February 13, 2008

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Insect biodiversity linked to nutritional preferences, study finds

By Mike Jackson
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

New research suggests different species of plant-eating insects will consume only their fair share of food supplies in order to coexist.

"Some species practiced an Atkin's diet, preferring protein over carbohydrates. Others practiced a Homer Simpson diet and ate more carbohydrates than protein," said Dr. Spencer Behmer, a Texas AgriLife Research entomologist.

He said some insects preferred a more balanced diet of both protein and carbohydrates. "This research sheds new light on what influences species diversity and might help us better understand the factors we need to consider in terms of protecting and managing biodiversity," Behmer said.

The findings were reported recently in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which can be found at http://www.pnas.org/.

Behmer studied the eating habits of seven species of grasshoppers that fed on the same group of plants, he said. The various species ate food in different proportions to obtain protein and carbohydrates.

"What we've basically discovered is that one way insects can reduce the competition for shared resources is by ingesting different ratios of nutrients," said Behmer, who co-authored the study with Dr. Anthony Joern of Kansas State University.

"So one insect species might eat a little bit of plant A, maybe a little bit more of plant B and some of C," he said. "Another species might eat different proportions of these same foods. By eating the plants in different ratios, they can obtain a different balance of nutrients, and one that is best for that species."

A mainstay of ecological theory and practice is that coexisting species use different resources, according to Behmer's paper, which was posted Jan. 31. Most plant-eating insects feed on a narrow range of plants. Monarch butterfly caterpillars, for example, feed only on milkweeds. These insects are called "specialists."

But some insects, such as the grasshopper, feed on a wide variety of plants, Behmer said. They're called "generalists." They, in effect, share their food to survive in the same area where their foraging overlaps.

  Texas Forest Service windbreak tree sales program in full swing

By Steve Byrns
Texas AgriLife Entension Service

 "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," and to see that they continue to do so, a Tom Green County 4-H club collects drought-hardy seeds whose resulting seedlings are used in windbreaks across Texas.

The project is coordinated by John Begnaud, Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist in Tom Green County.

"The kids have gathered and shipped over 5,000 pounds of oak acorns in the last six years to the Forest Service's Idalou (Texas) nursery," Begnaud said. "The acorn-gather is a fund raising and community service project of the Lone Star 4-H Club here in San Angelo."

"AgriLife Extension programming also assists in providing other drought-hardy windbreak plants like prairie flame-leaf sumac, western soapberry and redbud," he said. "Our genetic source from here in San Angelo represents an area of Texas known for extended drought periods, so the seeds we provide should perform superbly all across Texas."

Every year from January until March, Texas landowners can enjoy the fruits of the 4-H'ers and others' labor by purchasing windbreak trees from the Texas Forest Service's windbreak program.

Cameron Dudley, Texas Forest Service nursery operations coordinator at Idalou, said a variety of seedling oaks, pines and wildlife-friendly varieties are available at prices ranging from $30 to $40 per 30 to 50 seedlings, depending on the plant species.

"We're already sold out of several species, but we still have several evergreen and hardwood species available for the 2008 planting season," Dudley said.

"With increased home energy costs and a plethora of new home construction, windbreaks offer a way to reduce a home's utility bills while adding to its landscape aesthetics," Begnaud said.

To see what is currently available and to order trees go to: http://tfsstore.tamu.edu/wtn/aboutus.asp.

  The compost heap

"Thanks for the tips on growing one's own transplants from seed," writes Diane Kornegay. "I've been doing that very thing for years, and it gets more rewarding and enjoyable every year. One other thing I've learned about transplants, besides keeping the light source very close to the seedlings: be sure to reduce the temperature, especially on peppers and tomatoes, to keep them from becoming too spindly."

  Gardening tips

If you can’t make enough compost to satisfy your needs, look for bulk compost available at most garden centers by the trailer or pickup truck load. Not only is bulk compost a lot cheaper that bagged compost, the quality can be good as well. Just be sure that it has a nice earthy aroma. If it smells bad (like ammonia or something dead) it is not suitable for use.

