November 12, 2008

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Crabapple trees burst into bloom shortly after Hurricane Ike, but Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists warn that the trees ó like many other plants ó are stressed and will need additional help to recover. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by William M. Johnson)

Like salt in a wound, hurricane-ravaged landscapes stung, but can recover

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

As residents in Galveston struggled to rebuild, watched lists of store re-openings and awaited the return of public services, a stunning display of crabapple blossoms burst open on trees throughout Galveston County.

But their beauty was no sign of things returning to normal, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists. Quite the contrary.

"Usually, when a flowering tree or shrub blooms out of season, it is a sign of stress," said Dr. William M. Johnson, AgriLife Extension horticulture agent in Galveston County. "The trees are 'confused' about what time of year it is, given the warm dry conditions for several weeks preceding Hurricane Ike and the cool moist conditions occurring immediately after Ike."

The confusion being felt throughout most sectors of everyday life in the hurricane-damaged areas was no less so for lawns and landscapes of personal homes and businesses as the salt water receded, Johnson noted. And the people who love gardening on the island are no doubt scratching their heads about how to help the plants recover.

That's why Johnson developed a Web site with his colleague Dr. Don Wilkerson, AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist in College Station, to help people heal the natural beauty of the island and other stricken coastal areas.

"You wouldn't believe how much the storm has devastated plants," Wilkerson said. "New problems/issues seem to develop every week."

The site,, has links to articles Johnson and Wilkerson have written about specific issues in Galveston and surrounding areas. People can find information there on specific treatments to aid plant recovery, if possible, or how to nurture the soil flooded by tidal/salty water for replanting.

It also has links to Earth Kind principles that may be beneficial, proper pruning techniques for wounded plants, the correct use of fertilizers and how to choose replacement plants, according to Johnson.

People also can access the site to find out how to evaluate soil conditions, diagnose plant diseases and battle insects that often attack stressed plants, he added.

"We'll also be conducting an area-wide soil testing campaign to determine long term/residual effects and potential salt accumulations," Wilkerson said. "Sometimes it takes as many as eight months before an injured plant begins to show signs of life."

The horticulturists pointed out that even those plants that lived through the hurricane may continue to have problems with die-back or insects and diseases in the short-term.

Johnson produces a regular column on the post-hurricane impact on plants. It can be found on the Web site.

Gardening tips
"When making raised garden beds, use door hinges to fasten the corners of the boards and attach the hinges with stainless steel screws," writes Mike Bialas. "Then at the end of the season or when needed, it is easy to remove the pins from the hinges to move and/or store the boards."

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...

Feathers make a good addition to the compost heap because they contain 15.3 percent nitrogen and decay rapidly if kept moist. They can also be added directly to the garden where the slow release of nitrogen makes them perfect for plants that need a steady, slow release of that element. Feather meal will work just as well and is commercially available.

Upcoming garden events

San Benito: The Cameron County Master Gardeners will host a Plant Sale and Recycling/Composting Day on Saturday, November 15 from 9 a.m. to noon. It will be held at The Arboretum, located at the Cameron County Annex on the corner of Expressway 77 and Williams Road in San Benito. In addition to the plant sale, composting demonstrations will be given and gardening questions will be answered by Master Gardeners. Children's activities will include making hats, caps, and beads for jewelry out of recycled newspapers. For more information, visit

San Antonio: Bexar County Master Gardeners are taking orders for poinsettias. Colors available are Monet, white, maroon, pink and dark red. Plants are priced $13 each for up to four plants and $12 each for five or more plants. Pictures and order form may be found at Orders and payment are due by November 19 and must be mailed to: Bexar County Master Gardener Office, 3355 Cherry Ridge, Studio 208, San Antonio, TX 78230. Pick-up is at the same location on December 5 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. on December 6. Plant sales benefit the BCMG Scholarship Fund promoting horticultural education.

Tomball: Susan Wood with present "Potpourri: Fragrance from the Garden," Saturday, November 22, at The Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. Learn how to harvest and dry herbs and flowers to use in potpourri. For more information, call (281) 351-8851 or visit

Houston: Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held Saturday, January 17, 2009 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. A class describing all varieties for sale, as well as providing vital information on how to plant and care for each type tree will be held January 10 (12-2 p.m.) and 13 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) at Urban Harvest's office on Canal Street. A nominal fee of $10 is charged for the class. Register for the class by calling Urban Harvest. The tree sale is at Rice University's Football Stadium, on the concourse. For detailed information about the sale as well as about fruit trees, check the Urban Harvest Web site or call (713) 880-5540.


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

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

Schertz: The Guadalupe County (Schertz/Seguin) Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Guadalupe County Annex, 1101 Elbel Road, Shertz. A plant exchange and meet-and-greet begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by a program at 7. For additional information or an application to join NPSOT, contact

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 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

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

College Station: The A&M Garden Club meets on the second Friday of each month during the school year at 9:30 a.m. at the Exit Center, 1600 Rock Prairie Road, College Station. Expert speakers, plant sharing, and federated club projects help members learn about gardening in the Brazos Valley, floral design, conservation topics, and more. For more information, visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Southern Kitchen Garden

By William D. Adams and Thomas R. Leroy

A kitchen garden, or potager, is a celebration of the seasons: brimming with vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even fruit trees, itís our link with nature and a source for fresh produce. The kitchen garden has always been an important part of life in the rural South, at times meaning the difference between being well-fed or going to bed hungry. In recent times, the kitchen garden has become more fashionable and now more and more homeowners are reaping the delicious rewards of growing their own food.

A kitchen garden needs little more than a small raised bed, so an aspiring gardener with only a modest backyard will have plenty of room to get started. If you have more space on your hands, then you can include some produce requiring a little more space like fruit trees, corn or pumpkins.

In the book, the authors with take you through the process of starting your very own kitchen garden from location to soil preparation to planting and then to harvest. It is also loaded with useful information on propagation, pest control and is laced with mouth-watering recipes and beautiful color photographs.

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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? 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)*.

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Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac

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.

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Fiber row cover valuable year-round

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.

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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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