- No CHES meeting in January, 2018.
- The Community Horticultural Education Series is sponsored by the Somervell County Master Gardeners.
- New officers for 2018-2019 have not had a chance to publish the new schedule.
- Please look for more information in next month’s newsletter.
Tips for December & January Gardening
by Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener
Lawn Care – if you are lucky enough to have a plethora of deciduous trees, rake leaves and either use as mulch in landscape beds or run through a shredder and add to the compost pile
Planting – Take advantage of the frequent warmish weather and plant container plants or transplants. After Christmas, get those live Christmas trees in the ground so their roots have a chance to establish before spring!
Pruning – you can cut back herbaceous perennials after the frost kills the tops if the sight is offensive to you. But remember, many perennials have beautiful color and texture so you may wish to leave them until later winter. If you do cut them back, be sure to much them well. Any dead or diseased wood can be pruned out anytime of the year.
Inside – Enjoy some couch time browsing seed catalogs and ordering seeds for your spring garden, or fruit trees and grape vines if you wish to plant them in February and March.
Outside – Again, on these nice weather days, work your onion beds by adding compost and organic nitrogen to prepare for late January onion planting.
And Mulch, Mulch, Mulch – Plants need extra warmth during winter, and mulching will act as a protective blanket for them. It will keep moisture where it is needed, and prevent weeds from taking hold, while keeping soil temperature even for tender plants. Be sure to water well if it hasn’t rained before mulching. Light rains will not penetrate thru the thick layer of mulch needed to protect plants from temperature swings. New plants that have not taken root yet especially need mulching.
Pointers For Poinsettias
by Merilyn Cranford, Somervell County Master Gardener, December 2017
Since the weather has cooled and the calendar says it’s December, one of the flowers we all look forward to this time of year is the poinsettia. They are beautiful and enhance the looks of any home or office. But sadly they only last for just a short time. However, here are a few tips you might try if you would like to coax your poinsettia to bloom again for another year:
- Christmas: Pick a colorful plant with tightly clustered yellow buds. Protect it from hot or cold drafts, water when dry and place in a room with enough natural light for reading.
- New Year’s: Apply fertilizer. Continue light and water. The plant should remain colorful for many weeks.
- Valentine’s Day: If your plant has become long and leggy, prune to five inches from the soil.
- Patrick’s Day: Remove faded and dried parts of the plant. Add more soil, preferably a commercially-available sterile mix.
- Memorial Day: Trim off two or three inches from the ends of branches to promote side branching. Repot to larger container. Move plant outside – first to indirect, then direct light.
- Fourth of July: Trim plant again. Make sure it has full sunlight. Slightly increase the amount of fertilizer.
- Labor Day: Move plant indoors, but make sure it has six hours of direct light from an uncurtained window. Reduce fertilizer.
- First Day of Autumn: Starting on or near Sept. 21, give plant 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light per day. Keep night temperatures in the lower 60s. Continue to water and fertilize. Rotate plant each day to give all sides even light.
- Thanksgiving: Discontinue day/night treatment. Put plant in a sunny area, Reduce water and fertilizer. Then wait for those beautiful blooms to reappear.
I’ve tried to “save” many poinsettias, but this is the only method that works for me. Good Luck!
Greens for All Seasons
GROWING GREENS FOR ALL SEASONS ©
by Christine Morgan, ND, Somervell County Master Gardener
Cool Weather Greens
Kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, Chinese cabbage (bok choy, and pac choi) from the brassica family are the best known greens available to the home gardener. Also important are Swiss chard and spinach. They can all be grown as cool season greens.
Collards, kale, mustard, turnips and pac choi are related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. They are tolerant of cooler temperatures, and where winter is not too severe, kale will re-sprout from stems in the spring. They can be grown in spring and fall, but fall may be the preferable season because they benefit from frost which increases the sugar content and flavor of the leaves. These vegetables are quick to mature, being ready to pick in 30 to 60 days, depending on variety. I have grown collards all year long here…they will slow down growth in the summer…and then pick back up as the nights get cooler!
