November 18, 2009

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Initial tests of subsurface drip irrigation systems by Texas AgriLife Extension Service engineers show that 12-inch spacing between the lines works best during a drought.

Subsurface drip irrigation systems hold the promise to save water on lawns and athletic fields, but optimum spacing of the lines and durability of the tubing has yet to be determined. In this Texas AgriLife Extension Service test, the middle section had tubing spaced 24 inches apart. On the far right, the tubing was spaced 12 inches apart; and on the left, there was no irrigation.

Several subsurface drip irrigation products were tested by Texas AgriLife Extension Service. These included both drip tape and drip tubing with varying spacing of the drip emitters. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photos by Charles Swanson)

Irrigation engineers test subsurface drip systems at College Station

By Robert Burns
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

"If we can make it work here, we can make it work everywhere," said Dr. Guy Fipps, Texas AgriLife Extension Service engineer in College Station.

Fipps was not singing about showbiz in New York, New York. Instead, he was talking about subsurface drip irrigation for turf.

Fipps and Charles Swanson, AgriLife Extension associate-urban irrigation, have been testing several subsurface drip systems near the Medical School on the Texas A&M University campus since July 2008.

The test was originally designed to test subsurface systems in the area's heavy clay soils. But it turned out to be a test of the systems under drought conditions as well, Fipps said.

"At the beginning of the summer of 2008, we had 54 consecutive days without rain. From May 23 to Aug. 25 — 94 days — the site only experienced four days of significant rain," he said.

The drought made one thing very clear, Fipps said.

"During droughts, there's no doubt that you can't go greater than 1-foot spacing," he said.

Subsurface drip irrigation is being promoted by irrigation companies as a potentially water-saving alternative to conventional sprinkler systems.

"But the thing that is not well understood is how durable the drip irrigation is," he said. "That is, how long it will last under a typical landscape installation."

Several factors can affect the longevity of subsurface systems, including shrinkage and swelling of soils, and trash, particulates and minerals in the water, he said. Shrinkage and swelling of soils can damage drip tape and fittings. Trash and other foreign matter in the lines can clog the small holes or emitters. As the lines are typically buried 2 to 4 inches deep, repair can be expensive.

College Station was the ideal location for the test because the heavy clay soils shrink and expand a great deal as they dry out and become wet again, he said. Also, the local water supply contains a lot of particulates and minerals.

"In sandy soils, you won't have shrinkage and expanding as you do with clay soils," Fipps said. "Also, many areas in Texas have better water quality. And we had a drought this summer, as everyone knows."

Fipps and Swanson tested eight drip irrigation products at different spacings of the drip lines. They also compared all four systems with and without an installed back-flush feature. The back-flush feature allows one end of the line to be open and any trash and particulates purged.

"Typically, landscape installations do not include a back-flush system," Fipps said.

The tests included products made by four manufacturers: Bowsmith, Inc., Netafim, Toro and Roberts (Roberts is now John Deere Landscaping). Swish, Inc. and Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. contributed drip fittings to the study, Swanson said.

"The products were installed in a 'square spacing,' which means that if the emitter spacing was 12 inches then the drip lines were installed 12 inches apart," Swanson said. "Flows for these products ranged from 0.17 gallons per hour to 0.53 gallons per hour."

The project consisted of two plots, each about one acre, with each plot divided into eight test sections. The layout on the two plots was the same, except the systems were equipped so they could be back-flushed and the others were not.

The visual differences were dramatic this summer, Swanson said. In the 18-inch and wider spacings, banding of green and browned-up grass could be seen.

"The reason that is significant is that you'll need a lot more drip tubing and that will be considerably more expensive, both in terms of material and installation," Fipps said.

As of late October, there have been no problems with emitters clogging or with tears in the tubing.

"However, it appears that during dry periods, if there is inadequate irrigation, the soil will shrink and compact around the drip tubing, thereby reducing and or preventing the free flow of water along the full length of the tubing," Fipps said. "After installation, we had problems with the drip tubing being pulled out of the fittings connecting it to the supply pipelines, which could have been caused by any combination of soil shrinkage and swelling, fluctuations in pressure and improper installation."

Fipps and his associates hope to continue the study for at least five years.


Gardening tips

"We made gardening boxes and did not have problems with gophers and moles the first few years," writes Donna Migl. "Then this last year we have had them invade our boxes. We learned how to complete our last boxes: put wire in the bottom of the boxes (chicken or hardware cloth), then put the soil in, and they can not get in the boxes. We are going to complete these boxes and use the soil from the original boxes. When the original boxes are empty we will add the wire to them and add soil."

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...

Stored pots that you plan to recycle can contain fungi and pathogens that could be harmful to the plants you plan to grow in them. To avoid that problem, mix a little bleach in some water (about 1 part bleach to 9 parts water) and pour the mixture in and over the pots before reusing.

Upcoming garden events

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

Houston: Urban Harvest Farmers Market will host a Thanksgiving FEASTival at 3000 Richmond at Eastside (between Kirby and Buffalo Speedway), in the back parking lot, Saturday, November 21, celebrating the autumn’s bounty and featuring many varieties of locally grown produce. Urban Harvest will host several local chefs who will be demonstrating how to make simple, delicious side dishes for the Thanksgiving meal. Included in the event will be Chefs Hugo Ortega of Backstreet Cafe and Hugo’s, and Ryan Pera of The Grove. Jessica Zapatero and Lauren Elizabeth Ballas of Green Lily Events will be at the market showing Houstonians how to design a show-stopping, environmentally-responsible Thanksgiving table, all under $30. They will be using products from the farmers market, as well as recyclable, eco-friendly products. Stop by for some simple, beautiful tips There is no admission at attend the Farmers Market. For more information, visit

San Antonio: Join Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas for Hiking the Creekway: Tobin Park and Beyond, 2:00 -4:00 p.m., December 5, Tobin Park, 100 Ira Lee Lane, San Antonio. Connect with other conservation-minded individuals and explore ancient trees that rise to 100 feet, lively birds that cavort from branch to branch and many other beautiful parts of nature in San Antonio. Ecologists, naturalists and others will guide guests from Tobin Park along the Salado Creek using the new hike and bike trail to explore the beauty of San Antonio that often goes unnoticed. Families welcome. The event is free for members of Green Spaces Alliance and $10 for non-members. For more information or to RSVP, contact

Schertz: The Guadalupe County (Schertz/Seguin) Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) will celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, December 8, with a pot-luck supper and an evening of fellowship. Come join us at 6.30pm at The Library, 798 Schertz Parkway, Schertz, and meet our members. Bring your favorite dish!  Visitors are always most welcome. For more information or an application to join NPSOT contact:

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

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: 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 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 or call (713) 523-2483.


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 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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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 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

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

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 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
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volume 22
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volume 23
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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
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*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.

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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
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.

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Texas Gardener’s Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ●