August 15, 2007
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A waterwise garden in west central Texas. (Photo by Robert Dailey)
Planning a waterwise
By Robert Dailey
One of the most important waterwise, xeric (and EarthKind) garden chores you can do now is think of ways to conserve water, direct it to the plants that need it, and save it for future use.
If it's been unseasonably dry, then you're going to need to water. Even in winter, you should water xeric gardens once a month when it's dry. In the early spring, increase it to every two weeks, and then once to twice a week in summer, depending on the amount of precipitation in your area.
In addition to direct watering, now's the time to turn your attention to water retention, to direct water onto your plants, or to save it for later use.
Swales and berms: Swales are structures you can do yourself, using simple materials, to impede water flowing down slopes.
A swale can be small — only a few inches high — or it can be large — several feet high. The bigger the swale, the harder the work. Here's how you do it. In an area that has evidence of erosion (a small rivulet can eventually expand into an immense arroyo in desert soil), dig a small (six inches deep to several feet deep...you decide how hard you want to work), semi-circular trench with both ends of the semi-circle facing upslope.
The semi circle can be several feet in diameter, or 20 feet or more in diameter. Inside the trench, lay down rolled newspaper end to end. It doesn't have to be newspaper. I've used dead pinion twigs, straw or mulched plant material. Then, taking dirt from the inside of the semi-circle, cover the material.
As rainfall or snowmelt comes down the eroded area, it is impeded by the swale and absorbed by the dirt and material. The water will also bring down small bits of dirt and sand, and begin to fill in the semi-circle. Plant native wildflower seeds inside the semi-circle. (Right now is a good time to plant wildflowers.)
As the wildflowers establish themselves, their roots will hold more and more soil around your swale, creating a lovely hillside desert oasis.
Berms are also very simple. When you plant something (particularly established plants you've purchased), build a small earthen or rock wall around the plant. The berm's diameter should be at least twice that of the container. The berm is there to retain water and mulch (I'll explain that in a later article) long enough for it to seep down to the plant's roots.
As you begin to think in water-wise terms, you're going to devise some interesting water conservation and water use methods of your own.
Originally published on Suite101.com.
The lighter side
By Michael Bracken
When rain finally came to central Texas, it didn’t know when to stop. At first my neighbors were overjoyed; now they’re just waterlogged.
It rained so much that I put mud flaps on my lawn mower, I wore water wings and a snorkel just to take out the trash, my wife strapped life jackets on all of her potted plants to keep them from drowning if the water level in the front yard rose any higher, and Seattle is officially jealous.
And just when my neighbor, the gardening Good Samaritan, started searching the Internet for a chart to convert the measurements on his Ark blueprints from cubits to feet and inches, the rain stopped.
What wasn’t under water was gloriously green.
I discovered that rain is like Rogaine for lawns. Where I once gave much of my lawn a “rake-over” — combing longer blades of grass over bare spots and hoping no wind blew the grass out of place — I now have grass growing where nothing has sprouted in several years.
Rain — excessive amounts of rain — finally resurrected every dead spot in my yard. What I thought I had killed returned to life. The pecan trees are heavy with nuts. The crapemyrtle is a riot of color. Flowers are blooming on plants that I had never seen flower.
My wife, ever the optimist, locked me in the garage. “Give the plants a chance,” she insisted. “Without your help this year, they just might survive.”
For once, I plan to take her advice.
"Gardeners wear gloves, but still our nails become dirty and broken," writes Kimberly Andrews. "To provide extra protection, place part of a cotton ball into the glove fingers tips. Before putting on the gloves, scratch a soap bar to fill the area underneath your nails. After gardening, wash your hands to remove the soap and grime."
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 seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.
Did you know...
The best garden soil must be fertile with a balance of organic matter and minerals. Organic matter is the decaying remains of plant and animal life that is transformed by bacteria, fungi, insects and worms. Minerals result from the breakdown of the underlying rocks that are dissolved in the water in the soil.
Upcoming garden events
Victoria: The Victoria Master Gardener training classes will begin August 2 and continue through November 29. Classes are held every Thursday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. except for Thanksgiving week. The cost is $135.00 plus an optional $30.00 for a bus trip to Corpus Christi Botanical Gardens. Topics are botany, propagation, diagnosing plant diseases, use of pesticides, herbs, vegetables, perennials, roses, working with Victoria soils, turf grasses, landscaping horticulture plus other useful topics. Additional information may be obtained by calling the Victoria County Extension Office, (361) 578-4851.
Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener training classes will begin August 7 and continue through December 4. Most classes are held Tuesdays from 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. except for the week of Thanksgiving. The cost is $175.00, of which $50 is refunded following completion of 50 volunteer hours for Master Gardener certification. Topics are basic botany, propagation, diagnosing plant problems, entomology, home vegetable gardening, attracting birds and butterflies, plant selection, soils and fertility, turf, trees, palms, landscape design and Xeriscape, Earth Kind gardening, composting, plus other useful topics. More information is available by calling the Aransas County Extension Office, (361) 790-0103.
Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will be sponsoring training classes August 22 through December 5. Classes will meet every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Texas Cooperative Extension Building, 210 East Live Oak, Seguin. Application deadline is July 31. Enrollment is limited to 30 paid students. For more information and application forms, visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org or call the Guadalupe County Extension Office at (830) 379-1972.
Austin: The Fifteenth Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26 at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2200 Barton Springs Road, Austin. Sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society, the event will celebrate the wonders of bamboo with presentations, demonstrations and education information, including Bamboo 101, a Bamboo Kite Making Workshop led by Greg Kono, and Bamboos of Southeast Asia presented by Harry Simmons. Bamboo plants and crafts will be for sale. For additional information, call (512) 929-9565 or visit www.bamboocentral.net.
San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden is sponsoring a trip to Italy September 4 through 15, featuring Italy's villas and gardens. Escorted by Bob Brackman, the Director of the Garden, an exceptional itinerary has been designed for lovers of leisurely travel and beautiful homes and gardens. Famous for their gardens, Italians still build on their ancestors' legacy with the creation of exquisite country villas surrounded by terraced, fountain-filled gardens that have become symbolic of Italian style. Experience the rich cultural heritage of Italy. Visit special gardens, famous museums, the important cities of Florence and Rome, plus the Lake District, and the small villages which make Italy so charming, such as Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita and Tuscan villages. Feast on fabulous Italian cuisine and enjoy la dolce vita. Land cost per person sharing is $3550 plus air, which includes a $100 tax deductible donation, most meals and gratuities. For more information, contact Marianne Martz of Fuller Travel at (210) 828-6311 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardener Association will sponsor its annual Fall Gardening Conference at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 400 Rose Park Drive, Tyler, on Saturday, September 8, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. A plant sale and expo will be held at Harvey Hall and Convention Center following the conference, from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Conference speakers are Steven L. Chamblee. chief horticulturalist for Chandler Gardens in Weatherford, and Keith Kridler, cultivator and merchant of daffodil varieties including antique daffodils that are no longer or not commonly produced. Admission to the conference and to the plant sale is free. For additional information, call (903) 590-2980.
Independence: The Herb Association of Texas is hosting its annual conference September 14 and 15 at the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence. "Explore the Senses Through Herbs" is open to the public. Jim Long of Long Creek Herb Farm is the featured speaker. Register via www.texasherbs.org or call (830) 257-6732 for details and to have registration material mailed to you.
Amarillo: Potter/Randall County Master Gardeners will be exhibiting inventive container gardens and cut flower arrangements during the first two days of the Tri State Fair, September 14 and 15. The exhibit will take place at the Potter County Extension Office on the Tri State Fairgrounds from noon until 8 p.m. both days. See examples of small space gardening and cut flowers that flourish in the panhandle area. Admission is free. For more information, call (806) 373-0713.
Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association “Hidden Gardens Tour & Fall Plant Sale” will be held Saturday, September 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Hidden Gardens Tour and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Fall Plant Sale at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Get your tickets and maps at Green Acres for this one-day event in addition to purchasing those much-wanted plants that you can’t find anywhere. The maps will lead you to wonderful Hidden Gardens in both Aransas County and San Patricio County. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres, which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. Admission is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets and/or questions contact the Aransas County Texas Cooperative Extension, Rockport, at (361) 790-0103.Lewisville: The Denton County Master Gardener Association Garden InfoFest will be held Saturday, October 9, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, 900 N. Kealy Ave. Gardening seminars, educational demonstrations, plant sale, garden shopping, tour of gardens, children's activities. Admission is free. For more information, call (940) 349-2883, or visit www.dcmga.com.
Fort Worth, Dallas: Visit America's very best, rarely seen, Private Gardens. The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program has been opening the gates to America's best private gardens since 1995. The 2007 season features more than 350 gardens across 21 states. Learn about gardens participating in your area through the Open Days Directory, an annual publication listing open gardens with garden descriptions, open dates and hours, and directions. To purchase a Directory or for more information, call (888) 842-2442 or visit www.opendaysprogram.org. The $5 admission fee supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy's work of preserving exceptional American gardens such Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead. 2007 Texas Open Days: Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.
