December 9, 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.

Tim Woods, Montgomery County Master Gardener, plants winter greens.

Many plants that can be grown in the Texas garden, such as these Serrano del Sol peppers. (Photos courtesy Texas AgriLife Extension Service)

Laugh at the recession: Eat the landscape

By Robert Burns
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service will host an "edible home landscape" seminar on Jan. 30 at the Hilltop Lakes Resort in Leon County.

"Laugh at the recession; eat the landscape," said Tommy Neyland, AgriLife Extension agent for Leon County, and organizer for the event.

Neland is only partially joking. It's possible to save "quite a bit" of money by growing one's own vegetables and herbs, he said.

"There's been a big increase in interest for home gardening the last couple of years, most likely because of the economy," Neyland said.

Featured speakers at this year's event will be Thomas LeRoy, AgriLife Extension agent for Montgomery County and co-author of The Southern Kitchen Garden: Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Flowers Essential for the Southern Cook.

Many people think The Southern Kitchen Garden is a cookbook, but they're wrong, LeRoy said.

"Kitchen gardening is a practice that developed in France and other parts of Europe," he said. "(It's) where you would grow the things you used in the kitchen in a garden located where you could easily access it by the back door of the kitchen."

At the seminar, LeRoy and his co-author, Bill Adams, retired AgriLife Extension horticultural agent, Harris County, will talk about what can be grown in the home garden and how to get started.

"Because what you use in the kitchen is not just vegetables — it includes herbs, fruits and even cut flowers — we'll talk about growing those too," LeRoy said.

Though it is possible to save money growing your own vegetables, especially "staples" such as tomatoes and green chilies, not all homegrown vegetables will be cheaper than grocery store produce.

"If you grow the right things, you can save money," LeRoy said. "If you try to justify gardening by growing potatoes, it's pretty hard to do. But if you grow tomatoes, it's pretty easy to justify it."

But there are other reasons to grow a variety of your own vegetables, he said, including freshness and flavor, and being able to control what pesticides are used, if any.

"The thing about Texas is that there are so many things we can grow here throughout the year," LeRoy said. "For example, in the winter, we can grow all the salad greens that are essential to the table, everything from broccoli, to lettuces, and even leeks and onions."

As far as fruits are concerned, blackberries and strawberries and some of the smaller fruits are a good fit for home landscapes with limited space, he said.

"It's hard to fit in a big pecan tree into a small backyard garden, but you can always fit in a small orange tree or tub of strawberries or a couple of blackberry plants," LeRoy said.

LeRoy and Adams will speak in the morning session. The afternoon speaker will be Judy Barrett, author of What Can I Do With My Herbs?

Registration for the event is $75 per person. A catered lunch, break refreshments and handout materials will be included.

"Due to the speaker cost, meal cost and room cost, to reserve a seat I have to require that attendees preregister and prepay," Neyland said.

Private pesticide applicators will earn two continuing education units, both in the general category, toward the renewal of their Texas Department of Agriculture licenses.

The seminar will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.

To preregister and for more information, call the AgriLife Extension office in Leon County at (903) 536-2531.

Robots for weed control in Eden?

By Stephen Young, Ph.D.
Washington State University
Center for Precision Agricultural Systems
Prosser, Washington

In the Biblical account, weeds were the result of the curse for Adam’s sin. In the 21st century, we are still toiling by the sweat of our brow to control weeds. What Adam and the rest of mankind have endured for thousands of years, may soon be controlled by a robot, similar to the ones that vacuum your floor, protect your car and entertain your kids.

Using computers to guide a machine, give it vision and allow it to make a direct application sounds like something being developed by the U.S. military. While the military is close to perfecting the art of seeking and destroying, scientists in the agricultural arena have only just begun to understand how this technology can be used to seek and destroy weeds.

High speed cameras and expert software with laser sensing capabilities have made computer applications a reality to a biological field that is governed by the unpredictable interaction of nature and the environment. Previously, these quick and precise applications were isolated to video games for teenagers (e.g., X-Box) and vehicle security systems for the family car (e.g., OnStar). Nowadays, computer technologies for sensing plants (e.g., WeedSeeker) and positioning equipment in the field (e.g., AgGPS) have begun to make the impossible a reality in agricultural cropping systems.

But how soon will this technology be available to the home gardener? It maybe a while, but probably not another thousand years. Currently, research on knowledge based machine vision systems (i.e., automation) is being conducted around the world in agronomic and horticultural cropping systems, which include dryland wheat, irrigated corn and high-value fruits and vegetables. For example, scientists in the U.K. have developed a weeding robot that uses hot steam to control weeds in organic sugar beet and carrot resulting in a significant reduction in the cost of hand labor. In Illinois and California, university professors have developed ‘smart sprayers’ that use video or hyperspectral cameras to detect the size and density of weeds, which are then either controlled immediately or spot treated later using a spatial GIS map. In addition to knowledge based machine vision systems, technologies are also being used to measure environmental factors to predict the occurrence of weeds and administer preventative control measures. For example, scientists in Denmark using sensors to measure soil properties (e.g., organic matter, texture, fertility) are working to correlate these abiotic properties with the location of dense weed populations.

Machine vision and RTK GPS guidance systems are the latest technologies being researched for use in weed detection and identification. Other technologies include guidance, precision in-row weed control, and mapping. A symposium at the upcoming annual meetings of the Weed Science Society of America will encompass these topics, as experts from around the country will gather to present the latest research and discuss future developments in this rapidly advancing area of technology that is being applied to weed control in cropping systems.

The actuality of a robot loading the dishwasher, walking the dog and pulling weeds in the garden may be several decades away, but then whoever thought the automobile or airplane were possible, just two centuries ago? One thing is for sure, though, weeds will always be a problem thanks to Adam.


Gardening tips

Are you looking for a fast crop that children can enjoy growing? Try radishes. Some varieties can produce a harvestable crop in as little as three weeks. Just be sure to have them plant small, staggered rows or you will have too many at one time. Now getting kids to eat them — that is another story!

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...

Not all nematodes are bad. In fact, many of those microscopic worm-like animals are very beneficial. They live in the film of moisture that covers soil particles. Just like earthworms, they help change organic matter into nutrients that plants need, especially nitrogen. Some nematodes prey on soil-dwelling pests such as white grubs and root maggots. You can find these beneficial nematodes available for sale at nurseries and garden centers that specialize in organic products.

Upcoming garden events

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) will hold their annual potluck supper and silent auction from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., Thursday, December 10, at the Georgetown Public Library, Second Floor, 402 W. 8th St., Georgetown. For additional information, contact Billye Adams, (512) 863-9636 or visit

Houston: The Houston Urban Gardeners (HUG) will meet at 6:30 p.m., Monday, December 14 at the Houston Garden Center, 1500 Hermann Dr. in Hermann Park, Houston. For more information, visit

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, are scheduled for the third Wednesday of each month, and began 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. Upcoming dates and topics are: December 16, "Fresh Fruit Year-Round"; January 20, "Living the Locavore Life"; February 17, "Tools of the Trade." The location(s) for the subsequent events will be announced later. For additional information, call (713) 520-7111.

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),
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volume 24 (November/December 2004 through September/October 2005),
volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006),
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Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac

Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac is a giant monthly calendar for the entire state — a practical, information-packed, month-by-month guide for gardeners and "yardeners." This book provides everything you need to know about flowers and garden design; trees, shrubs, and vines; lawns; vegetable, herb, and fruit gardening; and soil, mulch, water, pests, and plant care. It will help you to create beautiful, productive, healthy gardens and have fun doing it.

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Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

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Texas Gardener’s Seeds
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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