.

The group's program started in 2000 with a prayer and a pledged monthly financial commitment from the senior men's class. Work commitments were scheduled within the group and I volunteered, as a retired farmer who knew something about plants, to help turn the ambition into reality. I, like so many retirees, was looking for something significant to pursue in my retirement. The garden challenge seemed to be made to order, although a bit of a stretch for someone 75 years old. But I had been a garden enthusiast all my life and had actively pursued gardening as a hobby for more than 50 years.

I knew that you did not direct a major landscape project of this magnitude without a great deal of knowledge and the Lord's blessing and direction. This is especially true in Texas, where harsh growing conditions are the norm and gardening can be very unrewarding at times.

As chairman of the group, I began an extensive study program during the next two years to gain the practical knowledge necessary to carry out the plan. I took advantage of training offered by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Zilker Botanical Gardens and other garden organizations. I also completed the Capitol Area Master Naturalist and Travis County Master Gardner programs in my quest to understand the complexities of central Texas gardening. I accumulated a considerable botanical library and spent hours each week learning how the how, when, and where of plants adapted to my area that would benefit wildlife, provide color and aesthetic appeal, and survive on acceptable maintenance regimes. Finally, after two years of preparations, the church grounds transformation began to take shape.

Members of my Bible study class, some in their 80s, were ready to go. Several discovered the rewards of gardening and experienced first hand that it is a lot easier for seniors to get down on one knee to pull weeds than to get up afterward. Nevertheless, teamwork and determination prevailed. The dedication of these seniors began to inspire younger volunteers and the work crew began to grow.

The gardens, after a slow start, began to develop momentum and suddenly the beauty, peace and serenity of a garden began to register with the members as a special and lovely addition to their church home. Soon other groups began to come on board. The Boy Scouts built a water garden. Community service and youth groups helped build rain water collection gardens. Master Gardeners and Master Naturalist trainees did garden specialty work.

As the gardens developed, support continued to build within the community. I was astounded two years ago when an older lady pulled up on the roadside where I was working and handed me a check made out to the church for a thousand dollars to help support the gardens. As I was attempting a sputtering thank you, she explained that she drove by every day and looked forward to seeing the seasonal changes in the roadside gardens. To the astonishment of many, the support has continued from this real life angel who lives somewhere down the road. Other folks joined her. Plants and materials poured in from many individuals and groups, sometimes overwhelming the volunteers. Organizations like the Master Gardeners Association and the Garden Club of Austin were more than willing to help in the creation of another public access garden for Austin.

The gardens have become very special to Bannockburn's members, who have the opportunity to invite friends to visit the "garden church" in southwest Austin. The grounds are becoming a local attraction, hosting garden tours featuring winding waterways, rose gardens, and more than 20 specialty gardens. Streams of commuters enjoy the roadside gardens, especially when the roses, larkspur, and bougainvilleas are in bloom.

Children at the Bannockburn School just have to step out of the classroom door to enjoy nature study. Winkey, the resident barred owl, stares the children down from its nest box in a tall red oak tree. Hummingbirds and butterflies abound, enjoying special plantings on their behalf. Frogs and fish thrive in the water gardens and pond. Rabbits, opossums and turtles make regular appearances to the delight of the children. Teachers are challenged to keep the children moving from one building to another due to the many garden distractions along the way. The children are especially enthusiastic about the vegetable gardens, and the race is on to see which class has the most tomatoes on their plants. A sixth grade class with 30 tomatoes won this year.

The gardens provide an oasis of habitat in an urban setting. Certified by Texas Parks and Wildlife as an official Texas Wildscape, they provide food, cover, and water for native birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Plant trial work for diverse groups such as Texas A&M University and the American Iris Society require careful observation and meticulous record keeping by the volunteers to ensure integrity of the plant trials. The senior group has begun a hands-on help program to assist other churches, schools, senior citizen centers, and extended care facilities. Three Master Gardeners are on call to assist others in starting similar garden programs.