Turnips are a two way vegetable in that certain varieties can be grown to produce both greens and roots (ie. ‘Purple Top,’ ‘White Globe,’ ‘Just Right’ and ‘Tokyo Market’). Other two-way vegetables are beets and rutabaga. It is usually for sale in the store as a root only, but the greens are quite good. I think rutabaga is a sweet tasting love child between cabbage and turnip! The leaves taste more like cabbage, and the root tastes sweeter than a turnip.
Besides the greens mentioned above, lettuces, many Japanese greens, and other salad greens can be grown that have some kind of protection from the cold.
Herbs also included in cool season cultivation would be rosemary (which lives and produces year round), cilantro, parsley, and chives. Herbs are great additions in small amounts that help clean and strengthen your body.
Warm Weather Greens
Other greens are commonly called “spinach”, but are not in the spinach family. New Zealand, Ceylon, Red Malabar, and Purslane are four separate species of greens, but are grown in late spring and /or summer, as they require heat. Also sweet potato, and winter squash and pumpkin leaves are quite edible.
There are many Japanese greens to choose from…too many to list…and easy to grow. Dandelion, basil and other warm season herbs are delicious also.
Wild greens are another place to get greens as long as you know for 100% they have not been sprayed with herbicides! Purslane, chickweed, lambs quarters and miner’s lettuce are common here in Texas.
Another very heat tolerant green is Molokhia; it is from the okra family and is common in the Middle East, such as Lebanon. It can be grown in containers easily and does have some of the thickening ability like okra, but is quite good in stews or smoothies.
In spring, plant seeds as soon as soil can be worked (3 to 4 weeks prior to frost date). You can also germinate seeds indoors and plant 3 to 4 week old transplants into garden soil.
For fall planting, determine time to maturity (i.e. 55 days), then add 10 to 14 days (“the short day factor”) and plant seeds that many days prior to the first fall frost date (i.e. 65 to 69 days).
As in the spring, transplants can also be used in the fall. Also, many greens can be successfully grown in large pots or in “container gardens” that have a wide surface and a water reservoir in the bottom fed via a tube. I use container gardens from www.gardenerssupply.com with great results.
Sow seeds of these vegetables about 4 inches apart in rows 8 to 12 inches apart. In fertile raised beds, seeds can be broadcast and thinned later.
Soil Remineralization and Amendments:
It is important to use beds or containers that have been remineralized with rock dust (Azomite) and contain amendments like course vermiculite, and/or perlite, and peat moss. In general, leafy greens should be spaced about 4 inches on center and the thinned plants can be eaten in their entirety! As with most vegetables, closer spacing will result in smaller, “baby leaved” plants, and farther spacing will result in larger heads or plants.
Leafy greens are medium feeders. Incorporate well-rotted manure (fall) or compost (fall and spring) at planting. Addition of manure or compost can add micronutrients and organic matter to soil. I prefer to keep all fertilizers organic because of the strong uptake ability of greens in regard to minerals, nutrients, synthetics, and poisons. I would not even consider eating non-organic commercial greens!
With the exception of the Chinese cabbages…where the entire plant is usually harvested, the outer leaves of these greens are usually harvested. Make sure the outer leaves show no sign of yellowing, since at this stage they are past prime and should be composted. Alternatively, a raised bed can be thickly sown with your favorite leafy green and thinned to an 8 inch spacing after they are 6 to 10 inches tall. These thinned plants are your first harvest (the entire plant is edible), with future harvests coming from the outer leaves of the remaining plants.
Arrow Feed in Granbury has:
Azomite 44lbs. $34.99
Course Vermiculite 4 cu. Ft. $35.99
Perlite 4 cu. Ft. $26.99
R-95 dust masks home Depot or Lowes
Mushroom compost- Lowes
Organic garden soil-any of the above places
CHES Meetings 2018
Two Favorite Natives
If you’ve ever taken a close look at shrubby boneset, you can see why butterflies (and moths and hummingbirds) are so attracted to it: It’s basically a floral landing pad. The dainty blooms of Ageratina havanensis form welcoming clusters, and the spindly tendrils along their edges even seem like a safety fence or built-in railing. Their alluring scent and stores of nectar literally sweeten the deal — especially at a time when migrating Lepidoptera like monarchs need a serious snack break. In fact, shrubby boneset is one of our top five fall nectar plants for powering the monarch migration!
