July 12, 2013

Dear Friends,


Here is the 18th issue of our weekly gardening newsletter for Houston, the Gulf Coast and beyond. This a project of The Lazy Gardener, Brenda Beust Smith, John Ferguson and Mark Bowen (both John and Mark are with Nature's Way Resources). We also have a great supporting cast of contributing writers and technical specialists who will chime in and tweak away regularly. We would love to keep receiving your input on this newsletter . . . . comments . . . . suggestions . . . . questions. . . .Email your thoughts to: lazygardenerandfriends@gmail.com. Thanks so much for your interest.
Please .


Knockout roses - too pretty to lose!


I have 2 Knockout roses in big pots in front of my garage--which seem to be dying.  They are about 2 years old. (Also several at our country place are having the same problem.) The leaves at the end of the stem turn brown and droop, then the whole stem dies.   I have cut them off, but in other areas of the bush it happens again.   I don't think it is insects as I have treated them--and have also put in food.  I'm thinking some kind of disease but don't know what to use to treat them. 

I asked the guy at Home Depot who said I was watering them too much.   Since the pot drains well, I don't think this is the answer to my problem.  They get full sun most of the day

I tried looking up possible problems with Knockouts. Truth is, I've been wondering if and when some invasion would occur.

Fact of life: If you overplant ANY plant - which we are certainly doing with Knockouts - insect and/or disease problems eventually develop that were not troublesome before you overplanted.  

Witness red-tipped photinia. Remember when the city was a mass of these?  Soon they were succumbing to a variety of invaders. 

On the plus side - the red-tips still around must be pretty hardy plants and as long as they are interplanted with many other varieties, they'll do fine.

On the Knockouts, the first resources I found were pretty scary:  

Howard Garrett puts out The Dirt Doctor www.dirtdoctor.com  online newsletter and it's fabulous.  I highly recommend everyone subscribe to this.  He's strictly organic and he's incredibly knowledgeable.When Howard speaks, I listen.  

His warning is one we should take to heart, although we here may not have to panic just yet.  Rose Rosette is caused by a tiny mite, there is no cure, plants need to be destroyed and, according to Howard, "This disease has been seen especially on the ubiquitous "Knockout" roses."  
Symptoms include (among others) "short stubby stems with enlongated leaflets and deformed, crinkled and brittle leaves" that are more susceptible to disease and excessive heat damage than they would be otherwise.  (These are also the same symptoms found after chemical poisoning - excessive use of fertilizer or other systemic treatments like systemic weed killers.)

My own go-to rose guru, Baxter Williams, however, had another diagnosis for Glenda.

It's hard to imagine anyone here who doesn't know Baxter.  However, lest you're brand new to Houston and question his credentials, here's Baxter and Patsy's yard in Pasadena: 

Since you tell me that the roses in question are Knock Outs, the "mangled and distorted foliage and buds" could most likely be chilli thrips. They are now known to be attacking that variety.  
Baxter (who watches this area closely) says the "Rose Rosette" disease is not really endemic to Houston at the moment (there is no good reason to have your readers all in a dither over what is somewhere else).  


By Guest Columnist Baxter Williams
American Rose Society Master Rosarian


Growing roses in the summer months is quite easy.  
    (1) water the rose bushes regularly, and
    (2) keep the leaves on them.


If roses seem to be growing weaker, there might be some difficulty in the root zones. After watching some good bushes die, we dug them up to re-work the soil in that bed. And there they were tree roots. lots of them!


This rose bed is 50-feet away from oak trees. But these oak roots grew another 30-feet to its far end. The end of one of the tree roots had a diameter the size of the base of my thumb. Those were "killer" tree roots can be as long as 1.5 times the height of the tree.


Three feet from the tree end of the bed we cut a 15-foot long slot through the sod, and perpendicular to the centerline of the bed. I jammed a square-bladed shovel down through the slot (about 12-inches) into the soil, until its top was level with the top of the sod.


Those roots that weren't cut by the shovel blade were sawed into using an old pruning saw. The bed now has 3-feet of reprieve. We'll see how long it takes the tree to grow its roots back into the bed. In the meantime, we'll do some serious watering and judicious feeding to see if we can bring the bushes back to health.



