July 18, 2007

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Officials warn West Nile Virus is back

By Kay Ledbetter
Texas Cooperative Extension

Lots of rain leaves standing water. Standing water attracts mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus. And July is the prime month for cases of the disease to start showing up, said a Texas Cooperative Extension specialist.

Dr. Greta Schuster, an Extension integrated pest management specialist in Canyon, will be dragging out her carbon dioxide light traps this week to determine how many positive mosquitoes can be found in the area.

Schuster, who also is a West Texas A&M University associate professor, is working with Dr. James Alexander and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Alexander reported West Nile Virus is already active in Texas, with one human case in Willacy County. Positive mosquitoes have been found in Collin, Denton, Jefferson, Montgomery and Willacy counties.

West Nile Virus cases in Texas can be found at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/disease/arboviral/westNile/.

In 2006, 33 West Nile human fatalities were reported, and since 2002, 71 fatalities due to the virus have been reported in Texas, Schuster said, quoting state health service figures.

Schuster has been sampling for West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes for the past five years. She started in an effort to help Extension agents and area veterinarians know the severity of the situation and to help get horses vaccinated for the disease.

Each year she watches the reports from other parts of the state to know when to start collecting mosquitoes. When the positive cases start showing up in the south, she knows it won't be long before the virus moves north.

When Schuster collects the live mosquitoes in her traps, she sends them to the Texas health department in Austin where they are tested to see if they carry the disease.

"We're trying to find out when mosquitoes are becoming active and what species is active at the time," she said.

With all the recent rain in Texas, a large hatch of mosquitoes can be expected, Schuster said.

"If they are showing up in my traps, then there are a lot more out there," she said. "That's when we start alerting the Texas Department of Agriculture and other agencies that can get the word out that it is time to be more vigilant in control and protection."

To protect against disease-carrying mosquitoes, Schuster said wear long sleeves when working outdoors, use a DEET product and don't go out from sundown to 10 p.m., if possible.

"When we were collecting mosquitoes off the horses, they were covered the heaviest from about 8 to 10 (p.m.)," she said.

Schuster said there is some concern about using products with the DEET chemical in it, but advises that if people spray most of the chemical over their clothing and use long sleeves to protect themselves, it is safe.

The DEET amounts in products vary, she said. The amount needed depends on how long an individual expects to be outside. The more DEET the repellent contains, the longer not better it will protect.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that products with a low concentration of active ingredient may be appropriate when exposure to insects is minimal, Schuster said. Higher concentrations of active ingredient may be useful in highly infested areas or with insect species which are more difficult to repel.

When trying to limit mosquito populations outside, a combination of treatments is best, Schuster said.

"First, we advise sanitation," she said. "Empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels and cans. Remove discarded containers and other items that could collect water."

Second, use a larvicide chemical to control hatching mosquitoes so they never become adults, Schuster said. Larvicides, which kill immature mosquitoes, are put in water sources.

Bacillus thuringiensis, more commonly know as Bt, is a biological larvicide that is safe for animals, she said. It is found in products sold as Mosquito Dunk. Methoprene, a chemical larvicide, is an insect growth regulator that kills larvae by disrupting their development.

As with all products, Schuster advised, read and follow all labels and directions.

The final step to treatment is the use of adulticides or products used to kill adult mosquitoes, she said. These products can immediately reduce the number of adult mosquitoes around the home. They include fogs, mists or sprays, which are often used by city and county officials to treat large areas, she said.

"There's no one control that works the best," Schuster said. "It's a combination of all of them. That's the whole basis to the integrated pest management program."

Tomatillo, one of many edible plants the author says can be grown in Texas. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)
  Edible plants in your front yard

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

At one time in America, many, if not most, people grew edible plants in their front and back yards.

These plants were mixed in with flowering perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees to create beautiful palettes.

With the advent of the industrial revolution, divisive class distinctions, and Victorian landscaping practices, the custom of growing food along with other plants fell by the wayside, giving way to finely-clipped lawns, sculptured hedges, ubiquitous sprinklers and little else.

