Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Drip Irrigation Workshop set for January 11, 2020


  


Drip Irrigation Workshop
Free to the Public

Saturday, January 11, 
10 am to 12 PM
Rain or Shine 





We all know that drip irrigation is an efficient way to conserve water and is an important tool in the Earth-Kind landscape. Come to this free Drip Irrigation workshop to learn how to install a drip irrigation system from Travis County Master Gardener irrigation experts.

Led by Travis County Master Gardeners Joe Posern and Sheryl Williams, you will install a drip irrigation system in the Freedom Home Baptist Church vegetable garden. Along the way you will learn more about drip irrigation best practices.

This is a hands-on workshop to gain practical experience with system design and component assembly. You will also learn tips on types of layouts, plant placement, and system maintenance. No prior irrigation experience or tools needed to attend.

The event is rain or shine. Attendees are to bring work gloves, safety glasses, appropriate weather gear, and water. Reserve your spot now at Workshop Registration.

The garden is located behind the church. Off-street parking is available in front and along the east side of the building.

 Earth-Kind Landscaping Earth-Kind Landscaping uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum garden and landscape enjoyment while preserving and protecting the environment. The objective of Earth-Kind Landscaping is to combine the best of organic and traditional gardening principles to create a horticultural system based on real world effectiveness and environmental responsibility. Click here for more information on water conservation and irrigation practices.  

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will provide equal opportunities in programs and activities, education, and employment to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating. Persons with disabilities who plan to attend a meeting and who may need auxiliary aids or services are required to contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service-Travis County at 512-854-9600 ten working days prior to the meeting so appropriate arrangements can be made.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Keep Fall Leaves for Year-Round Benefit

The first cold snap in autumn signals Central Texas deciduous trees to drop their leaves. Before you head to the big box stores to buy leaf bags, consider composting instead.

Don't let their brown-ish color fool you. Those leaves can contain 50 to 80% of the nutrients that a tree pulls out of the soil and air during the past year and often contain valuable micro-nutrients according to a Rutgers University study.

There are three ways you can utilize leaves in your landscape.

Mowing

Mowing leaves is a great way to shred the leaves into smaller sizes, making it easier to just drop them right back on the lawn. Be sure to rake the bits into the grass so that they don't smother the blades completely, much the same way that you apply compost.

Mulching

Fall leaves can also be utilized as mulch. Mulch will help protect your landscape from winter freezes and helps retain soil moisture. Shredding the leaves ahead of time with your lawnmower will prevent them from blowing away and speed up the natural processes that convert mulch to compost. Another great place to add leaf mulch is in between your vegetable beds where they become walkways during the (hopefully) wet days to come. 

Composting

Incorporate composting into your fall maintenance strategy so that no leaf escapes your property. In general, you can use three times as many leaves as materials like lawn clippings, kitchen scraps or coffee grounds. A well-mixed pile that is turned once a week can yield usable compost in one to six months. An additional benefit to hoarding leaves is that you can use them to build layers in your compost or cover scraps as they are added to the pile.

Keeping leaves out of landfills and waterways helps the environment and your garden by recycling nutrients close to where they were taken out of the soil. 

You can find more information on composting leaves at Earth-Kind Landscaping.

Friday, November 1, 2019

It's Arbor Day in Texas!



Collin McMichael, of Treefolks, demonstrates the proper way to plant a tree.
Photo by Caroline Homer, Travis County Master Gardener.

There is a reason that Texas has designated the first Friday of November as “Texas Arbor Day”. Trees planted on National Arbor Day in April have a tough time surviving our hot summers, which is why Texas Arbor Day occurs during cooler, more favorable conditions. With shorter day lengths, cooler temperatures and maybe even a little rainfall, autumn has everything that a tree needs to keep transplant stress to a minimum.

Most of the trees that we plant here in central Texas are deciduous so they will soon be dropping all their leaves and going dormant to avoid the damaging cold of winter. During the winter with no growth happening above ground, trees are free to focus their resources below ground on their roots. If planted in the fall, trees have almost half a year to establish their root systems before the temperatures get overbearingly hot and they start to need more water to survive.