Speaking of getting in a dither . . . 

Patsy Teas, of Houston's famous Teas Nursery family, brought up the subject the other day of poisonous plants in home landscapes.

My attitude about these may not be shared. 

But I don't think you have a choice. The tendency of reporters to zero in on certain plants as being poisonous has managed to scare a lot of folks away from oleanders, poinsettias, sagos and other very useful landscape plants.
All this does is to instill a false sense of security. The home gardener says, oh, I have no oleanders, poinsettias, sagos, etc., in my yard. 
So my yard is SAFE!  No, it's not. The truth is: most of our common landscape plants can be poisonous - some to lesser, some to fatal degrees. Being informed about your plants is a good thing.  What's bad is that a little knowledge makes us overconfident that because we don't have this, or that, highly-publicized plant.

"Poisonous" usually doesn't mean instant death. As a child I was dared to eat an oleander. I'm here to tell you that:

1. they aren't instantly fatal and 

2. in my wildest imagination, I can't see anyone eating enough of an oleander to die. The taste of the sap is so awful, so disgusting, so . . . there just aren't words to describe how vile it tastes. One miniscule drop on the tongue is enough to instantly stop such behavior.

Most plants listed as poisonous have a range of effects, usually starting with nausea.  

A lot depends on how much is consumed related to body weight. For example, oleander extracts in carefully controlled amounts are offering hope to cancer patients.

But it gets even more complicated. 

Some plants have edible flowers, let's say, but poisonous roots, stems and/or leaves. 

Many vegetables and fruits have parts that are edible, and parts that should not be eaten.

Others plants are poisonous when young but not when they're older. And visa versa. 

Some plants are poisonous to pets but not to people.

Some plants are poisonous to people but not to animals, especially birds. 

What's even worse, some plants are listed as "poisonous" in various lists, and as "nonpoisonous" in others.  Esperanza is a good example. 

I'm not saying don't take poisonous plants seriously.  

You should.

I'm just saying not to "rest easy" because you've eliminated the most publicized poisonous plants
from your landscape.  

The vast majority of our common landscapes plants should NOT be eaten. 


My advice has always been:

Treat eating plants out of the yard the same way you would if your young child or pet tends to run out into the street or poke electrical outlets, bite electrical cords or touch a hot stove. 

It can't be tolerated. You do what you have to do to stop such behavior.

Remember, you can't control plants outside of your yard. 

If they'll eat what's in your yard, they'll do the same thing in uncontrolled sites.  
will be delighted to learn that this North Harris County treasure has been "reorganized." Now one of the largest collection of rare and unusual plants in the South will be open free to visitors every Saturday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Wear walking shoes and remember, this is pretty much a "jungle." 712 Hill Road; www.jerrysjungle.com (832-978-5358).  

"THE LAZY GARDENER'S GUIDE ON CD" - Specifically for Houston Area gardens - WHAT TO DO EACH MONTH - when to fertilize, prune, plantwhat where, best plants for sun, shade, butterflies, hummingbirds,etc. Based on Brenda's quirky 40+ year Houston Chronicle Lazy Gardener column. PDF format, print out only the month you need.  $20 total, checks payable to Brenda B. Smith. Mail to: Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD, 14011Greenranch Dr., Houston, TX 77039-2103.

For correspondence that is specific to Brenda, feel free to email her directly at lazygardener@sbcglobal.net. 


July 13: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., 
Honey Extractor Day, Lecture by John Berry at Wabash Antiques & Feed Store,

$30. Looking for an efficient way to extract your honey? Sign up for a two-hour class to harvest your honey. Bring in your super and we will have uncapping and extracting equipment available. This is an economical solution for a small-scale beekeeper to harvest their honey without the expense of an extractor. Spectators are welcome. Space is limited, only 4 two-hour spots are available. Check out website to reserve your time slot. http://www.wabashfeed.com/


July 13Water-wise Gardening Clinic, 10:15 a.m. at both Cornelius Nursery locations, 1200 N. Dairy Ashford and 2233 S. Voss:http://www.calloways.com/clinics. Free.


