August 29, 2007

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Watermelon aficionados can rest easy. Despite heavy rains in south Texas, the juicy melons should be available at reasonable prices for the rest of the summer, said a Texas Cooperative Extension expert. (Photo courtesy of Texas Cooperative Extension)
  Plenty of good watermelons available despite heavy south Texas rains

By Steve Byrns
Texas Cooperative Extension

Watermelon aficionados can rest easy. Despite heavy rains in south Texas, the juicy melons should be available at reasonable prices for the rest of the summer, said a Texas Cooperative Extension expert.

"A year or two ago, watermelons got to $6-$7 each, and I'm too chinchy to pay that kind of money, but I will pay $4 for a good one," said Joe Pena, Extension economist in Uvalde. "This year, thanks to the rain, there has been plenty of good quality seedless melons in my price range.

"Watermelons and cantaloupes are two of the few vegetables planted in nearly every Texas county whether it be in commercial amounts or in gardens," Pena said. "We enjoy an earlier season than other areas, but we're not the center of U.S. watermelon production."

Pena said the Texas Winter Garden region was hit hard with either too much rain during key pollination periods or with fields too wet to harvest. But the widespread rain allowed other parts of the state to produce more melons than normal.

Americans eat an average of 15 pounds of watermelon a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the overall U.S. crop likely will meet that demand.

Macky McWhirter, a melon grower near Plains, said a good crop in Delaware, Indiana, Florida and Georgia have filled the market to this point, but west Texas growers are counting on a good market going into Labor Day and the rest of September.

"Our quality is good here," McWhirter said. "We don't have a strong price yet, but we are the last ones to have watermelons, so we're looking for a good September market."

So while south Texas producers did lose watermelons, overall the rain increased production across the entire state, and therefore there is still a healthy supply, Pena said. Mexico also supplied a lot of the earlier watermelons.

"However, you have to remember that for the producers who lost their crops due to rain, it's devastating, and you've got to be sympathetic to those farmers," he said.

The Texas Watermelon Association Inc. Web site shows that producers in the Lone Star state grow approximately 40,000 acres of watermelons each year, producing approximately 640 million pounds.

"The rains (in south Texas) kept the bees from being able to pollinate the watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumber plants the way they normally would, and also kept the pollen from reaching or remaining at its target," Pena said. "In many instances, produce was left to rot in the field."

South Texas melon and cucumber yields were 20 percent to 30 percent lower than average due to the rains, he said.

"But some other areas of Texas actually produced more melons from dryland production than other areas did from irrigated acres," Pena said. "So there has been a lot of supply across Texas."

Wild penstemon used in garden plan for west Texas. (Photo by Robert Dailey)
  Design for waterwise gardens: The transition zone

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

There are three basic zones or areas in a waterwise garden: the oasis, the transitional zone and the arid zone.

Extending outward from our oasis, look at designing a "transitional" zone waterwise garden.

The "transitional" zone includes plants that require less water than the "oasis," in an area where people spend less time, and in a part of the yard that requires less maintenance.

Understand that most plants, whether they are in the "oasis," "transitional," or "arid" garden zones, are going to require regular watering for the first two years until they have established their root systems.

To establish plants, wherever they are in your garden, water two to three times a week during the hottest parts of the summer (May through August). Water once a week in September and October and at least once a month November through April.

After establishment, plants in the transitional zone will probably survive without supplemental water, but they're going to look pretty ragged, and they won't reach their full potential without some type of irrigation.

You also need to consider outside influences, such as exposure to the sun and drying wind, heat reflection from south-facing walls, and competition with established trees. All these factors will increase their water needs. Shading and wind protection will decrease water needs. And, in the unlikely event (at least in west Texas) of a ground-soaking rain, you can skip one cycle of watering.

Water your "transition” zone plants once every one-to-two weeks between May and August (again, depending on rain and exposure to sun and drying winds). In September and October, water once every two to three weeks. Between November and April, water once a month.

Perennials that do well in a "transition" desert garden include: yarrow (silvery, tall and moonshine varieties), hollyhock, aster, perennial bachelor's button, tickseed, coreopsis, blanket flower (gaillardia), bearded iris, just about all varieties of lavender, golden and blue flax, catmint, evening primrose, penstemon, balloon flower, soapwort, and hummingbird trumpet. I particularly like penstemon and blue flax. The penstemon flowers are gorgeous, the plant produces copious seeds and the birds love it. Blue flax flowers in the spring and summer seem to be floating in air as their slender stalks sway in the slightest breeze.

Shrubs that are candidates for the "transitional" zone include: Utah serviceberry, bluemist spirea, Russian sage, littleleaf mockorange, mugo pine, shrub live oak, common lilac and lilac hybrids, and Chinese lilac.

If you want coniferous trees in your "transition" zone, try Rocky Mountain juniper, bristlecone pine, Bosnian pine, limber pine, southwest white pine and Scotch pine.

Deciduous trees can include Western catalpa, native chokecherry, Gambrel oak, any of the flowering locust varieties, New Mexico locust and littleleaf linden.

For more information on waterwise gardening, check out

Originally published on

The time has come to rethink how such plants as yuccas, agaves and cacti are used in home landscapes, says Steven Chamblee, gardening author and one of the featured speakers at the upcoming Fall Gardening Conference and Plant Expo in Tyler. Here, for example, Chamblee has paired agave with dichondra 'Silver Falls' as ground cover.
(Photo courtesy of Steven Chamblee)
  Fall gardening conference to feature 'tough plants' and antique daffodils

By Robert Burns
Texas Cooperative Extension

An upcoming gardening conference will do more than offer speakers about Texas tough plants and antique daffodils.

