June 24, 2009

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Getting to the root of science in a nutty way

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Dr. Leo Lombardini has gone underground to get the most top secret information in his field.

Lombardini is watching roots grow in his experimental orchards, and it is sort of nuts ó he's a pecan researcher.

His study is part of a national specialty crop research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lombardini, a Texas AgriLife Research horticultural scientist, will focus on pecans while researchers at other universities focus on almonds, pistachios and walnuts. The overall goal is to discover ways to produce a higher quality, more nutritious nut in the most efficient, sustainable way.

"There have been very little root research efforts," said Lombardini who is teamed on the project with Dr. Astrid Volder, Texas A&M University assistant professor of horticultural sciences. "And there has been nothing that looks directly at the root. As far as we know, this is the first research to look at roots in the real setting."

To do that, Lombardini bored a hole at a 45-degree angle about 20 inches from the trunk of 20 trees in a 400-tree orchard planted in February. Each hole was fitted with a six-foot clear plastic tube into which a camera will be inserted at various times in the growing year.

"Pecan trees are planted bare root, that is, with not much root system," Lombardini said. "The camera turns to capture a panoramic-type view. So we will be able to watch as these roots grow and see how they respond to various conditions over time."

A pecan tree spends its first five or six years growing into a mature tree capable of producing nuts. Spring is typically a period of growth for the trees, but it is not currently known whether first-year roots grow much in the first few months of planting. Lombardini hopes the initial shots from the camera in June will give an indication of first-year root growth.

"If we can see when various roots of a tree die or what happens to roots in a drought, for example, we then might know better how to schedule tree maintenance or apply nitrogen at the best time for the best results," Lombardini explained.

Lombardini plans to photograph the roots at least twice a year. A similar study in Las Cruces, N.M., will replicate his work, and the two can be compared.

The federal grant will provide $100,000 over three years for Lombardini's study.



As the eggs of a new type of phorid fly develops inside the heads of red imported fire ants, it takes over the control of the host, said Dr. Scott Ludwig, Texas AgriLife Extension Service integrated pest management specialist. Ludwig released fire ants infested with the parasite at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton on April 29. (Texas AgriLife Extension photo by Robert Burns)
New phorid fly species turns red imported fire ants into 'zombies'

By Robert Burns
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Zombie fire ants may not sound like a cool thing, but wait a minute, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

On April 29, on the grounds of the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton in East Texas, Dr. Scott Ludwig released fire ants infected with a new type of phorid fly, a minuscule parasite that only preys on red imported fire ants.

The infected ants will soon exhibit some very bizarre behavior, he said.

"First they become zombies, their movements under the control of the parasite. Then their heads fall off and the parasite emerges," said Ludwig, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist.

Previously released phorid flies only preyed on ants in disturbed mounds. In contrast, the species, Pseudacteon obtusus, that Ludwig released in April is attracted to foraging red imported fire ants and not disturbed mounds. Which is even better, he said, as attacks of ants are not dependent upon the mounds being disturbed.

The "zombified" fire ant is made to wander about 55 yards away from the mound to die.

"The parasite does this so it can complete development without being detected and attacked by the fire ant colony," Ludwig said. "By making their hosts wander away, the parasite is insuring its survival."

As with the new species, the previously released phorid fly species in Texas only attacks red imported fire ants. They inject their eggs into their bodies. In response, fire ants withdraw to their underground nests and reduce their foraging range, he said.

Once established, it was hoped that earlier releases of phorid flies would spread beyond the original release sites, and there has been evidence that they have, Ludwig said.

"Pseudacteon tricuspis was first released near Austin in 1995. From 2003 to 2006, it spread over 10,000 square miles," Ludwig said. "The second species, P. curvatis, was established 2004 and is beginning its spread."

The parasite isn't attracted to native ant species, he emphasized.

"We're hoping the new parasite will reduce the foraging of fire ants, and thereby allow our native ants to regain some footing," he said.

The release was part of the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project.

"The project was initiated in 1997 as a result of the Texas Legislature funding an exceptional item requested by Texas AgriLife Research," Ludwig said. "The project's goals are the management of imported fire ant to below economic levels on agricultural lands and to eliminate the imported fire ant as a nuisance or health threat in urban environments." The phorid flies infesting the fire ants Ludwig released were raised by Dr. Lawrence Gilbert, director of the Brackenridge Field Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin.

"UT researchers have taken the lead on phorid fly research in the state," Ludwig said.

More information on the project and fire ant research can be found at http://web.biosci.utexas.edu/fireant/index.html or http://fireants.tamu.edu/.

The new species was previously released in 2007 only in South Texas, where it was established but did not spread.

"It may not have spread because of the drought," he said.

Ludwig's release was the first in East Texas. In 2010, he plans to set out traps baited with live red imported fire ants to determine if and how rapidly the phorid fly has spread.

"Earlier data suggests they can spread 25 miles a year through wind-assisted dispersion," he said.


