August 22, 2007

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Fire Ant Awareness Week next month will draw attention to the notorious pests. (Texas Cooperative Extension photo by Robert Burns)
  Fire Ant Awareness Week to promote fall treatment

By Mike Jackson
Texas Cooperative Extension

It's not too late, or too early, to set out fire-ant bait for the notorious pests, experts say. Fire Ant Awareness Week, beginning Sept. 10, is a reminder to apply insecticides for the second time this year.

Most people treat fire-ant mounds and larger infested areas in the spring, when the ants begin to emerge, said Kim Schofield, Texas Cooperative Extension program specialist for urban integrated pest management in Dallas County.

"They see them in the spring, but they don't think about treating for them in the fall," Schofield said.

But a second round of treatment in late summer and early fall can help reduce the fire ant population next spring, Schofield said. The treatment would also suppress their numbers through fall and early winter.

"They're going to be active through November," she said. "And depending upon the winter weather, they could be active longer."

To help curb fire ant proliferation, Schofield and other Extension entomologists are spreading the word that the second week in September is dedicated to fire-ant awareness. In its ninth year, the specially designated week was signed into law by former Gov. George W. Bush in 1998.

Extension publicizes the "Texas Two-Step" approach to do-it-yourself fire ant control, Schofield said. Both steps employ baits, which are sold in most hardware and gardening stores.

Step one: Broadcast fire-ant bait over an entire yard, using a hand-held seed spreader. Use this approach when a yard has five or more fire-ant mounds, Schofield said. Mounds vary in appearance by species, but fire-ant mounds have no entrance or exit holes.

Step two: Apply bait to individual mounds, particularly those next to building foundations and high-traffic areas, Schofield said. This approach might be best for yards that have fewer than five mounds.

Before buying bait, Schofield suggests reading labels carefully to determine whether the product works on fire ants. Labels also include information on quantities that should be used.

During either step, apply the bait after 7 p.m. when the temperature begins to cool, Schofield said. The ants hide from the heat and sun during the day, but they forage at night. Avoid moisture, which diminishes the baits' quality.

"You're competing with other food sources out there," she said. "You want the fire ants to think that your bait is the best food to eat."

The ants carry the bait back to the mound, Schofield said. There, it is eaten by other ants, including the queen, and they are eventually killed by slow-acting insecticide.

Residents of neighborhoods with widespread infestation might consider banding together, Schofield said.

"The best way to decrease the population is by picking a date and spreading the bait all at the same time," she said.

A well-designed waterwise garden in El Paso. (Photo by Robert Dailey)
  Design for waterwise gardens: The oasis zone

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

Every good garden begins with a plan and a design. In a waterwise garden, you're going to want to consider water conservation as part of the planning and design.

The waterwise garden should be divided into zones, each with different water requirements. The three zones are an oasis zone, a transition zone and low-water use zone.

In creating zones, you should also look for found water or water you harvest. This is water that runs off of roofs and pavement during storms.

This water can be used to help irrigate. You can direct roof runoff to your oasis or even to other areas of your garden. You're probably going to need to grade your property to channel and direct the runoff; you'll want to include this in your planning process.

The oasis zone

The oasis zone is where people spend more time and requires the highest amount of water. This could be your patio or special areas of your back yard, usually closest to the house, and perhaps your entry area. As in any desert, the oasis gets more water, and is therefore cooler. The oasis will also need more maintenance and, because of the water and care, will probably have the most color.

Perennials that will do well in a sunny oasis zone are lily of the Nile, wild hyssop, aster, chrysanthemum, Mexican heather, bat-faced cuphea, gaura, daylily, red justicia, desert honeysuckle, beebalm (bergamot), cup flower, Mexican sage, scarlett hedgenettle, rain lilly and plains zinnia.

Some shrubs you might consider in your oasis zone: sand verbena, desert marigold, paintbrush, damianita, shrubby dogweed, golden dogweed, desert buckwheat, Siberian wallflower, blanket flower (gaillardia), broomweed, desert rose mallow, gayfeather, blackfoot daisy, penstemmon and desert zinnia.

If you'd like trees, try box elder, hackberry, Texas redbud, Rose of Sharon, edible fig, Chinaberry, chokecherry, flowering pear, Gambel's oak, honey locust and Japanese pagoda tree.

