March 2017

The Happy Daffodil  –  It only takes one daffodil in early spring to make me happy. A bright yellow or white flower or a combination of a halo of one color and a perfectly shaped trumpet another. As soon as one pops out from brown sleeping soil, I know that it will soon be followed by many more for I have been planting them sporadically for nearly twenty years. My neighbor has a row of early daffodils in front of her south-facing house that bloom a week or two before my first one in the woods. This year hers bloomed in mid-January—the middle of winter.

My few acres contain a small woods that borders my side yard. When we moved in, the woods edge was lovely–huge trees, no understory shrubs, but English ivy a foot thick covering the ground. Sadly, growing within the ivy was another prolific ivy—leaves of three, poison. So, we mowed the ivy patch, poisoned the poison ivy and left bare earth. That’s when I started planting daffodils, adding to them every few years.

Why daffodils? Because they are uniquely beautiful and so intrepid. Sun—they grow. Shade—they grow. Not like their snooty cousins, the tulips, which insist in being in cold earth for a specific number of days before they bloom. A daffodil just decides when it’s time to grow and peeks through snow, ice, wind or rain. It will stand proudly for several days.

Daffodils require no care. They multiply annually. After the first year, I started looking for different varieties. Yellow petals with bright orange trumpets. Tiny yellow flowers growing several on one stem. Double, dark, old-fashioned ones looking like mums. Bell- shaped, drooping white clusters. I even have a variety in my front garden with white petals and pink trumpets. I do think they look a little strange, but lovely.

With so many different varieties, some of my daffodils are still blooming. Besides in the woods, I have scattered them in small patches here and there—around trees, the edge of the deck, tucked in bare spots in the perennial gardens. By the time this is in print, it will be eight weeks since my first one poked its little face out of the earth and I still have a lovely bouquet on my table. I think I will plant another bunch this fall; if one makes me happy, image a hundred.

 

For gardening questions and information, e-mail Grayson County Master Gardeners at mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.

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February 2017

To our Readers: We hope you have noticed that Master Gardeners have not been posting helpful info for This Week in the Garden. We are changing our format to A Gardener’s Journal. We will still be available to help you with gardening  questions through our website, Facebook and phone as listed below. This is our first journal article.

Adventures with Rabbits by Diane Getrum

Early spring last year

We are quietly breakfasting on the patio.  Toward the back of the yard two rabbits cavort through the spring grasses and dart in an out of the sheltering junipers.  How  nice it is to have wildlife so close.

Later that spring

What an exciting morning!  We were breakfasting on the patio when one of the rabbits approached us.  It stopped 5 feet from where we were sitting and as I held my breath it moved behind the low brick wall at the edge of the patio.  Curious about where it had gone, I checked the flower pots.  Hidden underneath the flowers I found 4 baby bunnies snuggled down in the top of the pot!  A pot full of bunnies!  Is it Easter?

Monday

Summer is just around the corner.  The beans are magnificent!  So many flowers!  I cannot wait for the first mess of green beans!

Wednesday

I checked the beans again today.  Found lots of tiny TINY green beans, not even half an inch long.  If I mark the date on the calendar I can see how fast they grow.

Thursday

I don’t understand it.  Yesterday so many green beans and today nothing but flowers.  There are still lots of flowers.  I’ll keep watching.

Sunday

OK!  This is ridiculous!  How can the blossoms keep coming and there not be any beans!  There aren’t any bugs.  The plants look great.  There aren’t any little green beans on the ground!

Monday

RABBITS!  They have been eating the beans!  Nipping off the juiciest ones just as they turn an inch long!  I surprised them this morning and chased then out of the garden.

Tuesday

Rabbit fencing installed!  Google said you had to bury the fence a foot deep to keep the pesky critters from digging underneath.  I didn’t do that.  But I did bury the last strand of the fence to there were no inviting holes.  I hope this works!

The next week

Green Beans!! At last!  And, there are no signs of rabbits sneaking under the fence.  Hooray!

A few days later

The holly hocks look like their leaves have been nipped off.  You don’t suppose ….

The next morning!

Ah ha!  Caught you red handed … umm … green lipped? … Mom is surprised that anything would eat holly hocks.  She says her father tried everything to get rid of them and nothing worked.

That evening

I am watching the sun set from my patio when from the distance drifts a singing howl that is joined by a second voice.  Senor Coyote!  Te gustaria algunos conejos sabrosos? (Mr. Coyote!  Would you like some tasty rabbits?)   How nice it is to have wildlife so close.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cleanup and Fertilizing – Texas weather is always changeable but this month may be in line for winning a prize. It makes it hard to know what to do in the garden. Beautiful days such as this past Monday and Tuesday makes us raring to go with spring plants. Today, not so much.

However, there are things you can do and should do. First of all, you may have old dried plants that need pulled—obedient plant, for example, or cut—Mexican petunia, asparagus, daisies, because with warmer weather, they will start growing and then it will be harder to pull  or cut stalks close to the ground.

Roses and fruit trees are ready for pruning. Two reminders for fruit trees: apple and pear trees need to grow around a central leader; stone fruits—peach and plum—should be trimmed in an open cup shape. (If you are not sure how to do this, you should consider taking the Master Gardener classes which start this February 22.)

The amount of foliage removed from roses changes the amount and size of future blooms. If you want large, show-stopping roses, remove one- half to two-thirds of the bush, but you will not get nearly as many as you would if you prune away only one-third of the branches. The blooms from a lightly-pruned bush will be smaller. The type and health of the bushes should also be considered. A standard rule for both fruit trees and roses besides shortening branches is always remove damaged, diseased, dinky—less than pencil size—and any crossing branches that will interfere with cup-like growth. It’s called the DDDC rule.

There are a few things that should be fertilized now: asparagus, iris and any cold-weather plants such as pansies that are looking weak or scraggly. – Ginger Mynatt

For more  information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.  Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

As the deadline for registration to attend classes to become a Texas Master Gardener approaches, I thought I should acquaint you with who master gardeners are and some questions to help you determine whether you would like to train with the Grayson County Master Gardeners starting February 22 and continuing every Wednesday through May 3, from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. at the Grayson County courthouse. The following information comes from our state offices.

Master Gardeners are members of the local community who take an active interest in their lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers and gardens. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn and to help others, and able to communicate with diverse groups of people. What really sets Master Gardeners apart from other home gardeners is their special training in horticulture: 50 hours of instruction that covers topics including lawn care, ornamental trees and shrubs, insects, diseases, weed management, soils and plant nutrition, vegetable gardening, home fruit production, garden flowers, and water conservation.

In exchange for their training, persons who become Master Gardeners contribute time as volunteers working through their Extension office to provide horticultural-related information to their communities. – Ginger Mynatt

To help you decide if you should apply to be a Master Gardener, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to learn more about the culture and maintenance of many types of plants?
  • Am I eager to participate in a practical and intense training program?
  • Do I look forward to sharing my knowledge with people in my community?
  • Do I have enough time to attend training and to complete the volunteer service?

If you answer “yes” and want to apply, go to www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net , e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us,  or call 903-813-4204.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Garden Calendar, a Gardener’s Best Friend

It’s the end of the year. Two thousand seventeen will be here in a few days. The weather is toying with us: temperatures dipping low; rain and drizzle coming for several days; and then it’s in the 70s. What’s a gardener to do with this unpredictable weather? Start a garden calendar. That’s what.

By having calendars from year to year, you will know where you planted spring plants last year and plan your rotation of crops. You will also be able to chart the weather and see how much you had to water previously and compare it with rainfall that season.

You will be able to see what and how much you added to your soil—compost, fertilizer, topsoil, expanded shale–and judge your levels of additives for this year. What insects caused the most problems and were any of your methods for combating them successful. If you record carefully, you will know what varieties performed well and what perennials are hiding in the ground ready to pop up.

Calendars can be created in many ways. For years, gardeners often kept diaries specifically for garden stats. Today, some seed companies sell garden calendars with helpful suggestions that recommend available plants for the season. It can be fun to create your own with photos from previous years included, or if you are technically savvy, a well-planned spread sheet may be your best bet. With a spreadsheet, columns can be added year after year for a side-by-side view to compare each year.

No matter what format you use or how much information you keep, a garden calendar can prevent the same mistakes year after year, help you select plants and place them properly. All in all, it can make you a more efficient gardener.  – Ginger Mynatt

New Master Gardener classes are starting this February. If you are interested, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

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Thursday, December 21, 2016

Feed the Birds—-Even the birds can be surprised by severe shifts in weather because like us, birds are warm-blooded. Fortunately, they have layers of feathers designed to conserve body heat. You can see them on a cold day sitting on a wire or branch in the sun fluffed into a little ball. Sometimes they sit on one foot only and switch back and forth to keep their feet warm.

Here’s where you come in. Birds need more rich food at this time, and it is harder to come by because insects are not readily available.  Flying not only takes tremendous amounts of energy but also causes heat loss. Some birds will not survive without an easy source of food and water. So, buy or make a good-sized feeder and fill it with a good-quality bird seed.

White millet and black-oil sunflower seeds are the main ingredients in a healthy bird-seed package. As different birds prefer different seeds, mixes that add finely-cracked corn and black thistle seeds will tempt a larger variety of birds. These grains are rich in oil and protein. Cheaper packages include milo, but most birds will not eat it.

There are many special treats available such as suet cakes and fancy seed-covered ornaments at nurseries or feed stores. Some of these are gelatin-based which birds love. However, be careful. Check the kind of seeds and what holds the seeds together to avoid buying something pretty but not useful to birds.

If you wish to make your own treats, mix peanut butter into a dough with corn meal or flour and add shelled peanuts, nuts, dried fruits, even bacon drippings. This can be smeared onto pinecones or bark of trees.

Remember your birdbaths and water containers may freeze over, so check them often to maintain fresh water. – Ginger Mynatt

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

A small amount of roof collects a lot of rain water.  The first time we collected water, we bought fifty-five gallon drums.  A few minutes of a good rain completely fills fifty-five gallons.  So next we purchased several tanks discarded by companies who buy large volumes of food grade liquids, not oils.  These tanks have metal frames around them and come in different sizes. We bought the largest ones.

These tanks are equipped with an outlet and a valve at the bottom.  You must adapt the valve to the size of a garden hose, and it does take some engineering to put up a guttering design directing the rain water into the tanks. Metal guttering is best because it does not fall apart as easily as the plastic guttering.  Cut a hole in the lid of the tank under the guttering so water spills into the hole.  Make sure the seal between the tank and the guttering is tight because mosquitos will enter any break.

Next design an overflow system.  At the top of the tank, place a pipe going into another tank or attach a garden hose leading the wherever you want extra water.  The simplest system to use the water is gravity flow so the tanks should be placed on a platform at least a foot or two from the ground.  The more sophisticated system is to acquire a pump.  A pump allowed the water under pressure to travel anywhere in the yard.

Saved rain water means better quality  water for your plants without all the chemicals used to purify drinking water.  Also, rain water is much better for mixing herbicide or insecticide sprays.  Cover any open breaks in the design with screening as mosquitoes are persistent. Once your system is set up, then good water is cheap and ready to use. – Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.

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 Thursday, December 8, 2016

REFLECTIONS OVER 2016

At the end of every growing season, every gardener must reflect back to determine what was successful and what needs to be discarded.  Each year is so different depending upon the weather, the plants chosen to grow, the amount of fertilizer used.

What to discard?  We chopped a cactus that had grown too large and threw it into a burn pile.  While waiting for the perfect time to burn, it grew roots and now it is now growing in more places. Be careful where you plant cactus.  We also planted bamboo on our property line to hide the neighbors junk yard. It has to be cut to the ground each spring.  While this is a nuisance, it hides an ugly site, but probably best not to plant bamboo!

When to harvest? How does one tell when a watermelon is ripe?  What color is a pomegranate when it is ripe?  How does one know when to dig sweet potatoes when the foliage is still on the vine?  How does one keep crows out of the pecan trees?  For sure, crows know the exact moment when pecans can be harvested.

Which flower gave you the happiest results?  This year the lowly zinnia bloomed magnificently from the minute it was planted until cooler weather came.  Bees and butterflies swarmed every minute.  This spurred a great interest into planting flowers that can feed our beautiful, helpful friends.

Looking back, I realize that we have so much to be thankful for–such as the seasons which give us spring when the magnolias blossoms spread their perfume across the yard, and now in the fall when the soft breezes waft the Russian olive shrub’s perfume. Although we complain about summer heat, the plants take advantage of the fast-growing season providing us with shade and food.  Now as winter is upon us, we have time to browse the seed catalogs and talk to friends about their last season.

Advice from a friend this year is:  fertilize peppers heavily.  When you think it is too much, add some more.  His are over five feet tall and full of peppers. – Nancy Taylor

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

REFLECTIONS OVER 2016–At the end of every growing season, every gardener must reflect back to determine what was successful and what needs to be discarded.  Each year is so different depending upon the weather, the plants chosen to grow, the amount of fertilizer used.

What to discard?  We chopped a cactus that had grown too large and threw it into a burn pile.  While waiting for the perfect time to burn, it grew roots and now it is now growing in more places. Be careful where you plant cactus.  We also planted bamboo on our property line to hide the neighbors junk yard. It has to be cut to the ground each spring.  While this is a nuisance, it hides an ugly site, but probably best not to plant bamboo!

When to harvest? How does one tell when a watermelon is ripe?  What color is a pomegranate when it is ripe?  How does one know when to dig sweet potatoes when the foliage is still on the vine?  How does one keep crows out of the pecan trees?  For sure, crows know the exact moment when pecans can be harvested.

Which flower gave you the happiest results?  This year the lowly zinnia bloomed magnificently from the minute it was planted until cooler weather came.  Bees and butterflies swarmed every minute.  This spurred a great interest into planting flowers that can feed our beautiful, helpful friends.

Looking back, I realize that we have so much to be thankful for–such as the seasons which give us spring when the magnolias blossoms spread their perfume across the yard, and now in the fall when the soft breezes waft the Russian olive shrub’s perfume. Although we complain about summer heat, the plants take advantage of the fast-growing season providing us with shade and food.  Now as winter is upon us, we have time to browse the seed catalogs and talk to friends about their last season.

Advice from a friend this year is:  fertilize peppers heavily.  When you think it is too much, add some more.  His are over five feet tall and full of peppers.  Everyone have a safe, happy Thanksgiving! – Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us. Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Sign up for our classes starting in February!

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

COMPOSTING

An acre of land planted with nine fruit trees, eleven nut trees, five raised beds, seven fig trees, and four pomegranate shrubs. How can anyone afford to take care of all these plants with the high costs of water and fertilizer? We do it two ways. We make our own compost and collect rain water.

A person cannot have too much compost because it can be used in so many different manners– as a mulch around plants or incorporated into the soil. All summer we collect our grass cuttings and put them on top of the raised beds or into a designated compost area.