In order to take up water, plants must release water into the environment through a process called transpiration. During the heat of summer, the air is so hot and dry that it practically sucks the water right out of the leaves, which is why during extremely hot weather like we had in August and September of this year, many trees dropped their leaves and went dormant. Dormancy is simply a plant’s way of avoiding stress. It takes a lot of water to support a canopy full of leaves, and if there isn’t enough water, which is a pretty stressful situation, a good strategy is to drop those leaves and go to sleep until the stress passes. We’ve received a lot of calls these past few weeks about trees losing their leaves early and struggling through the summer. However, I bet now that the temperatures have begun to drop and the sun becomes less intense, those trees may take advantage of that short autumn window to get just a little bit of growth before winter and its true dormant season arrives.

The lower temperature and higher relative humidity of fall help to keep trees better hydrated, so planting during autumn gives trees more time to acclimate to their new environment in your yard and get established.

If you’re still deciding what type of tree to plant, here are two resources you can utilize. The first is the tree selector tool on the Texas A&M Forest Service site. The second is the Earth-Kind® plant sector database. Some of my favorite trees like Catclaw Acacia, Cedar Elm, and Lacey Oak are in the Region-F- Hill Country & Central Coast list. 
And check out our throw-back Texas Arbor Day video on Central Texas Gardener, too!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Help the Monarch Migration - Cut Back Tropical Milkweed October through February in Central Texas

Monarch on Gregg's Mistflower. Photo by Sheryl Williams


Monarchs are a beloved insect and the news of their declining numbers have caused alarm. Many homeowners have planted milkweed in an effort to supply larval food for the caterpillars. These good intentions mean that retail nurseries have rushed plant supplies to meet demand.

Unfortunately, the easiest milkweed to propagate for the retail nursery trade is the tropical variety, Asclepias curassavica. While it does serve as a host for the caterpillar, planted outside of its native Mexican range it can disrupt the Monarch migration. According to Monarch Joint Venture, in parts of the U.S. that do not have winter freezes, the year-round presence of tropical milkweed allows monarchs to breed throughout the winter. This is a problem because winter larvae are more likely than migratory Monarchs to become infected with the debilitating parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). The infection spreads by spores from infected adults to the eggs and milkweed plant. In parts of the south, like Central Texas, it is possible for some newly hatched butterflies to reach the overwintering sites and spread the disease to the migratory population.

Therefore, Monarch Joint Venture recommends that tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) be cut back in the winter and fall months in the southern U.S. and California, and homeowners should consider gradually replacing them with native milkweeds as they become available. The native milkweeds usually die back on their own and don’t pose a threat to the migration. If the native varieties are not available, it’s okay to plant Tropical Milkweed, just know that it takes more careful maintenance and should be cut back October through February.

You can help Monarchs reach their winter destination by doing the following:

If you have tropical milkweed in your garden, cut it back October 1 to about 6 inches in height. Keep cutting it back through February as leaves re-sprout. It will die completely back if exposed to freezing temperatures and will likely sprout again in the spring. 

If possible, plant native milkweed. For the Austin area, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends the following:
            It’s also important to have a nectar source for the traveling butterflies. Some examples of native bloomers are Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii), Shrubby boneset (Ageratina havanensis), and Fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)

            You can check on the Monarch migration to Mexico on the Journey North database.

            Wednesday, September 4, 2019

            Join Us for Earth-Kind Gardening Field Day September 28th



            Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Travis County Master Gardeners invite you to visit the Earth-Kind Demonstration Garden on September 28th, 9 am to 2 pm at the Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, 1600 Smith Road, Austin TX 78721.

            Free and open to the public, this fun, hands-on field day involves community members in creative, low-cost ways to grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit to improve the family diet, as well as information about Earth-Kind landscaping.

