What’s really killing Texas trees?
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'Festival-of-Flowers' - Click here for more information.
Here are a couple of great educational opportunities for adults and youth in becoming better gardeners in 2013.
Bexar County Master Gardener’s
June 25, 2013 (Tues) 6:30-8:30 pm Backyard Gardening-Catch the Rain and Use it Later with David Rodriguez, County Extension Agent-Horticulturist, and Master Gardener Specialist Lou Kellogg. Learn the basics and benefits of rainwater harvesting. CLICK here for more information.
July 30, 2013 (Tues) 6:30-8:30 pm Backyard Gardening-Selecting Texas Superstar Plants for Landscape with David Rodriguez, County Extension Agent-Horticulturist, and Dr. Jerry Parsons, Retired, Extension Horticulturist. Advantages of selecting plants for your landscape. CLICK here for more information.
What's Happening In the Garden Archive
CLICK HERE for photos from the Children's Vegetale Garden's Even on May 18, 2013!
SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County Master Gardener association, a volunteer horticulture program of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, is now taking orders for phalaenopsis orchids to be picked up May 10-11at its offices in Suite 208 of Conroy Square.
Conroy Square is located at 3355 Cherry Ridge Drive in northwest San Antonio.
“The month of May has some very important dates in it, including Mother’s Day and graduations,” said Lisa Nixon, Bexar County Master Gardener association president. “We have made arrangements with a wonderful orchid grower who was trained in Taiwan, so now we will be able to offer phalaenopsis orchids, also known as moth orchids, for sale to the public in order to raise funds for our community outreach.”
Nixon said the orchids will be provided to the Master Gardener association through a local distributor. The deadline to order is May 6, and orchids will be available for pickup at the Bexar County Master Gardener office on May 10 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. or May 11 from 9 a.m.-noon.
The orchids are in quart-size pots and come in four solid colors – purple, white, pink and yellow – as well as a “surprise me” color that will be a uniquely different color or multi-colored orchid.
The cost for one or two orchids is $20 each, and the cost for three or more is $19 each.
“The retail for these orchids is usually about $30,” said David Rodriguez, the AgriLife Extension horticulturist who oversees the Bexar County Master Gardener program. “The phalaenopsis or moth orchid has been designated a Texas Superstar plant, in part because it is relatively easy to care for and has large, beautiful blooms.”
Rodriguez said while orchids in general have the reputation of being high-maintenance, the moth orchid requires no special care and makes a beautiful addition to a home or office.
“They also make a great gift for Mother’s Day,” he said. “But you don’t really need a special occasion to treat yourself or a loved one to this beautiful and unusual plant.”
Rodriguez said additional information on the phalaenopsis can be found athttp://www.plantanswers.com/orchid.htm and photos can be found athttp://texassuperstar.com/plants/orchid/index.html.
An order form for the orchids may be found at the Bexar County Master Gardener website, http://www.bexarcountymastergardeners.org.
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://www.texassuperstar.com/.
Spring has sprung. Thinking about veggie and herb gardening but don’t have a yard or live in an urban area? No worries. You can still join in and grow your own veggies and herbs in containers on a deck, patio, or balcony and reap a hefty harvest of fresh food for your dinner table. Plant breeders know that after taste, home gardeners want a high yield in a small space, so they've developed varieties that can grow in a small area, and even flourish in containers.
Here’s 6 simple steps to get you started.
1. Time-saving transplants - When you're ready to begin potting up vegetables and herbs, opt for transplants - seedlings that have already been started - rather than starting from seed. Transplants will buy you lots of time because they’re six weeks or older when you put them in the pot, and you'll begin harvesting much sooner too. Bonnie Plants offers a wide variety of veggie and herb transplants, (many are compact varieties perfect for containers) available at garden retailers nationwide and grown near you.
2. Use a premium quality potting mix. Don't skimp here. A quality mix holds moisture but drains well; giving plant roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, and stability to grow a great harvest. Read bag labels to look for quality ingredients like: aged (composted) bark, perlite, lime or dolomite, and sometimes moisture-holding crystals. Quality potting mix stays fluffy all season long. It does not contain actual dirt that would compact with frequent watering.
