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Welcome to Williamson County Horticulture!

The vision of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is to "Help Texans Better Their Lives" through the application of science-based knowledge and relevant continuing education programs.  This newsletter will offer relevant and timely information about growing fruits and vegetables; maintaining lawns and landscapes; and conserving our natural resources for the residents of Williamson County.

Prepare for Fall & Winter Vegetable Gardening

This week, I have been preparing my little kitchen garden for fall vegetables.  I cannot wait for a fresh salad with homegrown lettuce, spinach, and arugula.  Add a homemade dressing with some herbs from the garden, and I've got a great meal! 
 
Texas is a great place for gardening though the fall and winter.  Just check out the Williamson County Planting Calendar to see how many different vegetables you can grow throughout the winter.  Click the calendar to see a larger version.
Gardening in the fall is a lot of fun, but there are a few tips that can help you be more successful.  Fall crops like broccoli and cabbage generally do better when you start with transplants, rather than planting by seed.  Many of our local nurseries will have vegetable transplants you can purchase. 

The trick to fall gardening is making sure your transplants have plenty of water to get established in our late summer heat.  The small transplants need at least two weeks to get a root system established in the ground, and you might need to water every day to support the plant until it’s established.  Use a moisture meter or just stick your finger in the ground to see if the soil is moist at the root zone. 

Vegetables are quick growing plants that need a lot of nutrients so they can produce fruit for us to eat.  You can provide a good boost to the soil by working in compost when you prepare the garden bed.  Vegetables usually need extra nitrogen every three weeks after they are established.  Plants need nitrogen more than any other element, and it’s used by the plant for photosynthesis and building proteins.   You can find nitrogen in many forms of organic or synthetic fertilizer.  Be sure to water it in well.

For winter crops, be on the lookout for cabbage looper and aphids.  Loopers can be controlled with a spray of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  Aphids can be controlled with a strong spray from the water hose or a spray of insecticidal soap.  Be sure to keep an eye out for both pests so you stay ahead of them.  

The Aggie Horticulture team has a great list of vegetable resources on their website: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/vegetable/easy-gardening-series/

Managing Deer in our Landscape

By Master Gardener Jean Legan
 
With the increasing urbanization in Williamson County, wildlife, especially deer, have been forced out of their habitats and into our yards.  Home gardeners are motivated to “deer proof” their landscapes with a wide variety of plants and shrubs. Extension offices, wildlife agencies, and local nurseries publish exhaustive lists of deer-proof, deer-resistant, or deer-tolerant options. Homeowners grab their lists, head to the nursery, identify those specimens, and eagerly plant them in their yards.  Those tender new plants will soon be consumed by invading deer!
 
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a deer-resistant or deer-proof plant!  When deer populations are high and food sources are scarce, hungry deer will feed on just about anything.  Deer like nutrition-rich plants, especially in spring and summer, during their reproductive cycles.  Home landscapes provide deer with protein, high energy carbohydrates, minerals and salts.  Deer also get one third of their water from irrigated plants and tender vegetation.

There are many choices for home gardeners in search of deer resistant strategies. Identify deer favorite plants versus those plants deer will pass by in the yard.  Roses, also known as “deer candy”, tender new plantings, new growth on established plants and vegetable gardens will attract browsing deer.  Those plants will need physical protection.  Barriers including high fencing or deer netting may deter hungry deer. Some commercially available deer repellent products include blood meal, animal urine, and putrid smelling soap-based sprays. Unfortunately, none of these methods are 100% effective.
 
Choose plants with features distasteful to browsing deer.  Aromatic herbs, rough or prickly leafed specimens, and bitter tasting shrubs and plants are unappealing to hungry deer.  Oregano, prostrate rosemary, mint, and sage are sustainable ground covers and tolerate browsing deer populations. Some gardeners have been successful planting strong scented plants such as lantana, chives, catmint and thyme next to desirable plants that deer frequently browse.  
 
Another strategy to deter deer from your yard is to create an entire landscape with plants and shrubs disliked by deer.  Established native plants, grasses and trees thwart roaming deer.  The photo below illustrates an example of a front yard covered with pink verbena and bluebonnets.  Red agave is planted in the foreground.  Muhly grass and sotol in the background fill out the yard.  The pink verbena serves as a year-round ground cover.  When the bluebonnets      die back in late spring, Turk’s cap, silverleaf nightshade, and Mexican feather grass grow in that area.  Browsing deer appear disinterested in these native plants. 

 
The Williamson County Native Plant Society offers many ideas and native plant options for interested gardeners.  Unique physical characteristics and features of Texas native plants provide homeowners with a variety of landscaping options to keep roaming deer away! 
 
Texas Superstar: Gorizia Rosemary

Upcoming Events:

Green Thumbs Up: Fall Vegetable Gardening
September 22 @ 12:00pm at Brushy Creek Community Center

Hands on in the Garden: Drought Tolerant and Dry Gardens
September 25

Turfgrass Field Day - Dallas AgriLife Research Center
October 6

Green Thumbs Up: Bulbs
October 6 @ Round Rock Public Library
October 12 @ Cedar Park Public Library
October 20@ Brushy Creek Community Center

Master Gardener Monthly Meeting: Cover Crops for Your Garden
October 11 @ 7:00pm, In-person and Virtual

2021 Texas Fruit Conference in New Braunfels
October 11-12

Williamson County Fair and Rodeo
Creative Arts Fair - October 20

Aggie Horticulture Facebook Live:
Wednesdays and Fridays at 1:00pm
Full Schedule and Resources

Please check out our website calendar for online events: https://williamson.agrilife.org/events/
Have you noticed the Bur Oak Tree leaves look a little brown lately?  It might be damage from Lace Bugs.  The Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab has a great video about Lace Bugs.  

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale

Last week, I was out for a walk and came to a quick stop when I noticed a crape myrtle with black leaves and trunks.  At closer inspection, I found hundreds of scaly, white things all along the trunks and branches.  These scale insects are Crape Myrtle Bark Scale.

Late summer seems to be the time that damage from CMBS really stands out.  They have had all spring and summer to reproduce and feed on the host plants, and now the honeydew and sooty mold are evident from a distance.  Read more here...

I've been counting down the days to start planting spinach and other leafy green vegetables, and the time is now!  Fall and Winter in Texas is a great time to grow greens for salads and other yummy dishes.  Let this recipe for Creamy Spinach inspire you to plant some spinach!

Try This New Texas Superstar: Gorizia Rosemary

 Gorizia Rosemary was named a Texas Superstar plant in 2021 for its ability to perform well across the whole state.  This variety of rosemary is originally from northeastern Italy and is well known for its culinary and ornamental features.

Gorizia rosemary is an upright, fast growing cultivar.  It can grow up to 3 to 4 feet, and spreads 30-36 inches.  It prefers a drier conditions, so be sure the soil is well-drained.  Gorizia rosemary is hardy to USDA Zone 8, and it can possibly survive in Zone 7 if conditions are right.  

Pollinators love the flowers on rosemary.  It flowers in the winter and early spring, a great time to provide some flowers for hungry bees and other pollinators.  Gorizia rosemary is great to use in cooking - from marinades and dried herbs to using the stems as skewers for shish kabobs. 

If you are looking for a great culinary herb that will attract pollinators to your garden and provide color and texture all year-long, try out this fantastic Texas Superstar Gorizia Rosemary.
Kate Whitney is the Horticulturist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Williamson County.  For more information about lawn and garden topics, contact Kate at the Extension Office at 512-943-3300.
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