Four-nerve daisies, (Tetraneuris scaposa var. scaposa), are well-suited to Somervell County, because they do well on rocky ledges and bluffs. They’re also one of only a few species that blooms all year long, given suitable conditions. Add it along a sunny border to bring cheer to your garden, and don’t forget to move in for a close-up: The ray flowers on this daisy, also known as “hymenoxys,” have striking, dark purple veins on either side.
Musical chairs in the Garden
By Mary Ann Steele, Somervell County Master Gardener
Crop rotation is like playing a long term game of musical chairs in the garden. Every plant is different: inviting specific pests and diseases and demanding more of nutrients than others. Growing the same crop in the same spot year after year drains the soil, and can lead to sick plants. To make matters worse, some diseases and pests can end up taking residence in the soil around the plants they prey on most. Keeping those plants in the same place is like inviting pests to an “all-you-can-eat” restaurant where their favorite meal is served every day.
Keeping a record of each crop allows you to perform the old switcharoo, confusing pests and diseases, and giving the soil a chance to catch up on depleted nutrients. As a general rule, replacing a crop with a member of a different family will make a big difference.
Plant light feeders with heavy feeders, and deep-rooted plants with shallow-rooted plants. Deep-rooted plants dig up the soil and bring nutrients from way below up to the top, while shallow-rooted crops create a web of roots near the surface, preventing erosion.
Some insect pests are put off by the smell or chemical composition of certain plants. Protect vulnerable plants by growing repellent plants nearby. Surrounding a vulnerable plant with something strong-smelling, like onion or garlic, can confuse pests. Try marigolds, garlic chives, lavender or mint.
Insect pests are known to prefer some plants over others. Try growing a known pestsoil magnet near your favorite crop as a decoy. Once infected, remove the decoy and destroy it, pests and all. Try nasturtiums, mustard greens, or marigolds.
Legumes, such as beans and peas, can convert nitrogen from the air and release it into the . Follow legumes with nitrogen-loving brassicas, such as broccoli, cabbage, or kale.
Grow tall, sturdy plants in front of delicate and sensitive crops as a protective shield against wind or excessive heat.
Grow short, quick-growing, shallow-rooted plants such as lettuce and greens under tall, leafy plants like tomatoes or okra. The short plants will shade the soil surface for the tall plants while they work to get established, and the tall plants will provide shade for the short plants later in the season when the summer gets hot. Try leafy greens, lettuce, parsley, and thyme.
From the Gardener’s Kitchen
3 cups sugar 2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup oil 3 1/2 cups flour
4 eggs 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups canned pumpkin 1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup water 1/2 tsp. ea. ginger and cloves
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Cream oil & sugar in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Mix in the pumpkin. Mix the soda with the water, then add alternately with the other dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Stir in pecans.
Can be baked in one large bundt or plain tube pan or (2) 9×5 loaf pans. Other smaller size pans should be filled only half full. Spray pans with Pam (or other brand of “non-stick” spray)
Bake at 350 degrees. Large pans need about 90 minutes. 9×5 loaf pans take about 60-70 minutes. Smaller pans need a little less time. Just be sure bread is done – should be starting to pull away from sides before you take it out of oven. Cool 15 min. Run knife around the edges, and bread should come right out of pan. Allow to cool completely before you wrap it.
Since this is a moist bread, it spoils rapidly and should be stored in the refrigerator. Serve cold. Or warm a few slices in the oven/microwave. Good when spread with butter, jelly, cream cheese, etc.
- If using fresh pumpkin from your garden – use 2 2/3 cups pumpkin. Eliminate the water. Mix soda with other dry ingredients.