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...

It is often thought that a change in the moon brings on a change in the weather. A couple of days after full or new moon, changes in weather are more likely because the moon controls the tides that effect the flow of water around the world. Tides change at full or new moon, so this belief makes sense.


  Upcoming garden events

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden will host a "Children's Vegetable Garden Program" from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., Saturdays, February 9 though June 7. Dig in your own vegetable garden and learn the techniques and joys of gardening from soil preparation to planting and harvesting. For children for ages 8 through 13. Parents are welcome to join their children for a family-friendly outdoor experience. Fee: $10. Applications are available at www.sabot.org. For more information, contact Siri Lindholm at (210) 207-3270 or siri.lindholm@sanantonio.gov.

Clifton: Master Gardeners from the McLennan County Chapter will present a series of gardening classes at the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton. Saturday, February 16: 10 a.m.-11 a.m., Rainwater Harvesting; 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Vegetable Gardening. Saturday, February 23: 10 a.m.-11 a.m., Rose Garden Design; 11 a.m.-Noon, EarthKind Specialists (Plants that are drought and heat friendly). Saturday, March 1, 10 a.m.-11 a.m., Propagation; 11 a.m.-Noon, Container Gardening. Registration is $5 per session at the door or $30 for entire series if paid in advance. Call the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton at (254) 675-3724 to register. For more information on the Master Gardeners of McLennan County, visit www.mclennanmastergardeners.org. For more information on the Bosque Conservatory, visit www.bosqueconservatory.com.

Schertz: Guadalupe County Master Gardeners and the City of Schertz are sponsoring a free tree planting workshop at Gutierrez Xeriscape Park, located on Borgfeld Road, February 16. The activities will begin at 8 a.m. and continue until all trees are planted. Nancy Masterson, a certified arborist and a Master Gardener, will teach participants the correct tree planting and mulching methods with a planting and mulching demonstration. After the demonstration, participants will divide into groups for hands-on experience planting trees in the park. City workers will pre-dig the planting holes for the trees and will place the 30-gallon trees by the holes. The heaviest work will probably be hauling a load of mulch or dragging a hose to water in the trees. Participants are asked to bring their own gloves and shovels. More than 20 trees, including redbuds, Mexican plum, Monterrey oak and orchid trees will be planted as part of the renovation and renewal of Gutierrez Park. Because one purpose of the park is to help citizens learn about good Xeriscape plants for Schertz, all trees will be labeled..

San Marcos: The Hays County Master Gardeners will sponsor a Garden Tool Sharpening Service at the Extension Office, 1253 Civic Center Loop (corner of Clovis Barker & Civic Center Loop) in San Marcos, Saturday, February 16, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. They will sharpen shovels, hoes, clippers, and other gardening tools. They will also oil handles and air up flat wheelbarrow tires.

Houston: Hear Brenda Beust Smith, the Houston Chronicle's Lazy Gardener Columnist, speak on "Downsizing Your Lawn" at The Gulf Coast and Coastal Prairie Master Naturalists' 2nd Annual Green Home and Garden Workshop, Saturday, February 16, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bear Creek Extension Office, 3033 Bear Creek Dr., Houston. Other speakers include Karl Pepple, "City of Houston Environmental Goals"; Wayne Thompson, "Fate of Pesticides in the Environment"; Keith Crenshaw, "Urban Wildlife and Homeowner Regulation"; and Glenn Olsen, "Native Plants & Lawn Alternatives." Native plants for sale. $20 per person includes lunch, door prizes and exhibits. Registration deadline is Feb. 8. Flier and registration form at http://gcmn.tamu.edu/greenhome&gardenflyerfebruary2008.pdf. For more information, contract Sarah Smith at sarahbethsmith1@aol.com or Linda at (281) 558-3710.

