August 13, 2008
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Research could change
perception of woody species use of water in Edwards Plateau
By Blair Fannin
New research suggests that juniper, mesquite and other woody brush that have overrun grasslands on the Edwards Plateau of west-central Texas aren't the water hogs that they were thought to be.
Further, bulldozing this brush may not be wise, because it would remove plants that take in lots of carbon from the atmosphere, making them a potential ally in efforts to counter global warming.
These are the findings of Dr. Jim Heilman, a Texas AgriLife Research scientist and professor of environmental physics in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University.
"People have this idea that trees are suction pumps, that if you have all of this landscape and big trees, much more water is used," he said. "Not true. What drives water use is the energy supplied from the sun and the atmosphere."
Heilman's data show only "small increases" in the amount of water used due to brush encroachment.
"It's not because the trees are extracting large amounts of water that the grasses can't reach, but because trees trap and absorb more sunlight than grasses," he said.
Juniper is considered a "water thief" because of the belief that its deep roots are tapping into large amounts of water stored in the limestone bedrock.
However, Heilman's study of a live oak-juniper woodland area found the live oak used more water than the juniper.
"Juniper roots are actually shallower than oak roots, and the internal plumbing of juniper greatly restricts the amount of water that can be taken up," Heilman said.
"We found no evidence that deep roots were extracting significant amounts of water," he said. "Limestone bedrock in the Edwards Plateau is not capable of storing large amounts of water in the deeper zones for roots to tap into."
Heilman's research project is being conducted on the Freeman Ranch near San Marcos with funding provided by the National Institute for Climatic Change Research-U.S. Department of Energy.
Data on the ranch have been collected using a network of meteorological towers, recording measurements such as carbon dioxide exchange, evaporation, and wind speed, Heilman said. Sensors are mounted on towers at three locations – one in a grassland, one in a grassland in the process of being overtaken by juniper and mesquite, and the other in a dense forest of juniper and oak. He said the forest represents the most extreme case of woody encroachment where water use should be the highest.
"The site being overtaken by juniper and mesquite is representative of sites that typically are subject to brush removal," Heilman said.
Not disputing that brush encroachment is "a world problem," Heilman's research has him questioning the recommendation of brush removal in some instances. By removing woody species, it reduces the capability of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, he said.
"The juniper and other woody species are sequestering a lot of carbon," he said. "We've seen up to a six-fold increase with the encroachment of juniper. So, if we remove brush, we might have a marginal savings of water, but we're losing a heck of a lot of carbon. If we get into carbon trading markets, that carbon could be very valuable."
Carbon sequestration is a fairly recent option that would create traded markets, attempting to reduce carbon emissions due to concerns with global warming.
Overall, Heilman said, the idea of brush removal to save water is a case of where "policy gets ahead of science."
"It's what we think we know that just ain't so that gets us into trouble," Heilman said, quoting Mark Twain. "It's going to take more than just our study to get the definitive answer."
Heilman is collaborating with Drs. Susan Schwinning of Texas State University; Marcy Litvak, University of New Mexico; Kevin McInnes, Texas A&M University; Georgianne Moore, Texas A&M University; and Keith Owens, Oklahoma State University.
Heilman's work is currently in review with the Journal of Hydrology. The results were part of an invited paper presentation at the American Geophysical Union Joint Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in May.
Prepare for hurricane
season with preventative measures and right equipment
With the Climate Prediction Center forecasting a 65 percent chance of an above-normal hurricane season, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) encourages homeowners to prepare for strong winds and rainfall that can damage property and cause serious injury, even if an area is not on the direct path of these devastating storms. Having chain saws, power generators, and other pieces of outdoor power equipment on hand is important to recover from damage caused by a storm.
Using the right outdoor power equipment can save your property from costly damage and, after a storm, help restore safety and normalcy for families and communities, said Kris Kiser, Vice President, Public Affairs, OPEI. "However," he noted, "there are important steps to take and tools to use even before a storm hits to minimize the effects of severe weather incidents."
Added Kiser, "Given that weather can surprise even the most seasoned weathermen, homeowners should check today that they have the proper equipment and that it is in safe working order."
Trees are wonderful resources that provide homeowners with immeasurable benefits. However, trees can pose a real threat to one's personal safety and/or property during storms if not properly cared for. According to Mark Chisholm, an ISA certified arborist in New Jersey and spokesperson for STIHL Inc., "When a powerful storm rolls through, trees are often left in shambles, damaging your home, knocking down gutters and power lines. So, arborists always recommend doing some selective pruning of dead limbs and branches with chain saws, pole pruners or pole saws ahead of time."
According to the OPEI, follow the checklist below to better weather the storm season:
Assess trees in your yard to determine which trees and/or limbs may come down during a storm. If in doubt, contact your local ISA certified arborist for an assessment at www.isa-arbor.com.
Use pole saws or pruners to selectively cut dead or damaged limbs near your home or over your driveway. Make sure you always keep a firm footing on the ground, do not go up on a ladder, and stay away from electrical conductors.
Have a chain saw on hand for clean up, but first read and understand the instruction manual and ensure the equipment is in good condition. Make sure you are prepared to use a chain saw by:
Make sure you understand chain saw kickback. Kickback may occur when the nose or tip of the guide bar touches an object or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. Tip contact may cause a lightning-fast reverse reaction, kicking the guide bar up and back toward the operator.