3. Pick the right pot. It should be affordable to buy and fill, but large enough to accommodate your plants as they mature. Almost anything can serve as a container– flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, washtubs, window planters, even large food cans. Larger veggies, like tomatoes and eggplants, will need a larger container, at least 5 gallons for each plant. When in doubt, bigger is always better, the plants will look better and last longer because the roots will have more room to grow. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. And consider color: Dark colored containers will absorb heat that could possible damage the plant roots. If you must use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color.
4. Feed your plants. Even if your potting mix came with fertilizer already mixed in, you may need to feed your plants. Some potting mixes include just enough fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering. Add timed-release granules or try a soluble fertilizer such as the “little green jug” of Bonnie Plant Food for quick results. It’s organic in nature, environmentally friendly, an excellent food source for beneficial organisms in the soil and helps support healthy soil and overall plant growth. One jug of concentrate makes 64 gallons of product.
5. Put pots in a sunny spot. At least 6-8 hours is best. The sun drives energy for production and for making sugars, acids, and other compounds responsible for the fullest flavor. Make sure pots on a deck or porch get enough sunlight and move them to a sunny spot if shade encroaches. Without sun, the fruits will not ripen and the plants will be stressed.
6. Water regularly. Vegetables are at least 90% water. To produce well, they may need daily watering in hot weather since you can't always rely on rain. Water plants at soil level and be sure to water before the sun goes down, leaves will need to dry before nightfall.
Be on the look-out for key words like: bush, compact, patio, baby, dwarf and space saver in their name, they’ll be a good bet. Just because a plant is bred to be small doesn't mean the fruits will be small or the yield will be less.
All herbs. Any herb does well in a pot.
· All greens. Collards, lettuce, mustard, Swiss chard and others are perfect for pots. You can mix them with flowers for an ornamental touch. Lettuces yield a surprising amount. Pick only the outer leaves to keep the harvest going.
· Eggplant and peppers of all types make pretty summer pots.
· Varieties like Husky Cherry Red, Patio, Bush Early Girl, Bush Goliath, and Better Bush are especially easy to manage in containers.
· Squash and zucchini work in large pots such as half barrels.
For more information on growing veggies and herbs in containers please visit www.bonnieplants.com
New Texas Superstar cherry tomato judged four times sweeter than others.
The BHN-968 cherry tomato is the most naturally disease-resistant cherry tomato ever sold in Texas, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.
(Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo.)
COLLEGE STATION – The BHN-968 cherry tomato’s name may be bland, but a San Antonio tasting panel found it sweeter than any comparable cherry tomato, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist.
Not only is it one of the sweetest, but is one of the easiest to grow and higher yielding cherry tomatoes, said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension horticulture agent in Bexar County and member of the Texas Superstar board.
For these reason and others, the BHN-968 cherry tomato has been named a Texas Superstar for 2013, Rodriguez said.
Texas Superstar plants undergo extensive tests throughout the state by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension horticulturists, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board.
To be designated a Superstar, a plant must not just be beautiful but also perform well for consumers and growers throughout Texas. Superstars must also be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also reasonably priced.
“The BHN-968 tomato is the most naturally disease-resistant cherry tomato we have seen in our evaluation trials,” Rodriguez said. “It is genetically resistant to the diseases of verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt, as well as tobacco mosaic virus and tomato spotted wilt virus.”
It is also the first cherry tomato variety found to be nematode resistant since Small Fry, a tomato developed by AgriLife Research horticulturists, according to Pemberton.
The BHN-968 is also one of the most flavorful varieties available to home gardeners, according to Rodriguez. In taste tests he and San Antonio Master Gardeners performed, the BHN-968 was rated “four times sweeter than any comparable cherry tomato.”
“The taste panels consisted of 10 to 12 individuals ranging in age from 50 to 83,” Rodriguez said. “This is the first tomato of any type to be taste-tested by AgriLife Extension to receive a unanimous favorable rating at every testing.”
The BHN-968 has also been tested by agents and, in a way, even given the ‘kid test,’ and got high marks, he said.
“We’ve used it quite a bit locally in our children’s vegetable garden program, as well as our youth gardening program,” Rodriguez said. “As productive as it is, and as hardy as it is, every child gets to taste a few,, even when the teacher is only growing a few plants.”