The latest challenge will be working with other church members to develop a master landscape plan for the entire campus.

The Bannockburn gardens became a reality because a group of seniors saw a need and decided to act. If opportunity for service begins at retirement, than as the Chinese saying goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step."

Indre Pemberton, research associate with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, holds two of the sensors used on an automated weather station to calculate potential evaportrasporation or PET. The station is located at the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton.

Pemberton downloads data from an automated weather station. The data, is used to calculate PET. Such information is used by irrigators to precisely prescribe how much irrigation water should be applied.

Part of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station's Weather Web site at Overton is dedicated to help irrigators calculate PET. (Texas Cooperative Extension photos by Robert Burns)

  'PET' project could reduce East Texas cities' water woes

By Robert Burns
Texas Cooperative Extension

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's long range forecast is for below-average precipitation for East Texas in coming months.

But even if the prediction proves false, being water conscious when irrigating lawns still makes sense, both economically and environmentally, said a research associate with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

"And it's almost a no-brainer, now that we have the right tools," said Indre Pemberton, who is based at the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton.

Pemberton maintains the center's automated weather station and the associated Web site at http://etweather.tamu.edu/. Part of the Web site is dedicated to help irrigators calculate potential evapotranspiration.

The term is a mouthful, and usually abbreviated as "PET," she said. The concept is straight-forward, though.

"PET is an estimation of the combined loss of water through a plant's vascular system combined with evaporation of water from the soil surface," Pemberton said.

Both factors are influenced by temperature, humidity, sunlight and wind, all of which are measured every 15 seconds, 24 hours a day, by the center's weather station. The data are averaged to calculate the potential evapotranspiration.

Though the formulas behind the PET indexes are complex, using the information to determine how much water to put on home landscapes takes only two simple steps, Pemberton said.

First, take an audit of your irrigation system. Set out some flat-bottom containers around the yard and irrigate for 10 minutes. The more cans, the better, but a half dozen will do. Use a ruler to measure the amount of water in the containers.

"Write the numbers down on a piece of paper, add them up and divide the sum by the number of cans you had to get an average number," Pemberton said. "This lets you know how much water was delivered in 10 minutes. Multiply by six, and this gives you the amount of water delivered in one hour."

After determining the amount of water supplied by your irrigation system in an hour, go to Pemberton's Web site and click on "PET." The evapotranspiration data are calculated and posted daily. To figure how much water to apply, simply add up the numbers, using either the Overton or the TxEt column for all the days of the month since the last irrigation was applied.

For example, if you're watering on April 7, and the last time you watered was on April 1, add up the numbers April 1 through April 6. The total is the amount of water you need to apply.

"That's for people who irrigate once a week. Some people irrigate every other day, so they would add up the PET numbers for the two previous days," Pemberton said.

To simplify things further, Pemberton has supplied an online calculator at the Web site.

Why two different calculation columns?

"It's just two different ways of calculating PET," Pemberton said. "We provide both for comparison. Either one should be fine for home landscapes."

Pemberton noted that for homeowners, the difference in the two calculations are fractions of an inch small enough not to worry about.

"Also, if it rains, subtract the amount of the rainfall from your PET value," she said. "Because the rain has replaced that amount of water for you."

On the average, most householders over-water 30 percent to 50 percent, said Dr. Jim McAfee, Texas Cooperative Extension turfgrass specialist. Not only does over-watering waste resources, it also promotes many turfgrass diseases, he said.

"I was talking to a professional lawn care business owner in Tyler, and he said they're already seeing brown patch," said McAfee, who is based in Dallas.

McAfee noted that brown patch is associated with cooler temperatures as well as over-watering.

For more information on brown patch in home lawns, see http://aggieturf.tamu.edu/answers4you/disease/brownpatch.html.

McAfee said there a number of ways being considered by the Texas legislature to deal with the problem. One way might be to mandate the installation of automated home irrigation controls that use sensors to record local temperature and humidity. Microprocessors in the devices calculate potential evapotranspiration for the home lawn, then disperse water accordingly.

"They're amazingly accurate, giving results that are with 90 percent of those by the (professional) PET stations," he said.

Until those units are commercially available, homeowners' best bet is to take advantage of PET data like that supplied by Pemberton, he said.

  Gardening tips

"Take cuttings to make grass plugs for lawn repair before mowing St. Augustine lawns," writes Beverly Nord. "Cut the 'runner' just below the node and stick the cutting into potting soil. When rooted, plant in those bare spots and water well."

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...

Many people think that moon gardening works because all water is affected by the movement of the moon and plants are mostly water. Both the sun and moon affect water through their magnetic pull but the moon is much closer to the earth hence its influence is stronger.


  Upcoming garden events

Waco: "Easy-Care Roses for Busy People," an EarthKind Rose Symposium hosted by McLennan County Master Gardeners and Texas Cooperative Extension, will take place in Waco, Saturday, April 21, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., at Texas State Technical College, 3801 Campus Drive. Among the speakers will be Dr. Steve George, Professor and Landscape Horticulture Specialist, Texas Cooperative Extension, Dallas; Mark Chamblee, owner Chamblee Rose Nursery, Tyler; Gaye Hammond, President, Houston Rose Society; Steve Huddleston, Senior Horticulturalist, Fort Worth Botanic Garden; and Rachelle Kemp, Landscape Design Instructor, Texas State Technical College, Waco. Registration is $56 per person and pre-registration is required. Registration includes snacks, beverages, all course materials, and a two-gallon rose. For more information, call (254) 757-5180 or visit www.mclennanmastergardeners.org.

Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners will have a plant sale on Saturday, April 21, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Jackson County Services Building Auditorium, 411 North Wells, Edna. Shrubs, bedding plants, flowering shrubs, and plants propagated by the Master Gardeners are being sold. Yard accessories being sold include decorative indoor and outdoor birdhouses. The public is invited.

Brownwood: The Brownwood Garden Club is sponsoring the free Heart of Texas Wildflower Exhibit and Plant Sale Thursday-Saturday, April 26 through 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Activity Center of First Baptist Church, Brownwood. Specimens of wildflowers from Brown and surrounding counties will be displayed and identified by common and scientific names. At 1 p.m. Friday, John Begnaud, Extension Horticulturist from Tom Green County, will present the program "Landscaping with Native Plants." Saturday, Dr. Jack Stanford will speak on "Central Texas Wildflowers." Maps of suggested routes to view wildflowers will be available, and Dr. Stanford will lead a field trip following his presentation. For more information, call (325) 646-8739.

Tyler: The 9th annual Tyler Men's Club "Spring Fling" plant sale will take place Saturday, April 28 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Tyler Rose Garden in the East Pavilion (Farmer's Market Shed). The ere is no admission charge and the event will be held "rain or shine." Additional information is available at http://home.earthlink.net/~tylermensgardenclub/.

Longview: The Northwest Texas Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas is having its annual plant sale at Wal-Mart, 2440 Gilmer Road, Longview, on April 28 beginning at 8 a.m. and usually sells out by noon. Attendees who join the NPSOT will receive a plethora of butterfly plant seeds. For additional information, contact emmanell@peoplepc.com.

Austin: It's About Thyme, 11726 Manchaca, Austin, will host "How to Select, Plant and Grow Palm Trees in the Austin Area," a free lecture and demonstration by Hays County Free Press gardening columnist Chris Winslow, Sunday, April 29, at 2 p.m. For more information, call (512) 280-1192 or visit www.itsaboutthyme.com.