 

Gardening tips

When planting in the summer it is essential to keep newly planted seedlings shaded during the afternoon until established. Even plants that normally require full sun will benefit from a little less full sun. Use whatever is available: old boards, cardboard, shingles or shade cloth.

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 copy of Texas Gardener's 2009 Planning Guide & Calendar. Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.


Did You Know...

If you want a natural breath freshener, try chewing on a sprig of peppermint. It will even mask the odor of garlic breath.


Upcoming garden events

Quitman: The Friends of the Arboretum is hosting a photography contest to promote and document the natural resources, history and beauty of Wood County. Both amateur and professional photographers are encouraged to participate in this contest. Photographers are to submit electronic images of flowers, native plants, landmarks, architectural elements, and landscapes that depict one of the four seasons in Wood County. Images must have been taken within Wood County, and within the last two years. These photographs will be used by the Friends of the Arboretum various print and electronic media to be distributed at various venues and displayed on the Friends' website. First prize winners in each class will receive a professionally printed 11 X 14 canvas of their original work, which will be donated by jeb Originals in Winnsboro. Second and third place winners will each receive a ribbon. And, all prize winners will receive recognition from the display of their work in various venues and forums. Classes are: Adult Amateur, Adult Professional, Student Senior Division (Ages 17 to 14), and Student Jr. Division (age 13 and younger). There is no entry fee, but all entries must be accompanied by the completed official entry form, which can be downloaded at http://woodcountyarboretum.com. Entries must be received prior to midnight on July 1. Contestants may enter as many times as they wish, but a separate official entry form must be included for each entry. The Gov. Hogg Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, located in Quitman, is a 23-acre site dedicated to gardens, walking trails and the preservation of historic buildings. The development of the site is ongoing with volunteer help from Wood County Master Gardens, local garden clubs, various civic organizations and the generosity of the area businesses. The Friends of the Arboretum is a non-profit group dedicated to raising funds and volunteering time in support of the development of the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. For additional information, contact Pam Riley at (903) 967-2820 or email friendsarboretum@yahoo.com.

Woodway: Dr. Joe Masabni, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Vegetable Specialist, will present "Getting Ready for Fall" (Vegetable Gardening Program), Wednesday, July 8, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. at Carleen Bright Arboretum, 9001 Bosque Blvd., Woodway. For more information, contact (254) 757-5180.

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will hold its annual brainstorming meeting from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., July 9, at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. 8th St., Georgetown. Members and guests will share and discuss ideas for the coming year's programs. Refreshments will be served and guests are welcome. For more information, contact Billye Adams at (512) 863-9636 or visit http://www.npsot.org/WilliamsonCounty/default.htm.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association will present "Becoming A Garden Detective: Diagnosing Plant Problems" from 10 a.m. until noon, July 11, at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. Just when you think you've done everything right by your plants, one of them starts to go downhill. One of the biggest challenges for gardeners is correctly diagnosing plant problems and finding effective, safe solutions. Is your plant dying because of an insect, environmental or disease problem? Join us to learn the causes of plant problems, the process for diagnosing plant problems, and preventive garden management techniques. This class is free and open to the public. A plant clinic will run during the seminar to help you diagnose current problems so please bring samples of problem plants. For more details, see http://www.tcmastergardeners.org or call the Travis County Master Gardener's help desk at (512) 854-9600.

Victoria: Victoria County Master Gardeners will present "Water Gardening," Noon- 1p.m., July 13, at the Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St., Victoria. Pat Plowman will speak. Free to public. Bring sack lunch. For additional information, contact Victoria County Extension Office, (361) 575-4581.

Pearland: Dr. Carol Brouwer, Conuty Extension Agent for Horticulture, will present "Landscape Design" from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m., Tuesday, July 14, at Bass pro Shops, Highway 288 at the Sam Houston Tollway, Pearland. This free lecture is hosted by the Harris County Master Gardener Association. For additional information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

Seabrook: Donita Brannon, Horticulture Exhibits Manager of the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens, will speak on "Recovering from Ike" at 10 a.m., July 15, at the Meeting Room at Clear Lake Park (on the lakeside), 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. She will discuss plants that survived the hurricane along with rebuilding and soil remediation of the gardens after the storm. This free lecture is hosted by the Harris County Master Gardener Association. For additional information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

Austin: The Austin Pond Society will host the 2009 Pound Tour July 18 and 19. Approximately 15 ponds will be included in the tour on Saturday and another 15 on Sunday. For additional information, visit www.austinpondsociety.org.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patrico Master Gardeners will host "Xeriscape Gardening with Native Plants," presented by Karen Ivey, Administrator, San Patricio Municipal Water District, as one of their Brown Bag events, from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 21, at the Aransas County Library, 701 Mimosa, Rockport. For additional information, e-mail ararsas-tx@tamu.edu or call (361) 790-0103.

Victoria: Victoria County Master Gardeners will present "Mulching, Composting and Water Conservation," Noon-1 p.m., August 10, at the Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St., Victoria. Monica Pilat will speak. Free to public. Bring sack lunch. For additional information, contact Victoria County Extension Office, (361) 575-4581.

