Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Growing Herbs in Texas: Harvesting Parsley and Basil

Be sure to check out Growing Herbs in Texas: Harvesting Parsley and Basil by Cynthia Meredith!

And for us that have been to The Herb Cottage and seen the tall lemon eucalyptus tree, you need to read about how the tree was removed after it died this past winter.

Cindy states:

The big job in the garden, however, was when we took down the tall lemon eucalyptus tree that died during the winter. Originally, we called a fellow whose ad in the local paper said "Tree Removal". But, when he called to tell us he couldn't keep his appointment to assess our project due to a broken arm received on a tree trimming job, we decided to do the job ourselves. We even treated ourselves to a new chainsaw, which will also come in handy to cut up the numerous dead pecan tree branches that have started to fall.

The tree measured almost 50 feet tall, exactly the distance from the base of the tree to our fence. After much studying of angles, reminding ourselves where the power lines are, roping the tree off so it wouldn't fall into said power lines if the cut was not right, my husband fired up the chain saw and made the precision cuts necessary to fell the tree and have it land where we wanted it to. And, it did ... pretty much. We were quite relieved and pleased that the tree was down with the only collateral damage being a pottery Toad Abode given to me by a friend. The pieces now decorate the cactus garden. The sprouts from the base of the old tree can grow up shrub like and full. Just today, I inadvertently ran the hose across some of the stalks that lie on the ground, and was rewarded with the pungent aroma of the lemon eucalyptus. Lovely.

Such a beautiful tree Cindy, but you can plant another one now!

Great Gardening!

Photos by Cindy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Life is just a bowl of cherries, no, this time it's tomatoes

I've been trying to grow a nice bunch of tomato plants since I moved to this spot. I've had all sorts of critters to claim them; raccoons, squirrels, leaf cutter ants and bugs.
Look what I have this year!

A couple of years ago I had my husband enclose an 8' x 16' area. I cleaned out the grass, laid down newspapers and then started putting my grass cutter clippings (including the live oak leaves) over the newspapers.  Last year we did have tomatoes but they were attacked by all the animals listed above.

This year it is fenced and has chicken wire over the top of the tomatoes.  The tomatoes have since grown through it and are still flowering and producing.  We had one raccoon episode, but I put up bags holding Irish Spring soap in three areas around the little garden. I had been told it would keep away the deer.  It seems to have kept the deer and the raccoons away and we have hardly had any squirrels in the yard this year so I don't know if they are repelled by it.

Here is a picture of the tomato garden.

Do you see the bags holding the strong smelling soap?  I do have pepper plants in there, too, but they don't really show in this photo.  Next year maybe I can have some squash and green beans.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Hey Herbies!

OK, this blog isn't about herbs or is it?! No, not the kind of herbs that we generally think of, but many of the plants listed below are actually perennial herbs, but I don't think any of us want to rush out and get them.

However, this blog is about saving our Texas waterways from aquatic invasive species. I don't know if you have seen some of our waterways and how they are being taken over by invasive plants, especially water giant salvinia, water lettuce and water hyacinths to name just a few. I first became "more aware" of what was going on a few years ago when Terry and I took a boat tour of Saw Mill Pond, Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake while RV'ing at the Caddo Lake State Park. I was shocked at how most of the bayou had been taken over by water hyacinths. I was there last year and talked to the same boat tour guide, and she said that they are making a concerted effort to rid the bayous and lake of the invasive plants. I did see fewer hyacinths than I had the previous year. Since then, I have been making an effort to try to educate people on how devastating these invasive plants are to our waterways.

So my intention is to make everyone aware of what is happening out there on the waterways. I tried posting information on the Aquatic Plant Exchange Forum, but for the most part, I received negative comments and remarks.

Do you know that many aquatic plants are illegal in many states with laws varying from state to state, i.e. what is illegal in one state does not mean it is illegal in another state? I do know that there are many Illegal and Invasive Plants in Texas. In fact possession of these plants is illegal and can be punishable with fines and/or imprisonment. Read the following:

The State of Texas doesn't just frown on the possession of harmful or potentially harmful exotic plants. It is illegal to posses [sic] these plants in Texas. Possession of any prohibited plant species is a Class B Parks and Wildlife Code Misdemeanor punishable by

-a fine of not less than $200 nor more than $2000,
-a jail term not to exceed 180 days, or
-both a fine AND imprisonment.