El Paso, Fort Worth, Dallas: Visit America's very best, rarely seen, Private Gardens. The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program has been opening the gates to America's best private gardens since 1995. The 2007 season features more than 350 gardens across 21 states. Learn about gardens participating in your area through the Open Days Directory, an annual publication listing open gardens with garden descriptions, open dates and hours, and directions. To purchase a Directory or for more information, call (888)842-2442 or visit www.opendaysprogram.org. The $5 admission fee supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy's work of preserving exceptional American gardens such Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead. 2007 Texas Open Days: El Paso: May 5 & 6; Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardeners will host the 6th annual Spring Home Garden Tour May 5, Tyler. Area gardens will be showcased and will offer visitors ideas an inspiration for their own garden, large or small. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions or discuss planting ideas. For more information, call (903) 894-7950.

Austin: It's About Thyme, 11726 Manchaca, Austin, will host "It's About Thyme Herb Festival," an afternoon of cooking and gardening demonstrations with vendors and music, Saturday, May 5, noon until 6 p.m. For more information, call (512) 280-1192 or visit www.itsaboutthyme.com.

Denton: The Denton County Master Gardeners will hold their 6th annual Walk in the Garden Tour and Plant Sale on Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Five gardens will be featured, ranging from expansive country acreage to smaller scale city gardens. There is a focus on vegetable gardening. Information on tickets and garden locations may be obtained at www.dcmga.com or the Denton County Extension Office, (940) 349-2883.

Houston: The Westbury Garden Tour Great Backyards in Westbury will take place Saturday, May 12 from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. See five gardens for $7. Tickets may be purchased at 5506 Briarbend.

Salado: The 4th annual Salado Yard and Garden Tour, a tour of yards and gardens in the historic village of Salado, will highlight characteristic and varied private and public gardens for the Central Texas landscape. From large to small, rambling to organized, annuals to perennials, water wise planting to courtyard container gardens, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The tour will be Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sunday, May 13 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens will be self-guided with volunteers helping to answer questions when needed. Tickets will be $15 to view all gardens and are good for the two days. Maps will be available leading to each location with a description of each garden. Tours will be conducted rain or shine. The tour is sponsored by the Salado Garden Club and the Public Arts League of Salado. For further information, visit the Village of Salado website at www.salado.com or call (254) 947-8300.

Victoria: The Victoria County Master Gardeners Spring Plant Sale will be held May 19 at the Victoria County 4H Activity Center (at the airport) 259 Bachelor Drive, Victoria, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. or until sold out. The plants for sale have been raised by the Master Gardeners themselves. You know the plants will grow in our area because they come from our area! Come also to see the Victoria Educational Garden along with its newest expansion. The expansion Grand Opening is to be held May 20th.

Ft. Worth: The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society presents its 21st Annual Herb Festival May 19, 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 www.greaterfortworthherbsociety.org or call (817) 966-7126.

Austin: It's About Thyme, 11726 Manchaca, Austin, will host "Choosing the Perfect Crepe Myrtle for Your Garden," a free clinic for gardeners to learn about disease resistance, choices of size, and length of bloom time, presented by Hays County Free Press columnist and crepe myrtle expert Chris Winslow, Sunday, May 27, at 2 p.m. For more information, call (512) 280-1192 or visit www.itsaboutthyme.com.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden is sponsoring a trip to Italy September 4 through 15, 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 marianne@fullertvl.com.

Garland: 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: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

Dallas: 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) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: 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.

  Melons featured in May/June Texas Gardener

Contributing Editor Skip Richter writes explains how to "Make Room for Melons" and Judy Hominick profiles Jimmy Turner, Director of Horticulture Research at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society.

Also in the May/June issue of Texas Gardener: Seeds book reviewer and frequent Texas Gardener contributor William Scheick writes about several southeastern wildflowers, Ann McCormick writes about Texas trees and shrubs with medicinal virtues, and Beverly Nord relates her experience with "Miss Figgy," a fig tree of uncommon size. Also included: a rose that survived Hurricane Katrina, tips on saving rain, the pros and cons of fowl in the garden, and much, much more!

Subscribe on-line.

  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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