Purple Flash Ornamental Pepper – A New Texas Superstar

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by Robert Burns, in the Website AgriLife Today

With its nearly black leaves overlaid with dark purple and white swirls, the ornamental pepper Purple Flash — a new Texas Superstar plant — can be used in landscapes as a backup or a stand-alone bedding plant, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research horticulturist.
“Though it has bright colors, the overall effect is dark, so it’s more often used as a foliage plant,” said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board in Over-ton. “The red peppers come later in the season, and they’re showy in themselves, but Purple Flash is still used in flower borders or mass plantings.” (more…)

Now is the Time for Pecan Growers to Act on Walnut Caterpillars

By Boone Holladay, County Extension Agent-Horticulture,
and Bill Ree, Pecan IPM Extension Specialist

Walnut Caterpillars currently active in Fort Bend County have eaten all the pecan tree foliage they are likely to consume by now, but pecan growers would do well to check their groves for egg masses before a new generation hatches later this summer.
The population that has been quite active during the past few weeks is most likely the second of the summer. Most are in their final growth stage and through eating.
Based on the caterpillar’s developmental time line, the period since the region’s last frost makes likely the prospect of a third generation hatching in mid-July, one whose larvae – and consumption of leaves – would be more widespread. Though the trees will rebound, this kind of defoliation can be devastating to the crop of young pecans on the trees. (more…)

Tapping into a Pool of Water Conservation Resources in Richmond

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By Boone Holladay, County Extension Agent-Horticulture

A water crisis looms in Texas, driven by population and economic growth, drought, and competition among users for an increasingly scarce supply.
The crisis is affecting Texas residents today and it may take decades for the supply and demand equation to achieve balance. All of us who live in Texas have a stake in this problem, and there is something everyone can do to conserve an increasingly scarce and yet vital resource.
In response to this issue, Fort Bend Extension teamed up in June with Richmond Rotary Club, the City of Richmond, the Historic Richmond Association, and Pepsi-Co to put on a residential water conservation workshop. (more…)

Tycoon Tomato: A New Texas Superstar

Adapted from “Tycoon Tomato Named Superstar,” by Robert Burns,
Published on the Website AgriLife Today

Released at the San Antonio Livestock Exposition in 2011, the Tycoon Tomato has proven to be so exceptional that it has achieved recognition as a Texas Superstar, a crop that performs well for consumers and commercial growers throughout Texas.

Evaluated in extensive testing by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension horticulturists, superstars must also be easy to propagate, ensuring that the plants are both widely available throughout Texas, and reasonably priced. They must be disease resistant and must tolerate Texas heat well. (more…)

Understanding Swarms: Part of a Bee Colony’s Life

By Jeff McMullan
Fort Bend Beekeepers Association

A “swarm” of bees clustered on a limb is a colony of insects in search of a new home.  Most of us think kindly of honey bees because of their role as pollinators and their difficult struggle with pests and disease.  Nonetheless, we don’t want bees to move in with us! (more…)

Going Nuts for Pecans in 2014

By Boone Holladay,
County Extension Agent—Horticulture

We would like to spend a minute to congratulate local producers for their regional award winning pecans!  We were well represented at the 2013 regional pecan show in Brenham.  (more…)

Spotlight: The Rose Garden

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By Jane Gray
Landscape Director & Earthkind Specialist
Fort Bend County Master Gardeners

February is the month for celebrating presidents’ birthdays, groundhogs weather predicting abilities, love, and roses.

A visitor to the Ft. Bend County Master Gardener demonstration gardens will observe roses in the cottage garden, around the vegetable garden, in the Earthkind garden, and around the Outdoor classroom gazebo. The garden that best demonstrates the type of roses that do well in Ft. Bend County is the rose garden in front of the Bud O’Shieles Community Center.

The one characteristic all these roses have in common is that they are grown on their own root (not grafted). This criteria, along with plant selection, provides us with hardy, disease resistant, low care roses that require less water, no pesticides, and very little fertilizer.

These roses may be old garden roses, members of the Earthkind series, or from breeders such as Dr. Griffith Buck, David Austin, or Kordes. They are often fragrant, supply an abundance of blooms, come in a variety of sizes and growth habits, and offer many colors.

In order to have an abundance of blooms roses require full sun (6 to 8 hours per day) to provide good growth.
In February, we pay special attention to roses, not only to give on St. Valentine’s Day, but also because this is the time that they get their major pruning to insure wonderful blooms the rest of the year.

Here are some major points about pruning of roses:

  • Be sure to sharpen and sterilize pruners to deter the spread of disease.
  • Remove dead canes, those that grow toward the center of the plant, and those that rub against another cane.
  • Open the center of the plant to improve air circulation.
  • Cut back and shape the plant. You may choose to cut back one-third of the plant or give it a more ruthless trimming down to 18 to 24 inches from the ground.
  • Clean out any debris around the plant and add mulch, leaving space around the base.

Seasonal Garden Checklist: Jan./Feb.

