December 8, 2010

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Children’s Vegetable Garden competition

By Margarette Chavez
Master Gardener, Class 51

November 13 was a beautiful morning. A little chilly by Alamo city standards, perhaps, but the nip in the air only served to hone a competitive edge and to enhance the crisp, leafy winter vegetables carefully nurtured by an array of young gardeners. Twice a year, the AgriLife Extension, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, the Junior Master Gardeners, the Men’s Garden Club of San Antonio and the Texas Master Gardeners host the Children’s Vegetable Garden Program allowing hundreds of children, who would otherwise not have the opportunity, to experience the joys of gardening.

This particular morning, carefully bundled, rosy-cheeked children and their parents eyed tomatoes, broccoli, cabbages, and other winter veggies gracing 4x28 foot rows of uniform garden boxes. Each child eagerly selected as many as four entries from his or her respective plot for the Fall Children Vegetable Competition. No doubt, within the 58 plots, in the nine sections, there was produce worthy of best in show.

“Each child’s entry must meet the criteria such as color and size,” explained Vallerie Hartfield, a long-time volunteer from the Men’s Garden Club, “and it must be arranged precisely for presentation to the judges. The children practice their measuring skills and learn about fruits and vegetables.” An occupational therapist, Vallerie is very supportive of the educational aspects of gardening for children. She believes gardening is fun; it’s healthy; and it’s valuable.

Children, ages 8 to 13, must obligate to physically care for their vegetables for two hours every Saturday morning for approximately 16 weeks. In addition, all participants must pay a $25 nonrefundable fee to help with the cost of gardening supplies. But the price is minor considering that the program is a truly rewarding event. Parents are encouraged to join in so the gardening session provides quality time for families, education, exercise for all, and nutritious results.

Andrea Garcia’s 9-year-old daughter, Mia, participates. The $25 fee is worth every penny to both of them. Andrea finds it very cost effective. “Sometimes we come home with bags and bags of beautiful vegetables,” she said.

As for the children’s point of view, Rosie Rogers expressed it succinctly. “It’s fun to get messy and plant things,” she said.

The educational elements of the program cover a broad array of topics. The day of the competition South Texas Herpetological Association member Blaine Eaton of Devine Reptile Rescue displayed a large variety of snakes, most native to the area. Both children and adults listened to Blaine, mesmerized by the informative talk and the vibrant venomous and non-venomous creatures restrained in glass boxes. Chef Michael of CookWithMichael.com cut a CD of his cooking demonstration and spoke about nutrition. The audience was invited to sample dishes prepared on site. The chef’s explanation and food preparation served to reinforce what the children had previously learned about healthy eating by growing and sampling their own fresh produce.

Josephine Rodriguez, a second grade teacher at Lamar Elementary School in San Antonio, brings two of her students to the Botanical Garden. “Some kids come only once. It’s a trial and error situation; it’s not for everyone. But those who like it, commit. They can connect this experience to earth sciences, soil, plants… As for me, it’s therapeutic,” she admitted. Josephine and fellow teacher, Carrie Mayfield, maintain a garden at the school.

As the day warmed up, the competition heated up. Master Gardeners Tom Harris, John Opiela, and Joyce Felter teamed up with County Extension Office Agent David Rodriguez to judge the vegetables for quality and to select the best in show. There was ample competition. After thoughtful deliberation, however, Angela Lamm (Chinese cabbage), Rosie Rogers (broccoli) and Derrick Myock (kohlrabi) emerged as the victors of best in show. The winners received ribbons and an autographed copy of the book, My Family, My Friends and My Food by Michael Flores.

Although several agencies graciously serve as sponsors, it is actually David and his wife, Gina, who organize and coordinate the program. With the help of dedicated volunteers, David and Gina have been able to offer children in the San Antonio area an introduction to the satisfying world of gardening every spring and fall for more years than they care to remember. They can definitely look to the end of another successful year, but not for long. The spring program starts in February.



Ratoon rice field at Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Kathleen Phillips)

Click here to view a video interview with Ted Wilson, director, Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont.

Photosynthesis trackers shine light on new rice varieties

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

What looks like a flock of giant, robotic geese in a field near Beaumont is actually new technology shedding light on how scientists can develop better varieties of rice.

Specially designed equipment is monitoring photosynthesis in 14 rice varieties at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont, according to Dr. Ted Wilson, director and lead scientist on the study.

"Photosynthesis is the engine that drives crop growth, development and yield. By understanding the physiology behind photosynthesis better, we can use this information to determine what plants to select in a plant breeding program, with the end result being a more efficient and faster rate of developing new varieties," Wilson said. "In a nutshell, the faster one can develop a new variety, the greater the rate of yield increase and thus grower income."

In field studies, Wilson and his team are looking at a series of inbred rice varieties and their offspring, which are called hybrids. The idea is to try to determine the inheritance of different traits and how much of the photosynthetic rates of a variety can be inherited from the male and female plants.

