June 3, 2014

Dear Friends,

Here is the 60th 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  or sign yourself up to receive this newsletter by clicking the "Join Our Mailing List" link just below. We will never sell or share our mailing list to protect the privacy of our subscribers.






Lots of olfactory stims around right now, from nutritious seaweed, left, on Galveston's shores to the beautiful LA Hybrid lilies now in bloom: 'Dazzle Yellow,' center, and 'Fangio Red,' at right.


by Brenda Beust Smith
"Love is like seaweed; even if you have pushed it away, 
you will not prevent it from coming back." 
                                                                              -- a Nigerian proverb

That's a nice thought, but probably not much comfort to Galveston beachgoers who are facing one of the most voluminous seaweed in-flows in a long time. 
And yet, probably at least some of those griping folks will go home and apply lawn/plant fertilizers that contain seaweed. It's been used for this purpose ever since man started gardening.

Our seaweed (sargassum) comes from the Sargasso Sea, the only "sea" on earth with no shoreline. This Atlantic Ocean gyro (or pocket), just east of Bermuda, was first documented by Christopher Columbus and, back then, its masses of sargassum were often mistakenly thought to be as threatening to ships as the infamous Bermuda Triangle (just southwest of the Sargasso Sea). Now we know it's a integral part of the ocean's ecology.  In fact, those turtle eggs hatching on our shores? The babies will head into the Gulf currents, be carried out to the Sargasso Sea, and there they'll grow up, returning to our shores to lay eggs for the next generation. 
Who else would tell you these things?

What no one knows exactly is why we suddenly have these unusual inflows. They suspect a number of diverse factors must all coincide at the same time. Perhaps studies now underway will help someday with advance warnings.

When we built our first Bolivar Peninsula beachhouse in the '70s, many homes included vegetable gardens. One was carefully tended by a man named Cooper, who also grew beautiful roses, tenderly protected from Gulf winds by fencing, and sold his okra, tomatoes and chickens' eggs to all us neighbors. 

Cooper, our neighbors John & Doris Robinson and others would haul seaweed up from the beach, spread it over lawns or picnic tables, water it profusely and then spread it on the gardens. They swore by its nutritional value. I asked why all that salt didn't kill the plants.  Cooper thought that was funny, pointing out that all plants on the peninsula are coated with salt spray every day. 

I hauled some back to Houston, but made the mistake of not immediately washing it to remove the many organisms it shelters.  Talk about stink! Husband put an end to that idea.

So, with the abundance of seaweed now, why aren't folks hauling home all this free fertilizer? Our area's foremost soil/mulch expert, my boss John Ferguson of Nature's Way Resources, agrees it's very nutritional, though perhaps not as much so as on the northeast coast where most seaweed is collected for commercial plant fertilizer distribution.

"Seaweed has over 90 elements in it (major, minor and trace minerals) that will help all plants grow stronger, more disease and pest resistance and with much higher nutrition," John points out. Food grown with seaweed tastes better. It adds organic matter to the soil or compost and contains growth hormones that help plants grow quicker." 

Turning a commercial profit with all this seaweed is another story, John says. It may look thick on the ground (and certainly does when Galveston's front-end loaders shove it up into the dunes, where it does help make them more stable). But seaweed is about 90% water. And it's seasonal. 

Several years ago, when I suggested readers take seaweed home for their gardens, naysayers came out of the woodwork. That, they said, is stealing from public property. 

Yeh, right. I bet Galveston powers-that-be would happily look the other way if anyone wants to take some of this seaweed home! 

Patty Sendelbach's yellow Dazzle LA_Hybrid lilies, left. Right, Gary Lenderman's spectacular Triumphator lilies are actually HO_hybrids.  Both seem to do great in Houston area gardens.


I don't know much about true lilies. In the past, true lilies didn't seem to do well here. We did better with lily-like, but unrelated, flowers such as amaryllis and crinums. 

Now, with the hybridization that has brought so many new plants to our gardens, "here come da lilies!" 
- to paraphrase Sammy Davis, Jr.'s great judge skits on Laugh-In

Actually these have been around a while, just not highly promoted. When I recently photographed the yellow and red LA Hybrids at the top of this column at Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Garden, I thought I had something really new and unique. Imagine my amazement when I got home, checked email and found a picture from reader Patty Sendelbach of her beautifully-blooming yellow "Dazzle" lilies, above.  

Most folks' eyes start crossing when garden writers throw out botanical names. So I'll be as gentle as possible. 