July 15: The Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 Open Garden Day. 8:30 am - 11:00 am.  Master Gardeners on hand to answer questions and present programs from 9:30 am - 10:30 am. Herbs and more available for sale in the Greenhouse. Programs on Herbs offered for children & adults. Where:  Genoa Friendship Garden, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff, Houston, TX  77034. http://hcmga.tamu.edu

July 17: 10 a.m. Master Gardener Lecture Series. On Wednesday, July 17, John Ferguson will be speaking on how the environment can effect our health. John is the Founder and Owner of Nature's Way Resources. He holds an MS degree in Physics and  Geology and is a licensed Soil Scientist in Texas.  FREE.
Where:  The Meeting Room at Clear Lake Park (on the lakeside), 5001 NASA Parkway,  Seabrook, TX  77586, http://hcmga.tamu.edu281 855 5600 


July 17: Tin Can Planting for Kids, 9:30 a.m. at both Cornelius Nursery locations, 1200 N. Dairy Ashford and 2233 S. Voss;http://www.calloways.com/callieskids Free.


July 20: 9:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. The Plumeria Society of America Plant Sale. There will be a Gorgeous Bloom display of the flowers available, an 'Ask the Experts' table plus door prizes throughout the day. Arrive early for best selection.     For more information: www.theplumeriasociety.org. Location: Fort Bend County Fairgrounds  3350 Hwy 36S--Rosenberg, TX.  
July 20: Arboretum at Night, Night Sounds of Summer. The snap of a twig, the fluttering of wings, the chirp behind the woodpile up ahead... What could it be? Nighttime in the summer forest is an enchanting symphony of sounds and mysterious spaces enlivened by wildlife on the move. 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. Instructor: Jaime Gonzalez. http://www.houstonarboretum.org/event/night-sounds-of-summer 
July 24 - "Snakes in the Neighborhood" by Mr. Clint "The Snake Man," 6:30-8 p.m., Heritage Colony Clubhouse (kids) and Aquatic Center (adults); $20 per family; register at 281-634-9555. 
July 27: 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Annual Summer Color Conference and Plant Sale. Splash into summer with this one-day immersion into perfect solutions for creating a glorious garden that thrives in Houston's summer heat! Reservations requiredSpeakersCeil Dow, avid enthusiast and ginger expert will speak on the gingers she loves, Chuck Bybee from JJL Greenhouses (a wholesale nursery) will present Bedding Plants and Annuals that are good for Houston summers and Norm Arnold of Glorious Gardens will present Landscape Designs that bring out color. Visit http://themercersociety.org/events-programs-2/summer-color-symposium/ for more information. Fee.


July 27: Fall Vegetable Gardening. After the dog days of summer comes the perfect time to toss together iron rich salad greens, sauté veggie shish kabobs or simmer hardy vegetable soups that your whole family will enjoy. Sat, July 279am - 12pm $24 members. $36 non-members. UH Main Campus, 4361 Wheeler St. Bldg & Rm TBA For more info: 713-880-5540 or www.urbanharvest.org.


August 3: Starting a Community/School Garden: Community Engagement & Planning #1

Class 1: Community Engagement & Planning - This class will explore goals, discuss organizing volunteers and funding, and help you set priorities for your garden. Sat, Aug 39 - 11:15 am. $24 members. $36 nonmembers. Green Planet Sanctuary, 13424-B Briar Forest Drive, Houston, TX 77077.  For more info: 713-880-5540 or www.urbanharvest.org 


August 5: The Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 Present a Children's Program -  Growing Pineapples from tops, and a Program for Adults - Tool Sharpening, 9:30-10:30 a.m. Where:  Genoa Friendship Garden, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff, Houston, TX  77034. http://hcmga.tamu.edu.  281 855 5600


