May 14, 2008

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Consumers aren't likely to contain their spending on potted plants, no matter the economy. (Texas AgriLife Research photo courtesy of Dr. Terri Starman)
  Americans hard to contain on potted plant expenditures

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

When it comes to using plant-filled pots on the porch or around the landscape, Americans are hardly able to contain themselves.

U.S. consumers spend more than $1.3 billion a year on this gardening method, according to Container Gardening Associated, an online site devoted to the technique.

Container gardens, the use of a variety of plants in any type of container, are often associated with yardless apartments or condominiums. But they also are popular with the elderly and disabled, as well as for areas where soil quality is a problem or where pots define an area or direct traffic.

Retailers can cash in on container gardening by offering more extensive plant care information, making plant and container selection easy and pricing the pre-planted or do-it-yourself containers properly, according to a new study by Dr. Terri Starman, Texas AgriLife Research horticulturist.

"We found that there is a potential to increase the value of a container garden through providing educational material with the purchase," Starman said. The study, in the current issue of the journal HortScience, also found that most people prefer a container garden with a complementary color harmony in the price range of $25. Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel.

Starman said the research is useful for retailers, particularly as the U.S. economy slips.

Previous studies have shown that in hard economic times, people continue to garden — perhaps even more so because they stay close to home to save money, Starman said.

"The trend toward 'green' awareness calling us to reduce our carbon footprint also pertains to container gardening," she said. "Everything in container gardening is confined, so it takes less water and other inputs. And people are using them not only for flowers but for growing vegetables and herbs as food prices increase."

When container gardening became trendy about 10 years ago, retailers were initially hesitant for fear that the plants would not last long and the consumer would become dissatisfied, Starman noted.

"So retailers have developed ways to provide containers that last longer," she said. "For the money, a container lasts longer than a similarly priced bottle of wine or dinner out, for example, and that's important to the consumer."

But retailers didn't stop there, she said. Some are already offering "take-home packs" of plants marketed to replenish annual plants that have died in containers or to change out seasonally.

The next major push, Starman believes, will be toward the education, increased care information requested by people in the study.

More than three-fourths of the respondents in Starman's study, an online survey, said they would be more likely to purchase a container garden if extensive information was provided, and 85 percent said they would be willing to visit a Web site to obtain that information.

"Developing Web sites for the information would save growers the expense of putting tags for all the plants, especially if there are multiple plants in one container," she pointed out.

Starman said additional research is needed, particularly on the pricing side of container gardening, because there are two types of consumers for this product: the do-it-yourself type and the do-it-for-me type.

"Some are willing to spend a lot more money for a beautiful container garden," she said. "And there is also a market for servicing container gardens, especially for independent nursery operators who can sell it, deliver it, maintain it and change it out seasonally, for example."

Information about container gardening can be found at or http://www.container-gardens.com/.


Proper safety preparation before yard work begins reduces risk of injury

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

A recent Consumer Reports poll on lawn care shows that consumers are not taking all the proper precautions before mowing their lawn. In observance of June's National Safety Month, The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute is issuing a list of top safety measures every consumer should make before turning on the lawnmower or edger or trimmer to avoid unintentional injury.

There are some simple steps everyone can take before tending to the lawn and garden to ensure an enjoyable, productive and safe backyard experience. Before turning on equipment, consumers should:

  • Know how to operate the equipment. Read the operator's manual before using any power equipment. Know where the controls are and what they do. Follow safety instructions.
  • Handle gas carefully. Fill up before you start and when the engine is cold.
  • Dress properly for yard work. Wear substantial shoes, long pants and close-fitting clothes.
  • Clear up the area before you mow. Always remove stones, sticks and other objects from the area so that objects won't fly up and hit anyone. The most common injuries are from flying debris.
  • Wear eye protection to prevent injury from projectiles.
  • Wear hearing protection to prevent potentially damaging sounds from reaching your ears without eliminating the sounds you'll need to hear.
  • Don't let music distract you from hearing potentially important calls or seeing important hazards.
  • Clear the area of people and pets. Keep children indoors under adult supervision.
  • Always start up the mower outdoors.
  • Do not use alcohol, other controlled substances or medicines that impair judgment when using outdoor power equipment.