This "LA" does not mean Louisiana. (Nor are these irises.  They're lilies.)  LA Hybrid stands for a cross between Longiflorum (the traditional Easter Lily-type lilies) and Asiatic lilies which are best known for their brilliant colors. 

But that's not all.  Also blooming beautifully now are the Triumphator lilies, which are  LO Hybrids. These are a cross between Longiflorum and Oriental lilies.  

Does it really matter?  Naw. 

What matters is that these crosses seem to do better in our unique subtropical climate. Pure longiflorums, Orientals and Asiatics don't seem to last long here for most gardeners, although there are always exceptions.  

Jerry Seymore, of Jerry's Jungle Gardens, and I have the same Triumphator blooming now as does Gary (pictured above) at Enchanted Forest Nursery.  A quick survey of area nurseries found these also available at The Arbor Gate and in the new nursery section of Nature's Way Resources. Make a note to look for these too in the bulb section of the Garden Club of Houston's Bulb & Plant Mart which, Oct. 2-4. this year, will be in a new location.  Check it out at www.gcahouston.org.
Patty did say hers are thriving in a well-drained, raised bed in part sun, shaded until afternoon in the north Houston area of Ponderosa Forest. 

Just to forewarn you, I also hear deer find these hybrid lilies very tasty.  If you have deer problems, email lazygardener@sbcglobal.net and I'll send you a flyer with everything I know about gardening-in-spite-of-deer.   


The way we landscape these days, most of that wonderful water falling probably ran off our lawns and gardens into the sewer system where it was quickly moved into the bayou. We need to rethink our landscapes to force all this rain into our own subsoils to prevent subsidence and provide water resources for our trees later in the summer.  The City of Richmond is taking a step in that direction:

Sat., June 7: Residential Landscape Water Conservation Workshop, City of Richmond Street Dept., 109 - 8th St., Richmond. 8am sign-in; 8:30am-noonworkshop. $25. Registration: Brandy Rader, 281-342-3034,brandy.radar@ag.tamu.edufortbend.agrilife.orgwww.fbmg.com
If your area is following suit, be sure to get the event in our calendar below. 


Are you familiar with the campaign to save Freedmen's Town?  This Fourth Ward enclave is our nation's only remaining post-Civil War, National Register Historic Districts of its kind founded and built by formerly-enslaved people. It is among the most endangered settlements in a National Register Historic District.  
 I'll be doing more articles on plantings at this historic site later but wanted to mention this right away since:
1. On Sat., June 7, the new Prayer Garden and Labyrinth on the site of the historic Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church will dedicated at 10am, 1407 Valentine. Public invited. 
2. Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum, 1314 Andrews St. in Freedmen's Town, needs help identifying the rose pictured above, found thriving on a Freedmen's Town homesites for more years than any resident can remember. If you know this rose's name, contact the Texas Rose Rustlers' Audrey McMurray, audreymcmurray.trr@gmail.com, or Doana Fite at Doanaf@aol.com. Better yet, drop by the open house/dedication and speak with some of the Rose Rustlers there.
Even aside from all the community involvement in trying to save Freedmen's Town from more high rise development, may I compliment these dedicated folks for adding another public labyrinth to Houston's very select few. This hectic city can use more oases of calm and spiritual renewal - which is what labyrinths are all about. Thanks!

History at the Crossroads in Freedmen's Town   



Sat., Oct. 11: 5TH Annual JANE LONG FESTIVAL, Fort Travis Seashore Park, Bolivar Peninsula, Tx. Details: www.janelongfestival.orglazygardener@sbcglobal.net713-208-6445

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THE LAZY GARDENER'S GUIDE ON CD . . .  also based on Brenda's Chronicle column - when to do what in Greater Houston area gardens.  A pdf book. $20. Make checks payable to Brenda B. Smith and mail to: Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD, 14011 Greenranch Dr., Houston, TX 77039-2013.

*  *  *
*Note: If you haven't seen your specialty plant group in our "Society Spotlight," it could be we do not have valid email address for you. To make sure your group is contacted, email us at lazygardener@sbcglobal.net
* * *
Please read, and consider signing, the petition to establish a Houston Botanical Garden: 
*  *  * 
THE LAZY GARDENER'S GUIDE ON CD . . .  also based on Brenda's Chronicle column - when to do what in Greater Houston area gardens.  A pdf book. $20. Make checks payable to Brenda B. Smith and mail to: Lazy Gardener's Guide on CD, 14011 Greenranch Dr., Houston, TX 77039-2013. 





