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Gardeners’ Q&As at the Galveston Home & Garden Show

By Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture

March 22, 2007

Growing Pecans in the Home Landscape

SATURDAY, MARCH 24: Growing Pecans in the Home Landscape.

9:00 - 11:00 a.m. at the Galveston County Extension Office, 5115 Hwy. 3, Dickinson.

Master Gardener Herman Auer will present a slide presentation on variety selection, site selection, proper planting techniques, care of young and mature trees, fertilization, and insect pest and disease control.

No fee but preregistration required (281-534-3413, Ext. 6 or

The 19th Galveston Home and Garden Show was recently held at the Galveston Island Convention Center. Twenty-eight Texas Master Gardener volunteers with the Galveston County Extension Office were available to provide information to visitors. They distributed publications and plenty of visitors came by to ask plenty of gardening questions.

Master Gardeners provide considerable assistance to the Galveston County Extension Office in providing a variety of educational programs for residents throughout Galveston County. The next time you meet a Master Gardener, please give them a thank you for their public service.

Appreciation is also extended to the sponsors of our booth: William (Bill) C. Ansell, CPA and Ann S. Masel, CPA of DRDA, P.C. located at 1011 Tremont, Galveston, Texas. Their gracious support made it possible for our Master Gardener volunteers to participate in the Home & Garden Show.

The following is a sampling of the questions we received:

Question: How can I attract beneficial insects to my landscape?

Answer: Donya Camp is a Master Gardener and has also earned additional certification as a Master Gardener Specialist in Entomology. Donya brought several display boxes from the insect collection she maintains at the County Extension Office in Dickinson. Donya’s collection of beneficial insects generated considerable interest and lots of questions, including the one above.

The use of beneficial insects to help manage their pest relatives has been a mainstay among gardeners for a very long time. There are a number of excellent advantages to this method of insect pest control. Utilizing beneficial insects requires a minimum of effort by the gardener and helps reduce the incidence of insect pests with resistance to insecticides.

Gardeners can attract and keep our natural friends in their home landscape and gardens by following a few recommendations, many of which are just good gardening sense that we use anyway. One way to conserve beneficials is by avoiding indiscriminate use of insecticides. While they play an important role in pest control, indiscriminate and improper use of insecticides can also pose hazards to ourselves and our environment. For more information on how to attract and maintain beneficial insects, visit the website address provided at the end of this column and click on the link entitled "Beneficials in the Gardens."

Question: I've never seen any of my carrot, turnip and beet plants develop seed heads. Where do the seeds come from?

Answer: There are several vegetable garden plants that are biennials. Biennial plants produce leaves and store carbohydrates during their first season of growth. During their second season of growth, they draw on their stored carbohydrates to produce flowers and seed.

Biennials die after producing seed. Beet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, kale, kohlrabi, leek, onion, rutabaga, Swiss chard and turnip are examples of biennials grown in the vegetable garden. Since we usually harvest them for their edible portion during their first season of growth, we do not see them produce seed.

Question: What is neem oil? I've heard it is a safe, organic insecticide.

Answer: Neem oil is a botanical pesticide extracted from the seeds of the neem tree. The active ingredient is azadirachtin which functions as a growth regulator that interrupts the insect's growth cycle causing death to larval and pupal stages.

Neem oil provides effective control for whiteflies, mealybugs, thrips, aphids, and ceratin other soft-bodied insects. It is also effective as a fungicide for control of foliar diseases like powdery mildew. It is toxic to bees if applied while bees are active. While some insecticides pose less risk than others, all insecticides should be handled and used with care.

Question: I’ve heard that only male eggplants should be used in cooking, as they are not as bitter and have fewer seeds than female eggplants. Can you tell me how to tell the difference at the store?

Answer: "Male" and "female" eggplant is a case of unfortunate terminology. During pollination of flowers, male pollen was transferred to female parts of the flower, resulting in the fruit we eat.

