November 11, 2009

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


  The lighter side of gardening
Plant your seed capital for a great investment return

By John Hershey
Freelance Writer

Psst...

Over here. Looking for a safe haven in the economic storm? I've got an investment tip for you, and it's a sure thing. It's recession-proof and produces returns even Bernie Madoff's clients only dreamed of.

Here's the strategy: Invest $3.29 in a package of organic basil seeds. With about 100 seeds in the packet, that's a little over 3 cents per seed.

You also have to spend a little on water and invest some time planting, tending and harvesting. Book that asset as sweat equity.

Basil is a safe investment, but unlike a CD that ties up your money for years, it matures in only about 75 days. A riskier stock buy might give you what, 10 or 15 percent a year? But in less than a fiscal quarter, that seed will grow exponentially. A 3-ounce box of organic basil costs $2.99 at my local market. By a conservative estimate, my seed will become a huge bush with enough basil sprigs to fill about 50 such boxes during the season. So that one $0.03 seed will yield almost $150 worth of organic food, a rate of return of 499,900 percent. And you're still looking for a good mutual fund?

I harvest basil all summer, frantically making as much pesto, tomato soup and mozzarella appetizers as I can. But whole baskets of this gourmet herb inevitably wilt before I can use it. Imagine an investment that yields so much money you have trouble finding ways to spend it all. Gardening literally earns you more than you know what to do with.

Venture capitalists don't call it seed money for nothing. But for them it's a metaphor, which can easily go wrong because the economy isn't as reliably productive as the garden. I take it literally. Invest your seed money in seeds, and success is virtually guaranteed. Don't wait for a bull market. A fast-growing plant, not an animal, should be the symbol of investment success. I'm on a 10-year streak in an unbelievable basil market.

But, you may say, the garden's bounty is transitory. When the winter downturn comes, you can't park your gains in a safe place until the next boom. Oh, but you can! With a little planning, the summer garden will support you year-round in the luxury vegetable lifestyle to which you'll become accustomed.

The best place to safeguard your basil principal is the freezer. Mix it with some olive oil, garlic, walnuts, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to make batches of pesto, which you can freeze in ice cube trays. Then pop them into freezer bags, and all winter long you'll have a supply of delicious pesto cubes to whip up a quick pasta dinner or a unique martini.

(Just kidding about the martini. That would be really gross.)

And that's just one example. Diversify your portfolio with other high-value crops like tomatoes, along with some carrots and pumpkins to mature over the longer term, and multiply that return by a whole garden or even a few containers on the patio. The payoff is huge. (Don't forget to send me 3 percent of your yield as a commission.) Last year, in a small community garden plot, my investment in a few packets of seeds produced almost 300 pounds of healthy local food with a market value in the thousands of dollars.

That reduction in my grocery bill makes a big difference in tough times. Best of all, this strategy is counter-cyclical, both seasonally and economically. I've been eating big salads of arugula and other cold-tolerant greens all winter. And the garden is a hedge against high prices. Barack Obama even used the price of organic produce as a symbol of economic hardship during the campaign last year: "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula? I mean, they're charging a lot of money for this stuff." But there's an upside: as fresh vegetables become harder to afford at the store, the relative economic value of home-grown food increases.

With a freezer or pantry full of tomatoes, greens, beans and squash, we gardeners can ride out the slump until the next growing season comes. And we're living it up on gourmet pesto, not surviving on mac and cheese.

Food security is only one of the ways gardeners are better positioned to withstand an economic collapse. Gardeners don't mind starting over. We do it every year. When you're used to seeing everything you work for turn into compost, it's easier to take when the same thing happens to your 401(k).

Finally, the simple pleasures of the garden remind us that the things we accumulate during an economic bubble are really not that important. Like many people's these days, my so-called career is at a low point. I can't get laid off, but only because I quit my job to be a work-at-home dad. I'm not successful by our society's standard yardsticks: high salary, big house, fancy car. But with a decade's gains in the stock market suddenly erased, the wealth-avoidance strategies I've been following all these years are starting to look sensible. And thanks largely to my garden and the fresh food I grow, the exercise I get there and elsewhere, the extra time my low-prestige lifestyle gives me with my kids, and the lack of stress in my life, I'm healthier and happier than ever. No recession can take that away.

