Join us for our next Community Horticulture Education Series (CHES) program, Plant Propagation Training and Workshop, on Monday, March 21, 2022, at 6:30pm at the Somervell County Citizen Center, 209 SW Barnard, Glen Rose. Our own Monty Anderson will be teaching one of the most successful techniques of plant propagation, using stem cuttings. Propagation from cuttings allows you to add additional desirable plants to your landscape at very little expense. The resulting plant will be a copy or clone of the mother plant with all its characteristics. Monty will be demonstrating this very simple technique and then you will have the opportunity to prepare and take home your very own cutting! If you have a plant you would like to clone, or can get one from a friend, please bring a good size stem cutting (3- to 6-inch-long piece from a healthy portion of the parent plant’s stem) and a clean 4” pot. We will have some cuttings, all materials, and pots available if you’d like to use and take home one of ours!!
Monty Anderson recently transferred to Somervell County Master Gardeners from Tarrant County Master Gardener Association. Retiring after 38 years with Bell Helicopter, Monty certified as a Texas Master Gardener in 2016 and is a Certified Plant Propagation Specialist and Master Composter.
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
Josh Billings (1818-1885)
A new year and time to start thinking about and planning for the garden. The seed catalogues are filling mail boxes. Oh how pretty the pictures of the plants look. Just perfect in every way. Truth be known, not everyone has picture perfect results from their garden. Not all soil nor gardeners are created equal!
Corn: The number of sweet corn varieties that will do well in the South have increased significantly in the last few years. Historically, the primary area for growing corn is in the Midwest and Northeast, and sweet corn genetics have tended to emphasize varieties that will do well in those areas. Unfortunately, many of these varieties do not like southern growing conditions and will do very poorly in the South. Plants are sometimes stunted, and, more importantly, ear size is much smaller. Some that are adapted to southern conditions are: Kandy Korn, Bodacious, Silver Queen, and G90.
Southern Peas: Nutritionally, Southern peas are a good source of protein and one of the best sources of dietary fiber available. They are very high in folates, a form of B vitamin that in important in the prevention of anemia, cancer, and birth defects. Southern peas love heat and should not be planted until all danger of frost has passed. Good choices are: Crowder peas, Purple Hull, Cream peas, and Black-eyed peas.
Beets: Beets are high in soluble fiber, vitamins A and C, and have more iron than spinach. A real “Super Vegetable,” beets are high in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, niacin, folic acid, and cancer preventing antioxidants. Beets grow best in cool weather. Sow seeds as early as soil can be worked in spring, or 8-12 weeks before frost for a fall crop. Beets do not like to dry out. To keep them tender, water regularly and/or mulch to retain moisture. Detroit Red is a good choice.
Green Beans: Though not always green, these long and slender beans are an American garden staple. High in vitamins and packed with dietary fiber, cancer preventing antioxidants, and omega3 fatty acids. Green beans don’t get the publicity they should. Hardly ever on a list of trendy super foods, they are one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Plus, one cup of green beans contains only 44 calories.
An often overlooked way to grow green beans is to plant abut 75 days before the first frost in the fall. Many insects begin to hibernate as the days shorten, so there is less insect pressure. Also, it is great to pick fresh beans after the hottest days of summer have passed. Contenders Blue Lake, Top Crop Bush Beans, and Roma Bush Beans are good choices.
Okra: With no serious disease or insect problems, okra thrives in hot weather and can grow in just about any soil. Most varieties should be picked when pods are not more than 4″ long-over 4″ and most okra (including widely grown Clemson Spineless) become tough and stringy. Whether boiled, fried, or used in stews, casseroles, and gumbo (gumbo just isn’t gumbo without okra), this veggie is loaded with cancer fighting flavonoids. Freeze seed or soak in warm water to break the hard seed coat and improve germination before planting.
Carrots: Not only are carrots high in vitamin A, they are also high in beneficial carotenes and lycopenes. Today’s hybrid carrots contain 75% more beta carotene than those available just 35 years ago. Plus, the new hybrids are also the best choice if you are looking for sweet crisp flavors, straight, long roots, and improved disease resistance. Many of the older open pollinated carrots are high in terpenoids which can give them a bitter chemical-like flavor. Tender Sweet and Danvers Half Long are good choices.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes love heat and don’t really get going until temperatures regularly reach the 80s. Many gardeners plant tomato seed directly into their garden soil. Most tomato seeds germinate like weeds. Try this, it’s a lot less work and cost.