August 8: Propagate Your Own Plants, at Urban Harvest. Learn the various sexual and asexual ways to start plants from seeds, cuttings, divisions, and layering. Topics include the proper storage of seeds, seed dormancy, and methods of sprouting hard-to-sprout seeds. There will also be a hands-on workshop on propagation by cuttings.Thurs, Aug 86:30 - 8:45 pm $24 members. $36 non-members. Urban Harvest Classroom, 2311 Canal Street, Houston, TX 77003 For more info: 713-880-5540 or www.urbanharvest.org


August 17: The Texas Master Naturalist Fall 2013 Training Session begins on August 17, 2013, and runs through October 30, 2013. Classes are on Tuesday evenings and field trips are on Saturdays. For more details, email training.officer@txgcmn.org, or you can visit the website of local chapters:


August 17: Starting a Community/School Garden: Garden Design, Fruits & Vegetables #2 Class 2: Garden Design, Fruits & Vegetables. We will review and modify the garden design, set a schedule for ordering materials and set a build date. Sat, Aug 179 - 11:15 am. $24 members. $36 nonmembers. Green Planet Sanctuary, 13424-B Briar Forest Drive, Houston, TX 77077.  For more info: 713-880 5540 or www.urbanharvest.org 
August 19: The Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 present a program for children - Garden Craft and a program for adults - Container Gardens, 9:30-10:30 a.m. Where:  Genoa Friendship Garden, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff, Houston, TX  77034. http://hcmga.tamu.edu281 855 5600
August 21: Master Gardener Lecture Series. Mary Karish will be speaking on "How to Grow and Care for Citrus for the home garden. Mary is a Harris County Master Gardener, a Citrus Specialist and Master Composter. She is a freelance  writer and the owner of The Three Sisters - Your Backyard Gardener. 10:00 a.m., Where:  The Meeting Room at Clear Lake Park (on the lakeside), 5001 NASA Parkway,  Seabrook, TX  77586.http://hcmga.tamu.edu281 855 5600.
August 24: Irrigation For the Home Gardener (hands-on). A garden that conserves precious water resources is a rewarding investment. An irrigation system is a practical choice for most garden locations. Sat, Aug 249 am - 12 pm $24 members. $36 non-members. Private residence in Highland, TX. Location to be provided to enrolled students. For more info: 713-880-5540 or www.urbanharvest.org 


September 7: Rainwater Harvesting and Cisterns. We will discuss very low-cost methods of absorbing water on your property, as well as more expensive methods such as rainwater cisterns.Sat, Sept 79 - 11:15 am. $24 members. $36 non-members. Westbury Community Garden, 12601 Fonmeadow, 77035. For more info: 713-880-5540 or www.urbanharvest.org 


September 7: WILDSCAPES WORKSHOP & Native Plant Sale, Landscaping with Native Plants to Attract Wildlife, 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. At the Houston Zoo's Brown Education Center in Hermann Park www.npsot.org/houston

Submit calendar items to lazygardenerandfriends@gmail.com.  Events must be submitted by the sponsoring organization. Please note: "garden calendar request" in the subject line.

Need speakers for your group?  Brenda's "Lazy Gardener's Speakers List" of area horticultural/environmental experts is available free for the asking. Email your request to: lazygardener@sbcglobal.net.








                                  MULCH CORNER                  



                                BY JOHN FERGUSON


                       INSECTS, PESTS AND DISEASE 

                          ASSOCIATED WITH MULCH:


I overheard a customer asking about termites and mulch the other day, so let's talk about this issue.




All organic mulches attract insects.  The good news is that in organic or living mulches the beneficial insects outnumber the bad ones by 100 to 1 or more.  In inorganic mulches (plastic, etc.) the ratio is much less or even favors the pest species.  Organic mulches give beneficial  insects a place to hide during the day.  At night beneficial insects, like hunter spiders (not web weavers), prowl your garden looking for pests to devour.  Many species of moths that pollinate night blooming plants also use the mulch as a home during the day.  The benefits of a good organic mulch far out way any problems that might occur.


