Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rose Pruning

Rose pruning is a topic that comes up each year about this time. Gardeners want to know the best way to prune a rose bush. I have often been frustrated by the lack of a simple, clear answer to that question. All roses are not created equal. There are a number of types, hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, minatures, climbers, "antique" roses, shrub or hedge roses, etc. This defies attempts to create a one size fits all approach to pruning. Instead you need to start with what type of rose you have and its growth habit. Then a useful approach to pruning can be prescribed.

The following web sites are very helpful in guiding a gardener in understanding the best approach pruning their roses, whatever the type:

Pruning Methods by AgriLife Extension is a good guide to spring and fall pruning, as well as summer care. It is simple, straightforward, and probably the best place to start for a new rose grower. If they would add diagrams or photos it would be great.

Pruning Diagrams from Mississippi State Extension provides some very helpful drawings to make the approach to pruning much clearer.

Pruning Roses by the American Rose Society offers several helpful articles on pruning. Keep in mind that these articles are written in various parts of the country so some comments and suggestions may not be completely applicable to central Texas.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Austin Bans Deer Feeding

Now here's something that will perk up gardener's ears about town. The Austin City Council voted unanimously on Thursday to ban intentional feeding of deer inside the city limits. Fines for violating the ban range from $75 top $125 per violation.

This new ordinance certainly has its fans and foes. Likewise the effect of such a ban on the deer "pressure" residents experience remains to be seen. The recent drought has left deer will even less to eat and their interest in our landscapes is certainly understandable.

Deer problems are especially bad west of IH-35 where there feeding can do very expensive damage to a landscape, especially one filled with plants they love. Don't forget that we have a publication on Gardening In Deer Country on the Central Texas Horticulture website. Soon coming to the website is a list of plants not preferred by deer. (We had one about ready for publication but one night the deer broke into the office and ate it.)

Travis County Master Gardener Educational Seminars

Seminars presented by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Travis County. For more details, see or call The Travis County Master Gardeners help desk at (512) 854-9600.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses
February 21, 2009, 10am-Noon
Sunset Valley City Hall
3205 Jones Rd.
Sunset Valley, TX 78745

Roses aren't just for Valentine's Day - they can bring color and sweet smells to your garden year round! Come attend this free seminar presented by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association on selecting and planting roses in your garden. We will be discussing Earth Kind Roses, a designation indicating high performance and outstanding disease and insect tolerance, as well as the basics of pruning and rose care. Earth Kind is an important designation given to select roses by the Texas A&M University Agriculture program. Earth Kind Roses have been through rigorous statewide testing and evaluation by a team of horticultural experts and found to possess a high level of landscape performance and outstanding disease and insect tolerance/resistance. We will include illustrations of a number of Earth Kind Roses plus information on site selection, soil amendments, and bed preparations. And just as important as selection is care for your roses. Pruning rose bushes is intimidating to many gardeners, but actually very good for the plants. Becoming an accomplished rose pruner takes time and practice. Learn about properly pruning plus the basics of rose care.

Getting Ready for Spring Gardening
February 26, 2009, 6:30-8:30pm
Yarborough Branch, Austin Public Library
2200 Hancock Dr.
Austin TX 78756

The 2009 Gardening Series continues with Preparation for Spring on February 26th. Learn how a little planning now results in healthier and more beautiful gardens all year, what makes plants thrive, and pruning and fertilization techniques to get perennials, trees and shrubs off to a strong start. We'll also cover lawn care, including the how and when of fertilization. Do your plants a favor and don’t miss this great kick-off to spring gardening.

How to Grow a Great Lawn
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Zilker Botanical Garden

With Spring just around the corner, it’s a great time to learn about growing a healthy lawn. Master Gardener Susan Decker teams up with Denise Delaney from the City of Austin’s GrowGreen program to give you the latest information on the care and feeding of your lawn. Topics will include choosing the right turf for your site, irrigation, fertilization, proper mowing technique, and disease diagnosis and treatment. This class is free and does not require reservations.

Growing a Spring Vegetable Garden
March 18, 2009
Zilker Botanical Garden

Enjoy juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and delectable green beans straight from your garden. Baskets of okra and armloads of squash can be grown in your garden! Learn how to plant and maintain a spring vegetable garden from Master Gardener Patty Leander, who will share her expertise on vegetable varieties that perform well in Central Texas, recommended planting times, and composting. This seminar is loaded with basic facts and helpful ideas, useful to both new and experienced vegetable gardeners. This seminar is free, open to the public and does not require reservations. Please arrive early as this is one of our most popular seminars.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Winter Lawn Watering...Yea or Nay?

We've had quite a few calls at the Extension Office about whether or not folks need to water their lawn in winter. The City of Austin water dept. generally discourages this but with the drought folks are concerned about losing their lawn. I spoke recently with Dr. David Chalmers, turf specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the following comments are the results of that conversation.

Basically in the winter you need very little supplemental water. The combination of cool temps, periodic rainfall (most years), and the turf being basically shut down due to cold weather results in very little water use by the plant. However, this year is definitely an exception. It has been very dry for very long. I've noticed significant dieback of turf in lawns that were not irrigated fairly often in the summer and fall. This decline is continuing in the winter months.

If you have not received a rain in the past few weeks of at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch your soil is probably very dry and your grass is likely suffering, especially in sunny areas and those with more foot traffic. These areas will benefit greatly from an application of about 1/2 inch once a month while it is still "winter" and in the absence of rain. Even in the winter our St. Augustine lawns need adequate moisture to keep the growing points of the grass hydrated. This moderate amount of moisture is usually adequately supplied by nature, but this year those growing points along with runners and roots are desiccating to the point of near death. Even if the grass plant is not lost, an adequately hydrated grass plant will come out in spring growth faster and stronger than a semi dessicated one.

A complicating factor is the disease Take-All Patch. It destroys roots making the grass plant more susceptible to dry soil conditions. Take-All is a common problem in Texas lawns and infected turf areas are much more likely to die from dry conditions than non infected lawns. Additionally, drought stress seems to strongly predispose turf to Take-All infection which researchers believe occurs primarily in the spring and fall seasons.

Strong turf growth means good, dense coverage which means less compaction from foot traffic, less weed invasion and better intake of rainfall and nutrients (less fertilizer runoff).

I hope this helps bring some clarity to the issue of winter watering. To put it simply, most years we don't need to worry about it; this year we do.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Passion for Plants: An East Austin Garden Fair


Saturday, March 21, 2009
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Govalle Park, 5200 Bolm Road, just East of Airport Blvd.

Call the Travis County AgriLife Extension Service at 854-9600 for more information

Govalle Park will once again be the site of A Passion for Plants: An East Austin Garden Fair on the last weekend of Spring Break. The theme of our third annual fair is Edible Landscaping for Humans and Wildlife. This FREE public gardening event will feature hands-on demonstrations of how to dig a garden bed, make compost, grow fruits and vegetables organically, create wildlife food and shelter, start plants from cuttings and seeds, and many more gardening tips that anyone can do.

Come for the free advice from our on-site experts to answer all of your gardening questions, and for fun educational activities for kids, with bugs, bugs, and more bugs! Visit our booths and get a free plant! The more you learn, the more plants you earn. Get ready for Spring with all the free information you need to start your own edible garden, whether it’s one plant in a pot or a whole yard full, and then relax with a free massage!

Hosted by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Sustainable Food Center, the Green Corn Project, and the Holistic Education and Health Network.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Central Texas Horticulture Website

Check out our website at:
for lots of great information on gardening in Central Texas!