Each variety is grown under a different cage which is automatically measured 58 times in 15-second increments during a three-day period. This is repeated over the growing season, totaling more than 635 measurements of five minutes for the plants in each cage, Wilson explained.

"We also measure detailed information on light interception, allocation of carbohydrates to different parts of the plant and uptake of nitrogen. So, we can get information on how much we're able to predict how a particular variety responds to a particular environment," Wilson said.

He said that the more light a plant is able to intercept, the greater the plant's growth and, hence, its yield. The study is comparing results of different varieties to see if some are able to intercept light better than others.

Wilson explained that a plant uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugars, which are the building blocks for plant growth and respiration.

"The plant allocates the sugars to different parts of the plant — the roots, leaves, stem, and grain — dynamically throughout the season as the crop grows," he said. "The manner in which this allocation occurs determines whether you end up with a plant that is largely vegetative at one extreme, or ends up using a lot of its 'energy' to produce, say, grain at the other extreme."

The goal of a rice breeding program, Wilson added, is to produce a plant that has enough vegetation to support the greatest amount of grain yield.

"This is very much a balancing act. If you select for a plant type that sends most of its energy to producing grain too soon, the plant will be small and stunted," he said. "At the other extreme, if you select for a plant type that puts most of its early and mid-season growth into vegetation, you can end with a very late maturing plant that has too much vegetation that costs the plant too much energy to maintain, which can result in a plant that either matures its grain too late or which cannot support much grain."

The team is considering three years of detailed data as part of its continuing rice breeding program.

"Our ultimate goal is to develop a new variety of rice, so we are working very closely with Dr. Omar Samonte who is a plant breeder and partner on this research, and Jim Medley who is the lead technician who keeps the project going," he said.


Gardening tips

Linda Parker takes her harvest of green tomatoes and wraps them in tissue paper or newspaper and places them in a box in the pantry. It may take a while, but most of them will ripen. Last year she had homegrown tomatoes through February using this method. To speed up the ripening process even more place a few green tomatoes in a paper bag with an apple and seal the bag. The apple will release a gas that will, in turn, cause the tomatoes to ripen earlier.

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 Texas Gardener 2011 Planning Guide & Calendar. Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.


Did you know...

If you have trouble with birds nesting in the crooks and crannies of your porch, try painting the ceiling blue. The birds will think it is just open sky and build their nest someplace else.


Upcoming garden events.

If you would like your organization’s events included in "Upcoming Garden Events" or would like to make a change to a listed event, please contact us at Garden Events. To ensure inclusion in this column, please provide complete details at least three weeks prior to the event.

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will meet at 7 p.m., Thursday, December 9, at the Georgetown Public Library, 2nd floor. There will be a silent auction and potluck dinner. Visitors welcome. For additional information, contact Susan Waitz at 512-948-5241 or visit http://www.npsot.org/WilliamsonCounty/default.htm.

Bryan/College Station: Applications are being accepted for the Brazos County Master Gardener 2011 Training Class which will be held from January to May. Classes meet on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Applications and more program information is available at http://www.brazosmg.com or contact the Brazos County office of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service at 979-823-0129 for more information.

Kingsland: Master Gardener Sheryl Yantis will present "Hill Country Roses." Learn about the easy care roses that are beautiful, require minimal maintenance and grow in our area. This program is presented free by the Kingsland Garden Club at the Kingsland Library on Friday, January 7. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. and the program follows at 1:45 p.m. For more information, visit http://yantislakesidegardens.giving.officelive.com/kgc.aspx.

Georgetown: The Williamson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will meet at 7 p.m., Thursday, January 13, at the Georgetown Public Library, 2nd floor. Ginger Hudson will present her new book Landscape Maintenance for Central Texas Gardens. Visitors welcome. For additional information, contact Susan Waitz at 512-948-5241 or visit http://www.npsot.org/WilliamsonCounty/default.htm.

Highland Lakes: The Highland Lakes Master Gardeners, a volunteer arm of Texas AgriLife Extension, will start Master Gardener Training Classes March 1 in Marble Falls. Visit http://yantislakesidegardens.giving.officelive.com/class.aspx to learn about the classes, cost, application and the Master Gardener program. Enrollment is limited so get your application in by January 15.

Houston: The Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. or until sold out, January 15, at Robertson Football Stadium on the University of Houston campus, Scott Street at Holman Street, Houston. This annual sale brings together far more types and varieties of fruit trees than can be found anywhere else in the greater Houston area. Fruit trees are easy to grow in metro Houston, with little care and big results. Learn more about growing fruit trees from Urban Harvest. For more information, visit www.urbanharvest.org.

New Braunfels: Registration has begun for the Comal Master Gardener Training Class which will be held from January 19 to May 11, 2011. Applications for the class are currently on the Comal Master Gardener website at http://www.txmg.org/comal/ or contact the Texas AgriLife Extension Service office at 830-620-3440 for more information. Class size is limited and applications are accepted in the order they are received. The class will meet each Wednesday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Comal County Office, 325 Resource Dr., New Braunfels (behind the Comal County Recycling Center).