Summer and fall plantings are best made using varieties that are bred to tolerate high heat, set temperatures, and still set fruit. For most varieties of tomatoes, when temperatures are too high (over 95 degree daytime highs or above 77 degree night time lows) tomatoes will not set fruit.
Blight and other diseases can be devastating for tomatoes. A wonderful advantage of fall is disease pressure is normally lower.
Heirloom tomato varieties are experiencing a surge in popularity. Varieties like Beefsteak, Brandy-wine, and Cherokee Purple, are renowned and can be fun to grow, but beware of counting on them for a main crop. Most heirloom varieties are susceptible to multiple diseases and don’t do very well. Try with caution.
Marigolds are a natural pest deterrent and make a pretty companion plant for tomatoes.
Tessa Chenoa Ownbey
“From December to March there are for many of us, three gardens – the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind’s eye.” -Katherine S. White
Dreaming of spring, I wander through my garden, admiring the dead stalks -some still standing straight and firm, others folded over onto the ground like hunched old men – that I left there for the use of native bees. Those stalks I had to pull – the sunflower stalks in the way of the mower, for instance – are laid gently beside my “lazy man” compost pile. I imagine the chance of each stalk being laden with tiny developing native bees, turning over in their sleep, pulling the covers up around their chins against the cold. I wonder if their feet are cold like mine. I curl my collar up around my chin.
The paths through my vegetable beds are straight, all 90 degree angles, beds exactly 8’ x 4’, not including the 2’ beds that run the length of the deer fence, and the beds that are holey and abandoned water troughs, dragged home from wherever I can scavenge them. The cilantro and bunching onions are green and welcoming; the rosemary smells just as sweet as ever as I brush my hand across and through it. I love that smell, and think of planting more of it – maybe a border along the back porch? Then I imagine Olive, my young Labrador pup, yanking each one out of the ground, and decide perhaps to wait another year. I love both animals and plants, and sometimes it is hard to hold space for each – both in the physical and in my heart. They compete so. My chickens, for instance, were banished to Georgette’s house years ago for the sin of plucking every young plant I sowed in the driveway flower bed faster than I could buy them. But the dogs – dogs trump plants today. The rosemary will stay in the garden, and the cottage style backyard of my dreams will wait until this pup matures.
Having walked the vegetable garden and inspected the dead stalks, the bright winter rosettes burgeoning with life, and the herbs and carrots waiting to be harvested, imagining the rotation of crops this spring, I walk the twisting path of my pollinator wildscape, delineated by native limestone I set in place myself, the work back-breaking, but as satisfying as a jigsaw puzzle, each rock edge set neatly against the one next to it, just so. I realize I left the fairy toys lying about the stumpery again this year, and resolve to go get a box and store things away again so winter won’t fade the spots from the fairy giraffe or decay the glue that holds on his fairy wings.
More dead stalks here, of course, and I again think of the bees, then check my bee houses. Last year’s slots are empty, with holes chewed through the packed mud where the bright, new bees emerged to see the sun for the very first time last spring. This year’s slots are still hard packed, the mud smooth and tight. I think again of infant bees, swaddled as we swaddle human babies. I imagine them humming contentedly in their sleep.
Shivering, I walk to my husband’s shop, quickly checking my Meyer lemon tree, overwintering there alongside an antique Radio Flyer full of potted succulents. My house is small, and though I was able to bring in three pots of aloe vera and a fairy garden in a hypertufa pot I made with Bev, these had to take refuge out here, where I hope they will stay warm enough to last until the warmth of spring. Some kind of caterpillar has lunched upon the lemon leaves, but is now long gone – the bitten edges are brown, not newly green. I’m glad I didn’t catch him. I would have had to decide his fate, and who wants that?
Truly cold now, I run back to the house – I knew I should have taken a jacket, but never want to take the time to grab one – there in the kitchen is the fairy garden I was thinking about. It always makes me smile…the little house, just fairy sized; the succulents so carefully chosen; the memories of figuring out hypertufa with Bev and of including in it the marbles left from my sons’ childhood.
The mail is laid on the counter, and I pause. There is my uncle’s catalog – Territorial Seed. I turn and hit the button on the Keurig, grab a notebook, a pen, the catalog, a blanket, and curl up in a corner of the couch to plan my seed order.