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By Dr. William C. Welch,
Professor & Extension Landscape Specialist Landscape Horticulturist

  • Make flower and vegetable garden plans now before the rush of spring planting. Time spent in armchair gardening will pay off in improved plant selection.
  • Sow seeds in flats or containers to get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives. Petunias, begonias, and impatiens should be sown in early January. Warm temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, and periwinkles, should be sown in late January or early February.
  • Apply a light application of fertilizer to established pansy plantings. Use one-half pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet of bed area. Repeat the application every 4 to 6 weeks, depending on rainfall. Dried blood meal is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies.
  • Prepare beds and garden area for spring plants.
  • Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch, and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches are ways of reducing the potential damage next spring.
  • The life of the plant received as a Christmas gift can be prolonged with proper care. Keep the soil moist, but provide drainage so that excess moisture can flow from the pot. Keep the plant out of range of heating ducts and away from heating units. Keep in a cool room at night, preferably at 60 to 65 degrees F.
  • Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.

Visit http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ for more indepth seasonal updates from Dr. Welch and other Texas A&M Horticulture Department staff.

Understanding and Identifying Rose Rosette Disease

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By Gaye Hammond Houston Rose Society

Rose Rosette (sometimes referred to as Rose Rosette Disease, “RRD”, and/or Rose Rosette Virus, “RRV”) was first described in the early 1940s and has become one of the most devastating and least understood diseases of roses.
For almost 50 years after the first sighting, little progress was made to-ward identifying the cause of rose rosette disease. In 1988, scientists iden-tified a connection between the eriophyid mite, Phyllocoptes fructiphilus, and plants demonstrating RRD symptoms and that year concluded that this wingless mite was the vector for infection—although the disease process itself remained a mystery. In 1990, scientists became suspicious that RRD was caused by a virus. Confirmation that RRD is caused be a virus came in 2011 (Lane, et al, 2011).
Roses demonstrating symptoms of RRD have been found in Dallas and San Antonio in alarming numbers in the last year. In June 2012, a plant specimen demonstrating RRD symptoms was brought to a meeting of the Houston Rose Soc. for identification, and by September 2012, two more instances of RRD in the landscape were identified. Plants with RRD symp-toms have been found in landscapes and at retail centers in San Antonio and in numerous landscape settings (public and private) in north Texas.
Disease Transmission
Transmission by mites. The wingless eriophyid mite is one way that healthy plants become infected with the RRD virus. The virus-carrying mite is blown by wind or dislodged by rain from an infected host plant to a new healthy plant. Sometimes the mites hitch a ride on other insects or birds as a way to get from plant to plant. By feeding on the healthy plant, the mite injects the virus.
Plants inoculated with RRD via mite transmission typically display symp-toms of RRD within 90 days of inoculation. The summer months are the peak time of year for the mite activity.
Transmission by pruning? It is suspected that the virus can also be trans-mitted in other ways. Pruning on a bush infected with RRD and then pruning on a healthy bush has long been thought to be a method of transmission of virus from plant to plant. This is an excellent reason for gardeners to disinfect their pruning equipment after working on a plant (especially one exhibiting symptoms of any disease process).
Some symptoms of RRD resemble other rose maladies and it is important to understand that one symptom alone does not confirm the presence of RRD. RRD is often confused with roses damaged by herbicides, plant growth inhibitors, pest damage and/or have a nutrient deficiency. For these reasons it is important not to panic if some RRD-like symptoms appear in your roses. Confirmation of the correct source of disease-like symptoms is extremely important.
It is also important to understand that RRD symptoms can vary between roses of different parentages. RRD symptoms can also vary depending on the season and environmental conditions, as well as the stage of plant growth at the time of infection.
The following chart identifies symptoms common in RRD-infected plants. Some of the same symptoms can result from other causes. Just because you see a symptom or two from the following chart-does not mean that you have RRD in your garden—as these symptoms are commonly caused by other things.
However, RRD causes some very specific symptoms that taken in context with the above to help identify and confirm the presence of the virus. The table below shows unique symptoms that are prevalent in roses infected with RRD.
(See our Winter 2014 Newsletter for the table showing the unique symptoms that are prevalent in roses infected with RRD.)
Treatment. There is currently no known cure for Rose Rosette Disease. Because of the possible infection of healthy roses, it is recommended that rose bushes with confirmed infection of this viral disease be dug up, bagged and sent to a landfill or burned. Do not compost plant material that has symptoms of Rose Rosette Disease.
Visit www.fbmg.com/library/roserosettedisease.pdf to view images of rose canes infected with Rose Rosette Disease. These canes were removed from two rose bushes in North Texas.

Fort Bend Gardener Spring Newsletter

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Fort Bend Gardener LogoThe spring issue of the Fort Bend Gardener newsletter has been released.  This newsletter covers a wide range of gardening and general horticulture topics that are relevant to the people of Fort Bend County.  Articles range from seasonal issues, to timely discussion of management practices for home gardens, as well as resources for small scale agriculture producers in our region. In each issue, we’ll cover seasonal items and offer hints to make your life as a gardener much more pleasant.  Each quarterly newsletter will be posted as a printable PDF document from the Fort Bend County Extension website, or if you are signed up for this post feed, you’ll get a copy emailed to you.  Upon request, we can sign you up for a mailed or emailed copy sent directly to you.  We hope this resource helps you become a better gardener here in Fort Bend.  Click here to view the current Fort Bend Gardener newsletter (Spring 2013)