Fall Foodscaping – Texas Style

Growing food in the home landscape can be challenging.  Too much shade, not enough sun, lack of space for a backyard vegetable garden are common barriers to growing our own food.  You may have more gardening space in your home landscape than you realize.  A unique gardening strategy, “foodscaping” offers ideas for using existing space in new ways.  One of the national leaders in this movement is Brie Arthur.  Her first book, The Foodscape Revolution:  Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden will inform the content of this week’s free online class. 

Brie Arthur will present “Fall Foodscaping—Texas Style” on Saturday, October 24 from 10 a.m. to noon.  This class is packed full of information and creative ideas for using any sunny space to grow vegetables.  Brie will teach you how to beautify your landscape while growing your own food.  Whether beginner or expert, you’ll learn strategies you can employ right now to add cool weather vegetables to your home landscape.  The beauty of these vegetables will rival traditional annuals—and they are edible!  With Brie’s expert guidance, you will learn which vegetables and fruits will grow best in our southeast Texas climate. 

Don’t miss this one-time opportunity to learn from a renowned expert!  Gather your breakfast snacks and hot tea and join us online Saturday, October 24 at 10 a.m.  The class is free but registration is required. 

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Fall in Love with Leaves

Its Fall! Time for cool mornings and pumpkin spice everything. And, while nothing says fall like fallen leaves, sometimes they can feel like a barrage.  If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way to deal with those leaves than hauling bag after bag to the curb, you’re right. Here are three things to consider as you tackle the autumnal abundance.

Rake Into Beds

The best place for leaves is right on the ground – raked under your trees and shrubs or mowed into the lawn. This returns nutrients back to the soil and provides shelter to caterpillars and other overwintering insects. Come spring these insects will get to work as natural pest control in the garden, and they in turn will feed new clutches of baby birds. This native mulch also suppresses weeds and holds in soil moisture. A great return for “leaving the leaves”.

If all your landscape beds have a 3-4″ layer and you still have leaves here are some good options:

  • Start or feed a compost pile (scroll to the end for a downloadable manual)
  • Heap up 6-8″ in a corner along with branches and hollow stems for a simple insect hotel
  • Stockpile to put around tender shrubs as insulation over the winter

If you regularly contend with a lot of leaves, consider sucking instead of blowing. Units that vacuum and shred leaves as you go really help reduce the volume and small pieces break down faster into rich compost wherever they end up.

Out of Drains & Gutters

One place leaves don’t belong is in the stormwater system. Don’t blow leaves into the drain, its illegal! Stormwater flows untreated into local waterways and all that extra debris depletes oxygen, reducing water quality for fish, dragonfly naiads and a host of other aquatic organisms.

After a rain check for needles, sticks and other debris that may be lodged in driveway culverts and drain inlets near your house. Keeping the stormwater system clear reduces flooding. It also prevents formation of small, stagnant puddles ripe for mosquito breeding.

Fall is a great time to check those gutters, too. Pay special attention to sections under trees as well as roof valleys (where two sections of roof join). As these areas fill with debris you risk damage to the roof and you create more ideal mosquito breeding sites, right at your doorstep.

Fun with Leaves

Albert Camus wrote “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” There are 168 words to describe leaf shape, arrangement, venation, and edges; take some time to delight in the variety. Have a leaf scavenger hunt or make a leaf print bookmark. Learn the language of leaves.

Leaf Print Bookmark

  1. Collect leaves from the neighborhood that have interesting shapes or vein patterns
  2. Use a brayer, roller, or brush to apply paint to the underside of a leaf. Do it sparingly so that the texture appears
  3. Place painted side down on a heavy sheet of paper or cardstock
  4. Cover with a scrap piece of paper and use a rolling pin or straight-sided can to press the leaf down evenly
  5. Remove the scrap paper and peel the leaf back gently from the stem end
  6. Let the print dry and embellish with doodles, stickers, glitter or stamps
  7. Punch a hole at one end and loop through a piece of ribbon or yard to complete the bookmark

Other ways to use the leaf print technique:

  • Decorate brown kraft paper for a tablecloth or placemats
  • Stamp over newsprint for recycled wrapping paper

Check out the Texas A&M Forest service for help identifying native trees.

