September 26, 2007

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  Five easy ways homeowners can improve their green space

Project EverGreen

No matter what the climate or situation, every homeowner can enjoy the environmental, economic and lifestyle benefits that come from caring for your lawn and landscape. Proper care of trees, grass and shrubs is surprisingly simple and its rewards are numerous on both a personal and community level.

Here are five quick tips for maximizing the benefits of your green space:

1. Take care of your grass. While this may seem like an obvious piece of advice, it is often overlooked. Taking care of your own front yard is a good first step towards protecting and maintaining your green space. Lawns play a major role in protecting ground water by reducing runoff, thus preventing soil erosion, maintaining soil permeability and conserving water. Lawns also provide an extension of your overall living space, and for many families, become an enjoyable private oasis.

2. Choose flowers and plants that suit your area's climate. It is imperative that you choose plants and flowers that tolerate your area's climate. Fortunately, this information can be easily obtained from a local nursery or a university's extension office. Choosing the correct plants will ensure a beautiful garden year after year, and make the job of caring for your plants much easier. Having a beautiful green space has also been known to lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension, improve attention spans and reduce feelings of fear and aggression.

3. Prune, prune, prune. Pruning is something that is important to maintain your flowers, plants and shrubs year after year, but is also something that needs to be done correctly. Improper pruning can actually be more harmful than neglecting to prune at all. Proper pruning will produce better blooms, maintain a plant's desired size and can even rejuvenate an older shrub. Having well-maintained flowers and shrubs will not only make your green space more attractive, but it will also provide a protective habitat for birds and other creatures that serve to enhance the natural beauty of your outdoor living space.

4. Enrich your soil with a compost pile. Who knew those old coffee grounds, filters and dryer lint could be the golden ticket to creating a beautiful green space? These types of materials, combined with yard clippings, wood chips and leaves, regenerate your soil. The breakdown of these materials creates humus, which is a nutrient-filled material, helping the soil to retain moisture. Compost can also cut down on plant disease and repel pests that are damaging to your yard. Creating a compost pile will not only provide rich nutrients that your soil needs, but it also helps the environment by cutting back on landfill waste, thus extending the life of the landfill.

5. Plant a tree. Planting a tree is one of the most simple and effective activities you can perform to improve your green space. In areas of new construction, many neighborhoods start out virtually treeless. The results include high cooling costs, less oxygen and more pollutants. There are many trees that are inexpensive and fast-growing. In fact, some can grow up to 12 feet per year, quickly reversing the effects of new construction. Trees not only help to keep the heat out of the house, but also cool the outside temperature around your house as well. A study in Huntsville, Ala. showed a 31-degree difference between the shaded and unshaded areas of a parking lot. By using trees to modify temperatures, the amount of fossil fuels used for cooling and heating is reduced.

Updating and maintaining your green spaces is easy! The environmental, economic and lifestyle benefits that trees, grass, shrubs and flowers provide are well worth the extra effort it takes to create and maintain a well-manicured landscape.

  The miracles of mulch in Texas gardens

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

Mulching is an integral part of gardening, especially waterwise gardening.

Mulch covers the soil. It reduces evaporation caused by sun and wind exposure. It helps ameliorate temperature extremes, and it prevents erosion.

Additionally, mulch stifles (or at least limits) the growth of weeds, thereby reducing competition for water and nutrients.

There is an almost endless variety of only by our imagination and a few basic principles. You can buy mulch from your local nursery. Or you can scavenge. Here is a small list of materials that can be used as mulch:

  • Straw (a great mulch, although it can be scattered ruthlessly by high wind)

  • Leaves (shred them first)

  • Hulls: rice, buckwheat, peanuts, cottonseed, oats, or shells from nuts

  • Grass clippings (in a dry garden, the grass will probably not rot, but instead turn to straw as it dries. Since it won't decompose, it won't rob nitrogen from the soil.)

  • Shredded bark (cedar, cypress, pine)

  • Sawdust

  • Shredded sugar cane (called bagasse)

  • Shredded paper (make sure it isn't coated, and can absorb water. I use paper from my paper shredder for mulch.)

  • Newspaper (There used to be a lot of concern over using color sections of newspapers, because the ink may have been toxic. However, all newspaper ink in the U.S. and Canada is made from soybeans, and will help add nutrients into the soil.)

  • Gravel

  • Lava rock

  • Permeable ground cloths

Some people think that impermeable ground covers can be used in place of mulch. The problem with these (usually plastic) materials is that while they do suppress weeds and retain water, new water and nutrients cannot get through them into the soil. Use them instead when creating dry streambeds to direct harvested water, or close to the house where termiticides have been applied.

Permeable weed barriers are acceptable, because they are made of material that will let in water, air and nutrients. One problem with these "cloth" barriers is the pores tend to clog up with dust in desert environments.

If you have a hillside you want to mulch, don’t use bark mulch or any other type of lighter mulch. The reason is that bark, straw, bagasse and others will probably wash away in the first gully gusher you have.

Gravel works well on hillsides, as does lava rock, heavier mulches and permeable cloth. These help retain moisture, and provide foundations for small plants to get footholds. Since the seeds of many indigenous weeds can live more than a century in the ground before germinating, till and then gravel-mulch an entire area of an apparently barren desert site. You might be pleasantly surprised at the variety of desert and Plains grasses and flowers that emerge. One problem with gravel mulch is that it can become very hot. Because of that, avoid use gravel mulch near the house in a hot and dry environment, and, in most cases, plant some ground cover over it to help reduce the heat until more plants become established.

Originally published on

  Gardening tips

"Never spray a plant with water late in the day," writes Bob Bawden. "Plant foliage needs several hours to dry out before dark or the plant will be susceptible to fungal and other diseases."

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...

Horsetail can be useful in clearing polluted soils of heavy metals. Never compost horsetail that has been used for this purpose. Instead, burn the spent plants and place the ashes away from your garden as it may contain heavy metal residues.


  Upcoming garden events

Victoria: The Victoria Master Gardeners Association will host its fall plant sale on September 29 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Victoria Regional Airport off Highway. 59. Look for the beautiful Educational Gardens and 4-H building at 259 Bachelor Drive. These plants are grown by master gardeners, and many are cuttings from the gardens and grown in the green house. Also this year there will be koi from the water ponds for sale. For more information contact, County Extension Office at (361) 575-4581. (Don’t miss the feature article about the Victoria Educational Gardens in the upcoming November/December issue of Texas Gardener.)

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

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at a new eco-farm in Kilgore. If there is enough interest, we will also start a Sunday afternoon monthly meeting. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.

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

Denton: The Denton Organic Society, a group devoted to sharing information and educating the public regarding organic principles, meets the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August and December) at the Denton Senior Center, 509 N. Bell Avenue. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.

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.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2007. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

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