McKinney: The Collin County Master Gardeners will present The Garden Show, March 26 and 27 at the Myers Park and Event Center near McKinney. The show is focused on providing research based horticulture information to area residents. For more information, contact thegardenshow@dfwair.net or visit www.ccmgatx.org/thegardenshow.

San Antonio: Viva Botanica! — A Garden Fiesta for the whole family will be celebrated at the San Antonio Botanical Garden on the first Saturday of the Fiesta week in San Antonio, April 9, 2011. Decorate your stroller or red wagon and wear your finest Fiesta attire to enjoy the spring beauty of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Start the fun with a children’s parade and the coronation of lucky young visitors to the Garden’s first ever Fiesta Flower Court. Viva Botanica crafts, music, inflatable “bouncies” and games combine the natural environment of the Garden’s 33 acres with Fiesta fun. Stamp your Fiesta Passport on your “walk across Texas” experience along the Texas Native Trail, where families can explore the East Texas lake, the Hill Country’s limestone spring and historic cabins, and the Bird Watch at the farthest reach of the South Texas region. Interactive stations along the way will engage guests of all ages in the wonders of the natural world. For home gardeners, the Botanical Society will host its popular Spring Plant Sale of San Antonio friendly plants, all lovingly grown in the volunteer greenhouse at the Garden. Viva Botanica activities will be offered 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The Garden is open 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Anne Marie’s Carriage House Bistro is open for weekend brunch 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The San Antonio Botanical Garden is located at 555 Funston at North New Braunfels Avenue with free parking. Admission is $8 adults; $6 students, seniors, military; $5 children age 3-13. The Botanical Garden is operated under the auspices of the City of San Antonio Department of Parks & Recreation and is open year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit www.sabot.org.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

Houston: The Harris County Master Gardeners meet at noon the first Tuesday of each month at the Texas AgriLife Extension, 3033 Bear Creek Drive (near the intersection of Highway 6 and Patterson Road), Houston. For additional information visit http://hcmga.tamu.edu or call 281-855-5600.

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.

Marion: The Guadalupe County (Schertz/Seguin) Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets on the second Tuesday of each month except July and August at The Library, 500 Bulldog, Marion. There is a plant exchange and meet-and-greet begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the program at 7 p.m. Visitors are welcome. For more information or an application to join NPSOT visit www.npsot.org/GuadalupeCounty/ or contact contact guadalupecounty@npsot.org.

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.

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.

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.

Arlington: The Arlington Men's Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the third Monday of each month (except December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact Lance Jepson at LJepson@aol.com.

Cleburne: The Johnson County Master Gardeners meet the third Monday of each month at McGregor house on the corner of West Henderson and Colonial Dr. in Cleburne. A program starts at 6 p.m., followed by a meet-and-greet with refreshments and a short business meeting. For information 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.somervellmastergardeners.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 7:00 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 precedes the business meeting. The public is invited to attend. For topic or other information, call 830-379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

Atlanta: The Caddo Wildflower Chapter of Native Plants Society meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Horne Enterprise building in Atlanta at 7 p.m. Visitors are welcome. For additional information, contact Kay Lowery at frostkay268@aol.com.

Brackenridge Park: The Native Plant Society San Antonio Chapter meets every fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the Lions Field Adult and Senior Center, 2809 Broadway at E. Mulberry, Brackenridge Park, except August and December. Social and seed/plant exchange at 6:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. For more information, contact Bea at 210-999-7292 or visit www.npsot.org/sanantonio.

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.

San Antonio: The Native Plant Society of Texas San Antonio Chapter meets the fourth Tuesday of the month, except August and December, at the Lions Field Adult & Senior Center, 2809 Broadway, San Antonio. Social and plant/seed exchange at 6:30 p.m., program at 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.npsot.org/sanantonio or call Bea at 210-999-7292.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 2:30 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of each month at the North Haven Gardens, 7700 Northaven Rd., 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.


In Greg's Garden:
A Pineywoods Perspective on Gardening, Nature and Family

An intimate and personal exploration of the life of one of Texas’s most beloved gardeners, In Greg’s Garden: A Pineywoods Perspective on Gardening, Nature and Family gathers in a single volume the first nine years of Greg Grant’s columns from Texas Gardener magazine.

Revised and updated from their original publication, these 54 essays reveal the heart and soul of a seventh generation native Texan who has devoted his entire life to gardening, nature and family. With degrees in floriculture and horticulture from Texas A&M University and extensive hands-on experience as a horticulturist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Stephen F. Austin State University, Mercer Arboretum and San Antonio Botanical Gardens, Grant has successfully introduced dozens of plants to the Texas nursery industry, all while maintaining long-held family property and renovating the homes of his ancestors in Arcadia, Texas.

In Greg’s Garden: A Pineywoods Perspective on Gardening, Nature and Family is a must-read for every Texas gardener.

Available only for Kindle. Order directly from Amazon by clicking here.


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 customizTexas Wildscapes program provides the tools you need to make ahome 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.

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Wish you'd saved them?

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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. 2010. 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