Note: Katherine S. White (see quote above) was a writer and the fiction editor of The New Yorker Magazine from 1920-1960. As such, she introduced the world to the writings of Vladimir Nabakov, John Updike, John O’Hara, John Cheever, Ogden Nash, Mary McCarthy, James Thurber, Marianne Moore, and E. B. White, who she later married. She had a passion for the writings of nurserymen and seed catalogs, which she claimed were her favorite reading matter. Inspired by them, she wrote a series of fourteen columns on gardening and gardening history for the magazine. After her death in 1977, her husband, author E.B. White, published these articles as a collection in a book called Onward and Upward in the Garden.
TONIGHT! PLEASE JOIN US AT 6:00PM! TONIGHT!
Are you new to Somervell County and wonder just how you are supposed to garden in our rocky, cactus filled soil? Or do you just need some inspiration for something special in your landscape? Maybe you want to turn your efforts into more sustainable methods?
Mark your calendars for Monday, January 31, 2022 at 6pm at the Somervell County Citizen’s Center, 209 SW Barnard, Glen Rose, as the Somervell Master Gardeners will be hosting Robin Blood from B. Blumen Flower Farm. Robin will explain how she turned a cactus field into cut flower farm in just a few months all while maintaining sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. B. Blumen Flower Farm in Godley is a no-till, chemical and pesticide free business growing beautiful fresh cut and many edible flowers for the public.
Check out Robin’s work at B. Blumin Flower Farm at https://www.bblumenflowerfarm.com/
My gardening friend gave me a plant.
She says “You CAN’T kill this, I’m sure that you CAN’T”.
It looks so perfect in that cute little pot.
You think to yourself, ‘she says I CAN’T kill this…
well really, why not’?
Upon closer inspection you decide she is right,
Its perfect perfection means it can’t be alive.
But alas, a real gardener would never bow low
to give a fake plant.
But how do you know?
As you drive away with your plant in the seat,
You dare to reach over and rub a green leaf.
YES, it does have that rubbery feel.
I CAN’T kill this plant because it is not real.
Now that’s resolved and
you’ve shopped the last store.
You go to your car and open the door.
You throw your purse in and it lands on the plant.
That’s how you know you CAN,
though your friend says you CAN’T.
Somervell County Master Gardener
Mary Ann Steele
Somervell Master Gardener
We all know them, but we don’t love them. Weeds, the despised plants that creep into our flowerbeds and scatter across our lawns, can be tackled more effectively when you know what you’re dealing with. You’ll never be able to completely rid your yard of these plant pests, however, preventative steps and early removal before they take deep root or go to seed will help you limit how much time you spend weeding later in the season.
Follow these tips to make weeding less of a chore.
Aim to start weeding early in the spring.
Weed when the soil is moist. It’s essential-and much easier- to pull whole plants by their roots. Try to do it right after a rain, but if that’s not possible, first give the bed a good soaking then weed the next day.
Weed on a dry sunny day. The weeds you remove on a sunny day will shrivel in the sun. Hoe annual weeds on a sunny day making sure to sever the plant from its roots. If weeding on a cool, overcast, moist day, collect and remove weeds from the garden.
Protect yourself! Wear tough, well fitting gloves. Consider nitrite or latex-dipped gloves found at garden centers or automotive or paint stores. Invest in a kneeling pad or knee pads to make weeding more comfortable and to keep clothes cleaner.
Use chemicals as a last resort. Herbicides can be effective on mature plants. Some herbicides attack grasses only and are good choices for flowerbeds. Other herbicides are “non-selectives,” so they kill every thing they touch. FOLLOW ALL LABEL DIRECTIONS EXACTLY! Repeat application may be necessary to kill mature weeds.
- Burning or horticulture vinegar – these post-emergence options are most effective on newly sprouted weeds, particularly annuals, without a tap root. Neither method should be used on lawns. Burning with a flame weeder should be done only on moist, calm days to prevent fire from spreading. Vinegar based herbicides require special handling because of the high concentration of acid which can burn skin and eyes.
- Pre-emergence herbicides – if you have a severe weed problem, applying a pre-emergence product on you lawn or flower gardens in early spring helps prevent weed seedlings from growing before they germinate, but it allows established perennial plants to grow. Pre-emergent herbicides will not kill established weeds.
