July 9, 2008

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Texas Tech scientists uncover new grass that's made for the shade

A Texas Tech University plant and soil science professor and a Lubbock nurseryman are about to cast a big shadow over Texas urban landscaping.

Rockwell Professor of Plant and Soil Science Dick Auld and his research team have scientifically characterized a new variety of hardy, drought-tolerant turfgrass that grows well under the shade of trees. The patent-pending grass variety will commercially be known as Shadow Turf, but technically it's a specially selected variety of Zoysiagrass that was discovered by Ivey.

"This university isn't an ivory tower," said Auld, who previously served as chairman of Tech's Department of Plant and Soil Science. "We reach out to local businesspeople all the time. This time we were able to get a new product out to the public and that's a real success story with economic impact to the university."

Texas Tech researchers have been working on ornamental turf grass breeding since 1994, with much of their efforts concentrating on buffalograss. Some four years ago the turf team produced Turffalo, a buffalograss for homeowners that's designed to be drought resistant with root systems sinking up to 10 feet into the ground, while retaining the density and true green color enjoyed with varieties like bermuda or fescue.

In the process of developing and marketing the new buffalograss, they were inundated with requests for some type of grass that would grow under the deep shade of trees. At the time the Texas Tech scientists were also working closely with Mark Ivey, the owner of Ivey Gardens Greenhouses.

In 2005, Ivey approached Texas Tech with a special variety of dark green Zoysiagrass that grew exceptionally well under shady conditions. Using Ivey's specimen, the Texas Tech researchers began the detailed task of developing a plant patent for Ivey's Zoysiagrass variety.

Led by Auld and graduate student Brad Sladek, they began the process of scientifically characterizing the grass. They developed trial plots detailing a comparison of the grasses' growth habits, locations where it would produce nationally and a DNA fingerprint identifying the plant. In addition, they looked at the cultural practices needed for it to grow well in Texas and across the region.

Last year Texas Tech's Office of the Vice President for Research presented Auld with a $40,000 grant to promote and commercialize the new grass variety. As part of a commercial agreement with Ivey, Texas Tech receives a portion of the royalties from sale of the grass.

"The patent was filed with the U.S. Patent Office in March and we're just waiting for approval," Auld said.

Introduced in the United States in the early 1900s, Zoysiagrass forms a dense turf when managed, Sladek noted. Native to China, Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia, the warm-season grass is well known for being extremely drought tolerant, nearly as salt tolerant as bermudagrass, and is among the most wear-tolerant turfgrasses.

Moreover, Sladek said it has the added feature of being cold tolerant, which allows it to be used on the South Plains. A number of our shade-tolerant, warm-season grasses, primarily St. Augustine grass, don't have cold tolerance, he said. That's why it's not often used in this area. Zoysiagrass really fits a niche here.

The Texas Tech researchers believe their new Shadow Turf will eventually have multiple applications from residential landscaping to golf courses. Right now, considering the way it is propagated, it will likely be first seen among homeowners.

Today, Shadow Turf is commercially sold in plug form. The 2x2x3-inch plugs, which are typically sold in $90 flats, are planted nine-to-12 inches apart depending on how quickly the homeowner wants to cover an area. The slow-establishing grass is normally planted from late May to early June.

"The beauty of this story is that here we had a small businessman trying to do something entrepreneurial and a major public university with scientific expertise that was willing to do something to help," Auld said. "That's why we have a commercialized product today."

Trees are cool

Bailey Nurseries

Here are a few reasons why Trees are Cool:

  • Shade trees can reduce utility bills for air conditioning by 15-50%.
  • Healthy trees can increase residential property values by up to 15%.
  • The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  • Studies indicate that trees help create feelings of relaxation and well-being.
  • In one year an average tree produces enough oxygen for a family of four.
  • One tree can absorb the CO2 output from four cars every year.
  • To make up for the loss of trees in just the past decade, we would need to replant 321 million acres, which would entail planting approximately 14 billion trees every year — for 10 consecutive years.
  • Planting trees remains the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Planting 100 million trees could reduce carbon by an estimated 18 million tons per year, while saving American consumers $4 billion each year on utility bills.
  • If every American family planted just one tree, the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually. This is almost five percent of the amount that human activity pumps into the atmosphere each year.
  • Forests cover about 30 percent of the global land surface, providing structure and functional habitat for two-thirds of the Earth's terrestrial species.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that, with improvements in plant productivity and conversion efficiencies, 25 percent of U.S.-imported oil could be displaced by plantation-grown trees by 2050.
  • The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.
  • The world's tallest tree is a coast redwood in California, measuring more than 360 feet!
  • Approximately 2.6 million acres of trees are planted in the U.S. annually. This annual planting roughly equals the size of Connecticut.
  • Trees lower local air temperatures by transpiring water and shading surfaces. Because they lower air temperatures, shade buildings in the summer, and block winter winds, they reduce building energy use and cooling costs.

Visit www.BaileyNurseries.com to learn more about the “Trees Are Cool” program. The Web site also includes an image library loaded with beautiful tree photos and descriptions.

Summertime is mosquito time

Millions of biting, disease-carrying mosquitoes are buzzing around backyards, parks and neighborhoods this summer. You can reduce your chances of getting bitten by mosquito pests by helping to reduce their populations. Most female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so emptying pools of standing water is the best way to prevent future populations from hatching. Make sure to empty birdbaths and swimming pools at least once a week. Get rid of old tires, unused buckets and trash cans that can hold rainwater. Clean clogged roof gutters. Place a Mosquito Dunk in birdbaths and ponds. The active ingredient in Mosquito Dunks is a naturally occurring bacterium that kills mosquito larvae but isn’t harmful to other living things. A six-pack of Mosquito Dunks sells for about $10 at home centers, hardware stores and gardening stores.

Gardening tips

"Flexible foam pipe insulation tubes make great toppers for wire tomato cages," writes Nancy Renwick. "Cut to appropriate length, open at the slit and place around top of wire cage. Tomato vines rest comfortably on the foam and not the harsh wire."

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...

The traditional gypsy cure for hay fever was to pick fresh mint daily and place it in a cloth bag and sleep with it near your pillow. In two or three weeks symptoms were supposed to disappear. Early herbalists also prescribed mint for many upper respiratory diseases.

Upcoming garden events

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.

Austin: Travis Country Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Texas A&M and Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, will present "Using Water Wisely," a seminar that concentrates on capturing rainwater and landscaping with plants requiring little water10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, September 6, at the West Rural Community Center, 8656 Hwy. 71 W, Build. A, Austin. Gain the knowledge necessary to build a rainwater harvesting system. All the basics are covered to build a non potable water harvesting system. A demonstration will show how to make a simple, inexpensive rain barrel collection system. Lower your water usage by utilizing native and adapted landscape plants that look great and need a minimal amount of water to thrive. This method of gardening is called Xeriscaping. If desired, a green, lush looking landscape can be achieved. Vendors representing tanks, pumps and guttering will be available to answer specific questions. This seminar is free. No reservations will be taken. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Rockport: The 20th Annual Hummer/Bird Celebration will be held September 11-14, 2008 at the Rockport-Fulton High School. Four days of programs, exhibits and field trips about hummingbirds, other birds, butterflies, and habitat gardening by renowned speakers and a visit to Hummer Homes to see Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds during their migration south for the winter. For more information, visit www.rockporthummingbird.com.

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.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, will present Vegetables for Cooler Times, a free seasonal seminar that will cover multiple topics pertinent to fall gardening activities from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 17, Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. In spite of the heat, it is time to be in the vegetable garden. "Fall Vegetable Gardening" by Patty Leander, a regular contributor to Texas Gardener, will include the basics of vegetable gardening with the emphasis on plants and varieties that flourish in the fall and winter months. Leaves, leaves everywhere! Don’t rake, bag and send it to the landfill. Learn how to convert leaves and other material into plant food. It is called compost. Plants adore it. Learn how to make this magic act happen. Thought only Yankees could grow rhubarb? Wrong! With a little thinking outside the box, you can grow rhubarb and strawberries, too, right in your own backyard. Learn how these two favorites can be successfully in Central Texas. A Plant Clinic will be held during the entire seminar. Bring your diseased/bug eaten plant, roots and all, in a plastic bag. Gain knowledge from expert Master Gardeners on action you can take to remedy the situation. The seminar is free. No reservations will be taken. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

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.

Bryan: The Brazos County Master Gardener Association will hold a Fall Pant Sale at the Brazos County Extension Office, 2619 Highway 21 West, Bryan from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, September 27.The sale will include a wide selection of unusual and unique plants guaranteed to grow in Brazos County. Choice Heirloom and Pass-along plants from the gardens of local Master Gardeners will also be available for purchase. For additional information, call (979) 823-0129 or e-mail brazosmg@ag.tamu.edu.

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.

Austin: Plant and Insect Photography for Beginners class will be taught by Sam Myers, a Master Gardener and experienced photographer, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., Wednesday, October 22 at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. The class will concentrate on developing the ability to take sharp, colorful photos with impact. There will be an overview of cameras, both film and digital. Discussion will include how lighting, focal length and aperture interact in composing photographs and how to use your camera's programs (landscape, portrait, etc.) effectively. Guidelines of composition will be covered along with "posing" plants and insects for best visual presentation. Prerequisite: study the owner's manual on your camera. Bring your camera for some practical exercises. Class size is limited. Reservation required: gisathccs@aol.com or (512) 804-2257. The class 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. http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.


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
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