Thursday, April 21, 2016

Too Much Water ?

For many of us in the Norchester area.. our gardens are the least of our worries these days.. Even a few feet of water the the house is clearly a major distraction.  However, it is useful to understand some of the initial things we can do to save our plants.  The following is adapted from some information written by Angela Chandler and put out by our friends at Arbor Gate and we thank Ms. Chandler and Arbor Gate.

Angela Chandler is a lifelong gardener with a passion for learning and teaching. She tends a ½ acre garden in Highlands, Texas that includes ornamentals, fruits, a small experimental nursery, a flock of Buff Orpington chickens, and a Lab mix named Harley. Her gardening adventures would not be possible without her husband, Fred – always willing to help unload leaves, compost and help build beds. Angela is a member of the Harris County Master Gardener Association – Retired, and a member of the Garden Writer’s Association.

Climate analysts have reported their observations that we are in an El Nino cycle. El Ninos have an effect on tropical weather patterns. A recent South Texas Weather Conditions Update indicated that the growth rate of El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean this year is larger than any past event. They offer a 70% probability that these conditions will persist throughout the summer and 80% odds that strong El Nino conditions will develop in June and July and continue through next winter.

What does this mean for us? It more than likely means that we may continue to have these periods of unusually heavy rain. The Gulf Coast is familiar with cycles of drought and deluge, and many of our plants are adapted to it. But what happens when the periods of deluge are wetter and longer than usual? A lot of stress on our gardens.

Too Much of a Good Thing

All gardens need water, but sometimes we get too much of a good thing. Floods and long-standing water can be devastating to a garden. The damage that is done will depend on the duration of the event, the types of plants affected, the type of soil they are growing in and whether there have been any contaminants in the flood water.

When plants are subjected to water-logged soils for long periods of time, roots are deprived of essential oxygen. Water fills all of the pore spaces in the soil and roots can begin to suffocate and die.

Vegetables and fruits are more susceptible to periods of water-logged soils. Neither appreciates wet feet for any length of time. Herbs are also resentful of wet feet. Many of our favorite culinary herbs originated in the Mediterranean and thrive in drier climates.

If you have had heavy rain for an extended period, or have experienced a flood, there are things you can do to help your garden recover:

Don’t work wet soil
Working wet soil can do long term damage to the structure itself. Soil particles can become compressed, increasing compaction and exacerbating drainage issues in the future. This damage is not easily or quickly repaired.

Allow the soil to dry out for several days. Push a trowel into the soil and wiggle it back and forth, as you would if you were making a planting pocket for a bulb or transplant. If visible water is in the hole, or if the soil at the sides of the trowel looks glossy, or feels sticky, wait a few more days.

When you do start working, use hand tools such as a spading fork. Tilling with an implement has more risk of compaction than lightly cultivating with a fork. If you must till, save it for drier days ahead.

Don’t rush to replant
Soil biology is damaged when soils are water-logged for long periods of time. Soil microbes that require oxygen to live may die off and those that survive without oxygen may flourish. The anaerobic microbes are what cause soggy soil to have that foul, sour odor. Even good soils can be thrown temporarily out of balance.

This imbalance affects the availability of nutrients for plant use. The soil food web needs a chance to recover. This can happen relatively quickly if the soil was healthy before the storm. If sufficient organic matter, nutrients and minerals are present, beneficial soil biology will re-establish itself once oxygen is available again.

Many seeds have a tendency to rot in soggy soils. If you must replant quickly in the vegetable garden, support the soil biology with added compost, dried molasses, and perhaps supplemented mychorrhizae.

Don’t rush to prune
Stress from water-logged soil may cause some leaves on fruit trees and herbs to yellow and drop off, but the branches are not necessarily dead. New leaf buds will begin to grow in a few days. Wait until you are sure there is die-back before you prune.

Clean up the fallen leaves and any foliage that is rotting. They can harbor harmful fungi and bacteria that could affect plants.

Replace nutrients
Heavy rainfall can leach nutrients out of the soil. A light fertilization will replace those nutrients. Don’t overdo it. It is better to fertilize lightly several times than to push plants that are recovering from stress. Foliar feeding with Ocean Harvest can quickly boost needed minerals to reduce plant stress.

Use only slow-release, organic fertilizers that provide micronutrients and minerals in addition to the macro-nutrients, N-P-K. Arbor Gate Organic Blend is a good choice.

Epsom salts provide essential nutrients, magnesium and sulfur. In addition to aiding the uptake of other nutrients, these can help reduce plant stress. Broadcast over the new seedbed at a rate of 1 cup per 100 square feet.