Each individual plant of a prohibited species constitutes a separate violation. The law applies to everyone: aquatic plant producers and distributors, garden centers, pond supply stores, pet stores, and individual pondkeepers. So if Joe Ponder is caught with 10 water hyacinth in his backyard pond, that would be 10 separate violations, with potential fines totaling $20,000.

Texas Prohibited Plant Species

Information courtesy of
Texas Invasive Plant Database

• Giant Duckweed a/k/a Dotted Duckmeat Spirodela oligorrhiza
• Common Salvinia a/k/a Water Fern Salvinia minima
• Common Water Hyacinth a/k/a Floating Water Hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes
• Rooted Water Hyacinth a/k/a Anchored Water Hyacinth Eichhornia azurea
• Water Lettuce Pistia stratiotes
• Hydrilla a/k/a Florida Elodea Hydrilla verticillata
• Lagarosiphon a/k/a African Elodea, Oxygen-Weed Lagarosiphon major
• Eurasian Watermilfoil a/k/a Spike Watermilfoil Myriophyllum spicatum
• Parrot Feather Watermilfoil Myriophyllum aquaticum
• Alligatorweed Alternanthera philoxeroides
• Paperbark a/k/a Melaleuca, Paperbark Tea Tree, Punk Tree, Cajeput Tree, White Bottlebrush Tree Melaleuca quinquenervia
• Torpedograss a/k/a Couch panicum Panicum repens
• Water Spinach a/k/a Aquatic Morning Glory, Swamp Morning Glory Ipomoea aquatica
• Giant Salvinia Salvinia molesta is also Federally Prohibited.

Recently while waiting at a doctor's office, I came upon the April 2010 issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine with an article entitled Texas Under Attack by Larry D. Hodge. It is an excellent article, and I hope that you will read the entire article. Some of the excerpts are as follows:

Invasive species are marching on Texas — but beneficial bugs are bracing for battle.
By Larry D. Hodge

Paddling a kayak across Old Folks Playground on Caddo Lake brings me face to face with the enemy. Giant salvinia and water hyacinth crowd in from every direction, a noxious salad that, like an alien in a sci-fi movie, chokes the life out of its host.

Caddo Lake is dying a slow death, and it’s not the only part of Texas in trouble. From the Rio Grande to the Canadian, the Sabine to the Pecos, non-native plants brought into the state by accident, good intentions or sheer ignorance have reshaped our lands and waters. In less than 200 years we have introduced more than 800 non-native plant species, some of which are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.

Guy Nesom of Fort Worth, a systematic botanist and retired college professor, has given Texas a gift no other state has: a complete list of documented non-native species, 820 in all, classified according to their potential to be controlled or eradicated. Among the 51 species Nesom classifies as F1 (invasive in both disturbed and natural habitats and negatively affecting native species) are some familiar names: Arundo donax (giant river cane), several species of Tamarix (salt cedar trees), Salvinia molesta (giant salvinia), Hydrilla verticillata (hydrilla) and Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth).

Put simply, invasives can kill a lake, and giant salvinia is the worst of the lot, capable of doubling its coverage area in a week or less.

Photo by Photographer: Steve Dewey
Source: Utah State University,

Salt cedars have been described as one of the worst ecological disasters in the western United States. First reported in the U.S. in 1823, they now occupy some 2 million acres of the most valuable land — riparian areas along streams and rivers. Salt cedars displace native plants and the wildlife that depends on them, lower water tables, increase soil salinity to the level that native cottonwoods and willows cannot grow, and dry up springs and small streams. Every river system in West Texas has salt cedar.

Ecologist Andrea Litt, with the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in Kingsville, states the following:

Invasive plants can alter the quantity and quality of habitat for native wildlife by affecting cover, food and other habitat features important for these species, resulting in shifts in community composition, abundance and population structure,” she says. In other words, when invasive plants move in, the Texas we know goes away: plants, bugs, birds, mammals, fish.


The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will launch an extensive campaign this month to increase public awareness about the threat of aquatic invasive species like giant salvinia. With funding from the Texas Legislature, the comprehensive campaign will include — television ads, print ads, floating buoys, billboards, ads at gas stations, events, a redesigned website with comprehensive information on invasive species in Texas, and more, all aimed at educating boaters and anglers about the impact of giant salvinia and what they can do to stop its spread. TPWD is also developing partnerships with fishing organizations, communities and corporate sponsors to help spread the message.

Information from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine can be found at website:

So let us do our part in keeping our Texas waterways free of aquatic invasive plants!

Caddo Lake Photos by Linda Turner Collins