The most common insect pest that people worry about is termites.  Termites rarely attack wood mulches near the foundation of buildings since they are heat and light sensitive. Termites eat wood as their food source hence they want fresh wood that is not very decomposed.  We find these conditions in mulches that are colored and in ashen treated mulches that use fresh wood (another reason to avoid these types of mulches). In nature termites like a very thick woody layer to live in such as a large log that is just begging to rot and is many inches thick.If we keep our mulch layer less than 4 inches thick it does not make a good home for termites, hence they are not attracted to it.  When we use compost or composted native mulches, the high levels of beneficial microbes tend to parasitize termite larva, and as a result they tend to avoid these mulches.


Often in the spring when termite colonies (also many ant species) migrate to new locations, they will spend the night in your mulch and be gone in a day or so. Many compost and mulch companies often find their mulch storage piles temporarily inhabited in the spring as the warm moist piles makes a good hotel for the migrating insects to spend the night. When the daytime temperatures warm up enough the insects continue their search for a new home.     


Studies have found that damage from Colorado potato beetles was 2.5 time higher in un-mulched potato gardens than gardens mulched with wheat straw. The mulched plots also had 33% higher yields.


Slugs and snails are the most common pests and love to hide in mulch, particularly in wet weather. These pests can be controlled by using predator snails (decollate snails) which will naturally keep these pests under control by eating them.  Toad frogs that hide in a good mulch will also love to make a meal of a juicy slug. Diatomaceous Earth (or mixed with pyrethrum dust, a natural insecticide) is also a product that helps control these pests.  Also ducks and geese love to eat slugs and snails and leave a nutrient rich manure behind. 


Researchers at the University of Vermont have shown that it is possible for disease transmission to occur via wood chips taken from infected trees and used around healthy landscape plants.  They found that the nematode that causes pine wilt (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus) could move from infected chips to young Scots Pines if the infected chips were tilled into the soil during transplanting or applied against a trunk that had been wounded.  While it is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely this type of disease transmission would occur in practice as raw wood chips are not incorporated into the soil. Also, the mulch should NEVER be piled against a tree trunk (nematodes cannot move more than a couple of centimeters on their own). Additionally, the pine sawyer beetles that transport this nematode are not attracted to wood chips.  This small risk can be eliminated by composting the wood chips for a few weeks before applying them, as the heat kills the nematodes and pathogens. Also the same risks apply to bark mulches, since infected trees are often the first ones harvested for lumber and pulp.


Verticillum wilt is a common disease caused by a soil-borne fungus resulting in the decline or death of many shrubs and trees.  It is caused by the fungus Verticillum dahliae and endures in the soil in infected plants or as flecks of scleroti, a type of fungal tissue designed for long term survival of the fungus.  If diseased trees are ground up and used for mulch, it is possible that this disease can spread to mulched plants.  It has been found that excess synthetic nitrogen fertilizer favors development of this disease.  However, this disease is rapidly destroyed if the mulch has been composted for at least 3 days at a minimum of 130 degrees Fahrenheit


Rhizoctonia solani is another plant pathogen that causes damping-off of many types of seedlings.  This pathogen is actually stimulated by fresh wood mulches (colored or ashen) as it feeds off the cellulose in the wood.  Again, composting the mulch for a period of time before using eliminates this potential problem.



Tip Of Week: Toad Hotels


Since  we have been discussing insect problems associated with mulches it seems time to talk about natural controls. 


One of the best insect control methods is toad frogs as they love to eat slugs and snails, crickets, grasshoppers, pill bugs, flies, etc.  Like all animals they need food, water, and shelter.  To ensure I have a good population of toad frogs I build them shelter and provide water. 


For shelter I have found several ways that work and are essentially free. Toads like cool, moist, dark places to hide and sleep in during the day, hence I provide this for them. 


Method 1:  Often the clay trays that pots sit in for watering become damaged, so I use them for toad hotels.  I will use a hammer and chip a hole 1-2 inches wide in the collar, turn it over and set it under a low growing shrub and then cover with mulch leaving only the opening exposed.  The smaller 6-8 inch diameter trays that are 1-2 inches deep seem to work best.


Method 2:  I will use a couple of old bricks (or old stone pieces 1-2 inches thick), and place them 3-6 inches apart under a shrub. Cover with a small piece of wood, old license plate, etc. and then cover with mulch. 