So I'm not waiting for the federal government. My garden stimulus package, full of basil, tomato and all my other seed capital, will arrive any day in the mail.

And I'm shovel-ready!

John Hershey is a dad, gardener, and recovering lawyer. To read more garden-variety humor and commentary, visit John's Web site: rakishwit.com.

This essay first appeared in the Denver Post, March 27, 2009. Reprinted by permission of the author


  The compost heap
More fire ants
 

"I'm a member of a large community garden," writes Bob Easter, responding to "The compost heap: Fire ants" (Seeds, November 4, 2009), "and fire ants seem to spread from one garden to another. I have been using dry horticulture molasses for the past two years and it has helped prevent new nests from showing up. I usually spread the dry molasses not only on the nest but all around the garden area, too, including the paths. While it may not completely keep them from invading again, the molasses does help improve the soil. Howard Garrett wrote about this method and the Natural Gardener in Austin recommends the product, too."


 

Gardening tips

"To protect woody perennials, especially lantana, in the winter months," writes Cindy Pierce, "cut them back to within 6 inches of the ground in late fall and heavily mulch over them. Spreading mulch over your perennials will not only shield your plants from potential very cold weather, but will also enhance the look of your beds during the winter season making a nice background for your holiday decorations."

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 2010 Planning Guide & Calendar. Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.


Did You Know...

Gummosis or the formation of amber gum on the bark of fruit trees may be caused by soil fungi, borers or too much soil moisture.


Upcoming garden events

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will meet at 7 p.m., Thursday, November 12, at the Georgetown Public Library, 2nd floor. Guest speakers are Brian and Shirley Loflin, who will be presenting their new book "Texas Cacti: A Field Guide." Visitors welcome. For additional information, contact Billye Adams, (512) 863-9636, or visit http://www.npsot.org/WilliamsonCounty/default.htm.

Austin: Learn to plant cool season vegetables with the Travis County Master Gardeners Association, 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., Friday, November 13, at the Travis County AgriLife Extension Office Demonstration Garden, 1600 "B" Smith Road, Austin. Learn how to plant seeds, which seeds need soaking, and proper transplanting methods. Planting using the square foot method and straight rows will be discussed during this hands-on session. For additional information, call (512) 854-9600 or visit www.tcmastergardeners.org.

San Antonio: The Texas Invasive Plant & Pest Council will host the third statewide conference on invasive species, November 13 and 14, at Trinity University in San Antonio. The 2009 conference will be a professional-level meeting including keynotes, concurrent sessions, posters, field trips and symposia. This conference is designed to serve scientists, land managers, state and federal agents, local governments, the green industry, and other professionals interested in invasive species issues in Texas. To register or to learn more about the conference program, call for papers, abstract submissions, or sponsors and exhibitors, visit the 2009 Conference Web site at www.texasinvasives.org.

Burnet: Join Master Gardener Sheryl Yantis for a free class on "Principles of Landscape Design Featuring Hill Country Gardens" in a Highland Lakes Master Gardener Green Thumb Program on Saturday, November 14 at 10 a.m. at the Herman Brown Free Library on the Town Square in Downtown Burnet. Visit http://yantislakesidegardens.giving.officelive.com/greenthumb.aspx for more information.

Houston: Urban Harvest will host "Food for Thought," a new, thought-provoking series of panel discussions on today's hot topics that support growing and eating locally. The panels will be lead by local and regional experts, and are scheduled for the third Wednesday of each month beginning November 18. Each evening will begin at 7 p.m. with a brief period to socialize, then a panel discussion from 7:15 until 8:15 followed by a Q&A session until 8:45. The scheduled dates and topics are: November 18, "Edible Plants in the Urban Garden"; December 16, "Fresh Fruit Year-Round"; January 20, "Living the Locavore Life"; February 17, "Tools of the Trade." The November 18 lecture will be held in the Multipurpose Room of the Oberholzer Residence Hall, 108 Oberholtzer Hall, University of Houston. The location(s) for the subsequent events will be announced later. For additional information, call (713) 520-7111.

