December 7, 2011

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Heirloom tomatoes. (Photo by William Scheick)

The garden reader:
Heirloom veggies and flowers

By William Scheick
Book Reviewer

William C. Welch and Greg Grant. Heirloom Gardening in the South: Yesterday’s Plants for Today’s Gardens. Texas A&M University Press, 2011. 537 pp. $29.95.

Jere and Emilee Gettle. The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally. Hyperion 2011. 228 pp. $29.99.

“Rather than make you a master gardener in a couple hundred pages,” Jere and Emilee Gettle hope that the readers of their Heirloom Life Gardener will “discover how much joy a $2 packet of seeds can bring to you and your family.” The packet they have in mind ideally is one of the over 2 million they sell each year from their beautiful catalog for the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

In “The Joy of Gardening Magazines” I shared my delight in The Heirloom Gardener, a Baker Creek quarterly published by the Gettles. So I had high expectations for The Heirloom Life Gardener, and I was not disappointed.

The second half of this luscious book is devoted to heirloom vegetables — a perfect how-to guide with recommendations for specific reliable varieties. The first half of the book offers an entertaining autobiographical account of Jere Gettle’s conversion to heirlooms that started when he was only 17 years old and eventually led to world travels in search of heirloom seeds.

It led to so much more, too. “My passion for promoting sustainable, local food has long been intertwined in all aspects of my life,” Gettle writes, “and in 2006, it led me to my wife. … When she walked into the seed store in March of that year, my heart stood still.”

As for the store, its keys were kept above the front door. “That way, if one of our neighbors really needed turnip or rutabaga seed, they could come by, grab a few packets, and get back to us later with a couple of dollars or some fresh produce.”

If you want to understand why heirloom gardening is important in a world increasingly defined by industrial agriculture, or if you would like some insight into what makes an heirloom aficionado’s heart race or if you simply wish to re-experience your own delight in growing heirlooms, The Heirloom Life Gardener is a must-have purchase.

It’s a book to be savored.

Although there is no firm agreement about what qualifies a plant for heirloom status, generally the term is applied to non-hybrid, open-pollinated plants over 50 years old. They tend to be pass-along plants, often with an interesting history.

William Welch and Greg Grant take a somewhat broader view of the word “heirloom.” For them, it refers to “our Southern gardening heritage,” to “tough … living antiques,” to “the best-adapted and ‘time-tested’ species for the South.”

The result of their perspective is a big, inclusive and rich survey that commences with a consideration Native American, Spanish, French, African, English, German, Italian and Asian horticultural influences. There’s a nifty chapter, too, on “Natives, Invasives, Cemeteries, and Rustling.”

Most of Heirloom Gardening in the South is devoted to specific plants, each of which is superbly profiled and illustrated. The book is such a cornucopia of plant selections with pertinent information that nearly every reader is likely to be surprised by one or another entry.

At the top of my surprise-list was the blackberry lily with foliage that can “fool the gardener” into thinking it’s an iris. I hate to admit it, but I have never seen one of these day-blooming naturalized perennials. Now that I have been introduced to this cutie, I want it.

Heirloom Gardening in the South primarily features flowering plants, while The Heirloom Life Gardener celebrates vegetables. So, in effect, these well-made books are companion volumes.

Both make for fascinating reading and will be especially prized by the heirloom gardener in your life.


Gardening tips

Why not grow your own tomato transplants this year? You can select the varieties you want, rather than settling for what is available come planting time. Plant your seed in trays or small pots and place them in larger trays partially filled with water on top of your refrigerator. It is important to bottom water the transplants to lesson the chance of damping off disease. Once they seedlings start to emerge, place the plants under fluorescent lights. Keep the light bulbs within a few inches of the leaves, raising the light as the plants grow. In three to four weeks you can step your transplants up to larger containers and harden them off by setting them out on a protected patio or porch during warm spells. This will help them make the adjustment to outside conditions once all danger or frost has passed.

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...

Muscadine grapes don’t produce bunches of grapes. Instead they produce lots of clusters. On a per square foot basis, they out-produce bunch grapes and are resistant to Pierce’s disease, the most limiting factor to grape production in Texas.


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.

La Marque: Terry Cuclis, a Galveston County Master Gardener, will present "Heirloom Tomatoes at a Glance" from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m., December 10, at Galveston County AgriLife Extension Office in Carbide Park, 4102-B Main Street (FM 519), La Marque. The presentation will cover the advantages, disadvantages and history of heirlooms. More than 25 heirloom varieties will be discussed. Heirloom tomato seeds will be made available to the participants. 

Comal County: Applications are now being accepted for the Comal Master Gardeners classes starting January 18 and running through May 2. Class size is limited to 30. For more information, visit http://txmg.org/comal/, call AgriLife at 830-620-3440, or email vicepresident@mastergardener.comal.tx.us.

Houston: The Great Plants for Houston Fruit Tree Sale will take place at the Texas AgriLife Cooperative Extension, 3033 Bear Creek Dr., Houston. The sale opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 1 p.m., Saturday, January, 28. The fruit tree varieties offered at the sale will be adaptable to grow and produce in the Houston area climate. See a selection of avocado, apple, fig, persimmon, pomegranate, plum, pecan, peach and even surprises such as blackberry bushes. Arrive early; those blackberry bushes always sell out fast. An “Ask a Master Gardner” booth in the Extension auditorium will be staffed by experts ready to discuss garden, fruit tree planting and pruning questions. There will be a garden book sale In the Extension Lobby offering the latest in information about gardening. For more information, call 281-855-5600.