Rosalind Creasy, whose book The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping (The Sierra Club), is creating a somewhat successful, one-woman campaign to reintroduce edible plants into the landscape. Although Rosalind lives in Los Altos, California, her techniques are quite applicable to Texas yards and gardens.

Here's a partial list of great (and edible plants):

  • Hardy Rosemary (actually, I have a 6-year-old, three-foot-tall and just as wide hardy rosemary in my herb garden).
  • Pomegranate (one of the fruits highest in antioxidants). Ice down ripe fruit, massage them, and stick a straw in it for a delightful taste experience.
  • Prickly pear. Not only are the fruits great to eat, but they provide a great barrier plant.
  • Pinion and Afghan pines. The nuts are great and pinion nuts were used (and still are) by Native Americans and others as a food source.
  • Figs. Figs are, according to Rosalind Creacy, God's gift to mankind. Black fig does especially well in dry, west and central Texas climates.
  • Almond trees.
  • Apricots.
  • Olives. The Russian olive is a water guzzler and is considered an invasive species in Texas. Plant real olives instead.
  • Tomatillos.
  • Corn (maize). Grown for centuries throughout the southwestern part of North America.
  • Amaranths.
  • Chiles (although you want varieties that bear fruit inside of the plant leaves, sheltering them from the sun).
  • Sesame. In the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, the phrase "open sesame" was used to access the Ali Baba's lair in the desert. Sesame has been well-known to desert dwellers for millennia.

Originally published on Suite101.com.

Line dancing aphids. (Photo by Beverly Nord)
  Like teenagers, aphids stay on the line all day

By Beverly Nord
Freelance Writer

I wanted to hang out some clothes and noticed aphids on the line. The aphids did not seem to mind the clothes that I hung out and stayed "on the line" all day. Were they in a high wire troupe? What other reason would they have for being there? How did they get up there?

  Gardening tips

"When buying plants at the nursery," writes T. J. Sweeney, "select those that are in flower so you can see what you are getting. Just remember that container grown plants will usually flower earlier in pots than they will when planted in your garden the next year."

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...

Always collect seeds on a dry day, before the seed heads pop open and scatter. Seeds like beans and peas are easy to save. Just leave some pods unharvested on the bushes to dry until the seed rattles in the pods. Then remove the seed from the pod, place in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place until needed. Remember, seed from hybrid plants will not breed true so only save seed from open pollinated varieties.


  Upcoming garden events

San Antonio: As part of Contemporary Art Month and Texas Uprising, the San Antonio Botanical Society and Blue Star Contemporary Art Center will host Art in the Garden, a sculpture exhibition featuring the work of James Surls, at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston Place, San Antonio, beginning with a reception on Thursday, July 26 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The exhibition will be open daily beginning July 27 and will run for one year. For more information, call (210) 829-5100 or visit www.sabot.org.

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will be sponsoring training classes  August 22 through December 5. Classes will meet every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Texas Cooperative Extension Building, 210 East Live Oak, Seguin. Application deadline is July 31. Enrollment is limited to 30 paid students. For more information and application forms, visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org or call the Guadalupe County Extension Office at (830) 379-1972.

Austin: The Fifteenth Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26 at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin. Sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society, the event will celebrate the wonders of bamboo with presentations, demonstrations and education information, including Bamboo 101, a Bamboo Kite Making Workshop led by Greg Kono, and Bamboos of Southeast Asia presented by Harry Simmons. Bamboo plants and crafts will be for sale. For additional information, call (512) 929-9565 or visit www.bamboocentral.net.

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.

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardener Association will sponsor its annual Fall Gardening Conference at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 400 Rose Park Drive, Tyler, on Saturday, September 8, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. A plant sale and expo will be held at Harvey Hall and Convention Center following the conference, from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Conference speakers are Steven L. Chamblee. chief horticulturalist for Chandler Gardens in Weatherford, and Keith Kridler, cultivator and merchant of daffodil varieties including antique daffodils that are no longer or not commonly produced. Admission to the conference and to the plant sale is free. For additional information, call (903) 590-2980.

