September 12, 2007

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Emma Taylor, Tyler, picks leaves dropped early by a yellow poplar. A combination of a very wet June and July followed by dry, hot August is stressing many East Texas trees, said Dr. Eric Taylor, Texas Cooperative Extension forestry specialist. (Texas Cooperative Extension photo by Eric Taylor)

  Despite wet July, some Texas trees parched

By Robert Burns
Texas Cooperative Extension

Homeowners across Texas are concerned their landscape trees may be diseased, but "don't panic," said a Texas Cooperative Extension expert.

"We are getting quite a few calls from people who are seeing the leaves on their trees turn brown, and they suspect that their trees are dying from disease," said Dr. Eric Taylor, Extension forestry specialist. "But that's not necessarily the case."

More likely, Taylor said, trees are taking a double whammy from August's high temperatures and droughty weather. The trees are just moisture stressed, he said.

"It's especially puzzling to some because we've actually had an unusually wet summer until just a few weeks ago," he said. "But this actually has made the situation a little worse."

Because Texas trees had so much water for so long, they became "spoiled," Taylor said.

"Until recently, trees were able to pump so much water through their system that they were able to maintain much greater foliage than they would have during normal conditions."

Also, the nature of the leaves of many species of trees change in response to either high-moisture or low-moisture conditions. For example, under low-moisture conditions, leaves are smaller, thicker and may develop a thicker waxy coating.

"These adaptations help to reduce transpiration, the evaporation of moisture from the leaves," he said.

With more leaves and fewer of those leaves adapted for typical conditions, trees responded to August's conditions by wilting, browning up early or even dropping leaves.

"Many of our species, such as redbud and catalpa — but especially some of those non-native species that we see planted in our area like yellow poplar — tend to shut their leaves off altogether and drop those leaves," he said. "That's what we see happening; an early fall, if you will."

There are several ways to reduce stress on trees: watering, pruning, avoiding the use of weed-and-feed lawn treatments, and reducing the number of trees in a given area, Taylor said.


"A typical, young landscape tree, with a trunk less than 5 inches in diameter requires 10 gallons of water per week, which surprises most people," Taylor said.

Larger trees can use much more. For example, a mature oak tree can pump 100 gallons of water through its system in a day.

"More than 90 percent of the water that enters the plant passes through and is evaporated into the atmosphere," he said.

Water needs to applied slowly, he said. The amount and frequency of irrigation depends primarily on the soil type.

Taylor warned that automatic lawn sprinkler systems are not designed to water trees. The water applied with lawn sprinkler systems rarely reaches below the first few inches of the soil profile. To water deep enough to reach a tree's root system, he recommended the use of a soaker or drip-hose.

"Set the drip hose around the periphery of the tree's crown — what we call the drip edges. Water enough so the water slowly saturates down to about 12 inches," he said.

Reduce the number of trees

Many lawns and landscaped areas have too many trees, Taylor said. He recommended that homeowners and landscape managers choose those trees that they prefer and remove others.

When crowded together, trees compete for water, sunlight and other resources.

"If you have a clump of trees, then there's quite a bit of stress on the trees," Taylor said. "If you remove several trees from the clump and leave a select few — or even just one — oftentimes, you'll actually improve the crown cover."

A simple rule of thumb is to thin so that tree's crowns do not touch each other, he said.

Prune trees

Trees don't "prune" themselves — lose excess branches — very well when grown in an urban setting, Taylor said.

"We see numerous trees that have lower branches — branches closer to the ground — that aren't doing much work," he said. "In fact, instead of becoming 'sources' of energy, they actually become 'sinks' of energy."

Removing lower branches can increase a tree's vigor and reduce the stress it experiences during drought and from insects and disease. However, Taylor cautioned to use good pruning practices, which include waiting until the first freeze before pruning.

"That way the insect population has been knocked back sufficiently so it's less likely to cause damage to those open wounds you have created on the tree," he said.

Prune so that the live crown of the tree is about one-third of the total tree height.

Avoid weed and feed herbicides

Homeowners often rely on these mixtures of fertilizer and herbicides to control weeds in their lawns. But all trees are susceptible to varying degrees to the herbicide used in these mixtures, Taylor said.

"It may not kill your trees," he said. "But it certainly can stress them further and cause major damage when it's very dry."

Labels on the products warn against applying within the drip ring of the tree.

"But that's not really good enough, because the tree's roots go way beyond that," he said. "A large tree's root system may span a city block, so it's best not to use weed and feed products if you have at all (if you have trees).

"Fertilizer is OK, but reserve herbicides for spot treatments.

"The name of the game is: keep your trees healthy and happy by reducing the stress on them."

Montgomery County Master Gardener Jim Bundsho checks a rainwater-harvesting and distribution system at the Cooperative Extension building. (Photo by Robert Dailey)
  Being waterwise doesn’t mean gardening without water

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

Waterwise and xeric gardening doesn't mean "gardening without water." It simply means using water wisely.

Irrigation is necessary in a waterwise or xeric garden — especially the first few years in which your plants are establishing their root systems.

Even after establishing your garden, water is probably going to be necessary in the "oasis" and "transitional" zones, especially in the dry area of west Texas.

Wise gardeners also plan for some irrigation in the "arid" zone, too. That's because you may want to install new plants later, and you will need some type of irrigation for them to establish themselves. Certain areas of the state may even experience several years of drought, and you will need at least some additional water for the arid portion of your garden.

There are several types of irrigation systems you can use.

In waterwise and xeric gardening, irrigation is the foundation around which all your plantings are designed.

In most "oasis" areas, install an automatic "drip irrigation" system. This type of system is easy to put in and is readily available at many nurseries. Generally, it consists of pliable plastic tubing, with smaller "feeder" hoses radiating from it directly to the plants that require regular watering. You can fit this with a simple timer (also available at nurseries or hardware stores) to regulate how often and how long you want to water.

For lawn and turf areas, after planting the grass that is most adapted to your specific area, you can use a sprinkler system.

Use soaker hoses in the transitional zone (and in certain "oasis" areas like vegetable gardens) to water the plants that do not need watering as often. Using a soaker hose in my vegetable garden allows the water to go directly to the roots and prevents cold water from hitting ripening fruit. Cold water on ripening vegetables like tomatoes can cause the fruit to crack.

In the "arid" portions of a garden, either water by hand, or use a hose.

If you don't like the idea of moving hoses around or watering by hand, you can certainly install a drip irrigation system in your entire garden. However, make sure that you have a separate valve for each zone.

Apply water as efficiently as possible. If you do have lawn or turf, you can use a sprinkler system on it. But make sure that it doesn't overrun the time and amount needed to water the grass.

Remember that efficient watering systems apply water where it is needed, not where it will be wasted. Wasting the water benefits weeds and sewer systems, not plants.

Originally published on

  Gardening tips

"Houseplants don’t like cold water," writes Lon Johansen, "so you should use water at least as warm as the air temperature in the room when watering them. Water that is too cold can damage roots and cause white, scarred leaves."

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...

Toads and frogs are some of the best natural insect exterminators around but they will benefit from some protection during the cold winter months. Most gardeners find that they burrow under plant material or other safe, warm places in the winter. You can go a step further and make them hiding places in your garden by upturning clay flowerpots over a couple of stones to allow access. A slightly elevated flat rock also makes a nice toad home.


  Upcoming garden events

Amarillo: Potter/Randall County Master Gardeners will share gardening education during the upcoming Tri State Fair, September 14 to September 22, by distributing hundreds of handouts, answering gardening questions and helping organize and host the Garden and Agronomy Show. The best and biggest vegetables and melons are awarded ribbons and cash prizes in over 52 categories. Judging occurs September 15.

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.

Tomball: Learn basic welding skills as you design and construct your own garden trellis with noted artist Charles Strack, Saturday, September 15 at 10 a.m., and Sunday, September 16 at noon at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. Registration is $185. Enrollment is limited. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: John Ferguson, owner of Nature's Way Resources, and Michael P. Amaranthus, associate professor (adjunct), Oregon State University and president of Mycorrhizal Applications Inc., will lead "Organics Made Easy," Tuesday, September 18 at 10 a.m. at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: Mary Herr explains how to incorporate roses into every bed in your garden when she teaches "Landscaping with Roses," Saturday, September 22 at 10 a.m. at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: Tom Leroy, Montgomery County extension agent, and Bill Adam, extension agent emeritus, teach "Fall Vegetable Gardening," Sunday, September 23 at 1 p.m., at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Brownwood: Brown County will host a Texas Cooperative Extension multi-county pecan tour on September 26. The day will start with registration at 9:30 a.m. at the Brownwood Pecan Field Station, 701 CC Woodson Road. The tour will last from 10 a.m. until noon. Two Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units will be offered. "This has been an interesting year for pecan management," said Scott Anderson, Extension agent in Brown County. "All the rain we've been having has been great, but it has sure created some interesting challenges for our area's pecan growers. During the tour, we will see some definite differences in pecan varieties and in the susceptibility of varieties to pecan scab disease, one of our worst wet-weather-related problems." Tommy Thompson, pecan specialist at the field station, will be the program speaker. The program is sponsored by Extension offices in Brown, Mills and San Saba counties. The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Anderson at 325-646-0386, or

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

Lake 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

Houston: Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held Saturday, January 19, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. A class describing all varieties for sale, as well as providing vital information on how to plant and care for each type tree will be held January 5 and 12 (your choice), from 2 to 4 p.m. A nominal fee of $10 is charged for the class. Register for the class by calling Urban Harvest. Sale and classes at Emerson Unitarian Church, 1900 Bering Dr., Houston. For detailed information about the sale as well as about fruit trees, check the Urban Harvest website

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.

  Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard with welcoming landscapes  

Roll out the welcome mat for butterflies and hummingbirds. In this lavishly illustrated book, author Sally Roth reveals the secrets for creating irresistible gardens and welcoming landscapes that lure these amazing creatures up close and personal.

 $18.09 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 September 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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