New Braunfels: The Comal Master Gardeners will sponsor a Backyard Vegetable Gardening Seminar at the New Braunfels Convention Center on Saturday, February 11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring Patty Leander, contributing writer to Texas Gardener magazine, and Daphne Richards, Travis County AgriLife Extension Agent. Included in the $47 registration fee are demonstrations with hands-on activities, door prizes, detailed handbooks and lunch. Attendance is limited. Register at http://txmg.org/comal/future-events/seminar. For additional information, call 830-620-3440.

Nacogdoches: The SFA Gardens at Stephen F. Austin State University will host its annual Garden Gala Day from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the SFA Pineywoods Native Plant Center, 2900 Raguet St. A wide variety of hard-to-find, “Texas tough” plants will be available, including Texas natives, heirlooms, tropicals, perennials, unusual species, and exclusive SFA introductions. Plants are extensively trialed in the gardens before being offered to the public. This popular event features the annual spring plant sale benefiting the SFA Mast Arboretum, Pineywoods Native Plant Center, Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, Gayla Mize Garden, and educational programs hosted at the gardens. The educational programs at SFA Gardens reach more than 15,000 students ages 1 to 100 on a yearly basis. The public is encouraged to arrive early and bring a wagon. For more information, call 936-468-4404, or visit www.sfagardens.sfasu.edu and click on “Arboretum” then “Garden Events.”

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: Monthly meetings of the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners are held at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Aransas County Office, 611 E. Mimosa, Rockport. For additional information, e-mail aransas-tx@tamu.edu or call 361-790-0103.

Wichita Falls: The Wichita County Master Gardener Association meets at 5:30 p.m. at the AgriLife Extension Office, 600 Scott Street, Wichita Falls, on the first Tuesday of each month. For more information, visit http://www.overthegardengate.org or call 940-716-8610.

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. 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.

Brownwood: The Brown County Master Gardeners Association meets the first Thursday of each month from noon to 1 p.m. at the AgriLife Extension Office, 605 Fisk Ave., Brownwood. For further information, call Mary Green Engle at 325-784-8453.

Gonzalas: Gonzales Master Gardeners Association holds their monthly meeting on the first Thursday of each month. A short program is presented. The meeting is held from noon until 1 p.m. at 1405 Conway St. (Odd Fellows Lodge). Bring a bag lunch, drinks provided. Contact AgriLife Extension Office at 830-672-8531 or e-mail gonzales@ag.tamu.edu for more information.

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.

Evant: The Evant Garden Club meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m., usually at the bank in downtown Evant. To confirm the date, time and place of each month's meeting, call 254-471-5585.

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.

Longview: The Gregg County Master Gardeners Association meets the second Wednesday of each month from noon to 1 p.m. at the AgriLife Extension Office, 405 E. Marshall Ave., Longview. The public is invited to attend. There is an educational program preceding the business meeting. For further information call Cindy Gill at 903-236-8429 or visit www.gregg-tx.tamu.edu.

Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, meets the second Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. at 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport, to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including historical uses and tips for successful propagation and cultivation. 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.org and http://rockportherbies.blogspot.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 am at the Peace Lutheran Church, 2201 Rio Grande, College Station. Expert speakers, plant sharing, and federated club projects help members learn about gardening in the Brazos Valley, floral design, conservation, and more. For more information, visit http://www.amgardenclub.com/.

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 at 2 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at McGregor House, 1628 W. Henderson, Cleburne, which includes a program and a meet & greet. For more information, call Diane Asberry at 817-558-3932.

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 817-263-9322 or visit www.ogcfw.webs.com.

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.

Leander: The Leander Garden Club meets on the fourth Thursday of each month (except July and August) at 10:30 a.m. at the Leander Presbyterian Church, 101 N. West Drive, Leander, unless there is a field trip or an event at a member's home. Following a short business meeting, there is usually a program, followed by a shared pot-luck luncheon. To confirm the meeting place and time, please call Cathy Clark-Ramsey at 512-963-4698 or email texascatalina@yahoo.com.

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.


Sale! A book so good, even the insects like it

That’s right. We have a small quantity of The Vegetable Book that have been nibbled on by silverfish. The result is very minor cosmetic damage. We can’t sell them as new books at full price so we are forced to drastically reduce the price to $21.21 (includes tax and shipping). That is a steep discount off the regular price! This should appeal to all the tightwads out there as well as those who would like to have a second, not-so-perfect copy of Dr. Cotner’s timeless classic to carry with them to the garden as a working copy. Hurry while supplies last!

$21.21 includes tax and shipping! (while supplies last)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


The Texas Tomato Lover's Handbook

The best thing for tomato enthusiasts since the tomato itself! William D. Adams draws on more than thirty years' experience to provide a complete, step-by-step guide to success in the tomato patch. Learn everything from soil preparation, planting, feeding, caging and watering. Liberally sprinkled with the author's easy humor and illustrated with his own excellent photographs, the must have book has everything you'll need to assure a bumper crop! 189 pages. Lots of color photographs!

Only $26.69 for Seeds readers! Free shipping!

To take advantage of this special offer, call toll-free 1-800-727-9020.

Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted.


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.


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),
volume 28 (November/December 2008 through September/October 2009),
volume 29 (November/December 2009 through September/October 2010), and
volume 30 (November/December 2010 through September/October 2011)*.

$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.


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.

$31.88 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.)


Become a Texas Gardener fan on Facebook

Become a fan of Texas Gardener magazine on Facebook. See what we're up to at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Gardener-Magazine/301356291835?ref=nf.


Texas Gardener’s Seeds is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2011. 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