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Online Learning – Day 5

Creating a Healthy and Beautiful Lawn 

 Selecting the Perfect Turf 

For a healthy and beautiful lawn, start by selecting the right turf grass for your home. Whether you’re looking for low maintenance, durability (can it hold up to the weekly family flag football game?) or you just need something that will grow in a little shade, there is a turf grass for you. 


Put the Care into Lawn Care 

This video builds off of the lessons from ‘Selecting the Perfect Turf’. Get a refresher on common types of turf and then dive into proper maintenance techniques, efficient water methods, and simple and effective fertilizer and pesticide applications. 


Weed ‘Em and Reap – Weeds and Watering 

This class makes sense of two of the most challenging issues many homeowners face. If you’re having trouble controlling unwanted plants in your lawn and landscape or if you’re confused about when to water and when to wait, we’re here to help. Learn the best approach to managing weeds effectively without the overuse of chemicals and your time so you can reap the rewards of a green environment. Thistle be a great class for sure!


How to Identify Sod Webworm in Your Lawn 

Landscape entomologist, Doug Caldwell investigates a summertime insect outbreak that has appeared on a South Florida lawn.  Many homeowners have reported witnessing sod webworms wreaking havoc on their St. Augustine lawns this summer. This video can help you identify the insect, its signs and symptoms, as well as provide options for treatment and prevention. 


Beyond the turf – videos to beautify your yard 

Made for the Shade 

Many native and adapted plants thrive in shady conditions. This video offers a variety of plants from groundcovers to small trees that can add beauty and color to those areas in your yard that don’t receive full sun.  


 Plants Combos and Companions 

Companion planting is the art of growing plants in proximity to each other because of their ability to enhance or complement each other.  Learn from Dr. Becky Bowling on how to select plants that offer year-round color and texture with this beginner-friendly landscape design class. Give your yard function and purpose through plant combinations and companions. 


Additional Resources: 

That wraps up our week-long online program.  We hope you learned something new and are ready to improve your landscape.  

These videos will remain archived on The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Blog. Access for a refresher on your favorite topics any time. 

Questions or Comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Online Learning – Day 4

Pollinator and Wildlife Gardens

Imagine bushes abuzz with bees, resplendent butterflies flashing about, and birdsong permeating the air – all right in your very own yard. By adding a few key elements to your garden or landscape, you can  turn your landscape into a flourishing habitat and start witnessing sights fit for National Geographic! 

Birds, Bees and Butterflies: Gardening for Wildlife 

Let Water University help you build your backyard habitat. This comprehensive presentation is packed with tips for inviting wildlife. Discover which native plants entice specific pollinating insects and birds  and how to round out your habitat with food and shelter sources. 


Certified Wildlife Habitats 

For a quick guide to the key building blocks of a successful Wildlife Habitat, check out National Wildlife Federation’s short 7 part video series.  Start with the video below. Allow auto play to queue up each  subsequent video and enjoy the entire series. Great to watch with the whole family.  Have you installed all the components of a successful wildlife habitat? Register your Certified Wildlife Habitat here


How to Plant a Pollinator Garden 

Are you limited on space or not up for a whole backyard project? Here is a simple how-to video for creating a pollinator garden in a small sunny spot by Roger Cook of This Old House. Learn how to determine the proper location, prep soil, choose plants and add biodiversity through the addition of a water feature. Please note some plants suggested are localized and not native varieties.


Butterfly Puddle 

Pollinating is important and thirsty work! Create a small oasis for butterflies and bees to sip from using tips in this video by Walter Reeves. 


