December 10, 2008

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Movement of citrus plants into Texas is illegal

By Rod Santa Ana
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Transporting citrus plant material into Texas is not only a threat to the state's citrus industry, it is also against the law, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service citrus expert.

"Fortunately, Texas is still free of the major citrus diseases that are ravaging Florida and several citrus-producing countries, but it is up to all of us to help keep it that way as those diseases cannot travel on their own," said Dr. Julian Sauls, an AgriLife Extension citrus specialist in Weslaco.

High on the list of unwanted citrus diseases in Texas is citrus greening, Sauls said. Greening is a bacterial disease that prevents citrus from maturing on trees, eventually killing them. Surveys of residential trees and commercial orchards have not found the disease in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but they have detected the presence of Asian citrus psyllid, the pest that spreads greening among citrus trees.

"Even one infected insect or plant from Louisiana or Florida could have a devastating impact on the Texas industry," Sauls said.

Once citrus greening disease was verified in the neighboring state of Louisiana, the Texas Department of Agriculture ramped up its efforts to keep all citrus plants out of Texas, according to Dr. Robert Crocker, the department's coordinator for pest management and citrus programs.

"As the state's agricultural regulatory agency, we've quarantined all areas outside of Texas," he said. "With very few exceptions, no citrus plants, or even pieces of citrus plants are allowed into the state from anywhere. The notable exception is that commercial citrus fruit is allowed to enter Texas if it's not from an area like Florida that has one of the few diseases that might be transmitted on the fruit."

Crocker said state laws and regulations prohibiting citrus plant movement into Texas have been constantly updated and strengthened for years to protect the state's citrus industry.

"TDA has defined the state's commercial citrus zone as consisting of Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Kenedy, Starr, Willacy and Zapata counties. Those eight counties that make up the very southern tip of Texas are where commercial citrus is produced for sale," he said. "That's the area we're trying hardest to protect. In fact, not even citrus trees produced in other parts of the state can be moved into that area without a special permit."

Breaking the state's citrus laws could result in serious consequences for offenders, Crocker said.

"Violations of the quarantine can be punished with fines of up to $5,000 per day per violation," he said. "There is also the potential for criminal penalties. We don't want a porous border to allow greening to get into the state when it could have been prevented."

To enforce the laws, Crocker said, state inspectors are manning road stations to check for illicitly imported citrus plants.

"Texas Department of Public Safety troopers are working with us to check trucks and other vehicles that might be carrying loads of citrus plants into Texas," he said. "TDA invested 7,214 man-hours last year in enforcement of citrus and other quarantines at road stations in 28 locations around the state. This was an increase over the previous year due to additional funding appropriated by the state legislature.

Crocker said inspectors are also checking stores and garden centers.

"We inspect any retail outlets to make sure they are selling legitimate citrus plants," he said. "We also check flea markets where small operators may not be as professional or as informed about the laws as they should be," he said.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has 83 regulatory inspectors who work in the enforcement of citrus and nursery-floral regulations, Crocker said.

In addition, the department is asking for the public's help in reporting suspicious citrus plant material they might encounter at stores, markets and roadside stands. Tips from observant citizens are an important source of leads for the department, he said.

Complaints can be made by calling the department's toll-free number: 1-800-TELL TDA, or 1-800-835-5832.

"We're also asking the public to buy only citrus plants that are labeled as having been produced in the state of Texas," he said. "If anybody sees plants that they think are here illegally, they can report them either anonymously or by leaving their names. Either way, all reports will be investigated with the same seriousness."

Any plants illegally brought to Texas will be sent back to the point of origin or destroyed, he said.

"The department recently oversaw the destruction of several thousand plants that were produced in Texas but were found to have one of the quarantined diseases," Crocker said. "It wasn't one of the most threatening diseases, canker or greening, but we don't want citrus plants sold that have diseases of any kind. The infected citrus plants could not be cured and were ground up and destroyed by their owner."

Over the years, Texas has been remarkably free of most diseases transmitted by grafting or by insects, said Dr. John da Graca, director of the Texas A&M-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco.

"One way to keep Texas disease-free is to ensure that all new trees are propagated from pathogen-free budwood," da Graca said. "Another is to follow state laws and not bring citrus plants or other prohibited material into Texas from other states. Prohibited materials would include budwood, cuttings, potted plants and seeds. Importing orange jessamine or other relatives of citrus is also prohibited."

Sauls said protecting Texas citrus is protecting a way of life in South Texas.

"Citrus is a major factor that helps make South Texas so unique, not to mention the millions it adds to our local economy," he said. "But just one disease- or insect-infested plant brought into the state by an unknowing or unconcerned individual could devastate our industry."

Gardening tips

"Use small plastic Rx bottles to collect garden seeds," writes Dorothy Clark. "There is usually a small blank space in the label. Peel off the label, cut away everything but this  space and reattach to the bottle to ID the seeds therein."

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...

Cumin is an herbaceous annual that is widely cultivated in India and the Mediterranean region of Europe. Cuminís aromatic seed is used as a condiment. It is also used to make curry, can be found in chili powders, and, along with other aromatic herbs, is used to flavor sausages. In biblical times, cumin was so valuable that it was often used to pay taxes.

Upcoming garden events

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.

Tomball: Arbor Gate will present a Fruit Tree Sale and Seminar, Sunday, January 25, at 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. A presale seminar presented by Heidi Sheesley, Treesearch Farms, begins at 9 a.m. The sale begins at 10:30 a.m. For additional information, call (281) 351-8851 or visit

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.

Granbury: The Lake Granbury Master Gardeners meet at 1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the Hood County Annex 1, 1410 West Pearl Street, Granbury. The public is invited to attend. There is an educational program each month preceding the business meeting. For information on topics call (817) 579-3280 or visit

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?

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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
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