Now the trees are starting to drop their leaves. Think about this: every mineral stored in fully mature grass and leaves is returned to the soil as compost. Collect the leaves wherever you can. Run a lawn mower over them to break them into smaller pieces and place in the same areas as the grass.

All that is necessary to promote composting is water and turning of the grass and leaves. To help initiate the composing process, throw blood meal, bone meal, seaweed, or any other manure into the pile. Do not use any manure from dog or cat droppings because they are meat eaters and carry bacteria harmful to humans.

Instead of composing in bins or raised beds, whole leaves can be deposited around blackberry bushes, grapes vines, and other plants. Water the leaves well so they stay where placed. Thick layers of leaves or grass clippings bury weed seeds and stop weeds from germinating. After a couple of years, these leaves will develop into rich soil.

If you are lucky, the company that trims the branches along the high wires will drop off their chipped branches into your yard. These large particles take longer to break down. If you incorporate these chips or sawdust into the soil, you will need to fertilize more because sawdust ties up nitrogen. Once the chips finish composting, you will have fine soil. Grass clippings and leaves are too valuable to put into the garbage dump. – Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us. Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

GROWING BLACKBERRIES AND RASPBERRIES

continued from last week

Last week I recommended trying blackberry plants and named a few varieties. You should also know that blackberries can be purchased bare root or container grown.  Our plants were bare root and arrived with damp wood shavings around them.  If you purchase bare root plants of any kind, you must be careful not to let the roots become dry.  You can keep them in a bucket of water for an hour or two or wrap a damp towel around them. Dry roots equal a dead plant.   Dig your holes in the location you want to plant them before they arrive so they can go immediately into the ground.

Blackberry plants quickly send up shoots which will be where next year’s crop will appear.  Do not expect berries the first year planted, but the second year expect berries on the canes which were grown the first year.  As the berries mature and ripen the fruiting cane leaves will start to lose their luster.  The plant is spending all its energy to ripen the berry.  Just about the time all the berries are ripe, the fruiting cane turns dark and appears to be dying.  It is.  Go to the bottom on the dying cane and cut it off.  But, notice the new canes coming up around it.  These are the fruiting canes for next year.

The raspberries we can grow here in North Texas are called Dorman Red.  Neil Sperry does not recommend growing these berries because they are not like the ones grown in the north, but thorny Dorman Red plants multiply quickly.  They become perky, fresh looking, and produce many blossoms early in the spring.  Dorman berries cannot be picked until they are soft, even if they are red and they do not taste like northern berries and they are smaller. But they are great for jelly and desserts. Harvest takes 7 to 10 days. The rest of the year they lie quiet, living through the hot summer with very few waterings.   I have had good luck with Dorman Red raspberries. -Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

GROWING BLACKBERRIES AND RASPBERRIES

Blackberry plants can be purchased bare root or container grown. Our plants were bare root and arrived with damp wood shavings around them. If you purchase bare root plants of any kind, you must be careful not to let the roots become dry. You can keep them in a bucket of water for an hour or two or wrap a damp towel around them. Dry roots equal a dead plant. Dig your holes in the location you want to plant them before they arrive so they can go immediately into the ground. All fruiting plants require full sun. Blackberry plants quickly send up shoots which will be where next year’s crop will appear. But blackberries can also be grown from root cuttings which are pieces of root removed from the mother plant and planted in containers or other places in the ground. Do not expect berries the first year planted, but the second year expect berries on the canes which were grown the first year. As the berries mature and ripen the fruiting cane leaves will start to lose their luster. It is spending all its energy to ripen the berry. Just about the time all the berries are ripe, the fruiting cane turns dark and appears to be dying. It is. Go to the bottom on the dying cane and cut it off. But, notice the new canes coming up around it. These are the fruiting canes for next year.

The raspberries we can grow here in North Texas are called Dorman Red. Neil Sperry does not recommend growing these berries because they are not like the ones grown in the north. Raspberries grown up north grow much like our upright thornless blackberries. The canes are so tall they are tied to trellises. The berries are larger and have a different taste. But thorny Dorman Red plants multiply quickly. They become perky, fresh looking, and produce many blossoms early in the spring. Harvest takes 7 to 10 days. The rest of the year they lie quiet, living through the hot summer with very few waterings. The berries are smaller but tasty. Great for jelly and desserts. I have had good luck with Dorman Red raspberries.  – Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us. Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Last month our Master Gardeners writers wrote this is the season to plant. We plant now because it gives everything planted months to grow its roots before the plant has to spend energy growing leaves, blossoms, and fruits. Also, it gives the plant time to establish itself before facing the hot, summer sun. Blackberries are recommended because they can be grown on city lots as well as country sides. They are easy to grow in any type of soil with very few demands and no insect problems. You can choose thorny or thornless cultivars.   Because of the need to occasionally weed and because some children may be the harvester, thornless cultivars are recommended. Our first planted blackberry was Arapaho purchased from a box store. That one plant produced berries the second year and sent up about ten new sprouts. We transferred those ten sprouts into a row which began our blackberry patch. Arapaho is an upright, thornless plant that really does not need to be tied to a trellis. It produces thick canes and is a heavy producer of fruit. We wanted to try another cultivar. The cultivar chosen was Natchez which was the most expensive displayed in the catalog. Natchez was chosen as a ‘Texas Super Star’ in 2013 which is the year we planted. The price was three plants for fifteen dollars. But they arrived with four Natchez plants and one thorny plant. What to do?   The thorny plant was planted just to see what kind of fruit it would give. It gives a beautiful berry, but every time we reach to pick a berry, we feel like Jaws it coming up to bite us. It will be removed this winter. Natchez is a thornless but semi-erect plant which means you have to tie it to a trellis. This is the cultivar I recommend you purchase. The berry is large, very sweet and favorable, and ripens in late May into early June. It, too, is a heavy producer. – Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us. Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fall is for Planting! – Trees and Shrubs

Now is the best time to add container- grown trees and shrubs to your landscape. They will have time to establish good root systems before the hot summer. Visit your local, independent nursery for quality trees and shrubs and for help in determining which varieties meet your landscaping requirements: size, deciduous or evergreen, full sun or shade tolerant.

If it’s trees you’re wanting, first decide the size you need. They may look little at the nursery, but trees such as oaks, pecans and Bald Cypress have the potential to grow well above 50 feet. Medium-sized trees–Chinese Pistache, Soapberry and Lacebark Elm to name a few– generally top out 20 – 50 feet. Desert Willow, Mexican Plum and redbuds are some of the many small trees that will likely stay under 20 feet.

It is easiest to start a tree with a trunk diameter of 2-4 inches. This size will establish and thrive in 2-3 years. The larger the tree at planting, the longer it takes to establish and the lower the survival rate.

Shrubs form understory for groupings of trees or decorative plantings around houses. Large shrubs, 9 feet and above, include Crape Myrtle, various junipers and hollies and Vitex. Medium shrubs, Spireas, sages and Nandinas will grow 6-9 feet, and small, 3 – 6 feet shrubs include Dwarf Burning Bush, barberries and abelias. A few evergreens, spreading junipers for instance, work well as ground covers.

The secret to success with trees and shrubs is in the planning to determine size, placement and proper planting. – Sue Abernathy

For more information contact:  Grayson County Master Gardener Association

http://www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net/

mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

https://www.facebook.com/groups/graysoncountymastergardeners/

903.813.4204

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fall is for Planting! – Cool Season Color

Now is the time to add cool season color to your landscape and containers for the fall and winter months. By following these simple guidelines your landscape will be the envy of the neighborhood.

  • Prepare beds prior to planting by incorporating 4-5” organic matter (compost). Always start with new potting soil when replanting containers.
  • Plan your beds so that there will always be several plants in bloom at the same time.
  • Select a variety of annuals, perennials and bulbs in beds and containers.
  • Cool season flowering annuals now available include alyssum, violas, pansies, snapdragons and dianthus. Add ornamental mustard, cabbage or kale as companion plants.
  • Perennials now available include garden mums, asters and spring flowering bulbs.
  • Add cool weather herbs including dill, fennel and parsley for a feathery look and some added greenery.
  • Check each plant’s light and water requirements and group plants with similar requirements
  • Masses of color show up better from any distance. Warm colors like oranges, reds, yellow, and hot pink are more visible from afar. Cool colors such as purple, lavender, pale yellow and crimson make small areas appear larger. Add white flowers as contrast.
  • Plant color into containers using the “thriller, filler, spiller” guidelines. Begin with tall plants (thrillers) in the center or back of the container, then add plants of medium height (fillers) followed by trailing (spiller) varieties near the edges. – Sue Abernathy

For more information contact:

Grayson County Master Gardener Association

http://www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net/

mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

https://www.facebook.com/groups/graysoncountymastergardeners/

903.813.4204

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fall is for Planting! – Spring Wildflowers

You too can have wildflowers in your garden next spring by following these eight easy steps before the end of October.

  1. Purchase wildflower seeds from a reputable seed supplier.
  2. Select a site with good drainage and at least eight hours of direct sunlight.
  3. Use an herbicide to eliminate any vegetation in the selected site which may compete with your wildflowers (optional step).
  4. Mow the existing vegetation as short as possible and remove the clippings from the area.
  5. Rake or lightly till the soil surface to NO MORE than 1 inch in depth to prepare the planting site. This step is extremely important for two reasons:       to limit the growth of dormant weed seeds and to achieve successful wildflower seed germination.
  6. Combine wildflower seeds with sand or potting soil (inert material) in a ratio of 1 part seeds to 4 parts inert material to increase the volume of broadcast material and ensure even seed distribution.
  7. Broadcast half of your seed/inert material mix over the selected site. Sow the remaining seed in a direction perpendicular to the first sowing.
  8. Press the seed into the soil by walking over the newly planting area. DO NOT COVER the wildflower seeds. Larger wildflower seeds should be visible on the soil surface.

Additional tip: Plant some of the seeds in a pot filled with potting soil. This will provide an easy way to identify the wildflower seedlings as they germinate. – Sue Abernathy

For more information contact:

Grayson County Master Gardener Association

http://www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net/

mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

https://www.facebook.com/groups/graysoncountymastergardeners/

903.813.4204

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

One of the most beautiful, romantic plants that bloom during our hot summers through fall is commonly called the moonflower. The 5 – 8 inch trumpet-like flowers bloom at night, so white they seem to glow in the dark. On a cloudy day, the flowers may stay open until mid-morning. Their green-gray leaves are oval with points, soft and slightly fuzzy.

Moonflowers are very poisonous, especially the flowers and seeds. They belong to the Datura species with several genera which grow both as vines and bushes. Some of their other names are devil’s trumpets, jimsonweed, thorn-apple, hell’s bells.

Moonflowers are easy to grow–very drought tolerant and prolific. Small, sharp stickers cover the ball-shaped seed pod. The seeds inside are tiny and numerous. When the pod cracks open, the seeds spread and moonflowers grow the next season. However, the bush is a tender perennial, often wintering over and growing larger each year unless contained in a pot. An old plant may reach heights of 7 or 8 feet with a spread of four feet. It is truly a spectacular sight to go outside at night or early morning and see a moonflower bush covered with 16 white trumpets.

The leaves and stems if crushed give off and unpleasant odor but the flowers smell sweet. Because they are poisonous, nothing eats them, but the hummingbird moth is attracted to the flowers as well as various wasps. In spite of their toxicity, they are beautiful and reliable in the fall garden. – Ginger Mynatt

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the AgriLife Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

The FALL GARDEN SHOW at Loy Lake Park will be on Saturday, October 8th this year! For more information click HERE

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Even though school has started, we are still in the summer season. Most days are still so hot it’s hard to start new fall plants. Our gardens look scraggly unless we have planned ahead with late-blooming shrubs and flowers that bloom in spite of alkaline soil and hot, dry weather. One of the best of these is Texas Sage.

Texas Sage, scientific name Leucophyllum frutescens, is a native plant. In 2005, it was chosen Texas Native Shrub of Texas.  It likes alkaline soil, thrives in dryness and blooms summer through fall. When a surprise shower or a day of rain comes through, lavender to purple blooms cover the bush. It is sometime called the barometer plant because of this habit. However, watering heavily will not produce the same profusion of blooms. Texas sage has lovely silvery leaves with some variations of grays or greens depending on the variety.

Texas Sage, also known as ceniza, purple sage, and Texas silverleaf, has several varieties. “Silvarado” is very popular because of its rounded shape. While sages are slow-growing for the first few years, “Silvarado” reaches dimensions of 6’ x 6’. “Compact” is a smaller variety growing to 4.5’ x  4.5’. “Heavenly Cloud” grows to 8’ x 8’.

You sometimes see Texas Sage trimmed into hedge shapes along roadways but sages are best served by light pruning in winter or early spring before buds form. Texas Sage can be purchased in nurseries, sown from seeds but I wouldn’t recommend this at this time of year, or started from cuttings from a neighbors’ bush. – Ginger Mynatt

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the AgriLife Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

The FALL GARDEN SHOW at Loy Lake Park will be on Saturday, October 8th this year! For more information click HERE

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

As fall approaches, trees start their preparations for winter. They stop making food necessary to sustain their leaves with the cessation of chlorophyll. This makes now an ideal time to think about composting those leaves that will soon cover your lawn.

Fall leaves contain high amounts of carbon, a necessary element in making good compost material. We call them “brown”.  Instead of bagging and sending leaves to the landfill, pile them in a bin or just a pile and let nature take its course. The smaller size they are, the better. You can run over a pile of them with your lawn mower and add the bits to your bin. Smaller pieces compost faster.

To make nutritious, well-balanced compost, though, one also needs nitrogen, a substance available in “green” materials. Into each pile of brown leaves, you need to add some greens such as kitchen garbage from vegetables, fresh grass clipping, green garden plants, coffee grounds (Their color may be brown, but their chemistry is green), dried manure, unwanted fruit including the horse apples from bois d’arc trees, even the hair from your pets. A ratio of two parts brown to one part green, judged by bulk, not weight, is ideal.

Keep your compost material moist, like a wrung-out sponge, and if you want the finished product a hurry, mix it around every week or two. The more you mix, the quicker it breaks down. By spring, you should have some very fine fertilizer. – Ginger Mynatt

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Take some time this month to do those gardening chores that will make your fall landscape more colorful and give you a head start on spring. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Trim annuals and perennials that will bloom again in cooler weather by about one-third. Some of these might be salvia, impatiens, and zinnia.
  • Fertilize any perennials now that will bloom into late fall. This month is also a good time to fertilize ground covers.
  • Clean out annuals that have finished their show.
  • Feed roses heavily this month, water well, and prune any fall bloomers.
  • Shape up any shrubs by the end of the month so that they have time to harden off before the first freeze. Wait a few weeks to plant any new trees or large shrubs.
  • Start dividing irises and daffodils. Other spring-blooming perennials can be divided as soon as foliage dies down. Trim other perennials such as columbine, butterfly bush, and oxalis.
  • Plant black-eyed peas, bush beans, corn, and cucumbers in your vegetable garden. There is still time!
  • Start now to plant flower seeds for flowers and wildflowers next spring. Order seeds from native plant vendors like Wildseed Farms (wildseedfarms.com) or Native American Seed (www.seedsource.com). Both of these companies give helpful ideas on which natives grow best in our area and the best procedures to have successful flowering.