Tyler: The 15th annual East Texas Spring Landscape & Garden Conference will be held February 16, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Drive, Tyler. Featured speakers include Dr. Jerry Parsons, Joe Novak, Aubrey King, and Tim Lanthrum. Topics include "Texas Superstars in Your Garden," "Secrets of Successful Vegetable Gardening," "Gardening for a Lifetime," "Landscaping with Texas Native Plants," "Common Problems with Small Engines and How to Prevent Then," and "Calibrating Sprayers and Spreaders." Cost: $15, which includes lunch. For additional information, contact Keith Hansen at (903) 590-2980 or khansen@ag.tamu.edu, or visit http://EastTexasGardening.tamu.edu.

College Station: Landscape professionals and enthusiasts are encouraged to attend the first of a four-part design study course February 18-19. The course, presented by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Garden Clubs Inc., will be at Christ United Methodist Church-College Station, 4201 State Hwy. 6. Additional course segments will be taught every six months. Participants may take the four courses in any sequence. Garden Club members, Master Gardeners, nursery professionals and others who are interested in furthering their knowledge of landscape design are welcome. "Native Grasses on the Texas Rural and Urban Landscapes" will be February’s course topic and includes a lecture by Dr. Barron Rector, AgriLife Extension rangeland ecologist and management specialist. Master Gardeners who complete a course may apply 12 hours of credit for continuing education requirements. Texas Garden Club members who pass the examination for all four courses are eligible to become nationally accredited landscape design consultants. Texas Certified Nursery Professionals who pass the course may apply this to their requirement for recertification with the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association. Registration for the course is $85 and includes two lunches and course materials. The text for all four courses is "Stewards of the Land," which may be purchased for an additional $40. For registration materials, call Tammy Landry at 979-845-7342 or e-mail t-landry1@tamu.edu.

Friendswood: The Gulf Coast Gardener's Forum will meet on Wednesday, February 20, at the Marie Workman Garden Center. 112 W. Spreading Oaks, Friendswood at 9:30 a.m. "Interplanting Herbs and Flowers in Your Garden" will be presented by Lana Simms, Master Gardener. Light refreshments will be served and the public is welcome. For additional information, call Nancy Busko at (281) 332-5294.

Seguin: "Square Foot Gardening" program brought to you by the Guadalupe County Master Gardeners on Thursday, February 21 at 7 p.m. at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bldg., 210 E Live Oak, Seguin. The guest speaker will be Dr. Tom Harris, one of South Texas' most popular speakers and instructors on all things gardening. In addition to being a Certified Texas Master Gardener, he is a co-founder of Gardening Volunteers of South Texas. He writes a weekly column as "The Hill Country Gardener" for the Boerne Star and is the author of 52 Weeks of Gardening. Harris' presentation will focus on the "Square Foot Gardening" principals developed by gardening writer Mel Bartholomew. Harris is the only certified Square Foot Gardening instructor in the state of Texas. His gardening books will be available for purchase. For more information, visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org or call (830) 379-1972.

Navasota: The Grimes County Master Gardeners will hold a Landscaping and Planting Seminar on Saturday, February 23 from 8 a.m. until 4 pm at Martha's Bloomers in Navasota. Speaking at the seminar will be Dr. Doug Welsh, Designing and Accessory Your Landscape; Dr. Elmer Krehbiel, Garden Preparation and Water Systems; Anita Nelson, Water Features in the Garden; and Diane Cabiness, Landscaping for Wildlife. For a registration form and information, please contact the Grimes County Extension Office at (936) 825-3495 or email Grimes-TX@tamu.edu, or contact Sandra Stuckey at (936) 873-2181 or email sandrastuckey@aol.com.

