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Tag Archives: Dallas County Master Gardeners

When and Why To Plant Trees

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and second best time is now.” ​ A Chinese Proverb

We live within an urban forest in Dallas County that comes from the natural topography and citizens who have planted trees around neighborhoods. Our urban forest is very important to our well-being and environmental health. Pavement and buildings cause a “heat island effect” which increases radiant heat within the city. Trees provides shade that helps mitigate this effect by reducing temperatures as well as absorbing pollution and decrease storm water run-off.

According to a University of Washington study, one tree that is 32 feet high can catch up to 327 gallons of water, and smog levels are reduced up to 6%. Oncor provides a tree-planting guide for selecting the right tree for the right location. Even though it is heart-breaking to see so many trees cut down or sculpted, we do understand the need for safety and our own need for reliable electrical service. Click here for the free guide.

Dallas County Master Gardeners have planted a border at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway, that we call the Under-the-Power-Lines garden. We planted tree specimens that fall into the “low” category, staying under 20 feet tall. If you’re considering a low tree for a location near power lines, check out our border to see how the trees might look in your own landscape. Most of ours were planted around 3.5 years ago, including Mexican Plum, Possumhaw Holly, Texas Mountain Laurel, Mexican Buckeye and Royal Purple Smoke Tree (a favorite of ours that isn’t on Oncor’s list). Vitex is another good option, and we have a specimen near our Shade Pavilion. It blooms in summer with big purple spikes and can grow as a large shrub or small tree.


You can find this garden border on the north side of the Midway Hills Christian Church campus along the parking lot. The Dallas County Master Gardeners program is run by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Dallas County Master Gardeners encourage our citizens to plant a tree. Go to the following link which will help you select the right tree for your space, and planting instructions.

Zandra Farris

Pictures courtesy of except our own Vitex picture.

Tree Selection and Planting Class

Tuesday, February 5th
10am until noon
Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, 11001 Midway Rd, Dallas, TX

Community Hall and North Garden

Winter is a good time to establish new trees in your landscape. Tom Wilten will speak on selecting the right tree for the right location here in North Texas and teach how to plant and care for your tree with the confidence that it will provide many years of enjoyment.  Following the class in the Community Hall, you’re invited out to the north garden for an optional tour to see the Raincatcher’s tree demonstrations, including both shade trees and ornamental trees appropriate (and recommended by Oncor) for planting under power lines. The class is free and all are welcome!

Speaker, Tom Wilten, is a Dallas County Master Gardener and practicing general dentist who has maintained a long time interest in plants and horticulture. He loves to watch plants grow, and many of the trees in his large home landscape were propagated from cuttings. He has served as a past president of First Men’s Garden Club of Dallas, Texas, and as a national director and regional president in the parent organization. His original articles on various aspects of horticulture have been published in a national club’s magazine. Always an informative and entertaining speaker, Raincatcher’s is pleased to welcome Tom to the garden.

Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills is a demonstration garden and project of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dallas County Master Gardeners located on the campus of Midway Hills Christian Church. To find the class, please park in the west parking lot and come through the courtyard to the south building.  

Seed Starting Indoors

Garden Betty’s blog has been an inspiration to me. The name Betty resonates deeply because of my Mom, Betty Haughton, who was a Master Gardener, class of 2008 and then there’s the fantastic organic practical horticultural information you will want to absorb.

Click here for The No Brainer Guide To Starting Seeds Indoors by Garden Betty and then listen up to what Jim Dempsey, our seed starter says:


Last year’s zinnias and peppers started indoors and then moved to the greenhouse.

 “I use a grow light because I have no sunny location in the house. Our pepper seedlings (slow to come up and slow to grow) are just now coming up. I plan on planting the tomatoes mid- February (in the past I have started too soon)  and our flower seeds shortly after that. Weather permitting, we would like to plant the seedlings (4″ pots) by first part of April.”






Ann Lamb




Step by Step—How to Build Decomposed Granite Flooring and Paths

The Raincatcher’s Garden has a new look.  We are starting 2019 with durable, *ADA compliant, paths and a floor  beneath our shade structure.  The work has been done by a team of Master Gardeners led by Jon Maxwell who is one of the co-chairpersons of our garden.

Shade structure before!