Be prepared to deal with pests and disease
Water stress weakens plants. Weakened plants are susceptible to attacks. Fungal diseases are common after periods of heavy rain. Pull mulches back from the base of fruit tree, herbs, and vegetables until it dries out. This will decrease the opportunity of fungal disease spores to form and splash on leaves during the next shower. It also helps the soil dry out faster.

Be prepared to take quick action with organic-approved fungicides and pesticides. It can be as simple as a baking soda and vinegar mix.

Fire ants are likely to raise their nests out of the water-logged soil. Use the Organic Fire Ant Solution when they are observed.

Make an action plan for the future
One of the best things you can do after a heavy rain is to assess your landscape. There is no better time to identify problem areas and form a plan to prevent future issues.

Get a clipboard and a camera or your cell phone. Walk the garden making notes and taking pictures of places where water stands for long periods of time. Use this information to help you make future decisions such as raising beds, improving soil texture, and replacement plant selection.

You may decide that you need to seek the advice of a landscape professional if you find that drainage pathways are blocked by landscaping. They can often resolve these issues without destroying beds you have already established.

You may find areas where all that is needed is increased drainage in your soil. Use a permanent material such as expanded shale. This material increases porosity, which makes a healthier soil as well as improving drainage at soil level. Arbor Gate Organic Soil Complete can be used when both drainage and organic content need to be improved.

Make a list of plants that seem more sensitive to wet soils. Like it or not, storms and floods are likely in our area. If you have to replace plants, you may want to look for something better adapted to the possibility that it will happen again.

Dealing with contaminated storm water
If your garden has been inundated with city storm water, chances are you will have to deal with contamination issues. Storm water is often contaminated with raw sewage and hydrocarbons if the storm water infrastructure has been compromised.

If you have seen visibly contaminated water, such as a visible sheen of oil on the surface, consult a professional. You will need a professional soil test from a laboratory that can identify the contaminants and help you assess the situation and develop a remediation strategy.

Do not harvest and eat vegetables or fruits that are growing in the inundated garden. Washing and boiling may remove bacteria, but it will not remove industrial or roadway contaminants.

All is not lost in this case. There are natural bio-inoculants that digest hydrocarbons. Time and good soil biology will deal with sewage exposure. You can actually start with “washing” the garden. Hose down everything to remove mud and surface contaminants. You can follow this with a foliar feeding that includes compost tea in the solution. There are studies that show this helps colonize the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes – a first line of defense against environmental pollutants.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Matzke Park Butterfly Garden - Children's Photo Contest

Children’s Photo Contest - OFFICIAL RULES

All children in Harris County Texas between the ages of 6 to 14 are eligible to enter the Children’s Photo Contest this summer, with the permission of their parent or guardian.  Rules for the contest are as follows:

1.  Entrance in the contest implies that you agree to the rules of the contest and have parental consent to enter the contest.  

2. The age of the contestant is to be based on his or her age as of June 1.

3.  Photos are to be taken only by the contestant, must only be taken in the Matzke Park Butterfly Garden and are to only be taken between the dates of June 1 and August 31 of the current year.  Please follow posted rules of observing without disturbing nature.

4.  One photo of each species of "Things that Fly" in the garden (butterflies, bees, birds, ladybugs, dragonflies, etc.) may be submitted by a contestant. There can be several entries of butterflies, for example, so long as each is a different kind. 

5.  Email your photos as a jpg attachment, along with your name, age and contact information to

6.  The deadline for submitting entries is midnight on August 31, 2016.

Scoring:  Judges will award one point per photo of each different species submitted, one additional point will be awarded for the correct identification of the species submitted, and one point may be deducted for duplicates of the same species submitted by one individual.

The decision of judges will be final.  Prizes will be awarded in September to contestants by age groups:
6 to 8,
9 to 11,

12 to 14.

Businesses and individuals wishing to support this contest may send a donation  before July 15th to:
    Norchester Garden Club Treasurer
    14606 Quail Creek Court   
    Houston, TX 77070     

Please make checks payable to Norchester Garden Club with "Children’s Photo Contest" in the memo. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pat's amaryllis

Beauties  grown by a Norchester Garden Club member.

And... and invitation...

Please join us for the next Norchester Garden Club Program on April 7, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. at the Norchester Activity Center, 13439 Jones Rd, Houston, TX 77070.  

All are welcome. Our garden club membership include those from Norchester, Tower Oaks Plaza, Lakewood Forest, Hunters Valley, Anderson Woods, Cypress Forest Estates and Tomball.   

