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 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.


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. 


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


            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/

            Monday, July 15, 2019

            When should you water your yard? Check out the WaterMyYard resources.

            The sporadic rainfall these past two months have kept things relatively green in the Austin area. The warm days and nights of summer have arrived, though, which means yards can dry out quickly.

            It's tempting to adopt a "set it and forget it" approach to watering schedules based on the one-inch per week common advice. The truth is that water requirements can vary based on your location, soil type, wind exposure, sunlight, temperature, and plant composition. A better way to approach your watering schedule is to pay attention to the evapotranspiration rate for your location.

            Evapotranspiration. or ET,  is the water loss occurring from the processes of evaporation and transpiration. Evaporation occurs when water changes to vapor from soil or plant surfaces. Transpiration refers to the water lost through the leaves of plants. Understanding ET can help you water your plants more efficiently and take the guesswork out of sprinkler operation frequency and duration.

            There are smart irrigation controllers and moisture meters that tie in with weather stations that can calibrate your sprinkler system. If you don't have one of those, you can still get the information from some great Texas A&M AgriLife Extension sites that provide calculators that tell you when to water.

            The WaterMyYard website (https://watermyyard.org) lets you set up an individual profiles to receive watering recommendations for your type of irrigation system and local conditions. You can even receive their weekly watering recommendations by email and/or text messages. The program is in partnership with area sponsors or municipalities. Austin Water Utility does not participate, but you can still use the website by typing in the area that is closest to you. The primary areas served by this program are as follows:
            • Briarcliff
            • Cedar Park
            • Cottonwood Shores
            • Crystal Mountain
            • Dripping Springs
            • Hidden Valley
            • Horseshoe Bay
            • Lago Vista
            • Lakeway
            • Leander
            • Marble Falls
            • Meadowlakes
            • Point Venture
            • Pflugerville
            • Sandy Harbor
            • Sunrise Beach Westlake Area
            The WaterMyYard program is powered by the TexasETNetwork (http://TexasET.tamu.edu ), which has calculators to help you determine your watering schedule. There are nine LCRA weather stations (including the Austin Redbud location) with data and calculators to help you determine the amount and frequency of irrigation.

            Use either of these resources to help set the right schedule for your individual yard. Since they are tied in with current weather data, you can be confident that you are not wasting water or letting things get too dry. 

            Thursday, June 27, 2019

            Growing Herbs in Texas Seminar August 10th with Lucinda Rudin

            Travis County AgriLife Extension Herb garden at 1600 Smith Rd

            Join us August 10th, 10 am to 12 pm at the Austin Area Garden Center in Zilker Botanical Garden to learn the basics of growing herbs in the Austin area. Explore a fascinating group of plants that have been part of mankind’s history for thousands of years.

            Master Gardener and past President of the Austin Herb Society, Lucinda Rudin, will cover a comprehensive set of topics, including soil preparation, watering, growing seasons, when to plant, when to harvest and how to preserve and store your herbs. Additionally, she will provide ideas for growing herbs in a variety of situations, from apartment balconies to raised beds, and even to incorporating them into your landscape.

            There will be an opportunity to visit the beautiful Herb Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden at the end of the presentation.

            No registration is required. Attendance to the seminars is open to the public with a park entrance fee of $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 Austin Area Garden Center in Zilker Botanical Garden is located at 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin 78746.

            Monday, June 17, 2019

            The Nature and Spirit of Japanese Gardens Seminar July 13th with Dr. Molly Ogorzaly

            Taniguchi Japanese Garden. Austin, TX

            Join us July 13th, 10 am to 12 pm at the Austin Area Garden Center in Zilker Botanical Garden and take a trip to gardens around the world without even leaving Austin. Dr. Molly Ogorzaly contrasts Western and Eastern gardening traditions and explains how religious beliefs influenced the conception and construction of Japanese gardens.

            Dr. Ogorzaly, who holds degrees in agriculture, botany and science education, will share design principles and identify adapted plants that can be used in Central Texas. These designs and plants are featured in Austin’s Taniguchi Japanese Garden, which opened in 1969 and was built by Isamu Taniguch.

            This great gift to the city is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. Over these many years, visitors have enjoyed a tranquil, meditative spot in the middle of Zilker Botanical Garden.

            No registration is required. Attendance to the seminars is open to the public with park entrance fee. The 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 Austin Area Garden Center in Zilker Botanical Garden is located at 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin 78746.

            Thursday, February 28, 2019

            Spring is here! East Austin Garden Fair set to bloom

            Welcome all gardeners!  Whether you are new to, or an old-hand at gardening, the “East Austin Garden Fair: A Passion for Plants” is perfect for you.  Experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Travis County Master Gardeners and Austin Parks and Recreation will be available to answer your questions and share their gardening expertise. 

            Admission is free and the event is open to the public. The theme for this year’s fair is “Learn. Teach. Grow” and will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 13 at the Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center, 2608 Gonzales St. in Austin.

            With over 50 booths exhibiting on a variety of topics, the fair will appeal not only to the traditional homeowner but also to those who favor more urban lifestyles.  A special section just- for-kids brings lots of family-fun activities.  There will be a plant giveaway, lots of free gardening materials, and complimentary soil screening.

            “This fun, hands-on fair involves community members in creative, low-cost ways to grow foods to improve their family diet, as well as providing people an opportunity to learn about EarthKind landscaping,” said Daphne Richards, AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture, Travis County. Richards said EarthKind landscaping combines the best of traditional and organic techniques while emphasizing reduced use of chemicals.
            Daphne will be available to answer questions about gardening and horticulture and to talk about the Master Gardener volunteer program as part of the “Meet the Horticulture Agent” feature at the fair. 

            Travis County Master Gardeners will provide information on a variety of horticulture topics, while community partner organizations will provide information on related services, programs and projects.

            “The fair’s demonstration activities will include straw bale gardening, tools and techniques, and composting, as well as learning about best irrigation methods and how to garden using containers,” Richards said. “Attendees can also learn how to care for their fruit trees, house plants and vegetable gardens, plus learn about subjects like backyard chickens and beekeeping.”

            Richards said free soil screening for gardeners will be offered through Austin Resource Recovery. To have soil tested for metals, pH and nutrients, attendees need to bring a 2-cup soil sample in a quart-size zip-lock bag. Instructions for soil sampling can be found at

            Free vegetable, herb or ornamental plants will be given to attendees while supplies last.

            For more information, call 512-854-9600 or go to AgriLife Extension’s Central Texas Horticulture site at http://bit.ly/eastaustingardenfair.

            Free Seminar - The Challenges of Tomatoes Blight - Blossom End Rot - Bugs

            10 AM to 12 PM at the Austin Area Garden Center, Zilker Botanical Garden.

            Master Gardener Vegetable Specialist Patty Leander will kick-off this year’s seminar series on March 30, 2019, with a presentation on tomatoes.  She will share her knowledge of how to overcome some common challenges that adversely affect tomatoes, such as common bugs and diseases.  In addition, Patty will share harvesting tips and some of her favorite recipes for enjoying your tomato bounty.  Austin newcomers and long-time residents will benefit from the seminar, whether you have a large backyard garden, participate in a community garden, or have a few potted tomatoes on your balcony.

            Part of the Travis County Master Gardener seminar series. Presentations this year will feature a breadth of gardening topics, such as growing tomatoes, dealing with drought conditions, and Japanese garden design, that will be of interest to both new and experienced gardeners. 

            The Austin Area Garden Center in Zilker Botanical Garden is located at 2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin 78746.  A park entrance fee is required.  The 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.

            Attendance to the seminar is free.  No registration is required.