Gardening tips

"To enhance your soil structure use course granite sand," writes Robert Woodson Jr. "Granite sand is used as a base for flagstone patios, brick, and pavers. Coverage at 80 square feet per ton at 2 inches deep. The advantage of using granite sand over play box sand or river sand, is that it comes from granite, a vary hard stone; therefore the granite sand does not break down and compact as quickly as regular sand does. It will enhance the soil structure longer, enabling the soil to be more porous. Use this along with compost and/or horse manure, and your plants will be happy."

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 send 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...

Increasing your mowing height is good for your lawn. Longer grass has more leaf surface, which allows it to absorb more sunlight. The typical result is thicker grass with deeper roots. A thick, lush lawn keeps the soil shaded and helps retain moisture and reduces weed growth.


Upcoming garden events

Dallas, Austin, Houston: "Surviving Difficult Times” will be the theme for nursery and greenhouse grower workshops to be held in three Texas cities this month. The workshops will help growers "transform the businesses into leaner, stronger and more profitable enterprises,” said Dr. Charlie Hall, a workshop instructor who holds the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture in the horticultural sciences department at Texas A&M University. The workshops pertain to managing risk and uncertainty in the marketplace. They will be held from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. May 14 in Dallas, May 15 in Austin and May 16 in Houston. All sessions will be held at the county offices of Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Dallas, Austin and Houston. In addition to Hall, the workshop will be taught by Dr. John J. Haydu and Dr. Alan W. Hodges, both of the University of Florida, and Dr. Laurence M. Crane, National Crop Insurance Services. The first session is on identifying the risks that gnaw on profits and learning strategies on how to overcome them. The other sessions at each event pertain to managing one’s financial toolbox, marketing strategies beyond selling, and a look at risk-management tools that are often misunderstood or overlooked, Hall said. Registration is required prior to the event. A $20 fee covers meeting materials, lunch and breaks. Call Marco Palma at (979) 845-5284 to reserve a spot and for more information. The AgriLife Extension office in Dallas is at 10056 Marsh Lane, Suite B-101; Austin is 1600 B Smith Road; and Houston is at 3033 Bear Creek Drive.

Seguin: Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will meet Thursday, May 15, at 7 p.m. at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bldg., 210 E Live Oak, Seguin. Judit Green from Texas Parks and Wildlife will present "Gardening in the Shade with Native Plants." Emphasis will be on what plants benefit songbirds, hummingbirds and butterflies. For more information, call (830) 379-1972.

Greenville: The Master Gardeners of Hunt County and AgriLife Extension are hosting the seventh-annual garden tour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 17, in Greenville, about 50 miles northeast of Dallas. "This year's event is especially exciting because, for the first time, all of the gardens on the tour have been planted and maintained by Master Gardeners," said Sara Allen, an AgriLife Extension agent for agriculture in Hunt County. Tours of the four gardens can be taken in any order. The gardens include: An English cottage garden, 4082 Tracey Lane, Greenville, featuring herb beds, Earth Kind roses and other plants that flourish in Texas; A woodland garden, 500 County Road 3324, Greenville, featuring a waterfall, stream and pond; A shaded garden, 2367 County Road 3515, Quinlan, featuring a swimming pool and outdoor kitchen; The Heritage Garden, 2217 Washington St., which was designed as a demonstration garden for public education. Flowering baskets will be sold at this location. Tickets are $5 each or five for $20 and can be purchased at the AgriLife Extension office at 2217 Washington St., Greenville. They can also be purchased at any one of the gardens on the tour or from Master Gardeners and nurseries in the county. For information, call (903) 455-9885 or visit http://hunt-tx.tamu.edu/.