The BHN-968 was developed in Florida and initially used as a greenhouse tomato, then as a commercial field tomato. But allegedly it wasn’t productive enough for commercial growers, he said.
Also, commercial growers need tough-skinned plants that will survive handling and shipping. The BHN-968 had a somewhat softer fruit that didn’t meet these criteria, which gives it another plus score for home gardeners, Pemberton said.
“But what’s that old saying? ‘One man’s trash is another’s treasure?’’ Rodriguez said. “In our trials here (in Texas) it was very reliable as a container plant as well as for the home gardener.
“Though BHN-968 might perform well in specialty growers — if they stake them — it’s probably not something that’s going to be grown by large-scale producers,” he said. “I really think it’s only for the small gardener, or the patio grower, or the specialty grower – I think it’s really an excellent choice for them.”
Another advantage for the home gardener is that BHN-968, unlike other cherry tomatoes, is semi-determinate, also called a “naturally determinate” variety.
“Most cherry tomato varieties are predominantly indeterminate, meaning the plants can grow very large and get ‘out of bounds,’ you might say.”
But as the BHN-968 is semi-determinate, it’s not likely to spread out and outgrow a medium-size tomato cage, which for the average home gardener with space limitations makes it easier to manage, he said.
Because BHN-968 is a highly productive variety, it will need good fertility, particularly nitrogen, as do all modern tomato varieties, he said. Without good fertility, the bush will be smaller and produce less fruit.
Gardeners will most likely only be able to find transplants at home improvement stores and nurseries, according to Rodriguez.
“If they want to start their own seeds, the only big seed company that currently makes seed available for both commercial and home gardeners is Johnny’s Selected Seeds,” he said.
Gardeners may also locate a retailer by visiting the Texas Superstar program website at http://texassuperstar.com/ and clicking on “Retailers,” Pemberton noted
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas A&M AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://texassuperstar.com/.
Rodriguez said he believes as news of the quality of BHN-968 becomes widely known, grower demand will increase, and then wholesale plant growers will start making transplants more widely available. He offered these growing tips for BHN-968 cherry tomatoes:
– First planting times are the same as with other varieties, after the last projected frost.
– But well before the safe-planting date, gardeners can re-pot transplants to develop a more robust root system.
– Make sure the tomato cage is large enough, from 4- to 5-feet tall, with a 16- to 20-inch diameter. Because of the tomato bush’s top heaviness, particularly when it has a fruit load, be sure to stake the plants.
– For those who want an early planting and harvest, protect the cages with a white cloth product called N-Sulate, which helps minimize wind damage and gives the plant an extra 5 to 7 degrees of winter protection.
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://www.texassuperstar.com/.
Full article can be found here.
What is the Rodeo Tomato for 2013? Read up on it here.
Gardening doesn’t stop in Texas in December, but it does slow down considerably. Use the time to catch up on your note-taking and get some “catalog” time in. Sometime during the month, you can definitely expect a freeze. If you have tender plants, seedlings, or tropical plants, plan to protect them if a freeze is predicted. Many times, the freezing temperature only lasts an hour or so before dawn and you can put the plants back outside the next day. Mulch, mulch, mulch. Sometimes it’s the only way to protect cold-tender plants. Stack the mulch up as high as you can around the base of the plant. The top may freeze, but the roots and base will make it. Spider mites thrive in warmth. Be sure to check your indoor plants for mites and take appropriate action.”
After they freeze back, you can cut lantana, mallow hibiscus, esperanza and other cold sensitive plants to the ground. However, you can leave cold-killed plants in the perennial border to serve as cover and food sources for wintering birds.
Suet is available in easy-to-use blocks that attract the woodpeckers, chickadees and titmice. Use metal bird feeders to keep the squirrels from chewing through.
Use weight-sensitive metal feeders to keep squirrels and white wing doves from eating your sunflower seeds.
Get those spring-flowering bulbs in the ground this month. Be careful not to over water color plants during the winter. Check the soil with your finger. If it is dry down to about one inch, water carefully by hand.
Plastic cups sunk in the ground and . filled with beer attract and drown slugs and snails. They like Budweiser best. The slugs and snails are attracted to the yeast in the beer and fall in. Yes, they drown, but they drown happy.