Don't work around power lines. One of the biggest threats to safety is downed utility lines. While an electrical conductor lying on the ground may appear harmless, they are considered hot unless tested and grounded! Do not touch it no matter what! Contact a professional.
Do not operate power generators in enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can become concentrated in enclosed areas and cause serious injury or death.
Even sun-loving vegetables like tomatoes and peppers will appreciate some afternoon shade during the dog days of summer. Shade cloth or old shingles along the west side of the plants will help reduce heat stress and lower water requirements. As temperatures moderate in September, these shade devices can be removed.
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...
If the current drought has taught us anything, then it should have taught us how important it is to site plants in locations where they are likely to thrive. Avoid planting moisture-loving plants in thin, dry soils or plants that require good drainage in boggy locations.
Upcoming garden events
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 Native Plant Society of Texas-Houston (NPSOT-H) presents its 11th Annual Wildscapes Workshop & Plant Sale, "Landscaping with Native Plants to Attract Wildlife," on Saturday, September 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of Houston's Main Campus (I-45 & Cullen Blvd.), Cullen College of Engineering, Building 1. The workshop will feature the following speakers: Chris LaChance and Angela Chandler on "Rain Gardens and Introduction to Rainwater Harvesting," Jason McKenzie on "Great Plants for a Wildscapes Landscape," Farrar Stockton on "Local Butterflies, Moths & Flight of the Monarch," and Diana Foss on "Designing with Natives." The Native Plant Sale, which opens at 11:30 a.m. for workshop attendees, will feature many hard-to-find natives. From 12:30 p.m. until 3 p.m. the plant sale will be free and open to the public as well as attendees. Visit the book sale, exhibits, and booths. In addition, there will be raffles, door prizes, refreshments, and lunch. Fee: $30 per person ($25 for NPSOT members). Preregistration on or before September 1, 2008 is required. Registration form, flyer, and more information can be found at http://www.npsot.org/Houston/Wildscapesflyer2008.pdf. Sponsored by NPSOT-H, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and the University of Houston, the proceeds of this NPSOT-H fundraiser will be used for school habitats, grants, and education.
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.
Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners will have a Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, September 20, beginning at 8 a.m. in the Jackson County Services Building Auditorium, 411 N. Wells, Edna. Admission is free and open to the public. A variety of shrubs, flowering trees, vines and garden accessories will be on sale.
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 email@example.com.
Lewisville: The Denton County Master Gardeners' 2008 Garden InfoFest will be held Saturday, October 4, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Upper Trinity Regional Water District, 900 North Kealy Ave., Lewisville. Events include expert garden speakers, gardening demonstrations, Ask a Master Gardener booth, children's activities, garden shopping, silent auction, plant sale, door prizes and a garden tour. For additional information, call (940) 349-2883 or visit DCMGA.com.
Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardener Association, a volunteer program of Texas AgriLife Extension Service, will sponsor its annual Fall Gardening Conference at Marvin United Methodist Church in Tyler on Saturday, October 11, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. A bulb sale following the conference at Harvey Convention Center will offer thousands of bulbs to the public with many varieties not often found in local nurseries. During the exposition, local Master Gardeners will provide a help-desk to answer gardening questions and perform demonstrations of proper bulb planting techniques, division of perennials, and planting of bare root roses. This conference and plant sale have continued to grow in popularity each succeeding year with attendees coming from as far as South Central Texas up to the Red River in the north and as far east as Louisiana. The conference is free and open to the public. Conference presentations by two recognized horticulture experts will provide useful insight and information about gardening in our region. Dr. William Welch, Professor and Landscape Horticulturist with the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University, will discuss gardening using perennials that thrive in the area and come back year after year. Chris Wiesinger, known as "the Bulb Hunter," is the owner of the Southern Bulb Company, a flower bulb farm in East Texas that offers heirloom perennial flower bulbs for warm climates. Chris regularly travels the back roads of Texas to rescue heirloom bulbs forgotten or destined for extinction due to developments and highway expansion. For additional information, call Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Smith County at (903) 590-2980.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Sugar Land: The Sugar Land Garden Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September through November and January through April at 10 a.m. at the Sugar Land Community Center, 226 Matlage Way, Sugar Land. The club hosts a different speaker each month. For more information, visit www.sugarlandgardenclub.org.
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.
— the cards that grow
Cards are made of "plantable paper" (paper embedded with wildflower seeds). Plant in a pot or garden spot and watch it grow! The perfect gift for youngsters of all ages. Set includes six cards and envelopes.
$22.50 includes tax and shipping
Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.
(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)
Wish you'd saved
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? Three new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of volume 24 (November/December 2004 through September/October 2005), volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006) and volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007)*.
$16.99 per CD includes tax and shipping
Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.
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*Other volumes will be available soon.
Doug Welsh's Texas
Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac is a giant monthly calendar for the entire state — a practical, information-packed, month-by-month guide for gardeners and "yardeners." This book provides everything you need to know about flowers and garden design; trees, shrubs, and vines; lawns; vegetable, herb, and fruit gardening; and soil, mulch, water, pests, and plant care. It will help you to create beautiful, productive, healthy gardens and have fun doing it.
$26.63 plus shipping*
Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.
*Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of July and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)
Fiber row cover
Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.
$30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)
Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.
(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)
Missed an issue? Back issues of Texas Gardener's Seeds are available at www.texasgardener.com/newsletters.
Publisher: Chris S. Corby ● Editor: Michael Bracken
Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com