November 26, 2008

Welcome to Texas Gardener’s Seeds, the weekly newsletter for Texas gardeners. Please do not reply to this e-mail as the sending address is not monitored. See the bottom of this newsletter for information on how to subscribe, unsubscribe, or contact the editor.

Comments regarding comfrey

To err on the side of caution, we are retracting our suggestion that it is okay to eat young comfrey leaves in salads or cooked. While we obtained that information from the Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening published by Rodale Press, a reliable source, more recent research indicates that comfrey may contain harmful substances. This was brought to our attention by Howard Garrett, our good friend and fellow gardener. Vicki Blachman, our herb advisor, reiterated his concern and provides the following excellent information on the subject:

"Over the past 10 years, there have been some serious questions raised by the FDA about the ingestion of comfrey (not topical application if wound is not 'open'). As the same can be said of several other plants, I always avoid advocating medicinal ingestion of any herb although I will sometimes mention a 'traditional use' if pressed. I even suggest exercising caution with certain 'culinary' herbs.

"Here's a link to someone who says it’s okay (note the disclaimers):

"This one has some good info:

"And this one is pure scientific data:"

Valley's organic farmers market kicked off new season Saturday

By Rod Santa Ana
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

The return of cool weather to subtropical South Texas brought with it the return of the area's only organic farmers market, said Barbara Storz, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticultural agent in Hidalgo County.

The first monthly farmers market of the season was held from 9 a.m. to noon, Nov. 22, at North San Juan Park.

North San Juan Park is located at 511 E. Earling (the Nolana extension), San Juan, between Raul Longoria and Cesar Chavez roads, some two miles east of U.S. 281. Admission is free.

"We will have all organically produced vegetables and herbs for sale, including lettuce, greens, citrus, tomatoes, peppers and radishes," Storz said. "We'll also have some potted herbs that can easily be transferred to home gardens. These include basil, fennel and borage. We'll even have one grower there selling luffa, the gourd that is dried and used as a bathing sponge."

Storz organized Grow'n Growers, an AgriLife Extension program that teaches low-income residents how to grow vegetables without the use of chemicals, then sell them to the public at the area's only organic farmers market.

Fifteen families joined the program last year and organized a farmers' cooperative known as Familias Productores del Valle, or Family Producers of the Valley.

Demand for the first chemically-free vegetables produced earlier this year was outstanding, Storz said.

"We had people driving from as far away as Brownsville and Zapata to buy these fresh, homegrown vegetables," she said. "We had to take a break during the summer because nighttime temperatures here in South Texas are so hot and oppressive that table vegetable plants can't produce a flower, let alone fruit. It all has to do with our proximity to the equator."

Despite rain-delayed planting this past summer, Storz said their bins were filled Saturday with organic products harvested only hours before they went on sale.

"Based on the huge demand we had this spring, I'd encourage everyone to come early," she said.

Storz encourages any organic producers in the area who would like to join the market to contact her office at (956) 383-1026. There is a booth fee of $5.

"This program has succeeded far beyond our wildest dreams," Storz said. "We knew there was a demand for organic produce here in the Valley, but this has been outstanding. Everybody wins; low-income families become productive and self-sustaining while consumers gain the healthful benefits of consuming tasty, fresh and chemically-free vegetables."

Dates and times of future markets will be announced as the winter vegetable harvest proceeds, she said.

Gardening tips

The best way to deal with fall leaf drop is to process them with a mulching lawn mower. This aids the decomposition process and keeps them from blowing around the yard. The next best thing to do would be to gather and place them in flowerbeds or the compost pile. Never bag them and send them to a landfill.

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 poison in Poison Ivy comes from a yellow oil that occurs in the resin ducts of leaves, flowers, fruits and the bark of the plant. Only the wood, pollen and leaf hairs are not poisonous.

Upcoming garden events

Kemah: The Kemah-Bay Area Garden Club will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, December 3 at 9:45 a.m. at the Kemah Visitor Center and Schoolhouse Museum, 603 Bradford Street, Kemah. The program will be “Creative Dish Gardening for the Holidays” presented by Susan Pietrowski, owner of Utopian Art Graphic Designs. This program will show you how to design unique dish gardens using succulents and small treasures you can find anywhere. Light refreshments will be served and the public is invited. For additional information, call Mary Ellen Chapman, President, (281) 559-1912.

Schertz: The Guadalupe County (Schertz/Seguin) Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) will celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, December 9, with a pot-luck supper and gag gift exchange, at the Guadalupe County Annex, 1101 Elbel Road, Schertz at 6 p.m., a little earlier than usual, to allow time for fun before a brief business meeting. This change is only for December; beginning January they will return to their usual meeting time of 6:30 p.m. for meeting and greeting, plant exchange, followed by a program at 7 p.m. Visitors are most welcome. For more information or an application to join NPSOT, contact:

Houston: Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held Saturday, January 17, 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.

Houston: The River Oaks Garden Club's 74th annual Azalea Trail will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 6, 7 and 8, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day, and will feature four beautiful private homes and gardens. Tickets for admissions are $15 before March 6 and $20 during the trail. For additional information contact the River Oaks Garden Club at (713) 523-2483 or visit


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, it’s 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.

$21.30 plus shipping*

Order online with credit card at or call toll-free 1-800-727-9020.

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Wish you’d saved them?

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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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Texas Gardener’s Seeds
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