Independence: The Herb Association of Texas is hosting its annual conference September 14-15 at the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence. "Explore the Senses Through Herbs" is open to the public. Jim Long of Long Creek Herb Farm is the featured speaker. Register via www.texasherbs.org or call (830) 257-6732 for details and to have registration material mailed to you.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association “Hidden Gardens Tour & Fall Plant Sale” will be held Saturday, September 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Hidden Gardens Tour and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Fall Plant Sale at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Get your tickets and maps at Green Acres for this one-day event in addition to purchasing those much-wanted plants that you can’t find anywhere. The maps will lead you to wonderful Hidden Gardens in both Aransas County and San Patricio County. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres, which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. Admission is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets and/or questions contact the Aransas County Texas Cooperative Extension, Rockport, at (361) 790-0103.

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: Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.

Belton, Temple, Killeen: The Bell County Master Gardener Association will host the Fall Glory garden tour Saturday, October 20, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens in Belton, Temple and Killeen will be showcased. Admission is $5 for adults. For additional information, contact Sue Morgan at (254) 698-8668.

St. Francisville, La.: The 2007 Southern Garden Symposium will be held October 26 and 27 in St. Francisville, La. Friday workshops held at Afton Villa Gardens include "Creating Interior Focal Points through Floral Design," led by Dr. James DelPrince; "Pruning for Plant Health," led by Martha Hill; "21st Century Gardening: Plants, Products and Practices," led by Nellie Neal; and "Timeless Tips for Fool Proof Landscapes," led by Mary Palmer and Hugh Dargan. The Friday evening cocktail buffet will be held at Live Oak Plantation. Saturday lectures held at Hemingbough include "Hot New Flowers and Captivating Combinations," led by Norman Winter; "Furnishings for the Garden: 1750-1900," led by H. Parrot Bacot; and "Garden Design Inspirations: Seeing Art Design Elements in Nature and Applying them to Southern Garden Designs," led by Edward C. Martin. $60 per person, per day admission includes lunch. Admission to the Friday evening cocktail buffet is $35 per person. For registration and additional information, contact Lucie Cassity at (225) 635-3738 or write to Southern Garden Symposium, P.O. Box 2075, St. Francisville, LA 70775.

Waco: The Texas Gourd Society presents its 12th annual Lone Star Gourd Festival October 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave., Waco. Featured will be gourd artists and crafters, demonstrations, seminars and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 are free. For additional information, visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.

Independence: The Antique Rose Emporium at 10,000 FM 50 in Independence will host their 20th Fall Festival of Roses November 2 through 4. Speakers, who will present a variety of garden related topics, include Dave Wittenger, Dave’s Garden Web; Stephen Scaniello, Heritage Rose Foundation; and Chris Carley, National Arboretum Horticulturist. All seminars are free to the public. Old Garden roses, including Earthkind and Pioneer Roses, herbs, perennials, and Texas natives will be available for sale. For additional information, visit www.weareroses.com or call (979) 836-5548.

New Braunfels: Hill Country Orchid Society's "Wurst Orchid Show & Sale" will take place Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the New Braunfels Elks Lodge, 353 S. Seguin, New Braunfels. Admission is free. For more information, call (830) 629-2083.

Galveston: Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens at the sixth annual Festival of Lights November 17 through January 5. This whimsical celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 17, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Festival of Lights is celebrated Thursday through Sunday November 17 through December 16, and daily beginning December 17. Transforming its lush tropical garden setting into a winter wonderland, 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 glide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink at Moody Gardens. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or even gaze upon a giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will feature a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Three films will be playing at the IMAX 3D theater and two films will be playing at the Ridefilm theater. The Garden Restaurant will feature a delectable holiday buffet, offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Group rates of $20 per person are also available for groups of 20 or more, and include admission to Festival of Lights and the holiday buffet. Admission into the Festival of Lights is $5.95, and tickets to additional attractions including the Rainforest Pyramid, holiday IMAX 3D film, holiday Ridefilm, Outdoor Ice Rink and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, can be purchased for only $4.00 each. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.

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.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.

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.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

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.

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