August 20, 2021
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Maps and directions provided prior to each monthly meeting
By Faye Beery, Bluebonnet Master Gardener Assocaiton
That is how long the Master Gardener program has been going in our 4 county region. On May 25, 2021 the Bluebonnet Master Gardeners celebrated our 20th anniversary of the demonstration garden in Austin County. While the weather was not the best, everyone enjoyed the program given by Dr. Shackelford, good food and seeing the Bluebonnet Master Gardener Association’s demonstration garden located at the Sens Acitvity Center in Bellville, Texas. Vegetables were available, most gave a voluntary donation to the garden, as well as some produce was avaialbe to pick in the garden.
A big attraction in the garden was the keyhole garden. The keyhole concept was first introduced into arid African regions by the U.K. organization Send a Cow. The idea was to help poor families grow their own food despite the poor soil and drought conditions. The keyhole concept is a raised circular bed with a wedge shaped cutout on one side which allows persons easy access to the whole bed. When seen from above, it resembles a lock and keyhole. In the center is a wire cage for compost which decomposes and provides nutrients to the bed. This form is less labor intensive and more affordable for people who want to grow their own food. And you don’t have to bend over.
The outer structure can be any sturdy material, cinder blocks, bricks, rocks are a good choice. They are placed in a round design with a wedge on one side so that individuals can reach the middle as well as the outsides allowing for easy planting and harvesting. The wire cage in the center makes it easily accessible to place the compost materials.
A strong advocate of the keyhole concept is Deb Tolman, PhD, from Clifton, Texas. She is an environmental scientist and landscape designer and co-founder of the Silo Project a non-profit organization, which is centered on sustainability. Due to her outreach and workshops, there are more than 70 keyhole gardens in Clifton, which is in arid North Texas. She recommends a 3:1 ratio of brown and green material which forms the core garden. Decomposition rapidly generates heat and breaks down the material to feed plants. Brown material includes brown grass/leaves; paper and wood, straw, sawdust, lint from the dryer or vacuum, and lots of cardboard, which is the first layer in the bottom of the bed. It should be thoroughly wet to begin decomposition. Green materials include kitchen scraps, manure, green grass/leaves, or plants. Her website provides instructions on how to construct a keyhole garden. Follow the link to her Field Guide PDF .
There is also a new addition to the garden which is currently under construction this week. It is Pete and Paula’s pollinator patch. They plan to include plants which attract pollinators to the garden to pollinate the vegetables that grow there. We’ll have more on this when they begin planting.
I know everyone is happy to get back to our regular meetings. See you at the next one!
Master Volunteers, a group that includes Master Gardeners, contributed 7434 observations to the Pollinator Citizen Science Project according to the last updated summary on December 21, 2020. Based on data collected in the project so far, the most visited plant by honey bees was Melochia tomentosa, also known as Teabush or Pyramid Bush. For more information about this Texas native pollinator plant, visit the USDA Plant Database or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center website
The purpose of the project is to use citizen scientists to determine the attractiveness of different commercially available ornamentals (annuals or perennials) to different groups of pollinators in the Southern USA, namely Texas and Oklahoma.
Due to popular demand and great results from 2020 and 2019, Pollinator Citizen Science Project is launching yet again this year. The required training and quiz start online on-demand Monday March 22, 2021, accessible through the project page. The training will be similar to last year, with some added training on plant identification (offered by Dr. Vikram Baliga from Texas Tech University). There will also be a live Q&A session later that week to answer any questions citizen scientists may have related to the project.
As before, BMGA members may recieve CEU credit for the training and volunteer hour credit for the time collecting and submitting data to the project. This is a true citizen science project allowing ordinary citizens to make a contribution that matters to the horticulture of our state.
When: Mar 25, 2021 02:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Many congratulations to the Project Team:
Sometimes, the answer is just knowing where to look; and someitimes, a picutre is just what you need to answer the question. With the help of many collaborators, Aggie Horticulture assembled a few theme-oriented searchable databases for use in their classes and for the public to use and enjoy. If you have not checked out Aggie Horticulture’s Plant Picturepages, the link is below. Find the information you need in pictures or just enjoy the many horticulature related sites and photos.
Ms. Brown is an Integrated Pest Management Program Specialist in Travis County. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Entomology from the The Ohio State University in 1996 and her Masters in Entomology at Texas A&M University in 1999.
When you find insects in your garden, your first instinct might be to destroy them, but that’s not always the best action. Of the 1.5 million known insect species in the world, more than 97% are beneficial to gardens, or simply benign. That leaves less than 3% that are agricultural and nuisance pests.
