Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Bromeliads are one of my favorite type of tropical plant and can be found growing in mostly tropical or warm climates. The best known is the pineapple plant. There are many varieties of bromeliads which can be grown in many different mediums, some can even grow in no medium. Bromeliads come in many different shapes and size. I first fell in love with them growing in South Florida and found how easy they were to grow and multiply. I enjoyed the fact that the flowers bloomed from the middle of the plants. I have heard them sometimes referred to as the 'living vase'. Not sure if it's due to the fact that water stored in the center cup can be used as a vase for cut flowers or the flower growing from the middle caused the plant to look like a vase.

Compost -Black Magic

October is time for Black Magic in the Garden. For us gardeners, the Black Magic I am talking about is compost. I recommend top dressing your garden beds with a layer of compost seasonally to reinvigorate your plants. Now that our weather is getting cooler, and we are finally getting some rain, most of our plants can use a boost.
Compost helps with soil structure and adds nutrients to the soil. It is easy to make your own compost,
On October 10, the Master Gardeners will be sponsoring a plant sale and compost demonstration at the Arboretum located at the corner of Williams Road and Expressway 77 in San Benito. Taffy Herridge will present a program on butterfly gardening. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your gardening questions. The excitement starts at 9:00. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Newcomer to the lower Rio Grande Valley

I moved to the lower Rio Grande Valley just a year ago. I've been a gardener for most of my life but this is definitely a new experience for me. I've had summer gardens in the high desert of Nevada and fertile loam soils of Iowa and South Dakota. The RGV is a very different place to garden! If I hadn't joined the Cameron County Master Gardeners program, I would not have know that you just basically just keep your plants alive in the summer and prepare your beds for fall, winter and spring planting.
I moved into a house on a 60 by 130 foot lot that had been planted with a Bermuda grass lawn with a sprinkler system designed to water a lawn only with no thought of trees or garden areas. I knew from the start the I needed patience, knowledge and a plan.
The first thing I did was draw up a plot of the yard with the location of the sprinkler heads and what zones they were on. At first I tried to design my yard to fit the system but then I realized a sprinkler system should be designed to fit your yard. A good system should have sprinkler heads of the same type on the same line. Mine does not. I talked to the person who installed the system and he didn't have a diagram of what had been done or could he tell me how deep the lines were buried.
The first thing I did this spring was plot what areas of the yard had full sun. I realized this was a waste of time since with no trees it will be at least ten years before I have to worry about too much shade. Now I'm looking at where there is shade for part of the day as most plants that require full sun in other areas thrive on 6 hours of sun in this area.
I've included a picture of the corner of my back yard as this is the area where I plan to begin. As you can see by my drawing, this location has no sprinkler heads so will be doing hand watering until my sprinkler system can be adapted or I install a separate drip line. I plan to use mainly native plants in this area with an emphasis on attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.
I will be posting additional pictures and plans in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Native Plant Sale

Valley Nature Center
Native Plant Sale!!!

Effective September 1st, 2009, there will be an official TEXAS NATIVE PLANT WEEK, celebrated annually the third week in October. In celebration of this legislation The Valley Nature Center located in Weslaco, on 301 S. Border Ave., will be selling our 1 gallon, well established, native plants for only $3.50 a plant.

TEXAS NATIVE PLANT WEEK may now be regularly observed in public schools and other places with programs that appreciate, explore and study Texas Native plants.

The VNC will be selling native plants from September 1st through 15th in celebration of the new Texas State Act, then again during TEXAS NATIVE PLANT WEEK which is the third full week of October. So start planning your garden now, using these wonderful, drought resistant, wildlife friendly plants! For more information please contact the Valley Nature Center at 956-969-2475 or come by and visit. VNC staff will help pick the plants that are right for you!

What is This Critter

Botanical name Ficus Benjamina

These small bugs showed up in the valley about five years ago and have returned each spring. They attack only ficus plants.

There is a little black bug that attacks ficus plants. It is about 1/32 inch long.
This animal is narrow, I cannot see its legs but it moves rather quickly. I have not seen it fly. It causes new leaves to fold up and the edges curl. When the leaf is opened there are tiny yellow specks that look like fine sand.
I have been to several nurseries with mixed results, no answers.
One place suggested Bodine Systemic, granules or liquid.
What are we dealing with?

The Future Rose Garden at the Arboretum

At the Arboretum the Master Gardeners would like to plan on having a Demonstration Rose Garden. We hope to be to have different varieties of roses whether they will be hybrid teas, floribundas, grandiflora, heirloom, polyantha, species and or antique roses. The decision will be up to the group which will be a chore in itself. The preparation of the beds will be the most important part for this demonstration garden. The rose above is a Black Cherry Floribunda that was placed in the ground in my garden about 2 years ago. The bed was dug about 4 feet deep to remove the clay soil where the garden soil and compost that was purchased from the local City Service was placed. In our area they sell the medium by carload , truckload or bucket load as needed. The Rose Bed to my garden has mostly floribunda's which I prefer because of the abundance of flowers. In years past most floribunda's were not fragrant, however more varieties have been introduced. Websites that I find most helpful in making my decision are the Houston Rose Society and Jackson and Perkins.