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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


Ask a Master Gardener for Plant Advice

Feb 26, 2021 08:30AM ● By J.P. Nelson

Milkweed bugs (Hemiptera) on a milkweed (Asclepias) seed pod. Photo courtesy J.P. Nelson.

Public interest in horticulture is surging and business at retail plant nurseries is booming according to a recent survey of independent garden centers. It makes sense that people want to have plants around, particularly during difficult times. Plants help people concentrate better, feel more secure and more relaxed, according to research posted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

However, being around plants is not always delightful. As North Texans head outdoors, they are paying more attention to the health and welfare of their home landscapes. What they find can be worrisome. Discovering bugs on the crape myrtles and brown blisters on live oak leaves can alarm novice gardeners that may not know where to turn for good gardening advice.

Internet information can be unreliable. People new to gardening may have a hard time discerning solid research-based recommendations from the unproven advice of self-proclaimed experts. Because successful gardening depends on a good understanding of local conditions and appropriate plant selection, online advice from a gardener growing bluegrass in the Northeast may not help the homeowner growing St. Augustine in Dallas.

Texans with plant troubles can get free and reliable horticulture information from their local nonprofit master gardener associations, comprised of highly trained volunteer representatives of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Program coordinator Jayla Fry reports that more than 7,500 Texas master gardeners are ready and able to share their considerable knowledge.

In Collin County, more than 300 master gardeners volunteer through the Collin County Master Gardeners Association (CCMGA). County residents with horticulture questions can get answers from the CCMGA Ask a Master Gardener Information Center. A form on the website provides space for plant owners to describe problems and upload pictures for review. Experienced master gardeners respond to questions and often provide helpful fact sheets and links to research-based information. They can also provide information about Earth-Kind landscape principles and practices that will help community gardeners be more successful.

Master Gardener associations often sponsor workshops on gardening topics and provide helpful information on their websites. They also guide and maintain community research and demonstration gardens, serve as youth educators and provide horticulture therapy activities and speakers for local community groups.

Master Gardeners help people access research-based horticulture information. For assistance, contact a county master gardener association or the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Other resources include: Collin County Master Gardeners Association, Dallas County Master Gardener Association, Denton County Master Gardener Association, Ellis County Master Gardener Association, Hunt County Master Gardener Association, Kaufman County Master Gardener Association, Parker County Master Gardener Association, Rockwall Master Gardener Association and Tarrant County Master Gardener Association.

J.P. Nelson is a free-lance writer and member of the Collin County Master Gardeners

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