Bob Patterson from Southwest Fertilizer Lawn and Garden will be speaking on organic gardening. He will also answer questions on house plants and tree care (pruning, diseases).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Helpful Reminder

Image result for brain picturesCertainly most readers of our blog forget very little of what they read here.  However, there may be a few of us who need to "prod the mind" just a bit at times.  Perhaps these are some useful reminders.... about the features of this Norchester Garden Club - ABCS blog.

The blog posts display differently on a laptop or desktop than they do on a tablet or cell phone.  Some of the features do not show up the same or at all. And each kind of computer or tablet may also display things differently..  The following assumes one is using a computer but many tablets will offer the same features. 

Email notice of what is posted here.  Add your email to the box in the right hand column of a post and whenever a new one is added, you will get an email version of it.

Also along the right hand side of a post is a list of "Archives".  The blog has been posted over 180 times since the first one in Feb of 2011.  The first post was a brief history of the Butterfly Garden and the second a brief history of Matzke Park.   Another useful past post is October 29, 2015.  Here I describe how you can support the butterfly garden by signing up with Kroger or Randalls or both. As of April 2016 there are still only 12 families signed up.  Surely we can do better than that. Even so, the check for the last three months was for $59.84 and it all goes to the Garden through the Garden Club. 

One can click on a year or month and see just what was posted. There is a lot of interesting information in the past posts saved in the Archives. 

Also along the right hand column is a list of "Links we Like".. these take you to other web sites that have garden-related information that seemed worth noting.

At the top of the "Links" list is the link to a menu of all the "mostly monthly" Horticulture Reports of the Norchester Garden Club for the past few years.  Just click on it and the menu opens up showing the year, month, and content for each report and  each has a link you can just click to open the report right up.  Now.. what you see when you do this is a "view" of the report file.  You can zoom it out to make it easier to read, you can print it, and you can download it to your own computer if you like. You can't change it and you can't hurt anything playing around with it. Usually at the top of the screen you will have words or small icons for print, save, download, etc... 

The "Comments" option is found at the end of each blog... although hardly anyone ever leaves one.  If you see "No Comments" after earlier blogs, just click on it and leave one.. you can do it anonymously if you choose. If you found any of this post useful... please leave a comment so I know someone reads this stuff. And click the "I am not a robot" box so your comment will be posted. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Invasion

Well.. perhaps just the start of an invasion.
If you have lived in the warmer areas of the US this is not new to you.  However there are some Yankees in our midst and they might need to be clued in.  Janet reported at the work day this morning  that this is showing up in the Matzke Park Butterfly garden. She suggested we get the word out.  So all hands on deck next time you are garden viewing and let’s get rid of this stuff.  Else, the garden could soon look like the banks of a Louisiana bayou. 

Kudzu’s root, flower, and leaf are used to make medicine. It has been used in Chinese medicine since at least 200 BC. As early as 600 AD, it was used to treat alcoholism. And that’s, that as far as positives go

Kudzu is a vine. Under the right growing conditions, it spreads easily, covering virtually everything that doesn’t move out of its path. Kudzu was introduced in North America in 1876 in the southeastern U.S. to prevent soil erosion. But kudzu spread quickly and overtook farms and buildings, leading some to call to kudzu "the vine that ate the South.”

Let’s not let it eat Matzke Park. Go for the “crown.”
Kudzu spreads by runners that root at the nodes to form new plants and by rhizomes. But for successful long-term control of kudzu, it is not necessary to destroy the underground system, which can be extremely large and deep. It is only necessary to use some method to kill or remove the kudzu root crown and all rooting runners. The root crown is a fibrous knob of tissue that sits on top of the roots. Crowns form from multiple vine nodes that root to the ground, and range from pea- to basketball-sized.  The older the crowns, the deeper they tend to be found in the ground. Nodes and crowns are the source of all kudzu vines, and roots cannot produce vines. If any portion of a root crown remains after attempted removal, the kudzu plant may grow back.
It is necessary to destroy all removed crown material. Buried crowns can regenerate into healthy kudzu. Transporting crowns in soil removed from a kudzu infestation is one common way that kudzu unexpectedly spreads and shows up in various locations… like your back yard.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Children's Program at Matzke Park Butterfly Garden Update

The Norchester Garden Club will be presenting  "Catherine the Butterfly" about the Monarch life cycle at the park for 89 daycare children during the month of April and May. Congratulations to Joan who has chaired this program from the beginning.    THANK YOU to all of those that has signed up for Kroger Rewards.  THIS quarter rewards are $59.84 that support Matzke Butterfly Garden and Children's Programs. Come Enjoy!
Picture by Meda