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)
My name is Merilyn Cranford and I have found being a Master Gardener to be a wonderful learning
experience. I have gained many friends along the way who enjoy ‘digging in dirt’. However, my first
gardening teacher was my mother. She always loved being in her gardens and seeing the fruits of her
labors as she watched one season blend into another.
From her instructions, I learned that a healthy garden begins in the kitchen. She saved coffee
grounds which she buried in her flowerbeds to improve the soil. Also, table scraps always found their
way to her garden.
So from year to year as my husband and I moved from place to place, I tried to remember and copy
what I learned from her. My mission was to have something growing/blooming around the house.
Therefore, in December 2000, we moved to a new home in Glen Rose and I had to start from scratch.
Needing a lot of help, I finally got around to signing up for a master gardener training class in 2007.
Well the rest is history as I have been a member of the Somervell County Master Gardeners Association now for 13 years including a number of years when I served as a secretary. It has definitely been an enjoyable experience as I have made many friends and have learned enumerable tips and short cuts. One of the fun things I learned to do was to regrow a poinsettia plant so it would sprout leaves that eventually turned red the second year of growth. I truly surprised myself at the results.
So, if you are looking for a gardening group to join, come check us out. We meet at 10am the third Wednesday of each month at the AgriLife Extension Service. Come join us.
Shirley D Smith
Somervell County Master Gardener
Have you ever heard the word “microclimate” and wondered just exactly what is that? You may have some vague idea but just have not taken the time to do the research to find out exactly what it means. I accidentally found my microclimate at my house, and it has been a great place to protect some of my plants this winter.
Here is a really simple definition I found:
A microclimate is the local climate difference of a small area within the surrounding area and can offer different growing conditions in the larger USDA Hardiness Zone. The conditions of microclimates are determined by plant orientation and exposure to heat, light, water, and wind.
Because of lack of space, I could not move all of my potted outdoor plants into my garage for the winter. There is an area just outside my kitchen dining area that gets the west sun and always seems to be warm or hot, depending on the season. It is also right next to the outside wall of the house so it is protected from the wind and absorbs lots of winter sun. As an experiment, I tried placing in that area 3 geraniums (that bloomed), a mountain laurel I am growing from seed, a spider plant, a color guard yuccca, and 1 chrysanthemum. They were doing great. When the forecast arrived that “snowmeggedon” was headed our way I made room and moved them into my garage. They are now back into my microclimate and doing well.
Since doing research for this article, I am now looking at my property with an eye to crating spaces that might grow plants I would not have otherwise tried. I have a large stand of oaks near my home and that would be a great place for hostas and other shade-loving plants. Do you have an area that is moist a lot of the time? Think about a water garden or a bog garden there. The south side of your house gets lots of winter sun so it might be a great place to put more tender seedlings until ready to put in your veggie garden.
I have a desert garden that gets the full hot summer sun. Because I have put only plants there that are sun and heat-loving, they do well. Being a successful gardener takes thought and planning and a lot of just plain old luck sometimes!
Bees and Beekeeping
Monday, June 28, 2021, 6:30pm
Somervell County Agrilife Extension Office, 1405 Texas Ave.
Please join the Somervell County Master Gardeners on Monday the 28th of June as the Somervell County Master Gardeners host Kirk Kirksey, Vice President to the Dino Bee Club, for a presentation on bees and bee keeping. This presentation will describe common bees found in our area, and will provide key points of bees’ life cycle, anatomy, and sociality. Africanized (“Killer”) bees in Texas will be covered. The program will highlight honey bees and hobbyist beekeeping in our area. This will include a hands-on demonstration of a Langstroth Removable Frame hive. The program will end with “What’s Killing our Bees”, and provide tips and resources for supporting a neighborhood bee population.
Mr. Kirksey’s bio includes:
Master Beekeeper Certification (University of Montana)
Frequent Article Contributor – Texas Beekeeping Association Journal
Advanced Beekeeper Certification (Texas Master Beekeeper Program)
Texas Master Beekeeper Certification (in progress)
Registered Texas Beekeeper (#12216)
Member Texas Beekeeping Association
Vice President: Dino-Bee Club, Glen Rose, Texas
Nine hives on 6 acres east of Glen Rose.
Allow me to let you in on a little Master Gardener Secret: We like to call “dirt” by a different name. Master Gardeners say “soil.” When I was doing my Master Gardener internship, anytime I accidentally spoke the word dirt I would be quickly reminded we don’t grow plants in dirt we grow our gardens in soil. I would find myself saying things like, “My diiiir… um soil is full of limestone.” Truly, this wording upgrade was the highest learning curve I faced in becoming a Master Gardener.
By now I hope you have realized I’m exaggerating a bit and speaking a little tongue in cheek. The Somervell County Master Gardeners do like to have fun with each other, and gentle teasing is often a part of the fun. MG interns are not spared from quickly becoming part of the groups’ playfulness.
Actually, there is a reason behind this unofficial wording. Soil is comprised of water, air, minerals, and organic matter. Soil is a living breathing, fascinating thing. Get your soil right, and everything else will follow.