Waco: The McLennan County Master Gardeners Plant Sale will be held from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., May 17, at 4605 W. Waco Drive, Waco. The sale will feature plants divided and shared from the gardens of the local master gardeners and will emphasize what grows well in the local area. For additional information, call the McLennan County AgriLIFE Extension Office at (254) 757-5180.

Amarillo: The Amarillo Area Master Gardeners will present The "how-to and with what” of container gardening, 10 a.m. to noon, May 17. Bring your container (minimum 12-inch diameter), buy items from their plant collections and create a beautiful, original container garden. Soil is provided. Class will be held at the Potter County AgriLife Extension Office, 3301 E. 10th (Tri-State Fairgrounds), Amarillo. To register, or for more information, call (806) 373-0713. Registration deadline May 9. Limited enrollment. Cost $10.

San Antonio: The Gardening Volunteers of South Texas will host "Essentials of Gardening" on Monday, May 19, at San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels Ave. @ Funston, San Antonio. Session 1, "June in the Garden: What to Do and Why," and Session II, "Healthy Lawns Against All Odds," will be presented by Tom Harris. Session III, "Cool Vines in Shady Places," will be presented by Paul Cox. Tom Harris, Ph.D., also known as "The Hill Country Gardener," is a Master Gardener and the author of 52 Weeks of Gardening. Paul Cox is the Assistant Director at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. A $5 donation is requested at the door. Organizers suggest bringing a brown bag lunch as only light refreshments will be provided. For additional information, including starting time, call (210) 522-9220.

Austin: Learn how to creating a Tropical Paradise by attending a free seminar featuring speakers are from the Travis County Master Gardener Association and Natural Gardener Nursery staff, Wednesday, May 21, 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin. Perennial Tropical Plans for Central Texas covers many of the tropical plants that can tolerate/thrive in the local growing conditions. Plant this selection once and enjoy the look for a long time. Tropical Plants for the Interior discusses the conditions preferred by the plants to remain healthy. Many varieties that favor interior living are included. Time will be spent on problems and pest that are common to interior tropical plants. How to Grow Ferns to create a lush look. Discover the varieties of ferns and conditions necessary for successful growing ferns in our local area. Integrating Tropicals with Natives for a Tropical Look discusses using tropical plants as annuals as well as in pots along with perennials to create that tropical feel. Bring samples of diseased, bug eaten, sick plants to the Plant Clinic. Experts will diagnose the problem and offer possible remedies. The seminar is sponsored by the Travis County Master Gardener Association in partnership with the AgriLife Extension, Travis County. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardener's desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Water System presents the 11th annual Festival of Flowers, Saturday, May 24, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Alzafar Shrine Hall, 901 N. Loop 1604, between Highway 281 and Blanco Road. Seminars include "Gardening Green — What It Means," led by John Dromgoole, Lady Bug Products, Austin's "Natural Gardener" on KLBJ Radio; "Creating Patio Gardens," led by Dr. Jerry Parsons, Horticulture Specialist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Co-host of Milberger's Gardening South Texas on KLUP Radio; and "Growing Lavender the Texas Hill Country Way," led by Jeannie Ralston, former owner of Hill Country Lavender, author of The Unlikely Lavender Queen. Admission is $5. Parking is free. For additional information, visit www.SAFestivalofFlowers.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.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Greater Fort Worth will present a Natural Urban Living Symposium June 21 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, 3220 Botanic Garden Drive, Fort Worth. Presentations include "Rainwater Harvesting," presented by Pam Daniel, Rainwater Solutions; "Natural Home Cleaning," presented by Larry White, That Orange Stuff; "Nutrition & Aromatherapy," presented by Judy Griffin, Ph.D.-Nutrition; and "Organic Gardening," presented by Coleen Thornton, Heaven Sent Produce. The symposium is free.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association in partnership with the Travis Country AgriLife Extension will present a seminar on pond building at the Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin, from 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, June 7. Among the topics covered will be small pond construction, pond plants, fish selection, and general pond maintenance. Although the seminar is free, the Austin Parks Department charges $3 for parking. For additional information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardener's desk or visit www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Georgetown: Junior Master Gardener Specialist Training will be presented June 11-12, at the Williamson County Extension Office, 3151 SE Innerloop Road, Georgetown. For additional information, contact Donna Colburn, at (512) 943-3300 or dmcolburn@ag.tamu.edu.