John's Corner




Organic Fertilizers and Nutrients - 2







The modern methods in horticulture and agriculture are based on soil biology where one feeds the soil and the microbes in the soil feed the plant. The old method was to use artificial fertilizers and feed the plant directly. These are very different approaches.


A question often asked is why use an organic or natural product versus an artificial fertilizer? We will answer this question in detail in this series or articles.


So what are organic or natural fertilizers? Organic fertilizers are composed of four major groups (sources); animal, plant, mineral, and biological.


Animal sources include: bone meal, feather meal, fish meal and fish emulsion, crab or shrimp meal, blood meal, animal manures (cow, horse, poultry, etc.), bat and bird guano, insect manures, etc. 


Plant sources include: corn gluten meal, cottonseed meal, soybean meal, alfalfa meal,  seaweed (dried or liquid), grass clippings, food waste, molasses, dried algae, etc.


Mineral sources include: humates, mineral dusts (like greensand), granite or basalt sand, wood ash, some clays (like Azomite), powdered limestone, Epsom salts (MgSO4), rust (iron oxide), ground oyster shells, colloidal phosphate, gypsum (CaSo4) and many more.


Biological sources (Bio-fertilizers) are a new class of nutrients sources that are being used more extensively in recent years. Basically they use microbes like bacteria and fungus to extract nutrients from the air or water and make them plant available. The best known are the nitrogen fixing bacteria that work with a group of plants called legumes. Researchers have discovered that fungus and algae can also extract nutrients and make them available to plants. A good reference book (almost 600 pages) on the subject is: Handbook of Microbial Biofertilizers, M.K. Rai (editor), Food Products Press, 2006, ISBN: 13: 978-1-56022-269-9


Many of the commercial products available are blended together from components in the above groups to get a more balanced fertilizer or to address specific issues. A few examples are Microlife (6-2-4), compost, compost tea, vermi-compost (earthworm castings), blended liquid products (like Garrett Juice, or Microlife's Ocean Harvest and Super seaweed).


As you can see many of these are used as soil amendments as well nutrient sources or natural fertilizers. It all depends on what a gardeners goal is, to correct a specific nutrient deficiency or just provide soil and plants nutrients in general.


In future articles we will look at each of these in more detail to discover how and when one should use them.




We do not need artificial fertilizers anymore as there are many good organic sources that offer better and lower cost methods of supplying nutrients. These also reduce and even prevent the secondary problems of insects and disease, air and water pollution, erosion, etc. The better nurseries and garden centers now carry a full line of organic fertilizers and they are easily available.





- widely available

- inexpensive (total cost less)

- naturally slow release

- most contain carbon to provide the energy source for the microbes and plants to break them down and use the nutrients 

- makes plants healthier and more resistant to insects and disease

- helps plants withstand drought, floods, heat or cold better

- increases humus content of soil (sequesters carbon)

- increases microbial density and diversity

- recycles many waste products from other industries

- reduces greenhouse gasses (multiple ways)

- reduces insect and disease problems




- quality, type, and value varies

- not as profitable to sell hence many places do not carry them

- some have short lived odors

- may attract animals

- a few "snake oil" products still around (less than in artificial products)









Thousands of years of poor farming and ranching practices-and, especially, modern industrial agriculture-have led to the loss of up to 80 percent of carbon from the world's soils. That carbon is now floating in the atmosphere, and even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, it would continue warming the planet and acidifying our oceans. In The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and bestselling author Kristin Ohlson makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for "our great green hope"-a way in which we can not only heal the land but also turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon-and potentially reverse global warming. It is based on organic methods that give real results and at lower costs resulting in higher productivity from the land.

In the book of Job, God tells us to study nature and let it teach us. She starts with antidotal stories from farmers and ranchers all over the world that have restored their soil by copying nature. It then moves into the how's and why's this method restores soils fertility, increases yields and stores carbon in the soil. She talks about that there is a vast kingdom of creatures under our feet-billions of microorganisms in a tablespoon of soil-that take the carbon dioxide that plants pull from the atmosphere and turn it into life-giving soil carbon.


Ohlson introduces visionary scientists, farmers, foodies, ranchers, and landscapers, whose work shows that earth can be healed and offers the hope that seemingly intractable problems like climate change, air and water pollution, food quality, and even obesity have the same low-tech solution.