This is not an exhaustive list. There are many other plants that can do well in an oasis zone. Some sources you might want to check out: "Desert Blooms,", an interactive website which catalogues and cross references hundreds of arid and semi-arid plants that do well in Texas gardens (the CD was commissioned by the city of El Paso); Xeriscape Plant Guide, by Denver Water and The American Water Works Association, Fulcrum Publishing.

For Texas water-wise gardening information, visit

Originally published on

  Gardening tips

"Many seeds such as Bluebonnet have a very hard coat which cannot be easily penetrated by water to start germination," writes Jessica Baldwin. "In nature, these seed are eaten by birds or animals and while traveling through the creature's digestive system, the seed coat is weakened enough to allow it to absorb moisture and sprout soon after reaching the ground. You can duplicate this process by rubbing the seeds gently between two sheets of sandpaper. Large seeds like mountain laurel can be nicked with a file to achieve the same purpose."

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...

If plant nutrients are missing in your garden soil, then the plants that are the most successful at seeking them out will do well. If your soil is low in nitrogen, plants that fix it from the air will be evident. These plants are called legumes and include vetch, clover and even our state flower, the Bluebonnet.


  Upcoming garden events

Victoria: The Victoria Master Gardener training classes will begin August 2 and continue through November 29. Classes are held every Thursday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving week. The cost is $135.00 plus an optional $30.00 for a bus trip to Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens. Topics are botany, propagation, diagnosing plant diseases, use of pesticides, herbs, vegetables, perennials, roses, working with Victoria soils, turf grasses, landscaping horticulture plus other useful topics. Additional information may be obtained by calling the Victoria County Extension Office, (361) 578-4851.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener training classes will begin August 7 and continue through December 4. Most classes are held Tuesdays from 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. except for the week of Thanksgiving. The cost is $175.00, of which $50 is refunded following completion of 50 volunteer hours for Master Gardener certification. Topics are basic botany, propagation, diagnosing plant problems, entomology, home vegetable gardening, attracting birds and butterflies, plant selection, soils and fertility, turf, trees, palms, landscape design and Xeriscape, Earth Kind gardening, composting, plus other useful topics. More information is available by calling the Aransas County Extension Office, (361) 790-0103.

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 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, 2200 Barton Springs Road, 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

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

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 and 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 or call (830) 257-6732 for details and to have registration material mailed to you.

Amarillo: Potter/Randall County Master Gardeners will be exhibiting inventive container gardens and cut flower arrangements during the first two days of the Tri State Fair, September 14 and 15. The exhibit will take place at the Potter County Extension Office on the Tri State Fairgrounds from noon until 8 p.m. both days. See examples of small space gardening and cut flowers that flourish in the panhandle area. Admission is free. For more information, call (806) 373-0713.

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.

Lewisville: The Denton County Master Gardener Association Garden InfoFest will be held Saturday, October 6, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, 900 N. Kealy Ave. Gardening seminars, educational demonstrations, plant sale, garden shopping, tour of gardens, children's activities. Admission is free. For more information, call (940) 349-2883, or visit

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 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

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 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

Jackson: For several years John Panzarella has hosted a citrus tasting and open house in his backyard, 404 Forest Drive Lake Jackson, which is about 50 miles south of Houston. The next open house will be Saturday, December 15 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Taste 40 to 50 citrus varieties and see different varieties of fruit trees. Panzarella has approximately 200 different varieties of citrus, 50% to 70% fruiting, plus several varieties of persimmon, sapote, guava, pawpaw, loquat, pomegranate, avocado, papaya, fig, peach, passion fruit, mango and pecan trees growing in his backyard. You are invited to visit, taste the citrus, and see one of the largest citrus collections in the state of Texas and the largest collection north of the Texas Rio Grand valley. See the giant Panzarella orange and the giant 10 lb. Panzarella cluster lemons. You will also have the opportunity to view a multi-grafted tree which has grapefruits, tangerines and oranges growing on it. For more information, call (979) 297-2120, e-mail, or visit

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

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

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

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

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

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.

  Getting hammered by bad plant selections?  

Looking for four seasons of bright, colorful flowers that are tough enough to survive Texas conditions? Tough-as-Nails: Flowers for the South author Norman Winter names the ideal annuals, perennials, bulbs, grasses and vines for any southern location.

 $29.89 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of August and we'll waive shipping charges. (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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