Take advantage of this nice break from the summer heat, and give your yard and garden a little tender loving care. You will be glad you did come spring and the show that it will provide for you! – Donna Rogers

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us. Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Creating a garden to attract butterflies can be as easy as throwing out a few zinnia seeds or as complex as planning a space full of native plants that will serve the needs of many species. Some plants (host) will serve as a place for adults to lay eggs and as food for caterpillars, and some plants (nectar) will serve as food for adults. If you choose a designated butterfly garden, you will need to give attention to your plant choices since each species of butterfly has specific host and nectar requirements.

Like all gardening, there is a certain amount of experimenting to learn what works in your area. You can add new host and nectar plants as your garden evolves. Keep these things in mind as you plan:

  • Butterflies like open sunny areas.
  • Provide water in your garden.
  • Plant brightly colored flowers for nectar.
  • Place flat stones in your garden, providing a place for butterflies to rest and bask in the sun.
  • Expect some plant damage on larval food plants. Chewed leaves and caterpillars crawling around your plants indicate that your butterfly gardening efforts are successful!
  • Create a puddling box. Butterflies drink from muddy areas (puddling) to extract needed minerals. You can make a puddling box by mixing ½ cup of salt with one gallon of sand. Pour in a shallow waterproof pan, insert the pan in the soil, and keep it moist.
  • Say no to insecticides. These have no place in a butterfly garden. Even benign insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, are lethal to caterpillars.

A few examples of butterflies commonly seen in our area and their host plants are: black swallowtail (parsley, fennel); monarch (milkweed); gulf fritillary (passion vine); and sulphurs (asters, clover). For more information on butterflies and their preferred plants, check out these websites: www.wildflower.org or www.butterfliesandmoths.org. – Donna Rogers

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us. Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

In our Texoma area we can grow veggies twice a year–spring/summer, then again in fall.  In August it will be time to start thinking about what veggies you want to grow.  Start them from seed or plant them directly in the bed.  You can determine when to plant your veggies based on counting the number of weeks before the first killing freeze.  In Sherman/Denison that’s November 11th, but I usually back that up a week so as a general rule because Texas weather is not trustworthy.

If you are buying seeds, the instructions in the back of the packet will tell you how many weeks before the first freeze to plant.  As hot as it is, you are probably ahead to start seeds indoors or buy transplants. A full list of recommended fall veggies and planting dates can be found on the Grayson County Master Gardener website.  Here are a few popular veggies to grow in fall with the number of weeks to plant before last freeze date.

Winter squash 12-14 weeks–that is now.

Kohlrabi 12-16 weeks

Broccoli 10-16 weeks
Snap peas 8-10 weeks
Lettuce 10-14 weeks
Cucumber 10-12 weeks
Okra 12-16 weeks

Now is a good time to start preparing your soil or bed ready for planting. Many of our nurseries and box stores carry winter transplants. If you decide to go this way you can plant a little later. Optimal is to have your veggies ready as the weather cools.  Veggies can be grown in containers which is makes it easier to save them from an early freeze. – Beverley Patterson

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

In our hot Texoma summer days when most of my plants are struggling or wilting there is a plant that gives glorious color all summer and fall, Purple Shield.  It’s a leafy plant much like caladium but it’s leaves are iridescent purple with slight streaks of green.  It is best to grow it in part sun to shade.  Purple Shields make ideal border plants providing they get some shade.  Fertilize it in late spring with a general purpose fertilizer.  You can prune it at any time; pinching it back occasionally encourages the plant to have a fuller bushier shape, especially in shade.  It can easily be grown in containers which gives glorious color if mixed with other flowering plants.
 Purple shield can also be grown as a houseplant and is popular as it tends to bloom during winter.  Indoors, Persian Shield needs bright light to keep its color and temperatures above 60 degrees F.
 Most of our nurseries and box stores carry it in late spring, early summer.  In our area it’s an annual but you can propagate it by taking cuttings in late fall. Give the cuttings some bottom heat to keep them from rotting before they establish roots. Spring and Summer are the best times to take cuttings
 The iridescence reminds me of hummingbirds. Purple shield has medium water requirements and prefers moist, well-drained soil.  It is also resistant to being eaten by deer or rabbits.   It is not a well-known plant but try it, the color is worth it.  – Beverley Patterson
For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.  Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Vegetable Planting Guide – For FALL

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

With mosquitoes carrying West Nile and Zika viruses, I cannot stress enough that you should use insect repellents. For those of us who react to commercially-sold repellents with skin irritations or breathing problems, a home-made product might be best.

Recently, the EPA registered some ingredients that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says are just as effective as DEET, the leading chemical against mosquitoes.

One of these is Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Citrodora). Another is Geranium Oil. Green Market has a recipe in their VeriditasBotanicals.com display that uses both of these plus lavender and peppermint to sooth and cool skin. I bought the four tiny blue bottles and a four- ounce spray bottle. The cost was around $40. I made two batches and used up the Eucalyptus Citrodora, 60 drops in water per bottle, but I will not have to replace the other ingredients for many more refills as only 15 drops of each are used. I have used this combo for two months and am still on my second bottle.

The only mosquito bites I got were near my compost one day when I had not resprayed after several hours. Does it work on chiggers? I don’t know. I still powder my legs with sulfur when heading to the woods, just not taking chances. Does it work on fire ants? Not a snowball’s chance. – Ginger Mynatt

A good source for information is www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us. Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Many herbs will grow year around, but some like dill and cilantro will give up in the summer heat.

Even invasive mints will grow dry and scrawny. Drying some of these herbs now will keep you with a supply throughout the hot months. Others won’t winter over and you can also use the following processes of drying in the fall to have a supply through the winter.

There are two parts of the herbs that can be dried: the leaves and the seeds, depending on the herb. Plants such as dill and cilantro have tasty seeds and they are so easy to preserve. You can make a small frame about six by eight and cover it with window screen or cheesecloth. This allows air to circulate and lessens the chance of mold. Keep them out of direct sunlight and they will dry in 1 – 2 weeks. However, with air conditioning keeping our homes drier in the hot weather, seeds can be dried on newspaper or paper towels, mixing them from time to time.

Leaves can be dried three ways: lay leaves in a single layer on newspaper as with seeds above; tie them in small bunches and hang out of sunlight where there is good air circulation and remove leaves when dry; place individual leaves, single layer, in a very low-temperature oven and leave for several hours. Leaves will be completely brown or black and easily crumbled when dry.

Place dried seeds or leaves in small, sterile containers or zip lock bags and store in a dark cupboard. – Ginger Mynatt

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.  Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Oils, like vinegars, can be infused with herbs. Vinegar is very acidic and acts as a preserving agent. Oils that are flavored will spoil and must be refrigerated. That said, flavored oils are yummy when used on salads, pastas and in marinades.

Herbs need to be fresh, unmarked as marks are likely caused by bugs that leave contaminants causing spoilage, thoroughly washed and finely chopped. Prepare from one half to one cups of fresh leaves to one half cup of oil.

Many people simply stuff a handful of herbs into a cup of oil and set it on a window sill for one – two weeks. However, this oil will not keep well even when refrigerated and needs to be used within a week or two.

Blending or crushing leaves and/or spices with the oil and then immediately filtering works great for oil that you are using immediately.

To flavor oil that you want to keep for a few months, you should heat your oil. Place oil, olive or almond are favorites—though any cooking oil will work—in a saucepan that holds twice the amount as the oil. Bring oil to just below boiling (about 180 degrees, over 200 if using garlic), add the prepared herbs and return to just barely bubbling and maintain for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Strain through a fine sieve and bottle in sterile bottles and refrigerate. The oil will be cloudy for a while but small particles will settle in a day or two. You can also put a coffee filter in the sieve to get clearer oil. When the oil is cool, you can place a sprig of herb, spice, dried chili for decoration.- Ginger Mynatt

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.  Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Last Saturday at The Herb and Old Rose Society, I found a packet of newsletters from both Jessie Stephens when she owned the Backyard Nature Store and Twin Oaks Landscape Co. The pamphlets dated from various months of 1996 and 1997. In the one from Twin Oaks were small articles about making Herbal Vinegar and Herbal Oils. So today I am passing along information for Herbal Vinegars.

Herbal vinegars are an easy-to-make, tasty additions to your pantry. They add flavor to salad dressings and marinades. After you decide which herb or herb- combination you want to try, select leaves of the best quality and color and wash thoroughly.

Use a glass jar anywhere from a quart to a gallon and wash thoroughly and add vinegar. Apple cider vinegar makes a very flavorful taste. White distilled vinegar produces a milder taste but the herb flavor is more pronounced. Wine vinegars will also work and produce interesting results.

Add a cup of fresh herb leaves or a half-cup of dried per quart of vinegar and set the jar in the sun for one to two weeks. Garlic can be combined with the herbs, too, but be sure to bruise the clove first. After two weeks if the vinegar is not as strong as you want it, add more herb leaves and let it sit for a few more days.

Strain the vinegar and pour into smaller bottles if you wish and drop in a few leaves of the herb for decoration. Herbal vinegars make great gifts and pretty displays. – Ginger Mynatt

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.  Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Oh, the joy of planting the lettuce, spinach, and tomato plants which had been started in the greenhouse.  The spinach soon melted away because the weather was too hot.  The caged tomatoes were placed in the middle of the bed because they would grow the largest.  Basil and lettuce were planted along the edge so they could be easily picked.

While visiting a local greenhouse, we purchased several varieties of white potatoes planted them on the north side of the tomatoes. We planted sweet potatoes  on the south side so when they grow vines, the vines would fall over the side and not take up space in the bed.

Having two beds allowed for hot peppers to be planted away from the mild peppers.  Also, one bed is planted with cantaloupe and the other bed with watermelon.    As one vegetable comes to harvest and is removed, like the white potatoes, that bare area will be replanted with new vegetables.   This method will allow the garden to move from a summer garden into a fall and winter garden.  Tomatoes and okra will rotate to broccoli, cabbage, and peas.

The real enjoyment of a raised bed is not bending to the ground, being able to weed without a hoe, and watching up close the growth of plants.  The disadvantages of the beds are the small sizes and the need to water more often.   The sad part of raised beds is one is never enough.  Now I can see a bed dedicated to only growing onions, or peanuts, or other crops which take months to develop.  The best part of a raised bed is one can control the soil and the amendments to the soil.  – Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.  Check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204.  Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

My husband and I built two raised bed, and we needed to fill them so spring plants could start growing.  A speaker at a Master Gardeners’ meeting said he filled his raised beds with three-fourths sawdust and one-fourth sand—so much easier for the plants to stretch their roots into loose soil and not  be tied up when clay garden soil turns to concrete as soon as it dries out.

A different speaker spoke about using a thick layer of newspaper on the bottom.  If your raised bed is only a few inches high, this would be necessary to keep weeds from growing up through the soil.   But for a deep raised bed like ours, the bottom layer should be tree limbs.  So we did our spring pruning and placed small limbs throughout the beds.  With enough rainfall, these limbs become saturated with water and release moisture back into the bed.   With time, the limbs will rot away making new soil.

Because sawdust and wood shavings tie up the nitrogen in the soil, we chose not to use them.   Also, sand for use in the yard may be permeated with nut sedge.  Once you are invaded with nut sedge, it is difficult to get rid of it.  Instead we bought five yards of compost to fill our beds.

I had saved worm castings for several years in a big covered bin. Worm castings are extremely nutritious. There were just enough of them to put a thin layer across one bed.  We did not work into the soil because planting would mix them and rain would wash them into the soil.

We were now ready to plant.

For gardening questions and information, e-mail Mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Being a Master Gardener wasn’t enough to help me grow green beans. After trying for several years to grow green beans, my husband had our garden soil tested. The test showed a P.H. reading of 8.2. Green beans grow at P.H. 6.5.   For a couple of years, we tried to raise the P.H. of our garden soil by adding sulfur and truck loads of leaves. Sulfur doesn’t dissolve and leaves dissolve to the point of disappearing with no remaining benefits. What to do? Since the vegetable garden space is 50 feet by 50 feet, it was decided to isolate a part of the area instead of trying to change the whole area.   Because we inherited some lumber at the same time as our decision, a raised bed was started. The first raised bed was built using 2 by 6 treated lumber that had a previous life as a deck. The boards were 12 feet long and stacked lengthwise three high which comes out to about 17 inches high. The three boards were tied together with many 2 by 6 braces throughout the bed. After the bed is filled, there is a lot of pressure against the sides. Therefore, the bed must be securely vertically braced. The bed is 5 feet wide.

A second raised bed was built from some metal left over from our metal house construction. Each piece was cut 2 feet high. A frame shaped like a box was constructed from 2 by 4 lumber and the sheets of metal were placed inside the frame. Since the wood does not touch the soil, it should last a long time. Because the metal bed is 24 inches tall and the other bed is 17 inches tall, the 24 inch bed is the favorite bed. To protect the plants from the hot sun and hail storms, a cover was built over the metal bed. To make this cover, 2 by 4 by 8 lumber was used. Strings will be added from one side to the other allowing the green beans to finally crawl upward.  – Ginger Mynatt

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rains and cool temperatures seem to have turned some of our to-do’s into re-do’s. Some gardeners have reported sowing warm season vegetable seeds more than once. Chiggers have definitely arrived so hope you have spread sulfur pellets to repel them; the sulfur is also good for alkaline soils. Southerners should be allowed a special tax deduction for the expense of treating fire ants!

Take advantage of the next round of rains searching for some great new plants that are on the market. Many shrub varieties feature unusual leaf color and smaller growth habit which can make unique container plants. You will want to google search plants and then consult with nurseries to locate. Some may become part of every gardener’s future wish list.

Gold-toned and variegated leaves are a big trend that will add a punch of color to the common garden greens. These include:

—Abelias-Kaleidoscope, Radiance, Sunshine Daydream, and Twist of Lemon, Lime, Orange, and Vanilla (4 Varieties).

—Holly-Dwarf Yaupon Eureka Gold

—Ligustrum-Sunshine

—Nandina-Lemon Lime (Sterile-no berries)

Maroon leaf new plants include:

—Beauty berry-Callicarpa Purple Pearls (5×6) Leaves hold color all season and beautiful purple berries appear in fall.

—Hibiscus-Perennial Shrub Midnight Marvel, a favorite find with deep maroon maple leaf shape and large blood red blooms.

A shrub size (5×4) Vitex-Chaste Tree-Blue Puffball is available which allows more placement options in the landscape or container. The Podocarpus shrub that is a great shade plant, but eight foot tall, is now available in a shorter variety named Pringles Dwarf.