Ohlson's fascinating journey to understand the hidden dynamics of the natural world-brought to life through vivid storytelling and crisp, engaging analysis will inspire everyone to rethink the potential of the ground beneath their feet, as well as the landscapes around them, and to figure out how they can make a difference.

Rodale Books, (256p) ISBN-10: 1609615549; ISBN-13: 9781609615543 Copyright 2014




It look's like one of the plants John mentioned last week was mislabeled when he purchased it.


Noted horticulturist Suzanne Chapman of Mercer Arboretum caught it. Thanks so much Suzanne!


From Suzanne:

Hi John, I just read the Lazy Gardener Newsletter and noticed that the plant photo with the bee is Alstromeria psittacina not Spigelia marilandica - see photos. The one (below right) that has the yellow star shaped center with red tube is Spigelia.












 (Events in Houston unless otherwise noted. No events picked up from other newsletters or media releases.  Submit written in the format below, specifically earmarked for publication in the Lazy Gardener & Friends Newsletter.) 



Fri., June 6: Order deadline for City of Houston Rain Barrel-Compost Bin Sale.  Open to anyone in the Greater Houston area, not just to Houston residents. Details: www.codegreenhouston.org 


Sat., June 7: Landscaping for Wild Birds, 10:15 a.m. at both Cornelius Nursery locations, 1200 N. Dairy Ashford and 2233 S. Voss. Free. http://www.corneliusnurseries/clinics

Sat., June 7: Native Plants by Fort Bend Master Gardeners, 9-11am open gardens/Q&A, 10am talk, 1402 Band Road, Rosenberg. Details: 281-341-7068; www.fbmg.com   


Sat., June 7: Never Too Many Tomatoes at Jenkins Sunshine Farm, 5800 Jackson Rd., Montgomery. Free.  Details: www.goodcleanlivin.com;  936-648-6145;   facebook.com/JenkinsSunshineFarm

Sun., June 8: Lone Star Hibiscus Society Sale, 1-4pm, Bellaire Community Center, 7008 S. Rice Ave., Bellaire, Tx.  Details: www.lonestarahs.org  (Note site change from previously published.) 

Tues., June 10: Herbs - Garden to Table, 6:30pm, Clear Lake Park Meeting Room, 5001 Nasa Parkway, Seabrook. Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 event. Free. Details:  https://hcmga.tamu.edu/Public/pubP2.aspx

Thurs., June 12: Garden Destinations Within Driving Distance by Debra Bagley, 7:30pm, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 1819 Heights Blvd. Houston Rose Society event. Free. www.houstonrose.org.

Sat., June 14: Groundcovers in the Landscape, 10:15 a.m. at both Cornelius Nursery locations, 1200 N. Dairy Ashford and 2233 S. Voss. Free. http://www.corneliusnurseries/clinics

Sat., June 21: Summer Lawncare, 10:15 a.m. at both Cornelius Nursery locations, 1200 N. Dairy Ashford and 2233 S. Voss. Free. http://www.corneliusnurseries/clinics

Sat., June 14: Bolivar Peninsula Plant Sale and Bazaar, 11am-4pm, free, Bay Vue United Methodist Church, 1441 Jane Long Highway (Hwy 87), Crystal Beach. Details: 409-684-2634
Mon., June 16: Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2's Open Garden Day, Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. Details: hcmga.tamu.edu/Public/pubP2.aspx 


Tues., June 17: Herbs - Garden to Table, 6:30-8:30pm, Recipe for Success,
4400 Yupon St. Harris County Master Gardeners event. Free but space limited. Reservations: 281-855-5600 

Wed., June 18: Fairy Gardens and Terrariums by Judy Jones of Enchanted Gardens, 10am, Clear Lake Park Meeting Room, 5001Nasa Parkway, Seabrook. Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 event. Free. Details:

Thurs., June 19:  Wetland Plants for the Home Garden by Mary Carol Edwards, Wetland Biologist at Texas Coastal Watershed Program/Texas Sea Grant: 7:30-9 pm, Houston Arboretum, 4501 Woodway. Free. Native Plant Society of Texas/Houston chapter event. Details: 
Thurs., June 19: Herbs - Garden to Table, 6:30pm,  Tracy Gee Community Center, 3599 Westcenter, Houston. Harris County Master Gardener event. Free. Details: 281-855-5600, http://www.facebook.com/HarrisCountyMasterGardeners. 


