Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Small Acreage Horticultural Crops Seminar

Do you have a few acres of land that you've been wondering what to do with?
Are you currently growing vegetables or other food crops on a small acreage plot?
Are you interested in becoming a part of the local food movement?

If the answers to the above questions are yes, then you might be interested in an upcoming Texas AgriLife Extension Service program just for people who have a small amount of land and are considering food production for the local market.

Extension recently organized a series of webinars on producing horticultural crops on small acreage plots. With the continuing interest in local food and backyard “farms,” this information is particularly relevant and timely. Our next program will be held on April 13, 2010 at the Extension office in Travis County. The program will be streamed live in our office and will be shown via an LCD projector. Here are the details:

What: Small Acreage Horticultural Crops seminar
Where: Texas AgriLife Extension Service office, 1600-B Smith Rd, Austin, TX 78721
Date: April 13, 2010
Time: 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Cost: Free
More information: Daphne Richards, or 512-854-9600

This series of Extension educational programs will include information on the following topics:
* Requirements for setting up a new horticultural business
* Crop economics
* Marketing strategies
* Sustainable production practices
* and more…

The upcoming seminar on April 13 will focus on vegetable and greenhouse crops.
Our speakers will be Dr. Russ Wallace and Dr. Joe Masabni, Extension Vegetable Specialists, and Dr. Don Wilkerson, Extension Nursery and Floral Crops Specialist.
There will also be a live question/answer session featuring the state's leading horticultural authorities in these areas.

Other horticultural and business strategy topics will be offered in future seminars, which will be announced as more information becomes available.

This program might be of particular interest to you if you have a small plot of land and:
* are looking for ways to use it
*are currently growing some crops on a small plot of land
*want to know more about the business of growing and marketing your crops
*are interested in learning about the variety of crops that may be grown on your plot

The program is limited to 30 participants, so please RSVP by April 12 to Daphne Richards, or 512-854-9600. The program is open to all residents of Travis and other surrounding counties.

If you know of anyone else that might be interested in participating, please forward this information to them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Design Templates Available from Grow Green

The most challenging part of making a change in your landscape is often the design. You've been thinking about removing more lawn and replacing it with natives, but where do you start? How do you put down on paper the fact that you want one Texas redbud tree, 3 mountain laurels, and a small bed of purple and yellow flowering native perennials? And what do you do about that section that you have absolutely no ideas for?

Well, help is here. The GrowGreen program, a collaborative project between the City of Austin Watershed Protection department and various other community agencies, including Extension, has developed a series of design templates to assist eager, but perhaps design-challenged, gardeners such as yourselves. Here's a little information on the new templates, from Kathy Shay, Water Quality Education Manager with Watershed Protection:

"The new templates are a guide for Austin area homeowners to help them choose a style and plant palette that requires less water and fewer chemicals. Not only are there scaled drawings of nine plant beds, but seven of the nine have demonstration gardens at popular spots around town including Zilker Botanical Garden, Howson Library, and City Hall. The sites provide Austinites a chance to see which plant combinations and styles best fit their needs and tastes. While some of the designs might look ambitious, it is easy to plant small areas as time and funding allow."

You can find the a link to the templates, as well as other helpful information on garden and landscape topics, at or find the templates directly at

Sunday, March 14, 2010

East Austin Garden Fair March 20th


Saturday, March 20, 2010
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Govalle Park, 5200 Bolm Road, just East of Airport Blvd.
Call the Texas 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 fourth annual fair is Gardening the Earth-Kind Way.  This FREE public gardening event will feature hands-on demonstrations of how to dig a garden bed, harvest rain water, grow fruits and vegetables organically, create wildlife food and shelter, start plants from cuttings and seeds, and how to cut back on chemicals that harm our environment and ourselves.  Come for the free advice from our on-site experts to answer all of your gardening questions, for tips on living healthier and happier, and for fun educational activities for kids to get them out in nature in your own back yard!  Visit our booths and get a free plant!  Get ready for Spring with all the free information you need to start your own Earth-Kind garden, whether it’s one plant in a pot or a whole yard full, and then relax with a free massage!
Hosted by Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Travis County Master Gardeners Association, the Sustainable Food Center, the Green Corn Project, and the Holistic Education and Health Network.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Time for veggies?

Feeling spring in the air?  Getting the itch to start your warm season vegetables?  We have got you covered with some great education sessions to make sure you get the best garden yet!

Spring Into Action: Starting Your Vegetable Garden Right
Friday, March 12, 9-11am
Demonstration Garden at AgriLife Extension Office of Travis County
1600B Smith Rd., Austin TX  78721

A free, hands-on demonstration, this seminar on soil and the first steps of starting a vegetable garden will increase your vegetable gardening knowledge.  Learn about soil amendments, the correct way to prepare and handle transplants and how to prepare and plant seeds.  This demonstration is free and open to the public. 

Spring Vegetable Gardening
Saturday, March 13,10am-noon
Zilker Botanical Garden
2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin TX

Enjoy juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and delectable green beans straight from your garden.  Learn how to plant and maintain a spring vegetable garden from Master Gardener Vegetable Specialist 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 and open to the public.  This is one of our most popular seminars, so please come early to get a seat. 

Both seminars are presented by the Travis County Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Travis County.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Howdy! And here's a learning opportunity for you.

As some of you might remember from a post quite some time ago, I'm the new Extension horticulture agent for Travis County. Yes, Skip is still around, but he's busy being in charge of the office. I'm glad he's still here; it's great having the former hort. agent around--I have a wealth of information in the office right next door! And that's extremely helpful, seeing as how I moved here recently (well...okay, it has been almost a year now, but it feels just like yesterday) from almost a decade as the hort. agent out west in the beautiful Chihuahuan Desert.

As my long dormant allergies are painfully telling me (shhh, don't tell the boss, but I have a degree in botany from this city's fine institution of higher learning, so I've lived here before), spring is springing back upon us. And with its arrival, you'll no doubt be getting back out into your gardens and landscapes, happy to escape from the uncharacteristically cold, wet winter that we just experienced. I'll be out there too, as soon as my nose will let me, and I'll also be keeping you more informed about horticulture information and goings-on that I think you might find useful. And here's the first one:

Tomato 101 - The Basics of Growing Tomatoes
An online course, whose name is self-explanatory.

As our lives become more and more hectic, many of us are looking for ways to streamline our activities and make the most of every minute of our time. Fortunately or unfortunately, that streamlining often involves electronic rather than face-to-face interactions. While I believe that in-person learning continues to be a vital part of Extension's programming, I recognize that electronic learning opportunities will increase our impact on the community and are becoming a vital part of our program offerings.

Here is a description of the course, which was developed by Extension vegetable specialist Dr. Joe Masabni and his assistant, Patrick Lillard. I would love your feedback, so please feel free to drop me a line after you've completed the course:

Tomato 101
The best garden is a well planned garden, so while you wait for spring,
get ready for the best tomato harvest by taking the new online course
‘Tomato 101’.

This course teaches all aspects of growing tomatoes in a home garden,
at your own pace and in your own home.

The course covers:
●Garden and soil preparation
●Plant selection and training
●Weed, disease and insect control
●General care

A short quiz at the end of each section lets you review what you
learned before moving on, and the completion of the course generates
a certificate for you.

So get out from the rain, take a seat by your computer and dream about
those summer tomatoes while you go through Tomato 101.

Available at:

Creating a free use account is required to participate.