Schertz: The next Guadalupe County Master Gardener training class is for anyone with a love for gardening and a desire to learn more about horticulture. Classes are on Wednesday August 12 to December 9th from 6:15 p.m. until 9:15 p.m. and two Saturdays at the Schertz Civic Center, 1400 Schertz Parkway, Schertz. Instructors include Texas A&M AgriLife Extension specialists, staff and local experts, including Malcolm Beck, Patty Leander and Drs. Larry Stein and Mark Black. Topics include botany and plant growth, entomology, Xeriscaping, propagation, herbs and vegetables, tree care and pruning principles, composting and organic horticulture, water conservation and much more. Registration is $170 with a 10% discount if received by June 10, and $125 for 2nd household member if sharing a handbook. Payment plan also available. For more information, an application and a list of speakers, please email gsammermann@gvec.net or call (830) 372-4690. Applications are also available on our Web site at www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

Woodway: Steven Chamblee, Chief Horticulturist at Chandor Gardens, Weatherford, will present "Texas Tough Plants" (Improving your Landscape), Wednesday, August 12, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. at Carleen Bright Arboretum, 9001 Bosque Blvd., Woodway. Topics include: Best choices for annuals & perennials, trees, groundcover, shrubs & bushes, roses and accent plants. This free event is sponsored by McLennan County Master Gardeners and McLennan County AgriLife Extension. For more information, contact (254) 757-5180.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Society is bringing David Rogers' Big Bugs to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston at North New Braunfels Ave., this fall. The exhibit opens Labor Day weekend (September 5-7), and will remain on location through December 6.Featuring gargantuan sculptures of insects, the exhibit alters viewers' perceptions and magnifies the role of insects as nature's "hidden gardeners." Sculptures are constructed entirely from natural materials, complementing and blending with the existing landscape. Interactive programs for children and families, and integrated materials for educators, will be available at the Garden throughout the three-month exhibit. For more information, call (210) 207-3255, or visit www.sabot.org.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners meets at 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the AgriLife Extension Office - Aransas County, 611 E. Mimosa, Rockport. For additional information, e-mail aransas-tx@tamu.edu or call (361) 790-0103.

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 at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, February through December, at the Allen Heritage Center, 100 E. Main St., 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.

Pearland: 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 Bass Pro Shop, Highway 288 at Sam Houston Tollway, Pearland. For more information visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu or call (281) 991-8437.

Schertz: The Guadalupe County (Schertz/Seguin) Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) meets the second Tuesday of each month except July and August 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 guadalupecounty@npsot.org.

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.

Brownwood: Brown County Master Gardeners Association meets the second Thursday of each month, from Noon to 1 p.m., at the Brown County AgriLife Extension Office, 605 Fisk, Brownwood. For additional information, call Freda Day (325) 643-1077, or Mary Engle (325) 784-8453.

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.

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 Senior Circle Rooms, College Station Professional Building II, 1651 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 www.sallysfamilyplace.com/Clubs/GardenClub.htm.

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.

Cleburne: The Johnson County Master Gardener Association meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of each month. The public is invited to attend. There is an educational program each month preceding the business meeting. For information on topics call (817) 556-6370 or visit http://www.jcmga.org/.

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.

Glen Rose: The Somervell County Master Gardeners meet at 10 a.m., the third Wednesday of each month at the Somervell County AgriLife Extension office, 1405 Texas Drive, Glen Rose. Visitors are welcome. For more information, call (254) 897-2809 or visit www.somervellmastergardener.org.

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 http://www.hoodcountymastergardeners.org/.

Seabrook: The Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold an educational program at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at The Meeting Room at Clear Lake Park (on the Lakeside), 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

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.

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 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.

$21.30 plus shipping*

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

*Or with credit card by phone and receive FREE shipping. That is a $3.50 savings! Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted.


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? These new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of
volume 23 (November/December 2003 through September/October 2004),
volume 24 (November/December 2004 through September/October 2005),
volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006),
volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007), and
volume 27 (November/December 2007 through September/October 2008)*.

$16.99 per CD includes tax and shipping

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

*Other volumes will be available soon.


Sale! A book so good, even the insects like it

Thatís right. We have a small quantity of The Vegetable Book that have been nibbled on by silverfish. The result is very minor cosmetic damage. We canít sell them as new books at full price so we are forced to drastically reduce the price to $13.87 (includes tax and shipping). That is more than half off the regular price! This should appeal to all the tightwads out there as well as those who would like to have a second, not-so-perfect copy of Dr. Cotnerís timeless classic to carry with them to the garden as a working copy. Hurry while supplies last!

$13.87 includes tax and shipping! (while supplies last)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


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.

$26.63 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

*Mention Texas Gardener’s Seeds when ordering by phone and we’ll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


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.

$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.)



Texas Gardener’s Seeds
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