Most container plants react to the season by reducing growth rates. Cut back on the water and fertilizer until next spring.
Keep your cool weather bedding plants well fertilized with a soluble material such as Peters 20-20-20 or Miracle Gro.
It is not too late to plant pansies, the premier color plant for the winter here.
December is a good time to transplant roses. Many new cultivars come out each year.
This is a good month to plant bare root fruit and pecan trees. ―June Gold‖ and ―La Feliciana‖ are good peach selections. ―Methley‖ plums do well. ―Warren‖ and ―Orient‖ pears resist fire blight. ―Pawnee seems to be the best pecan for San Antonio. Anna and ―Dorsett Golden are the two best apples for this area (two are needed.)
Wait until December or January to do any major fruit tree pruning. Prune back leggy perennial plants. Fall-blooming perennials such as lantana and salvia can be cut back as soon as freezing temperatures have obviously frozen their top growth. Cut them back severely – to the ground. Over-plant the cut-back perennial area with winter annuals such as pansies, Johnny-jump-ups and dianthus (pinks), larkspur or bluebonnets rather than looking at the barren bed all winter. The lantana will come back next spring in May to provide beauty during the hottest part of the summer.
Collect pecans as they fall to the ground. Dry them for one to two weeks in shallow boxes before you store them. Pecans in the shell maintain their quality for four months at room temperature, for 12 months in the fridge, and 24 months if frozen. Shelled pecans only store well for two months at room temperature, 12 months refrigerated and two years frozen.
Mulch the fallen leaves with your lawn mower and let them lie on the lawn or use them for mulch.
Eliminate the mistletoe (a parasite) from your trees after the leaves fall. Use a blade of some type strapped to a cane pole and cut of the limb just below the mistletoe.
It‘s OK to plant trees in December…even bare-root trees. They will have time to get their roots out before summer. Don‘t forget to water them, however…once per week if it doesn‘t rain.
Consider a living Christmas tree. Arizona cypress or Italian Stone pines do well in our alkaline soils and can be moved into the landscape after use as a Christmas tree for a couple of weeks. Plant the same as any other tree.
December is a good month to prune oak trees. Even in winter, however, the wound should be painted immediately after pruning. The trees are most susceptible to infection for 2-3 days after pruning. Apply horticultural tree wound dressing or plain ol‘ latex paint on all oak cuts. Prune out dead, damaged or diseased wood from trees and shrubs. Avoid topping or dehorning.
Plant fruit trees on 8‘ x 8‘ raised beds with drip irrigation to reduce stress and the resultant bacterial canker.
Scale and other hard-to-kill insect pests may be overwintering on your trees or shrubs. Pecan and fruit trees, euonymus, camellias and holly are favorite hosts. Spray with dormant oil, following label directions on the container to avoid plant damage. Protect any winter annuals from the oil spray.
Cut way back on the water. Water the lawn only every 2-3 weeks with an inch of water if we don‘t get rain. If it rains, don‘t water for 3 weeks.
St. Augustine that is dry is very susceptible to freeze damage.
Generally speaking, lawn care is done now.
Side-dress your cole crops and onions with a cup of slow-release lawn fertilizer or ammonium sulphate per 10 feet of row.
December is a good month to plant spinach transplants. This area is the premier fresh spinach production area in North America. The tasty green is one of the most nutritious vegetables available.
If tomatoes are full sized, but not showing any color, pick them and bring them into the house. They‘ll ripen on the counter.
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Tree Town USA has a new generation of Live Oaks from a select group of genetically superior trees located on our farm. They exhibit uniform growth habits that include good branching angles, uniform growth rates, similar form, and a more appealing look to the tree. The branching habits lend themselves to create stronger trees better able to withstand strong winds and other severe weather situations as well as an aesthetically pleasing look and shape. The Empire Live Oaks have shown a significantly faster growth rate at a young age than some named varieties on the market today to provide shade more quickly to the home owner or business that uses them in their landscape. The uniform habit and growth rates will provide a more consistent look to multiple plantings over time. Whether it is 2 trees in the front lawn or a mile long stately row of oaks in a commercial setting, they will tend to be better matched than a group of seedling oaks from unknown sources. These controlled genetics provide an improvement for this long lived, tough, staple variety for the southern landscape.