Seabrook: Dr. Anthony Camerino, Commercial Horticulture Agent for Harris County, will present "Top Ten Tree Myths" as part of the Harris County Master Gardener Association's Master Gardener Lecture Series, beginning at 10 a.m., November 18, at The Meeting Room at Clear Lake Park (on the lakeside), 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. For additional information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

Houston: Urban Harvest's annual fruit tree sale will take place from 8 a.m. until noon, January 9, at the Rice University Football Station Concourse, Houston. The 2009 sale featured almost 6,000 trees and berries and the organizers except even more tree for this sale. For additional information, visit www.urbanharvest.org.

New Braunfels: Comal Master Gardeners are now accepting applications for their Spring 2010 Training Class beginning January 27 and ending May 12. Applications are currently on the Comal Master Gardener Web site at: http://mastergardener.comal.tx.us. Applications will be accepted until December 15; however, the class is limited to 30 people and applications are accepted in the order they are received. The class usually fills to capacity, so early registration is important. The class meets each Wednesday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. beginning January 27. The cost of the 16-week course is $150 and includes the Master Gardener Handbook published by Texas A&M, propagation supplies, and all other materials. The $150 is payable on the first class day in January. Topics covered in the class include Plant Growth and Development; Compost, Soils, Irrigation, and Fertilizers; Roses; Annuals, Perennials, and Bulbs; Organic Vegetable Gardening; Landscape Trees; Propagation; Fruit and Nut Production; Wildscapes and Native Plants; Pests and Diseases; Xeriscapes; Turf Grass; Home Landscapes and more. Speakers include professors from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System; Texas State University faculty and retired professors, specialists in the gardening field, and Master Gardener specialists. For additional information, call (830) 620-3440 or email askamastergardener@co.comal.tx.us. Classes are held at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, 325 Resource Drive, New Braunfels.

Houston: The River Oaks Garden Club will host the 75th Anniversary Azalea Trail. March 5, 6, and 7. Azalea Trail features tours of four private homes and three well-known historic sites: Bayou Bend, Rienzi and River Oaks Garden Club Forum of Civics Building and Gardens. Tickets for seven admissions: $15 before March 1, $20 during the event, or $5 per location. For additional information, visit www.riveroaksgardenclub.org or call (713) 523-2483.

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 library, 798 Schertz Parkway, Shertz. A plant exchange and meet-and-greet begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by a program at 7 p.m. 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.

Beaumont: The Jefferson County Master Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the AgriLife Extension Office, 1225 Pearl Street, Suite 200, Beaumont. For more information, call (409) 835-8461.

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.

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. 8th Street. Georgetown. For additional information, contract Billye Adams at (512) 863-9636 or visit http://www.npsot.org/WilliamsonCounty/default.htm.

Orange: The Orange County Master Gardeners meet at the Salvation Army in Orange on the second Thursday of each month. A covered-dish dinner at 6:30 p.m. is followed by a speaker and business meeting at 7 p.m.

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 at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month,  except December, at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak, Seguin. An educational program preceeds the business meeting. The public is invited to attend. For topic or other information, call (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

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.


Texas Wildscapes:
Gardening for Wildlife

By Kelly Conrad Bender

NEW EDITION of the popular Texas Parks & Wildlife book, now with fully searchable DVD containing all the plant and animal information you need to customize your backyard habitat.

Whether you have an apartment balcony or a multi-acre ranch, the Texas Wildscapes program provides the tools you need to make a home for all the animals that will thrive in the native habitat you create.

In Texas Wildscapes, Kelly Conrad Bender identifies the kinds of animals you can expect when you give them their three basic needs: food, water, and shelter. She then provides guidelines for designing and planting your yard or garden to best provide these requirements for the many birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates the environment will attract.

$31.88 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 20 (November/December 2000 through September/October 2001),
volume 21
(November/December 2001 through September/October 2002),
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),
volume 27 (November/December 2007 through September/October 2008) and
volume 28 (November/December 2008 through September/October 2009)*.

$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*

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
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