- For a lower calorie bread that’s just as good: substitute 1 cup applesauce for the oil, cut the sugar to two cups.
CHES Meeting, October 9th
Paul Dowlearn and his wife, owners of Wichita Falls Landscape, will present a program on Fall gardening and landscaping.
This couple is very knowledgeable and entertaining, you will be glad you came!
See ya at 6:30 pm, Citizens Center, 209 SW Barnard Street in Glen Rose, just off the east side of the square.
Be on time for cookies and door prize registration.
Oak Wilt In Central Texas
by Shirley D. Smith, Somervell County Master Gardener
One of the main reasons we bought our property in Somervell County was because of a stand of live oaks. We built our house close to these trees and they have given us a lot of pleasure as we sit under them on a summer day and enjoy their shade or just admire their beauty. Grandkids have spent hours climbing their twisted branches. However, after becoming a Texas Master Gardener and attending some classes on how to keep trees healthy, I learned of a destructive disease that can take down every one of these huge, majestic trees! In layman’s terms, it’s called Oak wilt. The scientific name for the fungus is Ceratocystis fagacearum and it is one of the most destructive diseases affecting live oaks and red oaks in Central Texas.
Because live oaks tend to grow from root sprouts and can form root grafts very readily, all or most of the live oaks within a given area share a common root system. Most of the tree mortality results from tree-to-tree spread of the pathogen by these interconnected or grafted root systems.
Oak wilt has been found in over 76 counties and in almost every city in Central Texas, as well as Abilene, Midland, Lubbock, Dallas, Fort Worth, College Station, Houston and San Antonio. In can be a problem wherever live oaks tend to be the predominate tree. It does not matter whether they are transplanted or naturally grown and an individual tree’s age, size or previous health status does not make it more or less likely to die from oak wilt.
Oak wilt spreads to other oak trees in two ways: long distances with the aid of certain beetles or locally through common or grafted roots. Sap-feeding (nitidulid) beetles are believed to be responsible for much of the long distance spread of oak wilt. During the spring, the oak wilt fungus forms special spore-producing structures called fungal mats on red oaks. Nitidulid beetles are small (about 1/8-inch long) and are attracted to oak wilt fungal mats because the mats have a sweet, “fruity” smell. Mats form underneath the bark of diseased red oaks and are not known to occur on live oak trees. The fungal mats apply pressure under the bark causing a tiny crack to form.
These mats can be found on the trunk and major branches of red oaks. When a nitidulid beetle feeds on an oak wilt fungal mat, spores of the oak wilt fungus will cling to the body of the beetle. Nitidulid beetles also feed on tree sap associated with fresh wounds. If a beetle contaminated with oak wilt spores lands on a fresh wound on a healthy oak, then that tree can become infected. Tree wounds can be made by man or nature, but nitidulid beetles are attracted to both.
Once established, the fungus moves from one tree to the next through common or grafted roots.
Interestingly, live oaks are somewhat intermediate between the two groups of oaks but are still very susceptible to the disease.
Prevention plays an important role in the management of oak wilt. Landowners and homeowners can take an active role in oak wilt prevention by taking the following steps:
- Avoid pruning or wounding oaks between February 1 and July 1. This is the time of the year when oak wilt fungal mats are most likely to form and the beetles are active.
- Sterilize/Sanitize all pruning equipment between trees.
- Immediately paint all wounds.
- Do not transport or buy unseasoned firewood.
- Promptly remove and either burn or bury all red oaks that are dying or have been recently killed by oak wilt.
Regardless of the reasons or time of year, proper pruning techniques should be used. These techniques include making proper pruning cuts and avoiding injurious practices such as topping or excessive crown thinning. If you are uncertain about any of this information, you should consult with a Texas Oak Wilt Certified arborist, ISA Certified Arborist, or an oak wilt specialist from a city, county or state government agency such as the Texas A&M Forest Service or Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Sources: Texas A&M Forest Service; Texasoakwilt.org