Two vertically variegated evergreen Carex (sedge) grasses should be in every landscape. They are only 12-18 inches tall but softly fold into a waterfall effect. These are named Evergold and Everest.

The plant world is amazing as horticulturists continue to develop new varieties to tempt us. – Barb Grisham

For gardening questions and information, e-mail Mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sunny days of May have been joyous with many new blooms on all forms of plants. Rainy days are welcome to a point until reality strikes. This means hordes of mosquitos are coming. In fall, mosquitos mate and the males die. The females hide out in hollow logs, building crevices, and leaf debris waiting to lay their eggs in the spring. The eggs must be laid in water for the larvae to survive.

Basic practices to help control mosquitos should include:

-Empty all standing water regularly and clean roof rain gutters.

-Use strains of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) or Bacillus sphaericus (Bs) in floating discs or granules in standing water. These kill the larvae by interfering with their ability to digest food. It is safe for bird baths.

-Lightweight mineral oil may be used in drainage ditches to suffocate the larvae. It is NOT to be used where fish or dragonflies are present.

There are many natural predators that eat mosquitos such as bats, birds, damselflies, dragonflies, frogs, geckos, toads, and fish. Overuse of synthetic chemical pesticides will also destroy these creatures.

Concerns of the serious West Nile Virus and the Zika Virus have created demands for personal repellents. Deet is most effective but it does have some side effects, especially in children. New repellents have been created from herbal essential oils including basil, citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint. Always test a small area for sensitivity to herb. The herbal repellents are effective for a short period of couple hours. When sitting on porches or patios the wind from fans can help as mosquitos are not good fliers. Always practice the rule to avoid being out at dawn and dusk when possible.

There are several helpful videos about mosquitos online through TAMU AgriLife Entomology. – Barb Grisham

For gardening questions and information, e-mail Mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Timing of lawn chores can be challenging with rain, temperature, and wind all critical factors to be considered. If you over-seeded last fall with rye grass, your summer grasses may be delayed because of a cool, wet spring. If you are planning to plant new grass or re-seed, here are some tips.

Bermuda can be planted May through August but establishes better before the days become too hot. It is important to loosen the soil by raking or lightly tilling and then broadcasting half of the seed one direction and the other half the opposite. Lightly water every day until sprouts appear and then regularly water until well established. Plugging and sodding are also best done in May with same attention to soil preparation and watering.

Broadleaf weed killers should be applied before high temperatures arrive. These are available in granular or hose-end applications. Check labels to make sure they are safe for your type of lawn grass and be sure excess rain and wind do not allow them to harm trees, shrubs, and beds, as well as neighbors’ plants. Protect yourself when using any chemicals. Healthy lawns will crowd out many weeds resulting in less chemical use.

Mowing practices are important with the rule of no more than the top one-third of grass blades cut each mowing. If you have more than one type of grass in your lawn, be careful when mowing. Bermuda grass is mowed shorter than St. Augustine. – Barb Grisham

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, May 3, 2016

For those of us who believe – you’re never too old to play outside – the month of May is magic. Gardening enthusiasm is reborn as we behold the lush shades of green and colorful blooms. Pleasant temperatures make the garden to-do list more enjoyable to accomplish.

FERTILIZE: Already planted trees, shrubs, grass, perennial beds and containers. Heavy rains and rapid growth dilute nutrients.

PRUNE: Once-blooming roses, late-winter or early-spring flowering shrubs like quince, forsythia, and spirea. Trim browned tops of bulbs such as daffodils.

LAY SOD: Bermuda and St. Augustine transplant pieces are now available. Prepare soil to encourage root growth and do not fertilize new sod for 6-8 weeks as it will easily burn. Maintain adequate moisture.

TRANSPLANT: Container-grown trees and shrubs; it’s best to not plant trees after May. October will be next best time. Carefully loosen pot-bound roots to better establish and receive moisture. Root stimulator solution will help as well. Root-ball should be adequately watered.

Plant hot weather container-grown color such as cannas, copper plant, daylilies, esperanza, firebush, lantana, purslane, and vinca. Be sure to buy only Cora hybrid vinca to avoid the soil fungal disease problem.

SEED: Soil should soon be warm enough to plant seeds of okra, black-eyed peas, corn, squash, pumpkins, cantaloupes, watermelon, eggplant, and peanuts. Flower seeds to sow include hyacinth bean, cardinal climber, cleome, cosmos, gomphrena, morning glory, and zinnia.

Enjoy your to-do’s and remember – you’re not a grownup yet if you still play in the dirt or should I say toil in the soil. – Barb Grisham

For gardening questions and information, e-mail Mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

If you have had the sad experience of removing your roses because they had rose rosette, can you plant new ones? Yes, but be sure you have all the roots of an infected rose removed before you plant in the same place.  The dirt does not have the virus, just the roots. Whether replacing or just planting new roses, here are some guidelines.

If you have black Houston clay, you are lucky.  The clay is full of nutrients.  The problem is the clay packs so tightly the roots cannot get the oxygen they need, nor the nutrients. There is a solution to the problem: amend the soil before you plant.

Dig a hole at least 10 inches deep and 1 ½ times as wide as the pot the rose comes in. Add compost to the soil so it is 2/3 soil and about 1/3 compost. Replace soil. Pour some water into the hole and the water should drain in about 20 minutes if properly amended. Remove soil again.  Place the rose into the hole, make sure to loosen the roots first, and fill around the roots with the amended soil. Monitor for moisture for several months.  You will not need to fertilize for two months.  Many rosarians use liquid fertilizer at half strength every other week on their roses.  It is best to not fertilize during the dog days of summer.

If you buy a bare root rose, amend the soil the same but when you dig the hole to plant the rose pour the water into the hole and after it drains make a small pyramid on the bottom of the hole and arrange the roots around the pyramid.  Fill the hole with the amended soil, water and carefully monitor the rose  for moisture for that first summer. – Ginger Mynatt

As always for plant suggestions or gardening advice contact the Grayson County Master Gardeners Association at 903-813-4204 or mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us  or visit our website at graysoncountymastergardeners.net.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The rose rosette virus is transmitted by an eriophyid mite. The microscopic (you cannot see it with the naked eye) eriophyid mite only lives for about ten days, but it can reproduce itself from day one of its life. Like the bird-flu carrying mesquite, the eriophyid mite does not have the virus it just carries it and this virus only infects roses and no other plants. It is believed that when an uninfected mite bites an infected rose cane it then carries the virus and can move to a close cane of an uninfected rose and thus spread the virus. It is also believed the wind can move the infected eriophyid mite across your yard and for miles and thus spreading the virus across large areas.

The virus does not always kill the rose, but stunts its growth. It will live for a period, eventually will die and while alive will be a reservoir for healthy mites to bite and thus able to carry the virus to other roses. That is why it is recommended to remove the rose bush as soon as you discover the rose with rose rosette symptoms. Believe me, there are many people in the Sherman area who feel your pain.

If you inversely spray a rose bush with round-up or other pest’s sprays, this sometimes causes the rose leaves to curl and turn red. Watch the bush carefully and you can determine if the witch-broom was cause by the spray or in fact is rose rosette.

Healthy roses will be sold by the Red River Rose Society on the Court House yard on April 23rd   – 2 gallon pots of roses for $15.00 next to the Master Gardeners plant sale. -Sandra Haynes

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Several universities are working very hard to learn more about rose rosette. And a lot more is known about this disease than when it first swept through the Dallas area. There have been many sources of information about this very disheartening disease, some true, some not. Here is what is definitely known about rose rosette, a virus that affects only roses.

There are six symptoms associated with rose rosette:

  • Witches’ broom
  • Malformed flowers and branches
  • Excessive leaf growth and thorniness
  • Extreme red discoloration of the plant tissue
  • Lateral shoot elongation (abnormal lengthening of side branches/twigs)
  • Enlarged/thickened stems.

One or more of these symptoms may be found on an infected rose plant. You may find different symptoms on different roses in your gardens. It appears that different roses develop the symptoms at different lengths of time from the infection. The gardener needs to check their roses at least every week for signs of rose rosette.

What is so horrible about this virus?? There is no effective way to treat or prevent it. It is not a localized virus, but one that spreads throughout the plant, even in the roots. You can prune the infected asymptomatic parts, but the infection will persist and symptoms will occur later.

The best thing is to remove the whole bush, including the roots. DO NOT PUT THE CANES, LEAVERS, OR ROSES INTO A COMPOST PILE. The best way to dispose of the plant is to cut it up and put into a leaf bag and send it to the land-fill. – Sandra Haynes

Next week I will address what spreads the virus.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

There is a deadly virus sweeping across our nation that causes roses to die. It’s called Rose Rosette and the information about it is scanty, confusing and varied. So for the next few weeks, the columns will be devoted to information to help gardeners diagnose Rose Rosette, prevent and treat.

It is not a newly-discovered disease as it has been documented as far back as the 1930s. From the 1940s until a few years ago, it infected mostly wild roses of the Rosa multiflora. It was not considered a bad thing as Rosa multiflora bushes had spread over acres of pasture land making it unusable. But when a nursery inadvertently sold infected roses, the virus quickly spread. The sad part of Rose Rosette is that it is deadly to Knock-out Roses which have been touted as resistant to diseases, drought and bad soil as well as many of our favorite tea roses.

Rose Rosette virus causes strange malformations on roses that are called witches’-brooms. Witches’-brooms resemble feather dusters that consist of an abundance of tiny twisted leaves usually red, sometimes with mosaics of yellow and green and lateral buds that produce short, intensely red shoots. Cultivated roses may show less severe damage but often have thick, succulent stems with a profusion of flexible thorns unusual for their variety.

To find healthy plants, not roses, visit the Master Gardener spring sale April 23 on the courthouse lawn. – Sandra Haynes

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Are you anxious to set out summer annuals but don’t want to see your hard work and dollars shrivel and die under a frost? Then you should consider daylilies.

Daylilies, not a lily, have several similarities to iris. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors and are easy to grow. Their foliage has tall, single, grass-like structures; their root structure consists of both fine roots and tubers. Like iris, daylilies can be expensive—some selling between $3 and $500, yet they are prolific and a friend will likely share some with you. They transplant easily in most kinds of soil and are drought tolerant. However, watering during dry spells will bring larger blooms.

Daylilies differ from iris when it comes to blooming season. Depending on the variety, daylilies may bloom early spring, summer or late fall, with a few being rebloomers. This means you can use them almost anywhere in your landscape. Select size: short—from 6 – 24 inches, medium – 24 -36, tall, above 36 inches. Blooms range from 3 – 5 inches. Colors are limitless with all shades of yellows, oranges, reds, pinks. Most have a different color throat and many have various patterns on their petals.

The Master Gardeners willing be holding their annual plant sale April 23, a great place to look for inexpensive daylily plants and other gardener favorites. – Ginger Mynatt

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Texas Superstar plants answer the age old question of what to plant in Texas. They are tough; require little supplemental watering, no extra fertilizing, and can beat the heat. Developed by a team of horticulturists for Texas A&M University, these plants underwent rigorous testing and years of development to be honored with the name Texas Superstar®.

New to the Texas Superstar® list in 2016 is the ‘White Stream Lobularia’. This annual is a new type of alyssum that will survive our Texas heat. It produces fragrant, white flowers which spread to create a beautiful groundcover that blooms all summer. They are best planted in full sun for optimum flowering.

In 2015 and 2016, the ‘Little Ruby’ and ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ Alternanthera’s were released to the Superstar list. These are Per-Annuals, which means in Texoma they will be treated as annuals. Alternanthera is a newly developed, more dependable selection of the old- fashioned Joseph’s Coat. The ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ habit is mounded, while the ‘Little Ruby’ makes a beautiful, low, hot pink and rose groundcover.   They are easy to grow, low input plants that prefer part shade but can tolerate the Texas heat if planted in the spring. These plants are somewhat drought tolerant once established.

The most recent plant released is the perfect orange tree for the Texoma region! If grown in a container the ‘Arctic Frost Mandarin Hybrid’ will reach 4-6 feet.   Developed by Dr Ying Doon Moy from the San Antonio Botanical Garden, it is the most cold hardy of the Moy hybrids tested. The fruit is very sweet and tart, easy to peel, and has only one or two seeds. It needs 8-10 hours of full sun a day. – Mary Rylant

There is a Texas Superstar® plant to fit every need, so go to www.TexasSuperstar.com for a complete list. There is also more information at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and www.plantanswers.com. As always for plant suggestions or gardening advice contact the Grayson County Master Gardeners Association at 903-813-4204 or mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us or visit our website at graysoncountymastergardeners.net.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Are you looking for the best annual to take the Texas heat? How about one that does well with little extra watering or fertilizing, and one bugs really don’t like? Texas Superstars® plants do that and are beautiful to boot! Texas A&M University, considering input from designers, growers, extension agents and Arboretums across the state of Texas, compiled a working list of plants that meet those criteria.

Annuals are plants that live one season, but they are the jewels of the garden. Usually these plants are viewed up- close, so heavy flowering and leaf contrast is a must. A good annual example for shade is the ‘Whopper Begonia’ with its green- bronze foliage and red blooms. We all know begonias, but this one will get 18-20” tall with masses of blooms held up above the foliage. Wow!

For the spring garden try the Texas Superstar® ‘Rocket Larkspur’ a reseeding annual whose bloom resembles a bunny head. While it’s still cool, plant purple ‘Laura Bush ‘petunias, which also reseed and bring more blooms next year. Later in the spring sprinkle seeds of the butterfly magnet Angelonia ‘Serena’ series, (which gives a more constant bloom) and they will carry you on out until frost.

After the ground warms, ‘Globe Amaranth’, known as bachelor buttons, and ‘Dakota Gold’ helenium thrive. The yellow helenium is derived from a native Texas wildflower and requires almost no irrigation. To finish out the hottest part of the summer plant Vinca ‘Cora’ Series which boasts almost all colors of the rainbow. I’ve never seen color like that in August! I could go on, but there are just too many Texas Superstar® plants to list, including many beautiful purples, oranges and gold’s for autumn plantings.  – Mary Rylant

To get the complete plant list go to : www.TexasSuperstar.com . There is also more information at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and www.plantanswers.com. As always, for plant suggestions or gardening advice contact the Grayson County Master Gardeners Association at 903-813-4204 or mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us or visit our website at graysoncountymastergardeners.net.

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

In September of 1989 the first plant was named to the Texas Superstar® plant list. The Texas bluebonnet ‘Texas Pride’ was honored with this designation because of its unique beauty, ability to survive with little extra water, and its resistance to bugs and disease. In the following years many plants were added to the Superstar list after extensive testing in the Texas climate. Texas A&M University along with a board of leading horticulturists compiled this list for us, the average homeowner, so that we too can build tough, beautiful gardens to be proud of.