Jon, we are thrilled with this accomplishment. Hearty thanks to you, Ed Wolfgang, Tig Thompson, Hans Wildburger, Joe LaBay, and Jim Miller (2019 MG Student).

Finished product. Read below for the how-to directions.

Please tell us about the process.

What other options were considered? Why did Master Gardeners choose decomposed granite?

We considered several different alternatives, including installing a concrete pad, putting down a 4” layer of hardwood mulch, gravel and decomposed granite(DG). We ruled out concrete as too expensive and with our Houston clay soils to likely to crack and become uneven. The mulch would too quickly decompose and thus require monthly additions to the pad in order to maintain a comfortable level, and most importantly would not have been ADA compliant. Pea gravel was also considered but again is not ADA compliant nor is it particularly stable for volunteers or visitors to walk on – not to mention the accompanying dust that would coat the tables and benches. Decomposed granite on the other hand, while initially expensive, would provide an ADA compliant surface when a stabilizer is incorporated or applied. The DG floor will over time require some maintenance to maintain an even surface degraded from traffic and/or rain run-off.

You started with bare compacted soil. Would you mine giving us the process from stage 1 to completion step-by-step?

a. Evaluate the soil, its condition, and its grade. We were fortunate that the lay of the land under the shade pavilion was somewhat level and had about a 5 degree slope from the north to the south that allowed for run-off and that it had become hard packed from use and being sheltered from the elements for the past year or so.

You must start with a firm base, the ground may need to be machine compacted or rolled prior to the laying down of the first strata of sub-surface materials. During the compacting process, if necessary, you should add soil to level out the proposed DG site and fix the grade, (slope), of the pad or walkway. If you have a project that is subject to rain water floods, ie downspouts, you should modify the downspouts by either incorporating a rain-harvesting process or by modifying the drainage system.

We have done both, the east side downspouts flow pattern was modified to run underground through a 4” pipe and flow up through a pop-up drain outside of the DG pad, which allows for that rain water to run out into the contiguous parking lot. For the west downspouts we are capturing that rain water into rain barrels, which we plan to use for homeowner demonstrations on rain harvesting and as another water source for our composting station.

b. In order to contain the DG you must use some type of border edging material. You can purchase metal edging from the box stores but it typically is not strong enough to prevent getting waves in it while the DG is being compacted. We selected a 3/16” thick by 5” tall metal edging from Collier Metal Specialties LTD, “COL-MET”, which is located in Garland. Various other edging materials are available in different sizes, thicknesses and colors. The edging needs to be installed about 2” deep into the ground. On the 5” edging that will leave 3” above grade for the sub-surface material and the finishing surface material. The sturdier edging is harder to work with as it requires a saw to cut the sections to fit the desired space. We chose to use 90 degree corners for all of our turns, so this worked out quite well for the pad installation. We used 30 10’ sections, 15 90 degree corners, and 275’ of rubber cap. If you are concerned about weeds, then before laying down the sub-surface material, lay down a fabric weed barrier but this is optional.

Edging in place at The Raincatcher’s Garden

c. Add the first layer of sub-surface material. We used crushed concrete purchased from the same source for the decomposed granite, Lowry Sand and Gravel, to establish at least a 1” base. It is far cheaper than any other material that might be used and provides a non-decomposable base. Some projects use only the DG without a sub-surface base but that is considerably more expensive and it does not help to “fix” in position the surface as well. Do not roll or pack the sub-surface material.

Piles of crushed concrete and decomposed granite ready for installation

d. After the sub-surface base is completed, add the first layer of DG, at least 1.5” is required. Lightly moisten the material and then roll or mechanically compact that layer. The 1.5” layer will compact down to about 1” actual. The initial layer should sit for at least 8 – 12 hours before applying the second and final layer. Once applied, the final layer will again need to be rolled or mechanically compacted as well.

Jim Miller ready to roll!

e. After compacting the final layer of DG you should determine if there are any uneven spots in your pad or walkway. We used a simple method of stretching a string line, both parallel and perpendicular, and eyeing it. If there are uneven spots, level with additional DG, lightly rake to level, lightly moisten and then compact those areas.

f. In order for the pad or walkway to be ADA compliant a stabilizer must be added to the DG. It can be ordered with the stabilizer incorporated, which increases the cost dramatically, or you can purchase stabilizer used as a drench to help make the surface harder. In either case, the addition of stabilizer increases the cost of the project substantially.

g. For safety consideration, since we are open to the public and provide tours to school children as well as adults, we are adding a rubber cap onto the metal edging to reduce the effects of someone falling and hitting the edge of the metal. Also available from COL-MET.

