February 20, 2008

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Valley's first organic farmers market opened Saturday

By Rod Santa Ana
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Hidalgo County's first farmers market began selling organically grown vegetables to the public Feb. 16 at North San Juan Park, Weslaco, organizers say.

The "farmers" are low-income families who have attended classes to learn how to properly grow and sell the chemical-free produce grown in their own backyards.

North San Juan Park is located at 511 E. Earling Rd (the Nolana extension), between Raul Longoria and Cesar Chavez Roads.

"This farmers market is in the process of being certified by the Texas Department of Agriculture after class members met all the requirements," said Barbara Storz, organizer of the effort and a Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticultural agent in Hidalgo County.

"Interest in our organic produce has been phenomenal," she said. "This will be one of very few places in the Valley where people can buy fresh, homegrown organic vegetables."

Items on sale include spinach, a large variety of lettuce, Swiss chard, radish, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, basil and various herbs. Also available is small succulent and papaya plants as well as organically grown citrus.

To become a certified farmers market, the 14 participating families, mostly from the San Juan area, formed a farmers' cooperative. Since September, they have taken classes in organic vegetable production, diet and nutrition, food safety, marketing and finance, Storz said.

Members of the co-op, known as Familias Productores del Valle, or Family Producers of the Valley, spent the latter part of the week harvesting their first crop and preparing it for Saturday's sale.

"Look at these radishes," said Hermelinda Navarro as she plucked the first of her harvest. "They're beautiful. It's amazing how quickly they grew from seed to plant."

Storz said the idea of a local farmers market had been on her to-do list for years.

"In a true farmers market, the seller must be the producer," she said. "The commercial growers here are just not set up for that. They send their produce to a packing house to be sent and sold elsewhere. So, we decided to grow our own growers."

Storz said she approached Hidalgo County Precinct 2 Commissioner Tito Palacios with the idea of a farmers market made up of locals who could use the income.

"He was so supportive, and so was the entire Commissioners Court," she said. "It just took off from there."

The county provided land and materials to build an outdoor classroom at North San Juan Park, and the city of McAllen donated a compost soil mix for the raised vegetable beds, Storz said.

"The Heifer International Foundation, an organization that helps low-income farmers throughout the Southwest and Mexico, provided the money to buy materials for the raised beds, tools and weed cloth," she said. "After that, it was the hard work and enthusiasm of the 14 families involved in this project."

Araceli Rosales, president of Familias, said the entire project has been a rewarding learning experience.

"We learned everything from the ground up," she said. "First we learned how to construct the raised beds. We planted certified organic seeds and learned how to nurture the plants without the use of any chemicals whatsoever. We all help each other so we've made a lot of great friends in the process."

Rosales and two other member farmers, Idelma Gomez and Sac Nicte Mata, were interviewed recently on Radio Esperanza, a Spanish-language Christian radio station in Edinburg. Since then, Storz said calls have been pouring in from throughout the Valley from others wanting to start similar projects.

"We'll be starting new classes in Alamo and San Juan in August, and we're looking at classes in other areas as well," she said.

Familias Productores del Valle will have their second sale March 15, also at North San Juan Park. For more information, contact Storz at (956) 383-1026.


  Gardening tips

Many popular garden plants including azaleas and blueberries require an acid soil (pH below 6.5) to thrive. If your garden soil is alkaline like most places in Texas, then you should grow these acid-loving plants in containers or raised beds in special soil.

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...

If you find the weather hard to figure out, listen to your body. The old saying “when your joints all start to ache, rainy weather is at stake” has some truth to it. Joint aches can be caused by a rapid change in atmospheric pressure that usually precedes stormy weather.


 

  Upcoming garden events

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.

Clifton: Master Gardeners from the McLennan County Chapter present a series of gardening classes at the Bosque Conservatory in Clifton. Two classes remain in this series: 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.

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.

League City: The Kemah Bay Area Garden Club will meet Wednesday, March 12. This will be a tour of Christ Church Cathedral and Gardens. A carpool will leave at 9:15 a.m. from the Amegy Bank parking lot, 303 East Main Street, League City. Plan to purchase lunch on the grounds and listen to a live band perform “Great Songs of the Past.” For additional information, call Nancy Busko, (281) 332-5294.

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.

Friendswood: The Gulf Coast Gardener’s Forum will meet Wednesday, March 19, 9:30 a.m. at the Marie Workman Garden Center, 112 W. Spreading Oaks. Friendswood. The program will be “Landscape Designs” by Ginia Keen Mattern, Master Gardener, Harris Co. Precinct 2. Light refreshments are served and the public is invited. For additional information, call Nancy Busko, (281) 332-5294.

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.

Nacogdoches: The Stephen F. Austin State University Mast Arboretum will host its annual Garden Gala Day on April 12 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the SFA Intramural Fields on Wilson Drive. The event features the annual spring plant sale fundraiser benefiting the SFA Mast Arboretum, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, and educational programs hosted at the gardens. All the plants are produced at SFA by the staff, students and volunteers. A wide variety of hard to find, "Texas tough" plants will be available, including a truly eclectic mix of hard to find annuals and tropicals, as well as a tried and true assortment of perennials. Several new coneflower varieties and many floriferous varieties of Chinese lanterns will be available. Hard-to-find leopard plants, variegated tapioca, the unusually heat tolerant 'Summer Beauty' bear's breeches, rare varieties of Angels' trumpets, and a host of butterfly plants including milkweed and passion vine also will be for sale."Gardeners also will find a wide variety of natives, perennials, annuals, tropicals, and shrubs, trees, and vines suitable for southern landscapes. Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, will have several of his introductions available, including 'Pam Puryear' and 'Big Momma' Turk's caps, 'Henry Duelberg' and 'Augusta Duelberg' sages, 'Nacogdoches' yellow rose, and his brand new, 'Peppermint Flare' rose mallow. He also will have several types of hardy bulbs available including the heirloom milk and wine lily, Crinum x gowenii; the very rare iris-flowered Canna x iridiflora 'Ehemanii'; copper lilies; and giant prairie lilies. The native plant center will offer a wide range of East Texas natives, like rattlesnake master, button snake root, red buckeye, prairie phlox, inland sea oats, bee balm, and a number of trees for shade, wildlife forage, and habitat restoration. The public is encouraged to arrive early and bring a wagon. For more information and a list of plants for sale call (936) 468-4404, or visit http://arboretum.sfasu.edu and click on "upcoming events."

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.

Nacogdoches: The Stephen F. Austin State University Pineywoods Native Plant Center will host the 4th Lone Star Regional Native Plant Conference May 28-31 in Nacogdoches. The conference will be held on the beautiful SFA campus, which is home to the Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, as well as the 40-acre Pineywoods Native Plant Center. Join a unique blend of naturalists, horticulturists, nurserymen, landscapers, and gardeners to hear talks ranging from rare plants to conservation and propagation. Complete Conference Package, which includes all meals Thursday-Saturday, Thursday field trip, Friday through Sunday conference, Saturday program/dance; and proceedings — $250 May 7th or before; $300 after May 7th. For additional information, visit http://pnpc.sfasu.edu.

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.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

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.


  Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac

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