Texas summers are more bearable when you can spend them lounging by the pool, but many popular tropical plants must be replanted year after year.   Enter the Texas Superstars® list of perennials. Try the ‘Lord Baltimore Perennial Hibiscus’ boasting a bright red flower 10” across. Also on the list are the ’Pink Flare’ -pink with fuchsia center, and the largest of all, ‘Moy Grande’ – a dark pink hibiscus with 12” flowers.

‘New Gold Lantana’ is a low maintenance plant for a sunny location. Its beautiful yellow flowers can be seen from spring till frost. You may also consider the Trailing Lantana, with lavender, purple or white flowers. These beauties maintain outstanding heat, wind, and drought tolerance.

What cottage garden would be complete without ‘John Fanick’ perennial phlox? Its fragrant flower heads are highly disease resistant and will even tolerate some shade. Also for the cottage garden, check out ‘Mystic Spires’ salvia in shades of blue and indigo, and for outstanding background color Mexican Bush Sage.

This month I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the more popular Texas Superstars® but if you can’t wait go to www.TexasSuperstar.com for a complete plant list. As always for plant suggestions or gardening advice contact the Grayson County Master Gardeners Association at 903-813-4204 or mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us or visit our website at graysoncountymastergardeners.net. ® – Mary Rylant

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Have you ever wished for a list of easy to grow plants customized to thrive right here in the Texoma region? In the 1980’s a board of well known horticulturists was formed and funded by Texas A&M University to do just that. Together with input from experienced horticulturists, landscape designers, and botanical gardens, the group compiled a list of plants to be tested in various locations across Texas.

It was decided these plants needed to be super-performing with minimal soil preparation, reasonable levels of water consumption, and no need for pesticides. It also helped if they had their “roots” in Texas with a good Texas story behind their development.   They had to be all that and more – they had to be beautiful. After several years of research the Texas Superstar® list was born and new plants are added almost every year.

What does that mean for the average Texoma gardener? It means a more attractive all season garden with Texas-tough plants and less money wasted. The comprehensive growing information provided for each Texas Superstar® plant also makes it easy to put the right plant in the right place. To make your choices even easier, the Texas Superstar® plants are divided into seven categories; annual, perennial, per-annual (climate specific), woody shrubs, trees, and specialty plants.

This month we will take a closer look at a few of the Texas Superstars® perfectly suited to the Texoma area. But if you just can’t wait, visit www.TexasSuperstar.com for a complete list. There is also more information at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and www.plantanswers.com. – Mary Rylant

The Grayson County Master Gardeners Association is always available for plant suggestions or gardening advice. You can contact us in one of the following ways: 903-813-4204 or mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us or graysoncountymastergardeners.net.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

One of my favorite native plants is Flame Acanthus. It has several common names: hummingbird bush, Mexican flame, Wright’s desert honey suckle. The plant is native to Texas as well as northern New Mexico. It can grow four to five feet tall. It’s not a dainty bush, nor is it dense, due to its meandering stems. It will wander unless you keep it well-pruned. Because it gives cover for winter birds, it is best to prune in early spring and may be cut clear to the ground.

Flame Acanthus has tubular red or orange flowers that start blooming in June and continue through summer. It is spectacular when planted with yellow chocolate daisy, yellow zexmenia and purple spiderwort. Flame Acanthus is very dependable. It is drought tolerant but will need some water during hot dry months. It does best in well-drained soil and is insect resistant. In our area the flame is not evergreen, but its flaky bark makes it interesting in winter gardens. Flame Acanthus is a favorite of hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies looking for a tasty sip of nectar.

Look for Flame Acanthus at your local nursery this spring or find a friend that has some coming up in places they didn’t intend. It is easy to transplant. – Laura Brown

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Now is the time of year to prune trees because with the leaves gone one can see the structure of the limbs.  Why prune trees?  For safety of the house–limbs rubbing against the outside walls and roof should be removed.  For safety of people–limbs should be removed high enough so people can walk or work under them without getting knocked in the head.  Do you see any limbs that are broken?  These limbs need to be removed.

Stand back and look at the tree’s structure.  Do you see any limbs crossing or touching another limb? Remove the limbs that grow toward the middle of the tree so all limbs are growing outward from the trunk.

Remove small limbs growing from the main limbs. This removes weight from the limbs and provides more nutrients for those remaining. On the smaller limbs, you can use a pruner or lopper.  For the larger limbs, use a tree saw which makes the cut on the pull backward, not on the push forward as a regular saw.

Now to make the proper cut: first cut a small slit on the bottom side of the limb several inches beyond the place you intend to cut. This stops the weight from breaking the limb and tearing the bark backward leaving damage on the collar.  Then, make the cut on the top side just past the collar. Pruning large trees is tricky and if you are not sure how, you should consult a professional tree pruner. – Nancy Taylor

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

February is the time for pruning trees, bushes, and roses from the middle of February until the middle of March. We do this for the following reasons:

  • To train the plant
  • To maintain the plant’s health
  • To improve the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage, or stems
  • To restrict growth
  • For safety

For most small shrubs and trees, including roses, a light pruning is all you need. Heavier pruning of larger trees and fruit trees will be addressed next week.   While you are working on a tree or shrub, it is important to often step back and view the whole shape. Otherwise when you are finished you may discover that the shape is lop-sided and you will end up having to take more off that you planned.

  • Use sharp, bypass pruners to make clean cuts. Anvil pruners crush the stems interfering with healing.
  • As much as possible, make slanting downward cuts with the cut side facing the ground. This allow the cuts to shed moisture and heal quickly.
  • Remove all broken, dead, or diseased limbs to point of origin.
  • Remove branches that are rubbing or touching another branch.
  • Remove any branch that is crossing, growing from one side of the plant to the other. It will eventually rub against another branch.
  • Remove any branch or limb that is pointing toward the ground.
  • Remove any suckers that grow from the base of the trunk or stem.

If you haven’t pruned before, do it slowly and take your time. You can always cut more if you need to, but you can’t put it back. – Ginger Mynatt

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

When we get a warm day, it makes gardeners anxious to start planting. Many garden supply companies offer mini-greenhouses to help start early, a DYI t way to get a jump on spring is to build plastic hoop tunnels down garden rows. Needed materials to do this are PVC pipes, rebar, and clear plastic.

First, prepare the soil by tilling and adding any needed amendments.

Drive pieces of rebar about 8– 12 inches long into the ground lining up across from each other about five feet apart on both sides of the garden row. Leave a few inches sticking above the soil line.

Place one end of a section of PVC pipe over one of the rebar pieces and bend the PVC to arch above the row and slide it on the rebar on the opposite side. The length of the PVC pipe depends on how wide the row is and how high you need to allow plants to grow.

Then, tie a long runner of PVC down the middle for support and stabilization. Zip ties work well for this.

Finally, cover the PVC hoops with clear plastic and secure with dirt or bricks. Fold the ends together and secure them. This will keep the air several degrees above the ambient temperature. On a sunny day, be sure to open the ends to prevent overheating. To harvest those early veggies, just lift a side and gather them. – Rebecca Parks

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

January is a fine month for planting shrubs in your landscape. You will not suffer from the intense heat while preparing the soil for your new or existing shrubs. This is also a good month for transplanting those shrubs that have gotten too large or just belong in another spot in your landscape.

Before purchasing your new shrubs consider the plants mature height and width, the amount of sun or shade required, its soil type tolerance and its winter hardiness. Do you want flowering shrubs or evergreens? Is your planting area in full sun, shade or in between? Your local nursery can help you with these decisions.

First, you should prepare the soil at the new location. You can amend that soil by adding approximately 10 percent organic mix of compost, peat moss and rotted manure and then mixing this well into the native soil. It is not necessary to remove burlap from the balls of shrubs, but if you suspect that you have circling or root-bound roots, it’s a good idea. You must remove any type of wire, cord or cable.

Dig the hole as deep as the root ball, but twice as large around. Settle the new shrub into the hole, fill with soil and tamp lightly. Make adjustments so that the root ball is level with surrounding soil. Water deeply but wait until March to fertilize. Mulch about 2 inches deep around the shrub. Be aware of the rain that falls and do not let the root ball dry out.  – Rebecca Parks

A list of recommended shrubs for North Texas can be found at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/NORTHCEN.html

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

I just finished planting 40 red tulips bulbs in my garden which cost about $25.00. The history of the Tulip is filled with intrigue, thievery, instant fortunes and broken hearts. And, although these flowers are synonymous with the Dutch, Tulips did not originate in the Netherlands.

The first mania occurred in the 1500’s in Turkey when Tulips became highly cultivated blooms developed for the pleasure of the Sultan. During the second half of the 16th century, news of this extraordinary flower reached Europe and bulbs were sent to the director of the Royal Medicinal Gardens in Prague. This event marked the arrival of the Tulip to Europe.

The bulbs were rare, desirable and often stolen from these gardens. Tulips were depicted in fine paintings and became sought after as a symbol of wealth. Until 1630 the bulbs were traded between collectors and scholars but soon speculators got involved and from the period of 1634 to 1637 bulb prices skyrocketed as ‘Tulip fever’ spread wildly among the normally sensible Dutch. Bulbs of one or two Guilders could be worth a hundred Guilders in just a few months. A single bulb could be sold for the price of a house in the best parts of Amsterdam! The inevitable ‘crash’ of Tulip prices happened in 1637 when a group of sellers could not get the prices they wanted and people everywhere suddenly came to their senses.

Were there another ‘tulip mania’ next month, I would be wealthier. Instead, I will be sensible and enjoy them for the beauty they provide in early spring. If you wish to enjoy tulips this spring, wait no longer.

Tulips need cold weather and begin to grow before the first frost. – Rebecca Parks

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

This week in my garden, I am moving aside the mulch so that I can sow poppy and larkspur seeds. They will be some of the first plants to emerge on the sunny east side of my house and are so lovely and delicate after a winter lacking colorful blooms. I will be sure they make contact with the dirt and keep them watered this spring. Poppies are often associated with death and mourning.

After fields in Flanders, Belgium were cleared of trees and vegetation during battles of World War 1 and the earth was churned from explosions, red poppy seeds sprouted and bloomed the following spring. These fields of red reminded survivors of the blood shed from soldiers and poppies are still worn on Veteran’s Day in remembrance.

The flower symbolism associated with poppies is beauty, magic, consolation, fertility and eternal life. The Egyptians included poppies at funerals and in burial tombs. The Greeks used poppies in the shrines of Demeter, goddess of fertility, and Diana, goddess of the hunt. Poppies denote sleep, rest and repose.

The poppy flower is famous for its medicinal property of being a narcotic. The oriental variety is specifically cultivated for opium, which is highly regulated. Other regulated drugs that are derived from poppy are morphine and codeine which are important for pain relief. My poppies and the seeds sold locally are non-narcotic and grow only to bring pleasure to me and my neighbors after a long winter. For much more info go to http://www.growingwithplants.com/2012/03/introduction-to-poppies.html – Rebecca Parks

New Master Gardener classes start January 13. For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

With the onset of winter and chilly weather, there isn’t much we can do in the garden right now.  Pick up leaves, turn the compost, shape shrubs and trees.  So I thought I would share a recent gardening job I did at my house.

I was very concerned about some of my trees. I have dogwoods and black jack oaks, which tend to rot out in the middle.  Two of the trees in my front yard were leaning towards the house, so I called in a local tree trimming company. They did a tremendous job, trimming off lower branches and thereby giving me more light into flower  beds.

One of the trees in the front yard was saved by trimming the branches that were leaning towards the house, so the weight of the tree was now towards the street.  The other tree could not be saved and the tree trimmers took it out and ground out the stump. To my surprise. as they got ready to shred the mulch, they asked me if I wanted it.  Of course, I said yes!

I now have a pile of free mulch that I can use at the base of my trees and I will not have to lift those heavy bags of mulch from the nursery or box stores.

The best part is that now I will not have to worry about the tree falling on my house if we get some winter storms.  The moral of this story is think about having your trees trimmed now. It’s a lot cheaper than paying for a new roof later. – Beverley Patterson

New Master Gardener classes start January 13. For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

With the onset of winter and chilly weather there isn’t much we can do in the garden right now except pick up leaves, turn the compost, shape shrubs and trees.  So I thought I would share a recent gardening job completed at my house.

I was very concerned about some of my trees. I have dogwoods and black jack oaks which tend to rot out in the middle.  Two of the trees in my front yard were leaning towards the house, so I called in a local tree trimming company. They did a tremendous job.

One of the trees in the front yard was saved by trimming the branches that were leaning towards the house, so the weight of the tree was now towards the street. Trimming off lower branches also gave me more light into my garden beds.  The other tree could not be saved and the tree trimmers cut it down and ground out the stump.

When they finished shredding the branches and leaves, they asked if I would like to have the mulch.  Of course, I said Yes!  I now have a pile of free mulch that I can use at the base of my trees and I will not have to lift those heavy bags of mulch from the nursery or box stores.  It also appeals to my conservation side.  The best part is that now I will not have to worry about the tree falling on my house if we get some winter storms.  The moral of this story is think about having your trees trimmed now. It’s a lot cheaper than paying for a new roof later. – Beverley Patterson

New Master Gardener classes start January 13. For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

December is a good time to clean up the garden.

  • Start by removing dead or damaged branches from trees. If your trees are large then you might need a licensed arborist or tree trimmer.
  • If you have shrubs or trees that need heavy pruning, December is a great time to perform that task. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs or trees such as azaleas and forsythias until later on in the spring, after they have finished blooming. Do not prune lantana plants until new growth begins to emerge later on in spring. If you have grapes remove approx. 80% of the twiggy growth in winter. This will give larger clusters of fruit next year
  • Mulch your leaves, the smaller the pieces the better.  You might have to re-mulch or if you have a chipper/shredder, use that to chop the leaves.  Mulched leaves break down to an organic compost that will feed your lawn and flower beds.  Put approximately 4-6” of newly mulched leaves (as small as you can get them) on your flower beds in winter and by spring they will be composted.
  • Turn your compost pile and add one cup of high nitrogen plant foot per cubic yard, once this fall.
  • If you have recently planted trees or shrubs, give them some liquid root stimulator to help them through their first year.
  • Disconnect hoses from faucets and drain sprinkler systems.

Don’t forget our feathered friends, treat them to a block of suet, or sunflower seeds and make sure their water supply doesn’t freeze over. – Beverley Patterson

New Master Gardener classes start January 13. For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090.

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Thursday, December 9, 2015

December is your last chance to plant bulbs for spring blooming, so if you haven’t done so, start planting now and you will have a colorful display in spring. Our local nurseries and box stores carry bulbs right now and many are on sale. Just make sure the bulbs are hard and firm to the touch.

The general rule of thumb for planting spring bulbs is to plant two to three times as deep as the bulbs is tall. This means most large bulbs like tulips or daffodils will be planted about 4 – 6 inches deep while smaller bulbs like crocus and dutch iris will be planted 2 – 3 inches deep.

