June 18, 2008

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Backyard water saving tips
Efficient watering and common sense saves this precious resource

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than 7 billion gallons per day. Irrigation experts estimate that up to 50 percent of water used for landscape irrigation may be lost due to over-watering, evaporation, or bad irrigation system design/maintenance. Here are several things you can do to conserve water right in your own backyard:

  • Know and follow the watering restrictions in your community.
  • Install drip irrigation systems around your shrubs, hanging baskets, and flower and vegetable gardens. Delivering water right to the plant roots is the most efficient way to conserve. Drip irrigation uses up to 50 percent less water than conventional sprinklers.
  • Install a home irrigation system. Watering efficiently, and only when your plants and lawn need it, can save a great deal of water.
  • If you already have a home irrigation system, make sure you’re getting the most out of your timer. New technology makes it easier than ever to program and monitor your watering needs. Consider upgrading your timer and check with your local water agency to identify systems that offer water-saving technology. Automatic, programmable timers save more water than mechanical models.
  • Make sure your irrigation system has a rain sensor that shuts off the watering program when it rains.
  • Think longer, infrequent run times. Deep watering, less often promotes good root growth.
  • Know your soil type. Different types of soil have different watering needs.
  • Raise the blade on your lawn mower. Closely-cut grass requires more water.
  • Don’t fertilize during hot, dry weather. Applying fertilizer can enhance drought problems. When you do feed your lawn and garden, use a slow release fertilizer.
  • Make sure you’re watering early in the morning to reduce evaporation. (Before 6:00 a.m. local time is best if your city regulations allow.)
  • Recycle your grass clippings back into your lawn by using a mulching mower. You will not only conserve water, but save time while mowing.
  • Choose drought tolerant plants for your landscaping. Picking plants that are native to your climate can reduce watering needs.
  • Put a layer of mulch around your plants to retain moisture. A generous amount of 3 to 5 inches is best.
  • If you use a hose and portable sprinkler, purchase a hose end timer to regulate your water use.
  • Sweep your sidewalks and driveway rather than hosing them down.
  • When you’re washing your car, turn the hose off between rinses.



Nirvana Cascade Pink Splash is one of the new series of disease-resistant vinca that will be featured at the upcoming annual Overton horticultural bedding plant trials and field day on June 26. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Brent Pemberton)
  Disease-resistant Vinca among 500 bedding plant varieties featured at upcoming Field Day

On June 26, nursery growers, greenhouse managers and gardening enthusiasts can view field tests of flowering bedding plant varieties at the annual Overton Horticultural Field Day.

"We have close to 500 varieties this year, and that includes 70 varieties in the container trials," said Dr. Brent Pemberton, horticulturist with Texas Texas AgriLife Research.

This year, there will be an emphasis on vinca, including two new series that are resistant to aerial phytophthora, a serious landscape problem with this crop all across the South, Pemberton said.

“The disease-resistant vinca are quite revolutionary for the industry,” Pemberton said.

The new vinca are the Cora and Nirvana series. A large selection of colors from both series will be on display.

The field day will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton’s North Farm site. The tour will continue at the site until about 10:30, then move to the Overton Center's headquarters building, where a demonstration garden is located. Lunch will be served at about 11:30 a.m.

After lunch, the program will move inside with a presentation by Pemberton and Jimmy Turner of the Dallas Arboretum on the 2008 California Spring Showcase, also known as Pack Trials. Dr. Terri Starman, department of horticultural sciences, College Station, will give a presentation on container gardening, including results from the container trials done in cooperation with Pemberton since 2006. The program will conclude by 3 p.m.

Pemberton began trials of bedding plants at the Overton center to serve the commercial greenhouse and bedding plant industry. In recent years, the industry has had a $500 million annual economic impact on the region, according to Pemberton.

Before Pemberton began his trials, there were few if any tests under East Texas conditions of the many new varieties released by seed companies each year, he said.

Since the first field day with less than 100 varieties, the event has grown to include vinca, ornamental peppers, trailing petunias, verbenas, begonias, portulaca, zinnias, geraniums and ageratum.

"There's also a good selection this year of geranium and lantana," he said.

"We also coordinate trial results with the Dallas Arboretum," Pemberton said. "Over five million consumers in the northeast Texas region now have the opportunity to see how promising new plants from all over the world perform in our climate."

There also will be an award program in cooperation with the Dallas Arboretum called the "North Texas Winner's Circle." Each year the best performing plants at both locations are chosen by Pemberton and Turner for promotion as award winners. Many of these award-winning plants will be on display at the field day.

Plants in the running for designation as Texas Superstar also will be on trial, as well as many of the past plants receiving that designation. This statewide program is promotes plants that perform well in trials across Texas. The plants being promoted for spring and summer 2008 are Firecracker Shrub and Pride-of-Barbados, both flowering shrubs.

Though begun primarily to serve the bedding plant industry, the trial's thousands of square feet of plots planted purple, pink, red and white flowers have become popular with regional gardeners.

Preparation for the trial has also become a way for local Master Gardeners to fulfill their requirement for community service. Moreover, with the ever-increasing number of entries by seed companies, the trials could not have grown to be so all-inclusive without the volunteers, Pemberton said.

"The Smith and Rusk County Master Gardeners Associations are an integral part of these trials," he said. "They provide hundreds of hours of labor every year. A lot of hard work goes into planting the trials and the Master Gardeners provide the labor and enthusiasm that gets this job done.”

Registration is free and includes lunch. The Overton center is located 1 mile north of downtown Overton on State Highway 3053.