Houston: River Oaks Garden Club will host its 73rd annual Azalea Trail Friday through Sunday, March 7, 8 and 9 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day. Azalea Trail, 2008, will celebrate the 51st anniversary of Miss Ima Hogg's gift of her beautiful home and gardens, Bayou Bend, to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The trail will feature four private houses and gardens, as well as Bayou Bend, Rienzi and the River Oaks Garden Club Forum of Civics Building and Gardens. Tickets for seven admissions are $15 before March 7 and $20 during the trail. Single admissions are $5. For additional information, call (713) 523-2483 or visit http://www.riveroaksgardenclub.org.

Mineola: The Wood County Master Gardeners will present their 6th Annual Gardening Conference, "Gardening from the Ground Up," Saturday, March 8, at the Mineola Civic Center, Live Oak Room, 1150 N. Newsom. Admission is free. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The program will run from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The featured speakers will be Dr. Bill Knoop, Professor Emeritus, Texas A & M University, speaking on lawn care, and Daniel Duncum, District Urban Forester, Texas Forestry Service, speaking on landscape tree management. Both speakers will be available for questions. Booths, with gardening information, will be staffed by the Wood County Master Gardeners. They will have additional information on local projects including the Wildscape and Sensory Gardens at the Mineola Nature Preserve and the Gov. Hogg Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens being developed in Quitman. Attendees are invited to visit with the vendors who will have plant and garden related items for sale before the program starts and during breaks.

Tomball: The Arbor Gate will host its third annual Rose Festival March 8. More than 100 varieties of old and antique roses will be available, as will guest speakers and informative booths. The Arbor Gate is located at 15635 FM2920, Tomball. For additional information, contact (281) 351-8851 or visit http://www.arborgate.com.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold its "Spring Plant Sale" Saturday, March 15, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Purchase those much wanted plants that you have been wanting to buy and can't find anywhere. 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. This event is open to the public. For more information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.

Burnet: The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the 10th Annual Hill Country Lawn and Garden Show, March 22, from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Burnet Community Center on E. Jackson in downtown Burnet. The show features garden-related vendors, a children's booth, a raffle, and seminars. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://hillcountrylgshow.com or call Paula Montandon, Show Chairman, at (830) 693-0163.

Boerne: The Cibolo Nature Center (www.cibolo.org) sponsors its 18th Annual Mostly Native Plant Sale Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Kendall County Fairgrounds. Find native and non-invasive plants that are tried and true for the Hill Country. Enjoy demonstrations and programs on a variety of  subjects related to gardening in this special region of Texas. For more information, contact the Cibolo Nature Center at (830) 249-4616 or nature@cibolo.org.

Rockport: Fourth Annual Rockport Herb Festival presented by the Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group will be held Saturday, April 5, at the Rockport-Fulton High School Commons, 1801 Omohundro, Rockport, 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. The Herb Festival will provide an array of herb programs, herb cooking demonstrations, a food court, herb booths with lots of herb information and products for sale, and a plant sale which will include herbs, roses, orchids and a few other plants. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

Kingsland: The Kingsland Garden Club will hold their Spring Plant Sale on Saturday April 5. The sale will open at 9 a.m. at the Kingsland House of Arts and Craft Spring Show behind Wells Fargo Bank off FM 1431 in Kingsland. A wide variety of plants will be available for sale at reasonable prices so arrive early for the best selection. Master Gardeners will also be there to answer gardening questions.

Stephenville: A Native and Heirloom Plant Fair will be held at The Stephenville Historical Museum at 525 E Washington Street, Stephenville, April 12 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. There will be several presentations made throughout the day relating to various aspects of gardening. Booth space is available for vendors at no charge. For additional information, contact Russell Pfau at pfau@tarleton.edu.

