Friday, January 28, 2011

Rainwater harvesting and rain barrels with Hari Krishna

Is collecting rain water worth the effort? Is it hard to do? What do you need to do this? How much water can you collect and how do you use it? Where do you get equipment to harvest rainwater? Does it need any treatment?

On Saturday, February 5th the Wells Branch Garden Guild will host guest speaker Dr. Hari Krishna, noted expert on this topic. We'll explore the ways to collect rainwater and to effectively reuse the water we collect, how to find and pay for the systems (rebates available?) and more. 

"At one time Wells Branch probably had more Rain Water Reuse than any other neighborhood.  We still may, but I'm not sure. The one thing I can add to the conversation is how every single drop of treated water we save helps lower the whole neighborhood's water bills." per Donna Howe, WB MUD.
Tim Pfluger's suggestions for natural or organic addiments for the garden. While he was discussing the fruit trees, he made lots of comments on soil amendments too. These are ideal for our soils in Wells Branch. Some of the ones to look for and how to use them:
  • green sand- this is the sand created 1000s of years ago when Texas was under water. It is mined out near Fredricksburg and is rich in iron and micro-nutrients. He uses it mixed with compost, soil, and bone for transplanting trees and in gardens.
  • compost- great stuff recommended by everyone and available at the MUD or nurseries.
  • Ladybug flower power fertilizer has turkey manure as a component.
  • TX tea and Medina Grow green were also recommended.
  • Cottonseed meal is a great acidifier for soil. It has some very fine material and some coarser that breaks down over time. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gardeners investigate growing fruit trees and bushes

With a turnout that filled the room to over-flowing into the hallway, Wells Branch gardeners turned out to share information and learn from the experts about growing fruit trees. Topics ranged from which varieties would actually grow in our soil to how big does the tree get to pruning and planting and location. Many of the attendees have fruit trees or have had them but still had questions on their care or if they had the right variety. We viewed a video clip from KLRU featuring Drew Demler from last year then followed with a Q&A session with Tim Pfluger from Green and Growing in Pflugerville

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWe got information about root stock types and how to plant bare root and container grown trees.  Lara's pears are rock hard. "Normal for that variety, probably a Bartlet, as it is a cooking pear," said our expert Tim. Best fruit trees for our area are pears, peaches and plums, and of course figs. Several varieties of apples grow well here too and are available locally in dwarf types that are much more suitable for back yard gardening. Apricots don't always do well as they are not very tolerant of late frosts, much like citrus that does best in containers that can be moved to a warmer location.  Several people noted using CDs in the trees to scare off the birds but one lady said her grandchild asked if she was growing CDs which produced quite a bit of laughter.

Peach009Now is the time on a warm day to spray the fruit trees with dormant or neem oil to reduce the incidence of insects damaging the fruit. It is also the time to do pruning to shape the tree properly for fruit production. We even got advise on thinning the fruit on the trees to get larger, better fruits by removing the little ones right away to make room for the remaining ones to grow. Tim recommended a trip to Love Orchards in Medina, TX for apples. I found a blog entry about them too. 

We also discussed berries, which to grow and which to leave to the farmers. Grow blackberries and raspberries in the ground and blueberries in pots. Leave the strawberries to the farmers unless you just want to nibble. More later on all the advise on soil amendments.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter is a time of reflection, planning, and preparation for gardeners in our area

Winter is a time of reflection, planning, and preparation for gardeners in our area. We take time to reflect on what worked (or didn’t) in our gardens and yards last year: did plants tolerate the shade/sun of their location; did plants need too much water; did they suffer from yellow leaves; did the grass tolerate water restrictions or get out of control; did you long to plant tomatoes but not get around to it; did your peach tree give you peaches or grief; do you long for apples on your own tree?  
Many yard and garden tasks need to be done in the cold months of January through early March like pruning trees and shrubs and treating lawns. Trees and shrubs can be planted during this time in addition to late in the fall and be well established. Did you know there are special fertilizers for each kind of grass now that actually kill of some of the other grasses? Or do you want to be gentler to the environment and use compost and other organic materials? Wells Branch does have creeks and run-off continues into the aquifer where our drinking water comes from. Just a thought!
The Garden Guild will meet on January 15th at noon at the Wells Branch Library to discuss fruit trees planting, care, and varieties. Tim Pfluger from Green 'n Growing in Pflugerville will be our guest speaker at 1pm in addition to a video from KLRU. Everyone should bring their questions and suggestions. Many books on gardening are available at the library and attendees are encouraged to browse.

·       A big thanks to Tara Fisher-Muñoz for her excellent web presentation on Besides being a good source of information, this will help us keep track of our. She also led us in discussion on how to prepare seedlings for transplanting, which will help us with spring planting.
·       Bob Baugh shared the M.U.D. Board’s invitation to join the new Focus Group. Richard Fadal of Texascapes and Shelly Palmer are leading the group and are trying to find ways to cut back on invasive species and encourage native plants. More info is available on the M.U.D. website
·       Virginia Almon explained Homestead Garden and invited volunteers to help with maintenance.
·       Yvette Shelton got us up to speed on the Community Garden, costs per plot and other info. 
Topics for future meetings include:
Sat. Feb. 5 - Topic: Rain Water Collection (possibly Hari Krishna lives in Scofield Ranch Neighborhood)
Sat. Mar. 5 - Topic:  Backyard Gardening with John Dromgoole (Date may shift, Deborah Thompson will be contacting John, and it will a WBNA event again)
Sat. April 2 - Topic: Shade Gardening (Will try for Green & Growing owner)
Sat. May 7 - Topic: Tour of Neighborhood Gardens (Please sign up to have yours included)
Other topics discussed was beginning a Farmer’s Market in Wells Branch - perhaps a monthly event from April, May, June, July (?), Lara Bennet is checking regulations. Ideas floated - Neighborhood gardeners produce, invite local farmers...hold in front of the Homestead House. Please let us know if you would support this location.