Bluebonnet Master Gardeners may claim CEU credit for these live or recorded events.
You may watch these webinars on the Travis County AgriLife Extension site or click the topics below:
Mexican heather, an old-fashioned and reliable pollinator-friendly ornamental plant that adds big color to gardens and landscapes has been named the latest Texas Superstar. David Rodriguez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist, San Antonio, said Mexican heather has been a favorite ornamental plant in Texas gardens for many years. Mexican heather plants are also a top attractor for pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Mexican heather is best used in massing beddings, borders and containters. It also is excellent in butterfly and pollinator gardens and hanging baskets.
Allyson Mexican heather is one of the top performing varieties of this newly named Texas Superstar. (Photo by Brent Pemberton).
“There are other common selections of Mexican heather that are great plants, and I encourage gardeners to experiment with combinations, but we think Allyson is the best performing variety at this time,” he said. “It’s perfect for all sorts of plantings and works in all the criteria we look for in a Texas Superstar, including its role as an attractor of beneficial insects and pollinators.”
To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must be beautiful and perform well for growers throughout the state. Texas Superstars must also be easy to propagate, ensuring the plants are widely available and reasonably priced.
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. Plants are designated Texas Superstars by the Texas Superstar executive board, made up of nine horticulturalists from AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Tech University.
This post was summarized from and the photograph was taken from AgriLife TODAY. For more information about Mexican heather, see the full AgriLife Today article about Mexican heather.
The Horticulture Committee of Austin County will be sponsoring a Small Farms and Vegetable Conference on February 22nd at the Cat Spring Ag Society Hall. Registration will take place from 8:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. with the program to follow.
This year’s program will focus on fruits, nuts and bee production for South Central Texas, and strategies related to raising, marketing and the economics of production. The program will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until about 3:00 p.m. Lunch will be served and there will also be several snack breaks built-in to help get the blood flowing again. There will be a guarantee of 3 CEU’s with a possible 5 CEU’s offered pending TDA approval.
Cost for the event is $30.00 per person, which goes to cover speaker materials, meal cost and the handouts. To pre-register for the event, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Office of Austin County at (979) 865-2072, or visit our EVENT REGISTRATION page.
BMGA members interested in bees and pollinators can assist in a project with the ultimate goal of creating a field-tested list of the best Texas and Oklahoma landscape plants for pollinators. This is an opportunity for Master Gardeners to use their knowledge and skills in the garden to participate in a real citizen-data collection project to provide important data to scientists and researchers hoping to reduce the decline of pollinators in Texas and Oklahoma.
Michael Merchant, Ph.D, BCE, Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, asks Texas and Oklahoma Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists for feedback about the top plants for pollinators in their gardens. In addition, he wants to assess who is interested in participating in a pollinator count this summer. Exact details about the planned count will be provided later. But now, to get started, Master Gardeners may complete a survey indicating their interest in participating in a pollinator count and identifying top plants in their garden that attract pollinators.
Some of you may be familiar with Dr. Merchant and his AgriLife Extension Insects in the City blog or as a trainer in the Master Gardener program on the topic of entomology. Dr. Merchant says he knows there is a lot of collective wisdom of out there among gardeners and naturalist on what plants serve as highly attractive nectar sources for pollinators. If the project team can get a good response from Master Gardeners and others to this survey, it should give the project a good starting list of potential pollinator plants to study this summer.
Below is a link to a Qualtrix survey for Master Gardeners with an interest in bees and pollinators. If you are interested in assisting with this project, please complete the survey.
The Bluebonnet Master Gardener Association has a long standing interest in educating the public about and creating pollinator-friendly landscapes. The Sheridan 4H Youth Butterfly Garden in Colorado County, Texas is an example of a pollinator friendly garden. In addition, through our Kids’ Kamp summer program, Lunch-N-Learn series and other programs, we include education about the importance of pollinators to our nation’s food production and agriculture. BMGA can continue its dedication to increase awarness of the importance of pollinators and in helping to increase pollinator-friendly landscapes in our area with a strong participate in this project from its members.
The Bluebonnet Master Gardener Association hosts the Lunch & Learn.
Mr. Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologists with the Victoria office of Texas Parks & Wildlife.
This month, Trey Barron will present on Pollinator/Bird Gardening. Pollination is usually the unintended consequence of an animal’s activity on a flower. Birds are very important pollinators of wildflowers through the world. There are 200 bird species globally that feed on nectar, the insects, and the spiders associated with nectar bearing flowers. Learn to encourage these important visitors to your garden,