            The field day features an assortment of DIY and demonstration activities, including tool sharpening, composting, grow boxes, and garden art, and information about drip irrigation methods, water conservation, rainwater harvesting, vegetable gardening, Texas Superstar plants and Integrated Pest Management. There are several activities for kids, including an insect identification scavenger hunt. Travis County Master Gardeners are on hand to answer questions and identify plants in the garden. A limited supply of Earth-Kind plants and fall vegetable starts will be available for purchase. Field Day participants also get the chance to sign up for a free rain barrel giveaway.

            Workshop Schedule

            • 9 am. Compost Bin Construction. Participants will assemble a 3-bin wood and wire composting system on site. Click here to sign up.
            • 11 am. Build a Grow Box. This will be a demonstration on how to construct a grow box, and a hands-on workshop for those wanting to make a smaller grow bucket. Grow Boxes are self-watering, low maintenance gardening containers for small spaces. They are reusable, last for 5 years or more, and are great for vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Click here to sign up
            • 9 am – 1 pm – Bring a gardening hand tool & learn how to clean and sharpen it (no RSVP required)
            • 9 am – 1 pm – Construct a bee house (no RSVP required)
            Travis County Master Gardeners getting ready for the Earth-Kind Gardening Field Day

            Be sure to meet your Travis County AgriLife Extension Agents: Daphne Richards County Extension Agent – Horticulture (and Augie too); Noel Troxclair County Extension Agent – Agriculture and Natural Resources; bring your bug questions to Wizzie Brown Extension Program Specialist- IPM.

            For more information, visit our website http://bit.ly/earthkindatx or call 512-854-9600. 

            Note about Highway 183 construction. We suggest Airport Boulevard or 7th Street as preferred routes to the AgriLife office.

            Monday, August 12, 2019

            Selection, Planting and Care of Your Trees

            Get ready for tree planting season! There are many types of trees, such as ornamental or fruit trees, understory or large shade trees, deciduous or evergreen trees, that are native to Central Texas and will thrive here. Matching a tree’s characteristics and growing requirements with your personal preferences is the first step to successfully adding or replacing trees that will increase the value of your property and bring you enjoyment for many years.

            Please join Master Gardener Jerry Naiser, as he takes you through the steps of selecting, planting and caring for your trees. Planting the tree in the right season, ideally between October and April here in Central Texas, allows the tree’s roots to grow and get established before the heat of the summer is upon us.

            Jerry will highlight proper steps in planting that help reduce transplant shock and root damage to the tree. Providing care immediately upon planting and regular preventive maintenance ensures the tree’s successful development and growth. Regular inspections, pruning, mulching, and fertilizing will catch problems early and provide the environment for a tree’s long and healthy
            lifetime.

            Details:

            September 14, 2019, from 10 AM to 12 PM
            Austin Area Garden Center at Zilker Botanical Garden
            2220 Barton Springs Rd,  Austin, TX 78746

            No registration is required. Attendance to the seminars open to the public with paid park entrance. Park entrance fees are $2 per adult, $1 per child (ages 3-12) or seniors (age 62 & over), and $3 for non-Austin residents. Cash or check accepted.

            The lot at the visitor center is often full on Saturdays. Additional parking to the garden is available on Stratford Drive.


            Thursday, August 1, 2019

            Generation Next - Is it YOUR Turn to Ranch?

            Have you ever dreamed of being a Texas rancher? Generation Next: Our Turn to Ranch is a 12-week online course to be offered Aug.18-Nov. 9 by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

            The agri-business start-up program is aimed at helping new landowners or those who want to start an agricultural operation on an existing ranch. It's all online and taught by professionals in each field and topic. A new topic is covered each week that takes about an hour and a half to complete.

            Topics included are:

            • How to start up an agricultural business
            • Understanding business taxes
            • Insurance, finance, and market fluctuations
            • Grazing and wildlife management leases
            • All the latest land management tools and techniques
            • Alternative operations to add to the business

            Course Includes: 12 online classes of Expert Instruction, Generation Next t-shirt, and a Generation Next School Completion Certificate.

            To secure your spot, please register at: https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/productListingDetails/2785 or call 979-845-2604.

            The cost is $120 for the entire course.

            More information and a printable flyer can be found here: https://generationnext.tamu.edu/