Sat., June 21: 4th Annual Tomato & Vegetable Contest, Kingwood Garden Center, 1216 Stonehollow Drive, Kingwood. Details: 281-358-1805 or www.Kingwoodgardencenter.com  


Sat., June 21: Herbs - Garden to Table, 10am, Maude Marks Library, 1815 Westgreen Blvd., Katy. Harris County Master Gardener event. Free. Details: 281-855-5600,http://www.facebook.com/HarrisCountyMasterGardeners. 


Sat., June 21: National Pollinator Week Plant Identification

by Mike Warriner, 10am, Jesse H. Jones Park and Nature Center, 20634 Kenswick Dr., Humble


Sat., June 21: Tomato Contest judged by Bill Adams, Jeremy Kollaus, Chef Chris Crowder, Randy Lemmon. 11am, The Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920 Rd, Tomball. Free. 281-351-8851, www.arborgate.com

Mon., June 23: Plant Hunters: A World of Exploration (4th-5th graders), 9am-noon, Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, 22306 Aldine-Westfield, Humble. $80. Details: 281-443-8731 
Tues., June 24: Open Garden Day - Herbs, 9am, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension demonstration gardens, 3033 Bear Creek Dr. Harris County Master Gardener event. Free. Details: 281-855-5600,


Sat., June 28: Heat-Thriving and Colorful Plants, 10:15 a.m. at both Cornelius Nursery locations, 1200 N. Dairy Ashford and 2233 S. Voss. Free. www.corneliusnurseries/clinics  


Sat., June 28: Backyard Basics - "Aquaponics"  by Fort Bend Master Gardeners and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, 8:30-11 am, Fort Bend County Extension Office at 1402 Band Rd., Rosenberg. $15 ($25 couples). Details: brandy.rader@ag.tamu.edu, 281-342-3034, http://fortbend.agrilife.org/, www.fbmg.com    


Sat., July 19: Texas Rose Rustlers Meeting, 10am-3pm, Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, 22306 Aldine-Westfield, Humble. Free, open to public. Detailswww.texasroserustlers.com or 281-443-8731.    (Note date change from previously published)

Mon., July 21: Plant Hunters: A World of Exploration (4th-5th graders), 9am-noon, Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, 22306 Aldine-Westfield, Humble. $80. Details: 281-443-8731 

Wed., July 16: Foods from the Americas by Sally Luna, 7 pm, Metropolitan Multi Service Center, 1475 West Gray. South Texas Unit Herb Society of America event. Free. Details: herbsociety-stu.org  


Sat, July 26 : The Plumeria Society of America Show & Plant Sale, 9 to 3pm, Ft. Bend County Fairgrounds, 4310 1st Street, Rosenberg. Details: www.theplumeriasociety.org 



To ensure rapid publication, submit events in the exact STRAIGHT LINE  format used above so they can b e copied and pasted right in. Events NOT submitted in our format will take longer to get published as someone has to reformat and retype them.
Email to: lazygardener@sbcglobal.net 


Need speakers for your group?  Or tips on getting more publicity for events?
Brenda's free booklets that might help:  "Lazy Gardener's Speakers List"
of area horticultural/environmental experts, and "Lazy Gardener's Publicity Booklet"

(based on her 40+ years of her Houston Chronicle "Lazy Gardener" coverage of area events)  Email specific requests to: lazygardener@sbcglobal.net.
Please help us grow by informing all your membership of this weekly newsletter! 


                                                ABOUT US


. . . but Brenda Beust Smith is also:

   * a national award-winning writer & editor
   * a nationally-published writer & photographer 
   * 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. 

Brenda recently ended her decades-long stint as Production Manager of the Garden Club of America's BULLETIN magazine. Although still an active horticulture lecturer and broad-based freelance writer,  Brenda's main focus now is  THE LAZY GARDENER & 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.

Regarding this newsletter, Brenda is the lead writer, originator of it and the daily inspiration for it. We so appreciate the way she has made gardening such a fun way to celebrate life together for such a long time.
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. 
For this newsletter, John contributes articles regularly and is responsible for publishing it.

Mark is a native Houstonian, a horticulturist and organic specialist with a background in garden design, land 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. 
With respect to this newsletter, Mark serves as a co-editor and occasional article contributor.

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, quality control, and he is a certified compost facility operator.
Pablo helps this newsletter happen from a technical support standpoint. 
COUPON: Buy three antique roses and get one free at Nature's Way Resources www.natureswayresources.com .
Offer Expires: 06/31/14