Blanco: The Blanco Chamber of Commerce will host the fourth annual Blanco Lavender Festival June 14-15. The entire town of Blanco and the surrounding countryside will be bathed in lavender during the Lavender Festival. The Lavender Market, on the grounds of the historic Blanco County Courthouse, is always a must-see highlight of the festival. Selected vendors and artists from across the Hill Country will offer lavender-related pleasures and treasures from the finest craftsmen. At the courthouse, speakers give lavender-related educational programs. Texas Lavender Hills Farm & Market will be part of the Blanco Lavender Festival tour each day from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Events at the farm include lavender crafts, pick-your-own lavender, live music, picnic lunches, lavender lemonade, lavender peach tea, lavender goats milk ice cream, lavender products for sale and more. For more information about the festival, visit www.blancolavenderfest.com/festival/index.php. For more information about Texas Lavender Hills Farm & Market, visit http://www.texaslavenderhills.com/.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardener Association in partnership with the Travis County AgriLife Extension will sponsor "What is Wrong with this Plant?" a seminar to help gardeners understand the causes of plant problems, the process for diagnosing plant problems, and techniques and strategies to help plants overcome problems, from 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, July 12, at the Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. A Plant Clinic will be open during the seminar, and expert guidance will be available to examine diseased or bug-eaten plants that attendees bring to the seminar. Attendance is free. For additional information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Schertz: Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will hold their next Master Gardener training class from August 6 to December 3. Classes are on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Schertz Civic Center, 1400 Schertz Parkway, Schertz. Registration is $170 with a 10% discount if received with payment by July 10. Speakers include Malcolm Beck, Flo Oxley from the LBJ Wildflower Center, Bob Webster, Patty Leander and more. For more information, an application and a list of speakers, e-mail jlbruno@gvec.net or call (210) 363-8380.

Austin: The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 23-24, at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin. The festival will include a live plant auction on Saturday afternoon and two full days of bamboo activities and lectures with bamboo plants and crafts for sale and show. Guest speaker Robin McBride Scott will conduct a workshop on Weaving Cane Mat, using native American Bamboo that she has personally harvested, prepared and dyed. She will also do a presentation about her work with basketry and native American bamboo. The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival is sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society. For more information, call (512) 929-9565, e-mail bamboo@bamboocentral.net, or visit http://www.bamboocentral.net.

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 Thursday) and December (2nd Thursday). 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 AgriLife 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.

Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners present their "Come Grown With Us" seminars on the fourth Tuesday of each month, January through October, beginning at 7 p.m. at 411 N. Wells, Edna. The seminars are free, open to the public and offer 2 CEU hours to Master Gardeners or others requiring them. For additional information, contact the Jackson County Extension Office at (361) 782-3312.

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.

Seabrook: The Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold an educational program at 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at The Meeting Room (on the Lakeside) at Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

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. To ensure inclusion in this column, please provide complete details at least three weeks prior to the event.


Wish you'd saved them?

Are you missing an important issue of Texas Gardener? Or, perhaps, just tired of thumbing through stacks of back issues looking for the tips and techniques you need to make your garden grow? Two new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006) and volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007)*.

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Around the world everyone is talking about environmental issues and the concept of "going green." Natural organic gardening and landscaping are among the most important parts of the movement. Some proponents only say to stop using chemicals. Howard Garrett, in the Organic Manual, explains in details what to do instead.

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