For many people, green is much more than just a color. Green is an entire way of life. The trend of “going green” has been growing for many years and has worked its way into mainstream society. The concept centers on maintaining a sustainable environment, or using our environment in such a way that its resources will be available for future generations through efforts put forth in our everyday lives. Efforts can include recycling our plastic and glass goods, installing solar panels on our houses, shopping with reusable bags, or even planting a garden. That’s where the Lake Granbury Master Gardeners come in.
The Lake Granbury Master Gardeners work with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to promote the education of gardening skills within the Granbury community. They are part of the state-wide Texas Master Gardeners program, which stems from the 1978 Extension horticulture training with Texas A&M University. Master Gardeners earn their title by participating in fifty hours of instruction, followed by another fifty hours of volunteer work in their community within their first year of membership. Through various outreach services, the maintenance of demonstration gardens, and even the granting of agriculture or horticulture related scholarships, this organization seeks to spread awareness of the importance of a sustainable environment.
Granbury residents and visitors may already be aware of the presence of the Lake Granbury Master Gardeners. They have aided in the beautification of the Historic Granbury Downtown Square by planting various flowers and shrubs in the pots along the sidewalks and parking lot. Through yearly plant sales, the organization spreads the beauty by selling the fruits of their labor directly to the public. Hood County knows that if we need help with the beautification of our property, we call on the Master Gardeners.
The service provided by the Lake Granbury Master Gardeners goes so much deeper than that. While beauty may be their specialty, they never forget to include plants that provide a direct benefit to humans. According to Marty Vahlenkamp, County Agent for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and advisor to the Lake Granbury Master Gardeners, they provide information on how to grow fruits and vegetables in addition to landscape plants, and they recently hosted a community education class on growing tomatoes. They also include vegetables and fruit trees in their Demonstration Garden at 1410 West Pearl Street, where they demonstrate plant selection and sustainable growing techniques in Hood County.
The Lake Granbury Master Gardeners include the growing of food-bearing plants in their outreach programs as well. “Some of our members are working with the youth at the Rancho Brazos Community Center on a gardening project and are teaching them to grow vegetables,” Vahlenkamp said. “Working with these youth is a delight as we teach them to be future gardeners.”
Don’t be too quick to discount the purpose of the flowering or otherwise beautiful plants for which the Master Gardeners are known, however. Every plant in the environment, whether food-bearing or not, serves a vital function in maintaining our ecosystem.
“Plants are an important part of the environment. They help produce the air that we breathe and feed both us and other animals. We can do that and have beauty at the same time. Many of the plants that are in our Demonstration Garden are native or well adapted plants that are very tolerant of diseases and insects. This means we have beautiful plants that are low maintenance and require little additional fertilizer or pesticide applications,” Vahlenkamp said.
Trees, shrubs, and flowers contribute monumental benefits to the earth and the beings that live on it. Not only do trees provide oxygen while reducing the carbon dioxide levels, but did you know that trees can actually help you with your energy bill? According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the effect of the shade of a healthy tree is the same as ten room-size air conditioners running for twenty hours a day. Trees can also protect your home against the harsh winter wind, reducing your heating costs as much as twenty-five percent, as claimed by the Journal of Horticulture.
Flowering plants can provide food not only for animals, but for us as well. Flowers have gained a newfound popularity as a human food source, according to the North Carolina State University. Popular flowers found in recipes can include lemon, coriander, gardenia, marjoram and garlic chives. Flowers can also be used as medicinal resources, both as herbs or in essential oils.
Are you ready to start planting your own garden and create your own personal green renaissance? The right time is always now! But don’t rush into it. Gardening can be tricky, and it’s easy to get discouraged when it doesn’t turn out right.
“First thing is to develop a plan before you buy a plant,” Vahlenkamp cautions new gardeners. “We are all guilty of buying that plant and then trying to decide where to put it. Research the types of plants you want and what will work well in the area and with your specific site requirements. Do you need small plants or large plants? Plants that need sun versus those that work better in the shade? Are you trying to attract butterflies or other wildlife? Always look for native or well adapted plants that will be able to handle our environment.”
According to the North Texas Vegetable Gardeners blog, flowers are your best bet for planting in the Texas summer heat. The red flowering plant, Mexican firebrush, can perform well in a dry heat, with its colors growing more vibrant when exposed to the Texas sun. If your lawn provides enough shade, there are plenty of varieties of flowers that thrive in shaded areas, allowing them to survive the extreme highs in temperatures. Figs, chickpeas, and cherries are also possible to grow during the summertime in Texas if you are looking for plants with a food-bearing option.
Of course, if you want to make sure your garden survives and thrives in the sometimes nice and sometimes nasty Hood County climate, you will want to include the help of the Lake Granbury Master Gardeners or the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Hood County. They are there to help you with all of your gardening needs. According to Vahlenkamp, “They can help with soil testing, plant selection, plant disease problems, or insect problems. The County also has the Highway 51 North property where residents can get mulch or have tree trimmings turned to mulch.”
To get help with your garden, ask for advice, support the Lake Granbury Master Gardeners, or become a Master Gardener yourself, call them at 817-579-3280 or visit their office in the Hood County Annex 1 at 1410 West Pearl Street. And don’t forget to admire their beautiful demonstration garden while you are there!
The Lake Granbury Master Gardeners provide a crucial resource in Hood County as they do their part to promote the protection of our environment and maintain a sustainable ecosystem. After all, it’s the only one we have.