Different varieties of eggplant may be more bitter and different varieties may contain more noticeable seeds than others. Regardless of the variety, the seeds become more noticeable as an eggplant fruit matures. So an eggplant picked when very mature to over-mature will likely appear "seedier" than others picked when less mature, even those from the same plant.

Pick eggplant fruits from the garden when full size is reached but while the exterior is still a glossy purple. Once the exterior becomes dull purple, the eggplant fruit is over-mature.

Question: What makes lettuce taste bitter?

Answer: Any factor that stresses the plants can cause the bitter taste. With lettuce, it usually is excessive heat and/or insufficient water. Close spacing of plants and advancing age could also make lettuce taste bitter.

Dr. Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County Extension Office of Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University. Visit his web site at

Gardening: Scale insects and pampas grass - July 17, 2004 article

Gardening: Bananas - August 1, 2004 article

Gardening: August Gardening Calendar - August 16, 2004 article

Gardening: Trio Of Extension Programs Includes Pear Tasting, Master Naturalist Class & Rose Seminar - August 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Prepare Now For Fall Gardens - August 26, 2004 article

Gardening: September's Garden Calendar Includes Fall Pecan Field Day - September 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Ornamental Grasses - September 8, 2004 article

Gardening: Don't Let Landscape Become A High-Maintenance Nightmare - September 22, 2004 article

Gardening: Oct. 10 Plant Sale & Seminar To Feature Butterfly Gardening - Butterflies Bring Color, Motion to Garden - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Plant It And They Will Come: Getting the Butterflies of Galveston County to Grace Your Yard - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Rose Propagation & Seasonal Decorating Workshops To Be Held - October 13, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29, Seasonal Decorations and Onion and Garlic Workshops - October 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29 and County Pecan Show - October 27, 2004 article

Gardening: November Is Pansy Time - November 6, 2004 article

Gardening: County Pecan Growers Display Their Successes - November 11, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Questions On Fall Crops - November 17, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Q&As For November - November 28, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' December Checklist Includes Citrus Show On Dec. 9 - December 3, 2004 article

Gardening: Citrus Show A Huge Success With 185 Entries - December 19, 2004 article

Gardening: Trees and Shrubs - December 23, 2004 article

Gardening: Cold Weather Impact - January 4, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Checklist For January Includes Several Educational Programs - January 7, 2005 article

Gardening:Announcing the 2005 Galveston County Master Gardener Training - January 13, 2005 article

Gardening:Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop To Be Held Saturday, January 29 - January 19, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardening for Texas Wildlife - January 28, 2005 article

Gardening: Wide Variety of Citrus to Be Available at February 5 Fruit Tree Sale and Home Citrus Production - January 31, 2005 article

Gardening: Fruit Trees Of The Gods Featured In February 5 Master Gardener Plant Sale - February 2, 2005 article

Gardening: "If I Were A Tomato, I Would Want To Be Grown In Texas . . . Galveston County, That Is!" Workshop to be held February 12 - February 9, 2005 article

Gardening: February Is Rose Pruning Time...Attend Rose Care Seminar to Learn How - February 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Activities At The Home & Garden Show On Feb. 26-27 - February 23, 2005 article

Gardening: March Gardening Calendar Includes Seminar On Butterfly Gardening - March 2, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Q&As From The Galveston Home & Garden Show - March 10, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Offers Program On "Living To Be 100 . . . A Commonsense Approach." - March 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Program On Plumeria Offered On March 26- March 29, 2005 article

Gardening: Garden Checklist For April Includes Pecan Field Day - April 6, 2005 article

Gardening: Hints On Harvesting Vegetables For Peak Flavor - April 15, 2005 article

Gardening: Fresh Blueberries From Your Home Garden Seminar On Saturday, April 23 - April 22, 2005 article

Gardening: Learn About Weed Control - April 27, 2005 article

Gardening: Home Gardening Chores and May 14 Home Fruit Growers’ Tour - May 5, 2005 article

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