Get to know your new neighbors with these wildlife guides: 


Register your pollinator garden with The Woodlands Township.  Want to know how your garden can earn cash with the newest village challenge? Read more here.

Join us tomorrow for the final day of online programming as we explore How To Create a Healthy and Beautiful Lawn. 

Questions or Comments?  Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Online Learning: Day 3

Build a Successful Landscape from Ground Up 

Today’s online programming will help you find easier, more effective and more sustainable ways to enhance your landscape. Learn about plant selection, improving soil health and pest control best practices (many common plant problems, like insects and disease, can be easily resolved once the cause is identified).  

Set-up for Success: The 3 S’s 

 Right Plant Right Place, UMN Extension Part 1  

While set in Minnesota, Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn gives a great overview of how to choose the perfect plant for that empty spot in your yard or garden – whether it’s for your entryway or anywhere else. Putting the right plant in the right place is the foundation of any successful garden. Learn how to assess soil, sun, space and other factors in this handy how-to video on one of the fundamental aspects of garden design.  

Bottom line: Avoid most plant problems with this one concept (8:44)

Extra credit: The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Finder allows you to plug all your requirements into their database to find the perfect match for you from their list of Pineywood natives (which they call the South Central Plains).


Feed the Soil Microbiome 

Building Microbe-Rich Living Compost Part 1 

Making and applying microbe-rich compost is one of the most valuable things you can do for your soil. Understand principles and practices of home-scale composting to insure a rodent-free and biologically active compost pile. A great resource whether you’re just beginning to compost or are experienced and looking to make your compost even better.  

Cultivating Connections: Soil Redemption Song 

Michael Phillips takes you on a deep dive into the microscopic communities beneath our feet and our crops. He talks about the fungal network as a pathway to bringing resilience to gardens and landscapes.  Michael Phillip, who’s latest book, “Mycorrhizal Planet: How Fungi and Plants Work Together to Create Dynamic Soils,” explores the science of symbiotic fungi and sets the stage for practical applications across the landscape. 


Encourage Nature’s Pest Control 

Managing Garden Insects Begins with a Question: Friend or Foe? 

Learning “what is it?” is the first step in determining if an insect is a useful garden partner, a minor player, or potentially a bigger problem. Your garden may have over 1000 different insects! Most are actually harmless or provide beneficial functions like pollination and predation. Learn to recognize and protect nature’s pest control at various stages in their lifecycle, along with pests associated with chewing, discoloration, distortion, and die back.  

Bottom line: Every. Single. Gardener. Needs to know this info! (18:04) 

Farmscaping for Pollinators & Predatory Insects 

Learn about the dynamic interactions between plants, pollinator and predator insects that will help you create a buzz of biodiversity and balance in your niche of the local ecosystem. Discover key plants that add biodiversity and beauty to your garden through a conversation with Pat Battle from Living Web Farms. Watch the first 31 mins for a new approach to farming that works for the home garden too, then follow Pat and his class on a delightful tour through the farmscape.  

Bottom line: Good for gardeners who want to “level-up” on biodiversity (1:24:04) 

Building A Host Environment for Beneficial Insects  

Build it and they will come! Bring it all together with elements you can add to any garden that encourage self-sustaining populations of nature’s natural pest control featuring the story of momma hoverfly, and why its OK to have aphids!

Bonus: If you are considering purchasing and releasing lady beetles, check out Lady Beetles for Aphid Control by Oklahoma Gardening host Kim Toscano. 

Pesticide Safety 

Backyard Farmer – Pesticide Safety 

Sometimes a problem requires a chemical solution – whether its naturally derived like neem or a broad-spectrum pyrethroid. University of Nebraska Extension Pesticide Education Coordinator Larry Schulze gives us tips on active ingredients, reading and following pesticide labels and using these chemicals safely around our homes. 

Bottom line: Important information for all who use pesticides – the label is the law (5:58)

Additional Resources:  

Join us tomorrow for more online programming as we explore How To Attract Wildlife To Your Yard. 

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov