October 17, 2007

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Fall EarthKind Practices

By Tara McKnight
Texas Cooperative Extension
Wichita County

Fall is here, and with fall comes chores that need to be done around the house and garden to prepare for winter and eventually for next spring. Fall is an excellent time of the year for a variety of EarthKind landscaping activities. Before beginning your fall projects, take a moment to review these suggestions to ensure that you are contributing to a healthy and sustainable landscape environment. Take the EarthKind Challenge: Participating in this on-line exercise is a great way to get started. It only takes a few minutes and will assist in determining the types of changes in landscape practices that can be made to help preserve and protect the environment in which we live. See the EarthKind Web site (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/EKChallenge.html) to take the challenge.

Fall Planting

Fall is an excellent time to establish new plants in the landscape. Cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall create ideal growth conditions for a variety of trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. The EarthKind Plant Selector is an excellent tool for identifying highly adapted plants for specific gardening areas throughout the state. This searchable database provides information on more than 1,000 commonly used landscape plants. Those with an EarthKind Index value of 8 or above will significantly contribute towards creating a healthy and sustainable landscape. Visit the EarthKind web site for more information and access to the EarthKind Plant Selector.


Fall fertilizer applications are very common and typically recommended to prepare plants for winter. The type and amount of fertilizer to apply should be based on the results of a soil test. In the absence of this information, 1-2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft., from a no/low phosphorus fertilizer material, generally meets the needs of most plants. Fertilizer applications should be directed toward landscape beds and turf areas and away from streets, walks, drives and other hardscape areas. Remember: misapplication (not type or amount of fertilizer used) is the most frequent cause of surface and groundwater contamination.


A 2-4 inch layer of mulch is an excellent means of holding in valuable soil moisture, suppressing weed growth, moderating soil temperature and providing winter protection for tender plants. Since organic mulches break down over time, a re-application in the fall is generally required/recommended. It’s usually a good idea to mulch after planting fall annuals and perennials. Mulching is a valuable EarthKind practice that can preserve valuable natural resources and contribute to the aesthetic appearance of the landscape.

Texas Master Gardener Bill Griffith turns a compost pile. The rich soil created here will be used in public gardens in southeast Texas. (Photo by Robert Dailey)
  Improving the soil in a waterwise garden

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

Chances are, if you live in a dry environment, like much of west Texas, the soil in your garden is going to be highly alkaline. If that's the case, you'll need to amend the soil in some parts of your garden.

The first thing you'll want to do is test your soil. This will help you determine which plants are suitable for your site, and what amendments, if any, you will need to make to the soil. There are numerous soil-testing kits available, both at your local nursery and through mail order.

If you would prefer not to do your own testing, there is another, foolproof method of getting it done. For a small fee, your can have your soil tested by Texas A&M. Instructions on how to take a soil sample and what information you will need to include and where to send it is available from your local Texas Cooperative Extension Service or Texas Master Gardeners. A few weeks after you send in your soil sample, A&M will issue a full report. (Fall and winter are the best times to send in soil samples, but you can do it any time.)

You will need to do a little soil collecting first. Using a bucket, wheelbarrow, or any other collecting basin, dig about a shovelful of soil from each of the locations you plan to plant. Mix all the soil together. Then put the soil into the bag provided by the Extension Service and send it off.

The report will indicate any chemical, organic and mineral deficiencies (and/or accumulations) in your soil. This makes it easy to add these items.

However, in a west Texas garden, you do not want to amend all the soil. Only the soil in the "oasis" and possibly a portion of the soil in your "transition" zone will need to be amended. These are areas where you will locate plants that are less tolerant to drought, and need better soil to grow in. For trees and shrubs, and also for the dry zones of your garden, you probably do not need to amend the soil.

Let's start with the "oasis" portion of your garden. That's usually the portion nearest the house, and most used areas (patio, entryways). Adding compost to this area will help the soil hold water. Spread about four inches of compost to your "oasis" area and till it in. While you're at it, also till in any other components your soil test indicates (nitrogen fertilizer, for instance).

Do the same thing in your "transition" zone.

In the "arid" zone of your desert garden, do not add any compost or nutrients. You do, however, need to till or double dig to loosen up the soil prior to planting. The reason you don't want to add anything to this area is you're going to be planting hardy plants that are either native and tolerant of drought and poor soil, or you’re going to use plants that have adapted to this type of soil. These plants need to build their own root systems without added nutrients. If you add nutrients, chances are the roots will only grow where the nutrients are (plants are like children; they go to where the candy is), and they will become root bound and eventually die. This is "tough love for plants."

Here's an important note to remember: Some wild seeds, including a great many undesirable weeds, will lie in the soil for 50 years or more without germinating. Tilling will encourage them to germinate. Thus, don't till anywhere you don't want to plant. Mulch and weeding will discourage unwanted plants in your cultivated areas.

Originally published on Suite101.com

  Gardening tips

"If in doubt, don't plant seeds too deeply," writes Carl Stevens. "Plants with thin coats need light to germinate. Lettuce and most wildflowers must be sown near the surface although they need good soil contact to sprout. A few larger seed such as phlox require darkness to sprout and should be planted deeper."

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...

Native Americans had a good understanding of the medicinal qualities of native plants long before Europeans settled the country. Traditional Native American medicine centered on the activity of the medicine man, who took plant extracts to induce a trance-like state the enabled him to communicate with the soul of the patient and prescribe the correct remedy.


  Upcoming garden events

Fort Worth, Dallas: Visit America's very best, rarely seen, Private Gardens. The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program has been opening the gates to America's best private gardens since 1995. The 2007 season features more than 350 gardens across 21 states. Learn about gardens participating in your area through the Open Days Directory, an annual publication listing open gardens with garden descriptions, open dates and hours, and directions. To purchase a Directory or for more information, call (888) 842-2442 or visit www.opendaysprogram.org. The $5 admission fee supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy's work of preserving exceptional American gardens such Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead. 2007 Texas Open Days: Dallas: October 20.

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

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

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

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

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

League City: The Kemah Bay Area Garden Club will hold its next meeting at 9:45 a.m., Wednesday, November 7, at the Amegy Bank, 303 East Main Street, League City. The program will be “Orchids: Secrets of Success” presented by John Stubbing, Horticulturist. A light lunch will be served and the public is invited. For additional information, call Nancy Busko at (281) 332-5294.

Orange: The Leaf and Petal Garden Club and the Orange County Master Gardeners have partnered to sponsor a presentation by Chris Wiesinger. Wiesinger is the founder and owner of the Southern Bulb Company, a flower bulb farm in East Texas that offers perennial flower bulbs for warm climates. Most SBC bulbs are time-tested heirlooms once forgotten in the trade and now rescued from old home sites destined for commercial developments and highway expansions projects. Wiesinger and his Southern Bulb Company seek to recapture something that was once "lost" to the Southern gardener: heirloom and rare flower bulbs that thrive in warm climates. Wiesinger, a 2004 Horticulture graduate from Texas A&M and now known as the "bulb hunter," will lead a journey through time and the South, delighting listeners with adventurous stories and information on perennial bulbs for Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana gardens. The open-to-the-public event will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, November 8, at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center, 602 Green Ave., Orange. For additional event information and/or directions, contact Susan at chefsuz1212@gt.rr.com.

League City: The Gulf Coast Garden Forum will hold its next meeting on at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, November 13 at the Amegy Bank, 303 East Main Street, League City. The program will be “The Lowly Mushroom” by Ellen Hutto, Saltgrass Science Program. Light refreshments are served and the public is invited. For additional information, call Nancy Busko at (281) 332-5294.

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 www.wacosymphony.com.

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

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 jpanza@swbell.net, or visit http://johnpanza.googlepages.com.

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 www.urbanharvest.org.

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 www.allengardenclub.org.

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

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.  For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

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

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.

  The New Book Of Salvias features 15 new species

Fifteen new species have been added to the revised edition of Betsy Clebsch's time-honored guide that covers more than 100 species of salvias in one colorful book. Blooming cycles, cultural practices and companion plants are listed. This is a great gift for those wishing to add low-maintenance plants to the landscape.

$31.97 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 October 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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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

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