"We'll have a bulb and plant sale following the conference where gardeners can find thousands of bulbs of many varieties not often found in local nurseries," said Keith Hansen, Texas Cooperative Extension horticulture agent in Smith County.

The annual Fall Gardening Conference and Plant Expo will be held Sept. 8 at the Tyler Rose Garden Center in Tyler.

The two featured speakers won't be the usual local fare either, Hansen said.

The first speaker, Steven L. Chamblee, is the chief horticulturist for Chandor Gardens in Weatherford. Chamblee's topic, "Texas Tough Plants," will focus on heat- and drought- tolerant plants adapted to East Texas.

"Two things I'm sure of," Chamblee said. "I get older every year, and it gets hot every Texas summer. It only makes sense to plant gardens that will settle comfortably and require less maintenance as they age. Otherwise, you just set yourself up for endless drudgery in the heat."

Chamblee said he created a new program tuned to Smith and the surrounding counties for the conference. For example, though many nature resource minded gardeners may use low-water plants, they may not know how to present them.

"It's time to rethink many plants, particularly structural plants like yuccas, agaves, and cacti," Chamblee said. "Why in the world anyone would surround these plants with large limestone gravel is simply beyond me. Lay down a smooth, low groundcover around them — like silver ponyfoot or woolly stemodia — and you get an amazing, surrealistic effect that's also low maintenance. Of course, the real bonus is that it's the eco-smart thing to do."

The other featured speaker will be Keith Kridler, a cultivator of antique and modern daffodils.

"His specialty is antique daffodils that are no longer grown, and his collection includes more than 900 named varieties," Hansen said.

Kridler is the chairman of the Historic Daffodil Committee, and he serves on the board of directors of the American Daffodil Society. His presentation will tell how to select, plant and care for daffodil bulbs, Hansen said.

The conference is sponsored by the Smith County Master Gardeners, an Extension-trained volunteer program. Admission is free and open to the public.

The doors to the center will open at 7:30 a.m. for registration. The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. and last until 11:30 a.m.

The plant and bulb sale will be held across the street from the Rose Garden Center at the Harvey Convention Center and will last until 3 p.m.

A list in PDF format of the bulbs and plants that will be for sale can be found at the conference Web site: Click on "list of bulbs and other plants for sale."

"During the exposition local Master Gardeners will staff a help desk and show to properly plant bulbs and plant bare-root roses," Hansen said.

  Volunteers sought by botanic garden

In March 2008, live butterflies will once again fly in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden’s Conservatory. Both the display and attendance have been spectacular in the past, and the Botanic Garden wants your organization to participate in it.

The Botanic Garden is asking garden clubs to Adopt a Day for Butterflies, and volunteer in the conservatory during this third encore presentation of Butterflies in the Garden. Your group would volunteer to fill five jobs between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a single day. Volunteers would attend a 3-hour training at the Botanic Garden (3220 Rock Springs Road, Fort Worth), or during your January or February meeting. You are encouraged to volunteer for other shifts during the butterfly exhibits, and will be notified of other special opportunities.

Your club would be identified as the Daily Sponsor at the exhibit, receive a certificate, and be recognized in the Botanic Garden’s quarterly newsletter, The Redbud.

To receive more information, contact Judy at  or call (817) 871-7682.

  Gardening tips

"Most of us gardeners are pet lovers by nature (no pun intended!)," writes Cindy Pierce. "As such, if you have an aquarium or even a small desk-top fish bowl, instead of throwing out the water when you perform a routine water change, deposit it among your potted plants. The fish waste and other nutrients in the used water will provide your plants a dose of natural fertilizer and since sea & fish spray products are noted to be pest repellants, you may also reap this added benefit! Don't be afraid to use this method on both your outdoor and indoor potted plants as there will be no lingering fishy odor if you are careful not to over water."

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...

Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) aggressively strangles other plants and was known for centuries as the thunder flower. Pulling it was supposed to cause thunder before the end of the day. This idea probably came about to discourage children from picking the plants and causing damage to the host plants.


  Upcoming garden events

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.

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.

Nacogdoches: The annual Fabulous Fall Festival plant sale at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Mast Arboretum will be from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, October 6, at the intramural field on Wilson Drive, Nocogdoches. A great selection of rare, unusual, and Texas-tough trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous perennials, and grasses will be available. Staples of the fall sale include asters, garden mums, and sages, as well as several outstanding varieties of ornamental grasses. Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, will have a wide range of native trees available including oaks, pines, red maple, and black walnut, with fall being the best time to establish trees. There will be a number of hard to find items including native and hybrid coral bean, crinum lilies, the rare Brazoria sabal palm, the new hybrid coneflowers, variegated sky vine, giant Farfugium, and the rare Hibiscus hamabo. They will also offer a line of drought resistant plants like snake herb, wooly stemodia, bamboo muhly grass and heliotrope. Proceeds from the plant sale help support the SFA Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, and educational programs. For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit

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.

Waco: Many composers have been inspired by the sounds of nature, and the Waco Symphony Orchestra will present three inspired compositions - Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 (Pastorale), Copland's "An Outdoor Adventure" and Respighi's "Pines of Rome" - in "Musical Landscapes," an all-orchestral celebration of the out-of-doors on Thursday, November 15. The concert, held in Waco Hall on the Baylor University campus in Waco, begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale October 1 and may be purchased by phoning (254) 754-0851 or on-line at

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

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas Cooperative Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m. Our guest speaker for September 20 is Susan Jaime of Lazarus Coffee. Susan will discuss organic coffee, how it is grown, harvested and roasted. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, she will also discuss her visits to South American coffee farmers. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or 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.)


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