Plant your bulbs in well-drained soil or a raised bed. For vivid garden displays, mix tulips, daffodils, dutch iris with other spring bulbs, perennials, spring-flowering shrubs, and annuals. When purchasing your bulbs look to see if they are Early, Mid or Late bloomers, a mixture will result in a longer season of bloom color.

If you are planning on planting a large quantity of bulbs consider using an auger attached to a drill, holes can be dug very quickly and there is less bending.

Bulbs can be planted in containers as well as in the garden and will give color to your porch or balcony. – Beverley Patterson

—New Master Gardener classes start January 13.

 

For information and gardening questions, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Would you like to become a Master Gardener. We have a new class starting January 13, and continuing each Wednesday from 9 – 4 until March 24, 2015

Master Gardeners are members of the local community who take an active interest in their lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers and gardens. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn and to help others, and able to communicate with diverse groups of people.

To help you decide if you should apply to be a Master Gardener, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to learn more about the culture and maintenance of many types of plants?
  • Am I eager to participate in a practical and intense training program?
  • Do I look forward to sharing my knowledge with people in my community?
  • Do I have enough time to attend training and to complete the volunteer service?

If you answered yes to these questions, the Master Gardener program could be for you. If accepted into the Grayson County Master Gardener program, you will attend a Master Gardener training course of 50 classroom hours taught by Texas AgriLife Extension specialists and local experts.

After training, to receive certification interns are expected to complete 50 hours of service within a year. The type of service varies according to community needs and the abilities and interests of the intern. This may include answering telephone with information related to gardening, speaking to local groups, establishing community garden projects, working with 4-H youth or administrative duties.

 To receive more information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

We are likely not far from our first hard freeze of the season, so make sure your landscape is prepared to handle the weather.

  • To insulate roots from freezing, spread a liberal layer of pine or wood mulch around semi-hardy or tender shrubs, trees, or perennials such as palms, banana trees, and elephant ears.
  • December, and the entire winter season, is a good time to plant most shrubs, trees, or ground covers. Winter planting of most dormant shrubs and trees allows them time to acclimate before benefitting from an early root flush when soil temperatures begin to warm up in spring.
  • If there are shrubs or small trees that you want to transplant in the landscape, the winter dormant season is a good time to do so. When all the leaves have fallen from the trees we know the dormant season is here. Some plants, such as established conifers and junipers, do not respond well to relocation.
  • Fertilize your pansies and other cool season annual plants that were planted earlier in the fall with a flower food containing nitrate form of nitrogen. Fertilize pansies every 4-6 weeks for best bloom production.
  • Collect fallen leaves to add to your compost pile or bin. Organic compost is excellent for adding nutrients and beneficial bacteria to vegetable garden soil, or adding to the mix when planting shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals, and container plantings, promoting healthy and vigorous growth of plants.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Grayson County Master Gardeners! – Donna Rogers

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

I usually don’t talk about Christmas much until after Thanksgiving, but I’m making an exception this year. An increasingly popular option for Christmas trees is purchasing a live tree, to be planted on your property after the holidays. They will be available in local nurseries very soon. We started this tradition twelve years ago, and now our landscape sports nine healthy pines (three of the original didn’t make it). With a live tree, consider the following:

  • What type of tree do you want on your property? Consider mature size and color to make sure it fits your landscape and lot size. Ours are eldarica pines (Afghan pines). They are drought tolerant and are doing well, but they do grow very large.
  • What grows well in our area? Ask the local nursery for other suggestions.
  • Don’t select the largest tree. Smaller trees may be in better proportion to the size of the root ball and stand a better chance of survival.
  • Whatever variety you choose, only consider trees that have been recently dug or were container-grown and look healthy. Many bargain trees are leftovers from the growing season. They may be in a stressed condition and might not recover.
  • Store the tree in a cool area, protected from winds, freezing temperatures, and direct sunlight.
  • Check often to be sure the root ball is moist.
  • Once inside, keep the tree away from sources of heat such as vents or fireplaces. It will still do best in cool temperatures (60 to 65 degrees F).
  • Try to keep the tree indoors for as brief a time as possible but not more than two weeks. We keep ours on the deck. It looks beautiful decorated simply with lights, shining through the patio windows into the family room.
  • Next week: How to plant your living Christmas tree!  –Donna Rogers

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fall weather is finally here, and it will soon be time to prune some of the plants in your landscape. Pruning is a gardening practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant. This practice helps to maintain a vibrant, colorful garden and/or landscape. Reasons to prune include deadwood removal, shaping (controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. While specialized pruning practices may need to be applied to certain plants, such as roses and trees, simple pruning techniques may be used on most perennials, annuals, outdoor pots, and hanging baskets.

After the first frost, when most perennials and annuals have died, is the time to consider deadheading. To prune perennials, remove all dead foliage and flower and seed stalks. Most perennials can be cut back almost to the ground. Leave an inch or two of stem stubble so you can tell where they are. Mulch over the bed to reduce winter weed growth. Remove stubble of summer and fall annuals. If you intend to leave the ground bare over the winter, put a layer of shredded tree leaves over it to slow the growth of weeds and to serve as source of organic matter when you prepare the soil in the spring. Do not deadhead if dried flowers or seed are attractive or desirable for propagation.

If you intend to bring patio pots and hanging baskets indoors over the winter, trim and reshape them now, so they’ll take up less room. Move them to locations with bright light. The garage is usually not a suitable alternative.

Mow lawns until the first freeze sends grass into dormancy. Bag clippings, including fallen tree leaves, and put them in the compost, or use them as mulch in perennial gardens and shrub beds. Happy pruning! – Donna Rogers

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Planning to share your yard with wildlife is a lovely idea for both you and the animals you will host. However, sometimes it’s not so pretty. Some wildlife creatures– rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, deer– can make havoc of your vegetable garden, chomping lettuce, stealing sweet corn, even stripping the bark from young trees. Birds love tomatoes and fruits and will take bites out of peaches before they are ripe. So the smart wildscape gardener will take precautions.

  1. Fence your garden. “Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote Robert Frost, and he might have been talking about his wildlife neighbors.
  2. Plant a row of corn, lettuce or some tomatoes outside the fence for the critters.
  3. Cover fruit trees with nets or hang aluminum pie plates or other shiny material.
  4. Wrap young trees with ¼ in. galvanized wires or purchase special tree protectors to keep rabbits and deer from nibbling the bark.
  5. Try some of the special repellants that discourage herbivores such as fox urine and dried blood. unruly
  6. Interspersing onions with other crops may act as a deterrent.
  7. Cut the bottom from milk cartons and push into the soil over new shoots that are just too irresistible.

Living with wildlife does have its price, but the pleasure of seeing and protecting animals can be worth it if you take precautions – Ginger Mynatt

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

This month’s ideas for your garden are centered around planning for wildlife as part of your landscape. This week you think about what type of water source you will need and planting year-around food.

The best water source is, of course, a natural stream or pond provided they do not grow dry during hot summers. In lieu of these, fountains and water features work well but are expensive. The easiest solution would be to install a small pool large enough to hold fish. The fish would keep down the mosquitoes and if the pool is lined with moisture-loving plants would provide shelter for toads, another mosquito predator. If you are limiting your wildscape to birds and insects, a birdbath will do, but you must keep it clean and constantly filled with water.

For additional food besides small shrubs and trees, plant some flowers and herbs nearby. Milkweed, dill and fennel are favorite places for the larvae of the Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies. Flying squirrels love flower buds, so if you want border lilies, plant a lot—some for you and some for the squirrels. Birds love anything with seeds: asters, mums, sunflowers, zinnias and coneflowers, blooming at different times of the year. Deer are happiest with small forbs that grow among grasses of a healthy prairie. – Ginger Mynatt

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Last week, I encouraged gardeners to consider creating a habitat for wildlife whether large or small and to use native plants that bloom at various times during the year. Some other plants you need to consider are plants for shelter. All wildlife needs protections from storms and cold weather. They also need comfortable, safe niches where they can build nests.

  • The best way to do this is to plant vegetation that grows at different levels starting with ground covers. These can be native grasses, spreading vines or wildflowers such as Inland Sea Oats, Sideoats Grama; vincas, Virginia Creeper; columbines, Butterfly Weed and Wine Cup. Low-growers are really important for lizards, turtles and ground-nesting birds.
  • At the intermediate level, fill in with shrubs or tall vines such as Hummingbird Bush, American Beautyberry, Earth Kind roses (cardinals love them), Texas Barberry, sages or honeysuckle. (Honeysuckle can become invasive so be sure to check all habits of the plants you choose.)
  • Finally, choose small to medium-sized trees looking for fast-growers and those with berries offering a food source as well as shelter for squirrels and birds. Redbuds, ornamental fruit trees. Possumhaw and Eastern Red Cedar (birds and deer love them for different reasons) are some good choices. -Ginger Mynatt

For gardening questions and information before the show, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

This week, the Grayson County Master Gardeners will hold their second annual Garden Show at Loy Lake Park. The show is an excellent place to gather information, see new products and get help in planning for spring.

Last week, I encouraged gardeners to consider creating a habitat for wildlife whether large or small and to use native plants that bloom at various times during the year. Some other plants you need to consider are plants for shelter. All wildlife needs protections from storms and cold weather. They also need comfortable, safe niches where they can build nests.

  • The best way to do this is to plant vegetation that grows at different levels starting with ground covers. These can be native grasses, spreading vines or wildflowers such as Inland Sea Oats, Sideoats Grama; vincas, Virginia Creeper; columbines, Butterfly Weed and Wine Cup. Low-growers are really important for lizards, turtles and ground-nesting birds.
  • At the intermediate level, fill in with shrubs or tall vines such as Hummingbird Bush, American Beautyberry, Earth Kind roses (cardinals love them), Texas Barberry, sages or honeysuckle. (Honeysuckle can become invasive so be sure to check all habits of the plants you choose.)

Finally, choose small to medium-sized trees looking for fast-growers and those with berries offering a food source as well as shelter for squirrels and birds. Redbuds, ornamental fruit trees. Possumhaw and Eastern Red Cedar (birds and deer love them for different reasons) are some good choices. – Ginger Mynatt

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Grayson County Master Gardeners will hold their second annual Garden Show at Loy Lake Park, October 10 and 11. The show in an excellent place to gather information, see new products and get help in planning for spring.

If you don’t have an area planned for some kind of wildlife, consider some new landscaping for to support our fellow creatures. Not just for beautiful butterflies and bees that pollinate flowers, but for many pollinating insects, birds, and mammals, depending on the size of your property. And the easiest way to do this is by choosing native plants that produce seeds, nuts, berries and fruits that whet the appetites of local critters.

If you have a small city lot, you are probably not interested in acquiring raccoons, skunks or even squirrels. If you have acreage, you may even consider attracting deer, fox and bobcats. So the number one decision you have to make is what size area you plan to landscape: small natural corner, a pocket prairie, a tiny woods or a multi-niched area composed of several types of habitats.

Then choose your plants. Wildlife needs food year round. Research what your wildlife of choice eats and what plants provide it. You should check size, sun and soil requirements and when the plants produce food so you can insure a steady supply year around.

For gardening questions and information before the show, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Grayson County Master Gardeners will hold their second annual Garden Show at Loy Lake Park, October 10 and 11. The show is an excellent place to gather information, see new products and get help in planning for spring.

Now is the time to look around your yard and address the problems you might notice. If your trees have been increasing in size over the years and the resulting shade has become a big landscape challenge, then you may need a new yard plan. The north side of the house or an enclosed garden area can become more shaded with time. You may find the less shade-tolerant lawn grasses, such as St. Augustine and zoysia grasses may not grow as well. If the shade is too dense, here are some plant solutions:

–For dense shade, plant these vines, groundcovers, perennials, and shrubs: English ivy, Holly fern, Aucuba, Painted fern, Mondo grass, Liriope grass, and Pachysandra.

–For medium shade, plant these groundcovers, perennials, and shrubs: English ivy, vinca vine, southern wood fern, autumn fern, holly fern, painted fern, aycyba, cleyera, elephant ears, heuchera, inland sea oats, kerria, mahonia, pachysandra, woodland phlox, yew, Lenten rose, and Turk’s cap.

The medium shade plants will take morning sun, but no southern or western sun. If you stand under your trees and see 50% sky, then medium shade plants will be happy. But if less than 30% of the sky is visible under your trees, then choose dense shade plants. Most flowering plants require medium to light shade so your choices for an interesting landscape needing dense shade can be a collection of different shades and textures of green leaves.

When planting new plants it is always a good idea to amend the soil with organic soil amendments such as compost, peat moss, pine bark, and mature manure. These will add nutrients to the soil as well as increasing the drainage and aeration for healthy roots. Be sure to add mulch around the new plants to protect them from the cold while the roots are becoming established. – Sandra Haynes

Your gardening questions and information before the show, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Grayson County Master Gardeners will hold their second annual Garden Show at Loy Lake Park, October 10 and 11. The show is an excellent place to gather information, see new products and get help in planning for spring.

 

It’s not too late to plant some warm season plants. There are a few vegetables that have enough time to grow and harvest for a tasty late fall meal. Green beans, radishes and what is often called “cool season crops” [broccoli, cauliflower, leaf lettuce and spinach] will grow and add the fresh taste gardener’s love. The garden plants that are already finished producing can be dug under with some fertilizer and organic material added to the soil and the above mentioned vegetables can be planted. Be sure to mulch after planting to keep the soil from getting too warm and to hold the moisture in when the occasional dry dog days of late summer/fall pop up. Then when the cooler/cold weather comes the mulch will continue to protect the roots.

When the night temperatures drop into the 60’s the herbs you have already planted often perk up and you will soon be able to harvest the herbs. Rosemary, oregano, chives, cilantro, mint and dill are great to use in your cooking and salads.

There are many fall plants that add color to your garden and some nurseries now carry them so you can plant them now. Fall asters, Mexican mint marigold and Mexican oregano are a few perennials that will over-winter and return and bloom next year. – Sandra Haynes

For gardening questions and information before the show, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Many gardeners do not deadhead their perennials or annals during the heat of the summer because that is the signal for the plant to produce more flowers (seeds). Many plants need to put all their effort into surviving the heat and in some cases the irregular watering. Now is the time to deadhead. Save the seeds to plant later, just remember to mark your envelope with the name of the plants. Many seeds are about the same color and size. Deadheading the plants such as roses and other perennials signals the plants to start blooming again. Who knows if the fall is mild, we may have flowers on our dining room table for Thanksgiving.

If you prefer to order your wildflowers seeds, this is a good time to do this. Usually late in September or in October is a good time to begin to plant wildflower seeds.