Method 3: One can use a small log where the center had rotted out and place on the ground under the shrubs. One can also make a shelter by taking a small log and drilling a 1-2 inch diameter hole in the middle of the log and parallel to the length of the log.


I use all these in my garden and the toads seem to love them.  I remember one year I was sitting on the ground in the late evening. I heard a slight rustling sound in the leaves and looked over.  There was a parade of toads leaving their shelter and marching out to feed on garden  pests. 


Note:  For water I have a waterfall and pond. In addition I use several of the clay flower pot trays 8-12 inch diameter as water bowels for birds and other wildlife. I scattered them around the garden. I have seen toad frogs, tree frogs, and even a ribbon snake in addition to birds using them. I like to use the clay trays as they will dry out in 5-6 days so one does not have to worry about mosquitoes using it for breeding.  










                                       GOT GARDENING QUESTIONS? 
Be sure to check out our gardening blog at www.lazygardenerandfriends.com  to get your gardening questions answered and to interact with other gardeners. 

                                             ABOUT US


. . . but Brenda Beust Smith is also:

   * a national award-winning writer & editor
   * a nationally-published writer & 
   * a national horticultural speaker
   * a former Houston Chronicle reporter
When the Chronicle discontinued Brenda's 45-year-old Lazy Gardener" print column a couple of years ago, it ranked as the longest-running, continuously-published local newspaper column in the Greater Houston area.

Brenda's gradual sideways step from Chronicle reporter into gardening writing led first to an 18-year series of when-to-do-what Lazy Gardener Calendars, then to her Lazy Gardener's Guide book and now to her Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD (which retails for $20. However, $5 of every sale is returned to the sponsoring group at her speaking engagements).

A Harris County Master Gardener, Brenda has served on the boards of many Greater Houston area horticulture organizations and has hosted local radio and TV shows, most notably a 10+-year Lazy Gardener run on HoustonPBS (Ch. 8) and her call-in "EcoGardening" show on KPFT-FM. 

In addition to her position as Production Editor on the Garden Club of America's magazine and her freelance writing career, Brenda's latest venture is "THE LAZY GARDENER'S & FRIENDS HOUSTON GARDEN NEWSLETTER" with John Ferguson and Mark Bowen of Nature's Way Resources. 

A native of New Orleans and graduate of St. Agnes Academy and the University of Houston, Brenda lives in Aldine and is married to the now retired Aldine High School Coach Bill Smith. They have one son, Blake.

John Ferguson
John is a native Houstonian and has over 27 years of business experience. He owns Nature's Way Resources, a composting company that specializes in high quality compost, mulch, and soil mixes. He holds a MS degree in Physics and Geology and is a licensed Soil Scientist in Texas. John has won many awards in horticulture and environmental issues. He represents the composting industry on the Houston-Galveston Area Council for solid waste. His personal garden has been featured in several horticultural books and "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine. His business has been recognized in the Wall Street Journal for the quality and value of their products. He is a member of the Physics Honor Society and many other professional societies. John is is the co-author of the book Organic Management for the Professional.
Mark Bowen
Mark is a native Houstonian, a horticulturist and organic specialist with a background in garden design, habitat restoration and organic project management. He is currently the general manager of Nature's Way Resources. Mark is also the co-author of the book Habitat Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas, the author of the book Naturalistic Landscaping for the Gulf Coast, co-author of the Bayou Planting Guide and contributing landscape designer for the book Landscaping Homes: Texas. 
Pablo Hernandez
Pablo Hernandez is the special projects coordinator for Nature's Way Resources. His realm of responsibilities include: serving as a webmaster, IT support, technical problem solving/troubleshooting, metrics management and quality control. Pablo helps this newsletter happen from a technical support standpoint. 

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Save 20%: Redeem this coupon for a big discount on Nature's Way Resources Native Double Ground Mulch( http://natureswayresources.com/products.htm ). Please note: this offer is for bulk material (by the cubic yard) purchases by retail customers only at Nature's Way Resources, located at 101 Sherbrook Circle, Conroe TX.
Offer Expires: 8/1/13