- Post-emergence herbicides – For tenacious enemies like poison ivy or brambles, selectively and carefully spray or brush on a foliar herbicide on a non-windy day following the label’s directions. DO NOT place weeds killed by a chemical herbicide in the compost bin!
Some annual weeds are: henbit, chickweed, prostrate spurge and ragweed.
A few perennial weeds are: bindweed, dandilion and nettle.
It’s not easy, but it’s nice to hear that there are simple ways to get rid of weeds. But the fact is you will always have to keep weeding if you have a lawn or garden. Keep these keys to weed eradication in mind: prevent weeds from sprouting, destroy weeds quickly if they do sprout, and pull and discard weeds before thy bloom and make seeds.
The Somervell County Master Gardeners are excited to introduce our new members Mary Collier, Victor Eichhorn, Valerie Freund, and Ray Wheeler. They are a wonderful addition to our group! The interns completed a 50 hour course, and are currently working toward their 50 hours of volunteer work to earn the title, Texas Master Gardeners. Mary, Victor, Valerie, and Ray have taken on the refurbishing of the landscape at the Historic Farr House at Heritage Park. The house is located next to the Master Gardener’s Paluxy Heritage Gardens. Stop by and check out the wonderful work being done.
Mary Ann Steele
Somervell County Master Gardener
If you don’t have the space for a vegetable or fruit garden, consider the possibility of container gardening. A patio, deck, balcony, or doorstep can provide enough space for a productive, attractive display.
The benefits of container gardens extend beyond bushels of fresh produce. When growing in these closed system environments, you can manage soil and pests. A container garden is a sure way to introduce children to the joys and rewards of vegetable gardening.
Container gardens can serve as easy to manage closed systems but they are prone to certain problems:
- Tall spindly plants – caused by insufficient light or excessive nitrogen – remedied by moving the container to a sunnier area or reducing feeding intervals.
- Plants yellowing from the bottom – caused by excessive water – remedied by reducing water intervals and checking for proper drainage.
- Plants wilting – caused by poor drainage and aeration – remedied by increasing drainage holes.
- Marginal burning of leaves – caused by leaching the container with tap water.
- Plants stunted in growth – usually caused by low temperature or low phosphate – remedied by relocating the pot to a warmer area or increasing phosphates in fertilizer.
A repurposed bathtub, old water or feed trough – just about any vessel can work as a container but it needs to be sized correctly and must drain well.
As a closed system, a container can sustain only so many plants. It’s important to limit the number of cultivars based on your pots and the eventual size of the plants.
The container’s size will be determined by the plant grown in it. Shallow rooted crops, such as lettuce, peppers, radishes, and herbs, need a container at least 6 inches in diameter with an 8 inch soil depth. Bushel baskets, half barrels, wooden tubs, or large pressed paper containers are ideal for growing tomatoes, squash, pole beans, and cucumbers.
Containers should drain well so the plant’s roots, which require both air and water, don’t drown or become water logged. All containers, whether clay, wood, plastic, or ceramic, should have an adequate number of holes in the bottom for proper drainage. Setting the containers on a solid surface, such as a cement or patio floor, reduces drainage so raise the container 1 – 2 inches off the floor with blocks of wood to solve the problem. Also, adding 1 inch of coarse gravel to the bottom of a container can improve drainage.
The stuff that goes into the container, the plant media, delivers all the water, nutrients, and physical structure and support that your plants need to grow vigorous roots, stalks, leaves, and fruit. Unfortunately, soil from your yard isn’t a good choice. A fairly light weight mix is needed for container gardens. The growing medium will need an occasional water soluble fertilizer boost.
With your seeds, containers, and growing medium prepared, it’s time for the fun part: planting your produce patch. Read the back of your seed package to determine when to sprout your seeds and how many hours of sunlight they need.
After planting, gently water the seeds being careful to not displace them. As the seedlings pop and start to grow, thin them out so they have plenty of room to grow.
Container gardening makes it easy for everyone to grow produce. Whether you have a few pots of fresh herbs on your window sill or a patio filled with flats of tomatoes, eggplants, squash, and pole beans, any space with warm sunshine makes a great place. Before long you will be hunting for sunny spots for even more pots.
“For all things produced in a garden, whether of salads or fruits, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none.”
John Claudius Loudon
Scottish Botanist (1783-1843)