As soon as the days cool off you can begin to divide your spring-blooming perennials such as iris, daylily, Shasta daisy. Dividing these spring blooming plants should occur every two to four years. While the days are still so warm you may want to walk around looking for places to transplant these plants and even where appropriate, work into the soil compost or ammonium sulfate or in the case of bulbs bone meal. In the area that has some mulch left on top of the soil, work this organic material into the soil. It will break down quickly and add more nutrients to the soil.

As fall approaches and the days get cooler, the less than hot weather loving gardeners fall in love again with their gardens. If the weeds got ahead of you, start weeding, weeding, weeding, especially before the weeds produce their seeds. – Sandra Haynes

The Grayson County Master Gardeners will hold their second annual Garden Show at Loy Lake Park, October 10 and 11. The show in an excellent place to gather information, see new products and get help in planning for spring.

For gardening questions and information before the show, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and Facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

When the weather is hot, humid, and sunny it is very easy to treat your plants incorrectly. Many gardeners over water in an effort to save plants from stress. There is no other way to be sure if your plant has enough moisture than to test with a moisture meter or push your finger at least two inches deep into the soil to determine the . And to confuse the gardeners even more, the systems of a distressed plant of too dry or too wet looks the same: yellowed leaves! When you water try to keep the leaves dry and water two inches deep.

The second most prevalent mistake is to increase the amount of fertilizers added to the soil or on the plant, or to apply insecticides too often. Either way you distress the plant! Read the directions and follow them carefully. In the process of killing the pest, you may sicken the plant or even kill it.

Over fertilizing when the plant looks bad is easy to do. The correct amount of fertilizer makes the plants healthy, to help resist pests, and stresses. Too much causes the plant to grow faster, use more water and generally adds stress. Way too much burns the roots and may kill the plant. During hot weather (most of the summer in Texas) it is best to use organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, seaweed emulsion or blood meal instead of chemical fertilizers.

The best times to fertilize are spring, early summer and early fall. – Sandra Haynes

The Grayson County Master Gardeners will hold their second annual Garden Show at Loy Lake Park, October 10 and 11. The show in an excellent place to gather information, see new products and get help in planning for spring.

For gardening questions and information before the show, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tomatoes in your front yard? What a crazy idea! You do not have to be an extreme pragmatist or fanatical gardener to enjoy edible plantings in your front yard or your landscape. There is no rule that says food bearing plants must be unattractive, planted in rows or have bare dirt exposed between them.

This fall experiment with cool season edibles in your landscape. There are so many beautiful leafy greens to add texture and rich color to your plantings that it is hard to know where to start. Try the extremely decorative Bright Lights Swiss Chard in the background of your flower bed for height and then later in your winter soups and salads. Dinosaur Kale is a large leafy green known for its interesting wrinkly texture, dark blue-green leaves and can be made into delicious Kale chips. Another gorgeous addition to your edible landscape would be a sweet variety called Dragons Tongue Mustard. It has crinkly leaves, vibrant purple and green veins and bright white ribs, and is excellent in stir-fry and salads.

Along with these robust greens you will find many attractive milder salad greens such as the bright green Black Seeded Simpson, the red Deer Tongue or Red Sails lettuces, or the peppery Rocket Arugula which is delicious in sandwiches and salads, but also makes for beautiful flower arrangements when it bolts.

These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking about edible plants in your landscape. In addition to providing fresh food for your table, they offer an amazing array of color and texture in your garden and give you a whole new palette of plants to work with when designing and enjoying your front yard. — Trudy West

The Grayson County Master Gardeners will hold their second annual Garden Show at Loy Lake Park, October 10 and 11. The show in an excellent place to gather information, see new products and get help in planning for spring.

 

For gardening questions and information before the show, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Have you ever thought about growing mushrooms?  While not strictly categorized as plants, some of the more common varieties of edible mushrooms are actually saprophytic fungi.  Mushrooms such as Shitake, Button, Oyster and Portobello feed on dead organic material like trees, leaves, roots and stumps and help these materials decompose into a rich layer of compost in our forests and woods.  Along with being delicious, these mushrooms are easy to grow as well.

The geeky fun part of growing mushrooms is that you can start with something as easy as an indoor boxed kit.  Once hooked you can advance to making your own growing materials out of logs or wheat straw, and then move on to grow an outdoor mushroom patch.  Once you reach the expert level, indulge your inner mad scientist with a home lab to culture and clone your own mushroom spawn.  Sounds fascinating doesn’t it!

Growing button mushrooms from a kit is easy and rewarding.  As long as you follow the directions you should experience a high rate of success.   With your kit you will receive a box of mushroom compost.  That is a natural growing substrate that has been inoculated with the mycelium, or the spider-web like growing structures of the mushroom.   You will need to find a cool dark place in your house to keep the kit because it will fruit best between 60-74 degrees.  The detailed instructions will explain how to keep it moist and well drained.  You will start to see the mycelium begin to grow between 7-14 days, and the first crop of mushrooms will be ready to harvest as soon as 3-5 weeks. – Trudy West

Take pictures along the way and share with us on our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/graysoncountymastergardeners.

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net., or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston St., Sherman

Fall Garden Show! October 10th & 11th

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

It is the SUMMERTIME SURVIVAL issue.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is usually diagnosed in areas that have too much cloud cover and not enough sunshine.  Here in Texas we can experience the same symptoms for the opposite reason – too much sun, heat and humidity!  What is the obsessive gardener or farmer to do during August in Texas?  Here are some suggestions to help you stay out of jail and keep your sanity…

  • Drool over pictures of heirloom pumpkins and squash in the Baker Creek seed catalog.
  • Plan your Thanksgiving Dinner herb garden with sage, rosemary, thyme and parsley.
  • Try a cookie or bread recipe using Lavender buds.
  • Order exotic varieties of garlic to plant this fall. Creole and other softnecks do well in the south.
  • Start a tray of leeks from seed to make your own potato leek soup this winter.
  • Order fruit trees to plant this winter. We are supposed to get lots of rain so plant lots of trees!
  • It’s time for bulbs! These need to be ordered early so you can plant by Halloween.  Some tulips need 6-8 weeks of pre-chilling.
  • Thin out and transplant iris rhizomes for a spectacular spring display. Swap favorites with your neighbors.
  • And on August 11, at 6:30, come to the second floor of the Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston St in Sherman where LeeAnn Barton with Dave Wilson Nursery will be the speaking.

Barton’s topic is “Backyard Orchard Culture” which is the gardening program that promotes summer pruning and high density planting for backyard orchards. Barton knows her subject as Dave Wilson Nursery is the largest wholesale grower of fruit trees for the home garden in the United States.  –Trudy West

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

As the temperature climbs into the three digits, I pay close attention to the container plants on my deck. If your deck or patio is on the west like mine, it gets the brunt of the hot sun. Mine are looking a little tired and droopy right now and are begging for extra water–a time consuming task if you have your deck overflowing with container plants.

Hence, my research into plants that don’t require constant water and tending in very hot weather, like sun and little shade and will keep over the winter. My find? Succulents!

You won’t find a plant better suited for container growing than cacti and sedums. Water is stored in their fleshy leaves, stems and roots, enabling them to resist drought. This means no frequent watering. This means a weekend vacation without worry. And succulents can withstand our winter as well.

One of my favorites is Sedum palmeri, which has tiny bunches of flowers and grayish foliage; it is easily started by planting a cutting of the stem in the dirt. In the fall I cut it off to about 4 inches and it sleeps all winter in my sunroom. Then out it goes on the deck with a bit of water.

Another beauty I am trying this year is Sedum potosinum. This gorgeous plant has bluish-gray foliage and forms masses of small star-shaped flowers in the spring. It islow-growing but impressive in a pot where it can spill over the side.

Succulents do need some water. Keep plants gently moist. If you see shriveled leaves, you need to water. If the leaves turn black or translucent and puffy, they have too much water.

Check out your local nursery to see what they have on hand and give it a try. I think you will be very happy you did. –Dianna Cline

For gardening questions and information, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, check our website, www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net. and facebook, or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blueberries! One of my favorite berries. The plants are beautiful and the fruit is delicious; plus they are a super food for health and nutrition.

Blueberry growing is generally relegated to the northern climes but we can grow them in Texas. They can be a little tricky but well worth the effort. It’s wise to plan months in advance if you plan to grow blueberries. So now is a good time to gather your information.

Remember I said they were a little tricky. To be successful blueberries require an acidic soil. Most soil in our area is alkaline. The first thing to do is have your soil tested if you plan to plant directly in the ground. Then select your varieties.

A variety called Southern rabbit-eye grows in the mid to southeastern part of the country and thrives on hot and humid weather but is not cold hardy. There is a Southern high bush variety that needs a bit of cold, but is heat tolerant. You should plant more than one plant as blueberries need another plant to cross pollen with. Check your local nursery for the best pollinators for your variety.

Blueberries are perfect for containers. Start with a pot 24-36 inches wide. Select potting soil and fertilizer especially for acid-loving plants. Look for a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. Water your blueberries consistently including in the winter. The soil should be moist but not wet. Blueberries love the sun, but because containers can heat up here in the summer, place them where they can get some afternoon shade. –Dianna Cline

For more information on blueberries or other crops, call 903-813-4204 or visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us, or visit us on Facebook or our website  www.graysoncountymastergardeners.net.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gardeners always love a challenge, but enough is enough! Those new to the hobby of gardening please keep chanting to yourself — it’s usually an aesthetically thrilling and therapeutic pastime.
Excessive rainfall and cloudy days will make some plant diseases worse:
– Entomosporum fungal leaf spot on photinas and Indian hawthorne
– Powdery mildew on crape mrytle, euonymous, zinnas and a few others
– Gray leaf spot on St. Augustine
Tiny critter caution will include these:
– Bagworms on junipers, arborvitaes, bald cypress and other conifers.
– Canna leaf rollers on cannas
– Lacebugs on boxwood, pyracantha, azalea, Boston ivy, and sycamore; leaves will be tan mottled with black spots on underside.

For proper identification and recommended treatment please consult the aggie horticulture website, extension office, or reliable nursery consultant.
Several independent nurseries are starting to offer plants at mark-down prices that are both a bargain and opportunity to try new selections. Several reminders will help you have healthy plants. If possible check roots for white new growth and undamaged stems or bark. Study those plant tags keeping in mind that full sun does not necessarily mean all day Texas sun. Using root stimulator is helpful as is proper mulching. Don’t laugh now– but a reminder that a proper water schedule is important when establishing any plant.
Please do not leave plants inside a hot vehicle to cook while doing more shopping. Shrubs and trees should be wrapped securely in old sheets and transported preferably horizontally in open truck beds, as high winds on leaves will cause extreme water loss. However, fall is a much better time to plant trees or shrubs. If the plants are healthy (and they should be or you shouldn’t buy them), keep them in their pots until October. –Barbara Grisham

For the first time, the Grayson County Master Gardeners are offering summer classes beginning August 1. If you are interested, log on to our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net., or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us, or visit us on Facebook.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rising temperatures and more daylight aren’t the only signs of summer. The nightly sound of the whip-poor-will bird and the flickering light of the firefly affirm the arrival. Recapture the joy of your youth sharing knowledge with a child about this seldom seen bird of the nightjar family. Whip-poor-wills feast on beetles, mosquitos, and moths.

Hotter days make protecting plants a priority now. Mulching aids in moderating the temperature of soil surface, weed seed suppression, reduction in soil water loss, and prevention of soil splash-back on foliage which can cause diseases. Don’t be dismayed when your mulch starts disappearing. That’s what it should do to add valuable organic substances which improve the soil both in texture and nutrition.

Bark-based or wood-based are the two types of organic mulch; most common are pine, cedar, cypress, and hardwoods. Gardeners usually have a preference for varied reasons. For economic coverage of large areas, many cities or counties offer free tree trimmings mulch in various stages of decomposition. For areas requiring a more aesthetic appearance, purchasing bagged mulch is the answer.

Since colored mulches have become a trend, a word of caution is necessary as some products have been found to contain scrap treated wood. Due to dyes and potential of treated wood never use this type mulch around edibles.

Mulches should be applied 3-4 inches thick around plants without touching plant stems or bark of trees. Contrary to what you may see in commercial sites, volcanoes of mulch against tree trunks are not recommended. Proper mulching will result in healthier plants and happier gardeners. –Barbara Grisham

For the first time, the Grayson County Master Gardeners are offering summer classes beginning August 1. If you are interested, log on to our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net., or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us, or visit us on Facebook.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

This past week more plants are showing symptoms related to the abnormally waterlogged soil. As long as shrub branches reveal green under scratched outer surface, there may be hope. If new leaves fail to appear then convince yourself that it’s time to try something different.

The perennial weed nutsedge is popping up everywhere. Normally, winter cold and drought helps restrain its rampant growth. A mature nutsedge has 5 or 6 leaf blades with nutlets attached to roots which in turn make new plants. Leaflets must be pulled when young for several weeks. Your only other choice is a chemical control.

As temperatures increased so has spider mite activity. If leaves of plants, particularly vegetables, show tan spotting, hold a sheet of paper under the leaves and tap leaves. You will see miniscule crawling tan mites. Hose spraying the leaves on top and bottom will wash most away. If repeat sprayings aren’t successful, the use of insecticidal soap or summer horticultural oil may need to be applied in the early morning.

Climbing roses that have finished blooming should be pruned back 50%. Deadhead (cut) spent blooms on other roses back to first five-leaflet pair. Perennials need spent bloom stalks cut back to base. Annuals require shearing to prevent them from going to seed instead of re-blooming. Fall-blooming plants benefit from cutting back now to prevent lanky growth and promote bushier habit.

Warmer temperatures bring chiggers to our attention. Many gardeners broadcast sulfur pellets through lawn and gardens. They last a long time and are much safer than dusting sulfur. This product is only available at independent nurseries. Keep tall weeds controlled around your property.–Barbara Grisham

For the first time, the Grayson County Master Gardeners are offering summer classes beginning August 1. If you are interested, log on to our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net., or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090, e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us, or visit us on Facebook.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

The appearance of sunshine for a few days after weeks of record rains has been a welcome occurrence. Gardeners have been busy surveying the condition of lawn and landscape. Those of you that practice raised-bed vegetable gardening may still have hopes of produce to harvest. Most will be replanting warm season crops.

Healthy soil is comprised of 50 percent solid material and 50 percent pore space, which contains air and water. The lack of air and the excess water presently in soil can suffocate plants. Leaves will turn yellow or curl up and fall off the plant. Gardeners are reporting the normally more drought-tolerant plants dying as well as some shrubs such as beautyberry. Also some smaller ornamental trees such as redbud are leaning at an angle due to leverage of top weight pulling roots out of soggy soil. Carefully reposition and stake temporarily to save.

For those of you that didn’t get your early spring plant purchases in the ground, it would be best to wait a little longer to let the soil drain more.

Nutrients are diluted and depleted; therefore, it is necessary to fertilize again. This includes lawn, shrubs, and ornamental plants in ground and in containers as well as vegetables. Use proper amounts shown for type and size of plants remembering too much will be harmful. As temperatures will remain above 70 degrees now it is okay to use some of the time-release products.