Victoria: The Victoria County Master Gardeners will hold their Spring Plant Sale at the 4H Activity Center at the Victoria Airport, April 19, from 8 a.m. until sold out. The plants are grown by the Master Gardeners at their homes or at the greenhouse operated by Master Gardeners. While attending the plant sale, also visit the recent addition to the Victoria Educational Gardens next door. A pond, daylily garden, international garden, iris garden, rose garden, and a container garden are just a few of the features.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association (http://www.tcmastergardeners.org/) will host the Inside Austin Gardens, 2008, tour Saturday, April 19, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Inside Austin Gardens is a unique educational tour of seven gardens, including demonstrations, plants for sale, and experts on hand to answer gardening questions. $10 per ticket; children under 12 free. For additional information, visit http://www.insideaustingardens.org.

Galveston: Moody Gardens and the International Oleander Society will host the Earth Day and Oleander Festival at Moody Gardens on Galveston Island April 26-27. The Oleander Festival is an annual event dating back to 1921 that honors the beautiful flower and educates guests about the history of the oleander on Galveston Island and throughout the world. Area plant societies, clubs, and vendors are invited to set up booth space to display and sell their plants. There will be a floral design competition were professional, amateur and child participants can display their work to be judged. Earth Day celebration activities by Moody Gardens and its community partners will include arts and crafts, entertainment and presentations great for the whole family. "We are pleased to bring these two events together here at Moody Gardens in Galveston," said John Zendt, General Manager of Moody Gardens. "We are excited about promoting the environmental conservation missions of both Moody Gardens and the International Oleander Society and inviting the public to have some fun while learning about global and local environmental issues." Admission to the Earth Day and Oleander Festival is free to the public. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673.

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardeners will hold their 6th Annual Home Garden Tour, rain or shine, on Saturday, May 3 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Five private gardens in Tyler will be showcased on the tour. Tickets will be available April 1 and are $8.00 in advance. They can be purchased from The Smith County AgriLIFE Extension office at 1517 W. Front St., Suite 116, Tyler, TX 75702 or by mail from Andie Rathbone, 13270 Oak Hill Lane, Flint, TX 75762. Tickets will also be available on the day of the tour for $10.00 and can be purchased at any of the gardens on the tour. For more information, visit http://grovesite.com/mg/smg.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold its annual “Hidden Gardens Tour” Saturday, May 3, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Arrive at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport, and get your tickets and maps for this one-day event. Receive maps 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. This event is open to the public. The cost is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets or for more information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.

Denton County: The Denton County Master Gardener Association presents the 2008 Walk Through the Gardens Tour of private gardens in Southern Denton County on Saturday, May 10, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information, call (940) 349-2883 or visit http://www.dcmga.com.

Santa Fe, N.M.: The 12th annual Santa Fe Botanical Garden tours will take place Sunday, June 1, and Sunday, June 8, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Featured gardens include Xeriscape, shade gardening, hearty perennials, roses, great estates and an historic compound. $35 per person per tour; $60 for both tours; under 16, free. Tickets on sale May 1 through the Lensic Box Office, (505) 988-1234

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold a "Fall Plant Sale" Saturday, September 27, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Purchase those much-wanted plants that you have been wanting to buy and can't find anywhere. 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. This event is open to the public. For additional information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.


Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at a new eco-farm in Kilgore. 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.

Friendswood: The second Tuesday of each month the Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold a free evening educational program for the public, called the Green Thumb Series, at Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 W Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood, about 1 mile west of I-45 and Baybrook Mall. For more information visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu or call (281) 991-8437.

Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, meets the second Wednesday of each month, with the exceptions of June and July, to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including historical uses and tips for successful propagation and cultivation, meets at 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. Sometimes they take field trips and have cooking demonstrations in different locations. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

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 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.

Houston:  The Native Plant Society of Texas — Houston (NPSOT-H) meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except for October (4th Thur.) and December (2nd Thur.). Location varies. For locations, for more information on programs, and for information about native plants for Houston, visit http://www.npsot.org/Houston.

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.

Longview: The Northeast Texas chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets the third Thursday of each month at St. Mary's Parish Hall in Longview. For more information, call Logan Damewood at (903) 295-1984.

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.

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