Coming from south of Overton, take State Highway 135 into town. At Overton's single red stop light, take a left, go across the railroad tracks and turn right immediately after the Brookshire's Supermarket. Look for the large white sign on the right side of the road identifying the Overton center.

The North Farm site is about 4 miles north of the center on Hwy. 3053. For an online map, go to http://overton.tamu.edu/flowers/fieldday.htm.


  Join the Earth Kind Rose Brigade

Become a member of the "Earth Kind Rose Brigade," a group of dedicated amateurs helping to conduct advanced field testing of experimental rose selections. Your participation will be educational as well as valuable in providing information to the Earth Kind Team of Extension specialists and research scientists at Texas A&M University.

To participate, simply purchase and plant one or more of the Brigade roses. Then, at one, two, three, and four years after transplanting, provide the benefit of your growing experience.

These cultivars should be planted where they will receive at least 8 hours of direct sun each day with good air movement over the foliage. The use of compost and organic mulches is encouraged.

To become a Brigade member, you must follow the strict evaluation protocol which includes:

Never apply commercial fertilizer (i.e. no commercial synthetic, no commercial organic) and

Never apply pesticides to these plants (i.e. no fungicides, no insecticides, no miticides, no neem oil, etc.).

If fertilizers or pesticides are applied to test plants, there is no need to enter your findings in to the on-line database.

For more information on how you can part of this educational activity please visit EarthKind.tamu.edu/EKRoseBrigade.html.


Gardening tips

Most flowers last longer in water if their stems are snipped and squashed. Cut off a tiny bit more every couple of days when you change the water so the stems don’t rot.

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...

Before modern insecticides, folks used what was commonly available. Soap was often used because it was readily available and a spray made of soapy water was useful in controlling many garden pests. Today there are several insecticidal soap products that are available to home gardeners.


Upcoming garden events

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.

Brenham: Home Sweet Farm will host the 4th annual Heirloom Tomato Festival, Sunday, June 22 for 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at 7800 FM 2502, Brenham. More than 20 different tomato varieties will be available for sampling and sale. Chefs will prepare gourmet dishes featuring the farm's seasonal produce, celebrating the tomato. For more information, call (979) 252-9922 or visit www.homesweetfarm.com.

Houston: Texas AgriLife Extension Service for Harris County will conduct a Prospective Wine-Grape Grower Workshop from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 26 for people interested in commercial wine-grape production. The workshop will be held at the AgriLife Extension office, 3033 Bear Creek Drive in Houston. "This workshop is geared toward anyone who is growing or considering growing grapes in Texas or elsewhere," said Fritz Westover, AgriLife Extension viticulture associate for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. "It's designed to address all the main aspects of wine-grape growing for those considering the plunge into commercial grape farming." The workshop consists of lectures and presentations tailored to address the most common questions a prospective grower should ask before committing money and resources toward commercial production. Topics will include essential viticulture knowledge, vineyard site selection, risk factors, labor requirements and economics of owning and maintaining a commercial vineyard. The fee is $100, which includes a catered lunch, beverages and study materials.  Pre-registration is requested to ensure there adequate materials and an accurate lunch count. For more information, contact Westover at (281) 855-5608. To register, go to: http://agrilifevents.tamu.edu/events/details.cfm?RegistrationID=152.

New Braunfels: Comal Master Gardeners are hosting the Malcolm Beck Seminar, July 12 at 10:00 a.m., at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Comal County office, 325 Resource Dr., New Braunfels (just off of SR 46, 4.5 miles west of New Braunfels). See and hear noted Texas author, lecturer, farmer and entrepreneur Malcolm Beck give the scoop on how to grow greener lawns, stronger plants and better fruits and vegetables and conserve soil, air and water at the same time. Well-known as an entertaining speaker, Beck also uses photos to bring the subject home to his audiences. His four books grew out of 40+ years of experimentation and experience in farming and soil enhancement in South Texas. Free admission. For more information, call (830) 620-3440 or (830) 629-1127.

Amarillo: The Amarillo Area Master Gardeners will present Vegetable Gardening tips and suggestions for orderly beauty, reduced maintenance, irrigation ideas, earth-friendly pest management and bountiful harvests. Class will be held from 10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, July 12, at the Potter County AgriLife Extension Office, 3301 E. 10th (Tri-State Fairgrounds), Amarillo. After a break for lunch, drive to Canyon and visit a 6,000 sq. ft. garden spot that includes vegetables, herbs, roses, beneficial insect attracters and more. Take the garden tour from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Registration deadline is July 7. Cost: $10. To register, or for more information, call (806) 373-0713.

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.

Houston: The Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 are accepting applications for Master Gardener Certification Training Classes. Classes will be held at The Precinct 2 Road Camp, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff, Houston, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning September 16 and continuing through October 28. For additional information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

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.

Fredericksburg: Texas Gourd Society will present the 13th annual "Lone Star Gourd Festival" at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds October 18 and 19. There will be door prizes, raffles, classes, demonstrations and an opportunity to meet Bill Decker, 2008 TGS Artist of the Year, and Bonnie Gibson, nationally-known author and artist. The show is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 and free to children under 12. For additional information, call (806) 523-9092 or visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Wildwood 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.

Rosenberg: The Fort Bend Master Gardeners meet at 7:15 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except December at the Bud O'Shieles Community Center located at 1330 Band Road, Rosenberg. For more information, call (281) 341-7068 or visit www.fbmg.com.

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?

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Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2008. 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

Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com