Belton, Temple, Killeen: The Bell County Master Gardener Association will host the Fall Glory garden tour Saturday, October 20, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens in Belton, Temple and Killeen will be showcased. Admission is $5 for adults. For additional information, contact Sue Morgan at (254) 698-8668.
St. Francisville, La.: The 2007 Southern Garden Symposium will be held October 26 and 27 in St. Francisville, La. Friday workshops held at Afton Villa Gardens include "Creating Interior Focal Points through Floral Design," led by Dr. James DelPrince; "Pruning for Plant Health," led by Martha Hill; "21st Century Gardening: Plants, Products and Practices," led by Nellie Neal; and "Timeless Tips for Fool Proof Landscapes," led by Mary Palmer and Hugh Dargan. The Friday evening cocktail buffet will be held at Live Oak Plantation. Saturday lectures held at Hemingbough include "Hot New Flowers and Captivating Combinations," led by Norman Winter; "Furnishings for the Garden: 1750-1900," led by H. Parrot Bacot; and "Garden Design Inspirations: Seeing Art Design Elements in Nature and Applying them to Southern Garden Designs," led by Edward C. Martin. $60 per person, per day admission includes lunch. Admission to the Friday evening cocktail buffet is $35 per person. For registration and additional information, contact Lucie Cassity at (225) 635-3738 or write to Southern Garden Symposium, P.O. Box 2075, St. Francisville, LA 70775.
Waco: The Texas Gourd Society presents its 12th annual Lone Star Gourd Festival October 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave., Waco. Featured will be gourd artists and crafters, demonstrations, seminars and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 are free. For additional information, visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.
Independence: The Antique Rose Emporium at 10,000 FM 50 in Independence will host their 20th Fall Festival of Roses November 2 through 4. Speakers, who will present a variety of garden related topics, include Dave Wittenger, Dave’s Garden Web; Stephen Scaniello, Heritage Rose Foundation; and Chris Carley, National Arboretum Horticulturist. All seminars are free to the public. Old Garden roses, including Earthkind and Pioneer Roses, herbs, perennials, and Texas natives will be available for sale. For additional information, visit www.weareroses.com or call (979) 836-5548.
New Braunfels: Hill Country Orchid Society's "Wurst Orchid Show & Sale" will take place Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the New Braunfels Elks Lodge, 353 S. Seguin, New Braunfels. Admission is free. For more information, call (830) 629-2083.
Galveston: Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens at the sixth annual Festival of Lights November 17 through January 5. This whimsical celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 17, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Festival of Lights is celebrated Thursday through Sunday November 17 through December 16, and daily beginning December 17. Transforming its lush tropical garden setting into a winter wonderland, Moody Gardens will be adorned with more than a million twinkling lights and dozens of light displays. In addition to experiencing the lights, guests can also strap on a pair of skates and glide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink at Moody Gardens. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or even gaze upon a giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will feature a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Three films will be playing at the IMAX 3D theater and two films will be playing at the Ridefilm theater. The Garden Restaurant will feature a delectable holiday buffet, offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Group rates of $20 per person are also available for groups of 20 or more, and include admission to Festival of Lights and the holiday buffet. Admission into the Festival of Lights is $5.95, and tickets to additional attractions including the Rainforest Pyramid, holiday IMAX 3D film, holiday Ridefilm, Outdoor Ice Rink and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, can be purchased for only $4.00 each. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.
Jackson: For several years John Panzarella has hosted a citrus tasting and open house in his backyard, 404 Forest Drive Lake Jackson, which is about 50 miles south of Houston. The next open house will be Saturday, December 15 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Taste 40 to 50 citrus varieties and see different varieties of fruit trees. Panzarella has approximately 200 different varieties of citrus, 50% to 70% fruiting, plus several varieties of persimmon, sapote, guava, pawpaw, loquat, pomegranate, avocado, papaya, fig, peach, passion fruit, mango and pecan trees growing in his backyard. You are invited to visit, taste the citrus, and see one of the largest citrus collections in the state of Texas and the largest collection north of the Texas Rio Grand valley. See the giant Panzarella orange and the giant 10 lb. Panzarella cluster lemons. You will also have the opportunity to view a multi-grafted tree which has grapefruits, tangerines and oranges growing on it. For more information, call (979) 297-2120, e-mail email@example.com, or visit http://johnpanza.googlepages.com.
Garland: The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.
Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., 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.
Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.
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.
Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.
Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.
Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.
If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.
Getting hammered by bad plant selections?
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Fiber row cover
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Publisher: Chris S. Corby ● Editor: Michael Bracken
Texas Gardener's Seeds, P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714 ● www.TexasGardener.com