July 8, 2009

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Anonymous ugly Central Texas garden. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)

Ugly Betty move over, here comes Texas Gardener!

Who among us has not felt the shame of a garden gone awry —the stigma of an ugly garden, a weedy, bug-eaten pathetic mess. You know how it happens. Due to no fault of our own, somehow the garden just gets away from us. Perhaps it was an ill-timed vacation, a lengthy "honey do" list or perhaps it was one of those rare summer wet spells that drives our shadow from the beds. The bindweed pulls down our soul and the mites and stinkbugs destroy our hope. It usually happens in mid-summer when the challenges are greatest and our resolve the weakest. Of course, that is usually when kids and friends stop by to take a look at what we have been bragging about all spring. If only they had visited a month earlier.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it is time to turn that shroud of shame into a badge of honor. That is why we are sponsoring the First Annual Texas Gardener Ugly Garden Contest. Now, it is the time to be proud of that ugly garden! To enter, just send your name, address, phone number and one photo of your ugly garden to us at info@texasgardener.com and put Ugly Garden Contest in the subject line. The five ugliest gardens will be recognized in a future issue of Seeds. The owner of the Grand Prize winner will receive a 1-year subscription to Texas Gardener magazine, a Texas Gardener T-shirt and a Texas Gardener cap. Four runners-up will receive a not-so-ugly Texas Gardener cap.

The deadline for submitting entries is July 31, 2009.

Sorry, no pretty garden pictures allowed.



Melons come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and people around the world love them. Researchers at Texas AgriLife Research have mapped the melon genome with hundreds of DNA markers. (Texas AgriLife Photo by Kathleen Phillips)
 

Melon research sweetened with DNA sequence

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

People smell them, thump them and eyeball their shape. But ultimately, it's sweetness and a sense of healthy eating that lands a melon in a shopper's cart.

Plant breeders now have a better chance to pinpoint such traits for new varieties, because the melon genome with hundreds of DNA markers has been mapped by scientists with Texas AgriLife Research. That means tastier and healthier melons are likely for future summer picnics.

"This will help us anchor down some of the desirable genes to develop better melon varieties," said Dr. Kevin Crosby, who completed the study with Drs. Soon O. Park and Hye Hwang. "We can identify specific genes for higher sugar content, disease resistance and even drought tolerance."

The results are reported in the Journal of the American Society of Horticultural Sciences.

Melons are fleshy, edible cucurbits grown worldwide in a multitude of varieties. Not only are they economically important, the scientists noted, but they are a favorite among consumers internationally.

The average person in the U.S. eats about 25 pounds of melon every year, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University.

Scientists from France and Spain already had completed partial maps of segments of the melon DNA sequence. The Texas researchers connected those segments with new findings in their study to complete the entire melon genome map.

For the study, the Deltex ananas melon was crossed with a wild melon called TGR 1551. More than 100 of the offspring from that cross were grown in the AgriLife Research greenhouses at Weslaco, Crosby noted.

DNA was extracted from leaf tissue collected 21 days after planting. Results from these tests were integrated into partial maps created by other researchers.

Previous knowledge of melon DNA was like two sets of directions - one from Miami to Houston and the other from El Paso to Los Angeles. That would make one wonder how to get from Houston to El Paso. The study by Crosby's group, in essence, devised the path from Miami to LA and all points between.

In addition to the complete map, the researchers located genetic markers linked to fruit sugars, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and male sterility, which is useful for developing hybrid varieties.

The trio said the genetic map will be helpful for future studies in identifying fruit sweetness, quality, size, shape and resistance to disease.



Eastern screech-owl. (Photo by William Scheick)
Expecting the unexpected in the garden

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

In last week's column for this newsletter I mentioned my efforts at lawn-reduction, particularly a street-front windbreak providing a garden-belt for small wildlife. Michael Bracken, the editor of Seeds, asked me to elaborate a little on what one might expect from such a habitat.

The short answer is: if you build it, they will come.

And you might be surprised by which animals make an appearance one day.

We have wildlife-friendly gardens in the backyard, too, including a deeply shaded bamboo thicket located behind our cactus glasshouse. Our huskies love to act out their lupine fantasies in this shaded thicket — harmlessly, except for unwelcome and hapless rodents.

But one afternoon two weeks ago Simka, our youngest dog, was exhibiting approach-avoidance behavior I've seen huskies use when confronting a snake. As I hastily approached the bamboo, I saw on the ground what appeared to be an Eastern screech-owl. It had probably settled on the thick, dimly-lit bamboo as a relatively cool escape from the blasting sun and heat of that 103º day.

People who have lived with huskies know that they aren't very accommodating when it comes to commands, particularly when they are engaged in hunting or territorial-defense. But that day, amazingly, Simka obeyed me, left the scene and actually seemed relieved that someone else was going to deal with that odd creature.

The owl had flummoxed Simka by making clicking sounds while spreading its wings wide and rotating in small arcs. All of these diversionary tricks made Simka pause over her paws.

Initially I used a towel to pick up the rescued owl. The perfectly healthy owl was so relaxed it let me cradle it in my bare hands as I checked it for injuries. The visitor also calmly sat on a metal fence rail while I photographed it. Then I placed the owl beneath a bushy primrose jasmine in a section of our gardens where no dogs are allowed.

A little later I saw it fly away and disappear into the small wilderness preserve that abuts our backyard property fence. Two mockingbirds were loudly yelling at it.

I imagine that one night we will hear its distinctive whinnying.

As I said, if you build it, they will come. When anticipating animal visitors to wildlife-friendly gardens, expect the unexpected.

One day you might even find yourself holding an owl.


 

Gardening tips

Now is the time to decide if you can carry your spring-planted tomatoes through for a fall crop. Vines that have been ravaged by early blight (a big problem for a lot of gardeners this year) or are under attack by spider mites should probably be removed and new transplants set out in a different part of the garden. Don’t worry, those newly planted seedlings will survive just fine. Just be sure to give them plenty of water, some mulch and a little afternoon shade until established. If your spring plants appear healthy, then cut them back some, re-apply mulch and they will be productive until the first frost in the fall.

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...

Perhaps you have thought about it but never done it. Now, in July, between our two gardening seasons, is a great time to have your soil tested. Just think, you won’t have to guess anymore about what your soil needs. You can obtain testing information from your county extension office or online at http://soiltesting.tamu.edu. The cost is only $10 per test.


Upcoming garden events

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, County 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.


Lone Star Wildflowers: A Guide to Texas Flowering Plants

By LaShara J. Neiland and Willa F. Finley

Each spring throughout the celebrated Hill Country and well beyond, locals and visitors revel in the palettes and variety of Texas wildflowers. From the Panhandle canyonlands to the islands of South Texas, from the eastern Pineywoods to the farthest reaches of the arid Trans-Pecos, some 5,000 species dot Texas's 268,820 square miles. Now Lone Star Wildflowers offers easy identification through color grouping and a wealth of insight from the origin of scientific and common names to growth cycles, uses, history, and native lore.

Nieland and Finley have made countless forays with camera and notebook and have broadened their approach through years of research. In language accessible to every enthusiast, they offer wildflower lovers unparalleled enrichment.

$37.22 includes tax and shipping

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

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 22 (November/December 2002 through September/October 2003),
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.


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*

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*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
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2009. 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.

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