February is a great month to get out and start checking in with your garden soil. Take your gloves off and dig in with your fingers. Crumble and sift it. Really look at it. Put it up to your nose and take a whiff! Whatever you chose to call it, close observation of your soil an important part of gardening.
Have I piqued your interest in Master Gardener craziness, fun, and the wonderful world of soil? Take a look below for information on the upcoming Master Gardener training. Deciding to join this wacky, wonderful, smart, and good looking group has been one of my better decisions. We would love to have you join us!
Somervell County Master Gardener
Gardening……..ahhh, to dig in the dirt, watch little seedlings sprout and grow into beautiful flowers, plants, vegetables or trees. Nothing can be more satisfying! Is this something that appeals to you? Have you been bitten by the gardening bug and are just not sure where to start? Or, maybe you already garden quite successfully and want to learn more? Maybe you just love to play in the dirt and want more playmates? Whatever the reason, maybe it is time to start thinking about becoming a Somervell County Master Gardener!
Just what is a Master Gardener? Master Gardeners are a dedicated group of ordinary folks who simply have a passion for gardening, desire to further their own knowledge, and wish to further good horticulture practices within our own community. They are volunteers sponsored by the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Service.
To become a Certified Texas Master Gardener, one must complete the training classes and perform additional volunteer hours. By taking the training classes, you will learn not only how to plant things, but also how to keep them healthy. You will also learn to identify and prevent diseases, and how to recognize harmful, as well as beneficial insects. By the end of the class, you will have a variety of tools to help problem-solve gardening issues on your own property, as well as to help friends and members of the community. All along the way you will be mentored by seasoned Master Gardeners!
The next tri-county training is scheduled for March 2021. Classes will be either in person or virtual, typically scheduled from 9am-4pm and will be held on most Tuesdays beginning in April, running through early June. In person classes will be either in Hood, Somervell or Johnson counties or online. Cost of training has not yet been set but will include the new full color Master Gardener Handbook, access to all training, online and in person and all field trip fees.
For more information and to register, please contact Janna or Jordan at the Somervell County Extension Office at 254-897-2809. Don’t wait as class size is limited!
The news is Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, saw his shadow, and we will have 6 more weeks of winter. I’m not sure about you, but I believe in that little rodent! Although in February we are fortunate enough to have days when the weather allows us to get outside and do a little gardening, our primo gardening days are still in the future. So, this month seems like an opportune time to do a little planning, and I have a suggestion.
Integrated pest management (IPM), is a method of management (whether those pests are insects, weeds, or fungus), that requires a little planning. IPM is a cost-effective way to avoid, prevent, and manage pest damage. The added benefits include minimum harm to human health, the environment, and nontarget organisms.
The basic components of IPM are pretty straight forward:
- Prevent the development of plant health problems.
- Regularly check the health status of the plants.
- Accurately diagnose plant health issues or problems.
- Collect and use good information to make good treatment decisions.
- Use only effective pest management tools.
According to Texas A&M University, The goal of IPM is not to to eradicate pests, but to eliminate pest problems by strengthening and stabilizing the landscape so that conditions are more favorable for plants than for pests. This balance is achieved by employing a combination of practices to prevent or avoid pest problems rather than treating them once they occur. By using scouting and monitoring practices for pests that include insects and other arthropods, actions to suppress population levels can be made in a timely manner, using a combination of the most environmentally-friendly and cost-effective tactics available.
Emphasis is given to cultural (non-chemical tactics) and biological (biological control using predators, parasite and pathogens) methods of control. Properly-applied chemical control methods are used only when justified, and then by choosing the least toxic methods.
Now that you have the basics, let me direct you to further information on how to employ the strategies of IPM in your own gardens:
Once at this site, you will find all the information you could want to spend a few hours educating yourself on IPM, but watch out! Perhaps you will become so interested in learning more about gardening, you just might decide to join us as a Somervell County Master Gardener! You are always welcome to join us as a guest at meetings. Contact the Somervell County Extension Office at (254) 897-2809, and they will put you in touch with one of us.
Somevell County Master Gardener
What year did you become a Master Gardener?
Do you hold a position in the group?
Not at this time.
What are your gardening special interests?
I love vegetable gardening, native plants, and planting for the birds and pollinators.
Is there are particular gardening book you enjoy?
The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden by Karen Newcomb
Have you had a particular gardening success?
I can’t think of a particular one. I just try to have more successes than failures.
What do you enjoy about being a Master Gardener?
I enjoy sharing ideas and learning new things.
Do you have a favorite plant?
No way I can pick just one!
Have you exhausted your Netflix options?
Are you tired of scrolling though social media pages?
Would you like to shake some of the cobwebs out of your brain?
Take some time to check out the Aggie Horticulture Facebook page for tons of good information!
Below are the dates for the Wednesday and Friday live videos. The videos will air at 1:00pm, but don’t worry if you’re late to the party. The videos will still be available on the Aggie Horticulture Facebook page.