For health reasons the importance of controlling the enormous mosquito population is of utmost concern. Please empty any container with standing water as even a small bottle cap is enough for breeding area.

For the first time, the Grayson County Master Gardeners are offering summer classes beginning August 1. If you are interested, log on to our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net., or call 903-813-4204. Also, you may visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us, or visit us on Facebook.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The spring storms have played a heavy toll on many of our mature trees. Several trees suffered damage from broken branches to splitting down the main trunk. Even though this is late in the season to prune trees, it may be necessary to do so for safety reasons. Unless you have the proper equipment, it best to leave the major pruning to the professionals. When pruned correctly, many trees can be saved. If you are so inclined to do it yourself, be sure to have your equipment in proper working order for the job. Most important, remember to wear the necessary safety gear.

First and most important be sure broken limbs are not entangled in electric wires. Inspect the trees to determine if there are broken limbs dangling from the tree onto the roof. It may be necessary to cut them into manageable sections to get them off the roof. Then, remove any branches or limbs leaning against the house.

When pruning twigs and small branches, always cut back to an intersecting branch and cut them flush, leaving no stubs. When cutting back to a bud, choose a bud that is pointing in the direction you wish the new growth to take.

Thick and heavy branches should be removed above the collar at the base of the branch, not flush with the trunk. When cutting branches more than 1 ½ inches in diameter, use a three part cut. First step is to saw an undercut from the bottom of the branch 6-12 inches out from the trunk. Make the second cut from the top 3 inches further from the trunk than the undercut, until the branch falls away. The resulting stub can be cut back to the collar of the branch. You may need to rope some of the limbs and lower them to the ground to prevent damage to unaffected parts of the tree. –Mary Ann Kelley

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us, visit us on Facebook or check out our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

The effects of too much rainfall can be as devastating as too little.

Signs of too much water: White spots such as powdery mildew, often seen on crape myrtles. Yellowing and or wilting leaves due to poor absorption of iron or lack of oxygen to the roots. Fruits and vegetables wilt prematurely. Pollinators are also slowed down effecting fruit development.

The optimum treatment is sunshine, a little wind and warm temperatures, along with lower humidity. To pick the right treatment for fungus and diseases on plants, take a sample of the plant to your preferred nursery, or consult with your local extension agent. Green mold growing on concrete can be treated with a 1 to 4 part solution of bleach water and sunshine.

Living in rural areas also calls for vigilance for all the critters seeking higher ground, such as very large ant mounds, misguided turtles, and an occasional snake. Remember to drain and avoid pooled water to prevent mosquitoes and fungus gnats. Remove refuge piles that will hold water. It’s a good time to aerate the compost pile as much as possible and remove piles of wet leaves that wash up against structures. When you finish all of that, go for a ride in the country and enjoy all the natural beauty of green vegetation and spring blooming wild flowers. –Mary Ann Kelley

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us, visit us on Facebook or check out our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net

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May 14, 2015

Gardening in Texoma, or anywhere in Texas, is a challenge when dealing with extremes. You often read about how to keep plants thriving in drought and heat. The other side of the extreme is gardening when there is too much water from torrential rains. By now you have maxed out on saving rain water to reserve containers.

Any potted plants will be filled to overflowing with water. If the pots are portable, move them to a covered area and tip the pot on its side to drain the rain. It may take overnight in order to drain it. Don’t worry about the dirt falling out; it’s too heavy from the water. You can wrap burlap or shade cloth around the top of the pot to protect the contents if they start to slide. Try to keep it in a dry area for at least a week.  Remember if the roots in a pot or basket stay in water too long, it will cut off the oxygen and the plant will wilt and leaves curl up.

Vegetable gardens are swampy, too. If possible dig trenches down both sides of the rows so the rain will collect in the trench instead of settling up around the plants. Too much rain is also a good reason to have raised beds which will drain faster, but even these can become saturated. Dig a ditch in the four corners and fill with gravel. Water will flow to the gravel and off the plants. –Mary Ann Kelley

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX  75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us, visit us on Facebook or check out our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

One of the strongest influences to a gardener’s passion is COLOR. When spring comes, the first thing that drives us straight to the nursery is all the bright colors. The cheeriness of which is so important after a dreary winter. Whatever your color pallet, there are plenty combinations of flowering shrubs, bulbs, annuals and perennials that will cover all spectrums of the color wheel.

For example, if you like sharp contrasting colors you can consider dark purples with yellows and filler in shades of green. Think about a basket or pot with dark purple and white petunias, with yellow stock or snapdragons, and green asparagus fern.

Maybe you need to call attention to a garden spot, try gold Coreopsis (Early Sunrise) with (Pinto Red) Geraniums and some soft lavender Verbena, planted in a bed with Asian Jasmine.

One way to make an impact is to plant a flower of one color en masse. Notice how a large bed of one color iris gets your attention along the roadside, whereas, mixed colors are a much softer look. Mass plantings also tend to add more formality. Mixed plantings, such as the cottage garden, look as cool as a summer breeze.

There is so much to pick from. Where to start first? Go to your favorite nursery with an idea of where you’re going to put these colors. Then take several plants of the colors you like, arrange them in a grouping until you come up with a winner! If you like the combination in 4 inch pots, you will love it when the plants are full and blooming at their best.  –Mary Ann Kelley
If you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us; visit us on Facebook or check out our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

If you’re looking for the next crop of warm weather vegetables to plant, consider bush and pole beans, limas, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, summer squashes, and pumpkins. Continue with regular feeding and watering of the established crops.

To encourage butterflies to your yard, grow colorful flowers to supply food, but don’t forget that these same flowers and herbs will also attract bees. We all need to do our part to protect a species that is very much in danger. To have a bee friendly garden avoid pesticides, and bug zappers.

Bees are poisoned from direct contact when pesticides are being applied, they can absorb the residue left on the plant. Like butterflies, bees need shallow water dishes with pebbles or sand located near flowers. Herbs such as almond verbena, anise hyssop, basil, bee balm, chives, lavender, mint and trailing rosemary are just a few of the bee magnets.

Consider baskets of summer annuals and pots of mixed plants to brighten porches, patios or provide focus points in your garden, but they require more attention than ground planted flowers. In normal summer weather, baskets dry out faster and need regular feeding because we wash the nutrients out with frequent watering. The same applies to potted plants. Light is also an important factor.

  • Turn the pot or the basket to even out the amount of light each side needs.
  • Raise pots off the ground to keep the air circulating around the pot and prevent the pot from either sitting in wet dirt or over heating on hot concrete.
  • Trim or dead head the spent flowers to promote new growth and continued flowering.
  • When the summer heat becomes a major problem, move the containers into afternoon shade. Your plants will thank you by extending their color long into the season. –Mary Ann Kelley

If you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@ co. grayson.tx.us; Visit us on Facebook or check out our website www.graysonmastergardeners.net.

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Thursday, April 9, 2014

If you haven’t cleaned up the lawn mower and sharpened the blades this winter, it’s time to do so to ensure a clean cut on the grass blades.  Fertilize with high nitrogen food for both the turf grass, evergreens, shade trees and groundcovers, but do not use fertilizers with weed killers included. Those herbicides can damage your trees and groundcovers.

Be sure to monitor your sprinkler system to make sure you are getting proper coverage and the one inch of water your turf needs every seven to ten days.  Check to make sure all heads pop up and there are no leaks in the system. Remember to water early in the morning when the wind is at its lowest, and there is less evaporation of the spray.

Spray Hybrid Tea Roses with a fungicide to protect them against Black Spot and powdery mildew. It is best to water at the ground level and keep the leaves as dry as possible. Watering in the morning also helps the leaves dry faster as the sun and wind come up.

At this date it’s safe to plant the rest of the warm-weather vegetables such as beans, squash, cucumbers, corn, okra and southern peas.  If you’re not already harvesting the cool season plants such as lettuces, spinach, cilantro, dill and fennel, you should pinch the tips to encourage bushy growth. Succession planting is another way to extend harvest of these plants. If you’re looking for a fresh crop of new transplants, come to the Master Gardener Annual Plant Sale at the courthouse on Saturday, April 25, 8am-3pm. We will have plenty of flowers, herbs and vegetables to choose from. –Mary Ann Kelley

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener’s Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Since Mother Nature is playing tricks on us with the up and down night time temps, it’s a good idea to take precautions.

**Cover tender new seedlings if frost is forecast. You can use commercial landscape covers, cloth or the tops of gallon jugs for some of the bigger plants. Do not use sheets of plastic.

New transplants need to be “hardened off” (acclimated) to the outside temperatures before planting in the ground. Mulching around (but not up against) the plants is another option. Between the drastic change in temperatures and the strong winds, protection will help those warm weather veggies and herbs get established.

** Tender tropical’s that spent the winter indoors also need some adjusting to the outside temperatures. Move them out to a protected patio out of the direct sun and wind. In fact, it’s best to wait until the night temps do not go below 50 degrees. Gradually increase the light, temperature, and water. Clean off any dead leaves, check for unwanted pests and refresh the soil or pot up to the next size while the plant is still relatively dormant.

**Don’t forget to water the compost pile and turn it over. If you added lots of leaves last fall, this would be a good time to dump the new grass clippings in, before you turn it over. Remember the secret to successful compost, is attention to the process. –Mary Ann Kelley

 

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tomato transplant season is here, and the following tips may help you grow a more successful crop:

  • Start with garden location and soil preparation. Plants must receive 6 – 8 hours of sun per day and have good drainage. Organic matter is critical to healthy soil; the addition of quality compost will benefit both clay and sandy soils.
  • Choose varieties for taste as well as for genetic resistance to disease. Experiment until you find which tomatoes you like best. Varieties to try include Champion, Sun Gold, Tycoon, Corona PS, Cherokee Purple, Celebrity, Viva Italia, and Fourth of July. Tomato varieties marked VNF are disease-resistant, an important consideration in north Texas’ humid climate.
  • Set plants deeper than in the original container. Tall or leggy plants can be planted by stripping away all but the top leaves; lay the plant horizontally in a shallow trough with only the upper leaves above the soil.
  • Water with drippers or low-volume micro-sprinklers to maintain moisture at a consistent level. This will help prevent blossom-end rot. Mulching with help keep both temperature and moisture consistent.
  • A light side-dressing of fertilizer may be applied when first blossoms appear.
  • Provide support with tomato cages to keep fruit off the ground and to make maintenance easier.
  • Protect from strong wind by wrapping cages with fiber row cover. This gauze-like material will protect plants from the drying effects of strong wind yet allow sunlight and water to pass through.
  • Monitor for pests and disease.
  • Harvest regularly when red and juicy.

An excellent resource book by Bill Adams, The Texas Tomato Lover’s Handbook, is available in some garden centers, bookstores, and online. –Donna Rogers

 

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

March is the time to plant new summer or fall-flowering perennials. Perennials are plants that appear yearly without reseeding or replanting and make a wonderful addition to any landscape. Success with perennials in Texas depends on proper selection of plants and well-prepared beds. Ask local nursery professionals or Master Gardeners for plant recommendations. Two excellent resources for plant types that grow well under Texas conditions are The Best of Texas Landscape Guide, published by the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, and www.TexasSuperstar.com.

Perennials require regular maintenance: watering, fertilizing, grooming, staking, cutting back, dividing, weeding, transplanting, and mulching. Some questions to ask when planning a perennial garden include:

  • What species or cultivars are best for Texas?
  • How tall will the plants grow?
  • What colors are the flowers?
  • Do the plants prefer full or part sun, part shade or shade?
  • Do they need excellent drainage?
  • How fast will they spread?

To prepare a good perennial bed:

  • Remove weeds.
  • Turn the soil to a depth of 8 – 12 inches.
  • Spread a 3-inch amendment layer (compost, rotted leaves, manure, etc.).
  • Blend the amendments into the top 4 – 6 inches of soil.

Some popular perennial choices include: Texas Gold Columbine, Butterfly Bush, Canna, Coreopsis, Purple Coneflower, Daylily, Shasta Daisy, Salvia, Holly Fern, and Wood Fern.

Existing perennial beds should be fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer as growth begins. In Texas, 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers work well for perennial plantings. As much as possible, avoid granules being lodged in crowns of plants. Water deeply after feeding; apply fertilizer every six to eight weeks throughout the growing/blooming season. WELCOME TO SPRING!

 

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

 

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The drought that our area has experienced over the past few years has played havoc with many trees in the county. Often, they sadly stand with dead and brown leaves still attached. Trees showing these symptoms are probably dead. However, with all the rain we’ve had, some of the established trees in your yard may still survive.

Use a knife to confirm if a tree is dead.

  • Scratcha little barkoff the outer small branches. If alive, there will be white wood surrounded by a thin green outer layer.
  • Limbs willalso be pliable. Dead trees have stiff branches, dark brown wood, and no sign of green stem tissue.
  • Check other limbs, especially thosecloser to the trunkto make sure they are  Remove the dead limbs as soon as possible, and monitor the tree closely.
  • Minimize future stressors. Don’t park under trees. If construction is going on nearby, make sure that the root area of the tree is not driven over. Be careful where you place new sidewalk or barbecue pits.
  • Apply fertilizers that do not contain weed killers to the lawn under your trees.
  • Mulch clear to the drip line.
  • If drought conditions continue later in the summer, consider supplemental watering once every two weeks.

Following this instructions you will give your trees every advantage to recover and thrive.

 

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

 

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring is the time to repot houseplants, and early March is a good time to evaluate, clean, and repot them as needed. Decide which plants will stay indoors and which plants will move outdoors when temperatures allow. Check local nurseries and stores for new pots; clean any old pots that will be used.

 

Give houseplants a spring cleaning. Place them in the shower to wash off leaves, trim brown edges, remove yellowing leaves, and make sure the soil surface is clear of debris. If there are yellowing leaves, check for possible causes: poor drainage (don’t leave water in the saucer), insufficient light, over-watering, or lack of fertilizer.

 

Repot or root prune houseplants while actively growing. Look for a solid mass of roots on the surface and roots coming out of the drainage hole. It’s time to repot unless growth needs to be slowed. If the plant is as big as desired, do not repot as long as it stays healthy.

 

Plants that you wish to continue growing should be repotted when root bound conditions occur. Choose a pot with a diameter no more than two inches larger than the current pot. Fill the bottom of the pot with soil. Water the plant before removing it from its container. Tease out or break apart any circling roots, and place the plant in the new pot, filling around the sides with fresh potting soil. Water the plant thoroughly, and place it in a shady spot for five days before moving the plant to its permanent location.

 

As always, if you have questions about plants, call or visit the Master Gardener Office at Grayson County Courthouse, 100 W. Houston, Sherman, TX 75090, 903-813-4204 or e-mail mastergardeners@co.grayson.tx.us

 

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