Thanks guys, for putting the metal edging in place and for the rubber caps that will be put on top of it for safety.

How many cubic yards of materials were used and at what cost?

Our project required 8 cubic yards of crushed concrete, about $40/yard delivered, and 20 cubic yards of decomposed granite, about $70/yard delivered. Fortunately, one of our supporters, Arrow Lift Rentals, provided equipment to move and compact the materials.

What was the total cost of the project for this 2200 square foot area?

Total cost of this portion of the shade pavilion project was less than $2,000.00.

Up close and personal with our decomposed granite! Fait accompli!

Now that it is finished so beautifully, what upkeep will be needed?

Fortunately, very little; just an occasional addition of DG in areas of heavy traffic or water run-off. That is one of the benefits of a decomposed granite pad and walkways.

Thank you, Jon.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis


Arrow Lift employees and machines like this mechanical compactor placed us on solid ground.

More thank you’s to  COL-MET, Abbe Bolich and Arrow Lift Rentals. Arrow Lift helped us get in under the $2,000 line with their labor and equipment at reduced cost. Community partners are so important to the ongoing work of our garden.

*We will be ADA compliant when stabilizer is applied at a later date.

News From the Winter Vegetable Patch at Raincatcher’s

Lovely looking lettuce but guess what Syann told me-it took 3 sowings to get that lovely lettuce because the rain kept washing the seeds away.

Lettuce crop at Raincatcher’s 2019

Here’s our recent radish harvest. We have planted more radish seeds to enjoy throughout the spring.

Freshly pulled radishes

A dedicated team of Master Gardeners cultivates our vegetable gardens. As you can see in the picture below, note only one smiling gardener, it takes persistence and concentration to tend a research, education and demonstration garden.

Dallas County Master Gardeners-Sue, Cindy, Dorothy, Jim and Syann

We farm this patch of earth on Midway Road so that we can help you. Come see us on Tuesday mornings, attend our classes, or send us a question on this blog. We’d love to help your garden grow.

Ann Lamb

Pictures by Starla Willis

This year we will plant potatoes in the color wheel in the green section because, well, they have pretty green leaves.  Review our video: Perfectly Planted Potatoes Premieres

It’s time to plant onions, buy them now at your favorite garden center and plant like this.

A list of our 2019 classes will be coming later this month.

Raincatcher’s Garden Fund Raiser, Tuesday, January 8th at Fish City Grill

Fish City Grill-deliciousness with a purpose!

Celebrate the new year with friends and family at Fish City Grill on Tuesday, January 8th  and help the Raincatcher’s Garden.  The local gathering spot is known for Oyster Nachos, fresh seafood and a fun, casual atmosphere.

Mater Gardener, Sarah Sanders, and husband, Gerald, and friend enjoying the food and atmosphere at Fish City Grill.

Fish City Grill supports local organizations through its First Tuesday Benefit.  Raincatcher’s will receive 15% of the day’s receipts, including take-out!
Fish City Grill is located on the southeast corner of Preston and Royal, near Central Market. Enjoy your Smokin’ Hot Shrimp and Fish Tacos from 11 am to 10 pm.
Address: 10720 Preaston Road #1012
Dallas, Texas 75230
Phone: 214-891-9979
Contact Sue Weiner with any questions:



Shopping For Seeds for Next Year’s Garden

Dorothy shopping for Raincatcher’s via catalog!

Jim, Could I ask some questions about starting seeds for our 2019 gardens.

While many of us buy transplants for our garden, it’s a step up to know that our garden plans to start everything from seed.  What’s your reasoning behind that decision?
  By starting our seeds indoors, we can purchase the seed selection that we want and hopefully they will be ready to transplant at the proper time.  Some seeds are difficult to start from seed and it is better to just purchase the transplants, for example onions and leeks.  Also, some seeds are easy to start by planting directly into the ground – radishes, greens, beans, okra for example.
Are you planning to start everything for our vegetable garden from seed?
 For the raised vegetable beds, we plan on starting the peppers, tomatoes indoors and for the first time eggplant and tomatillo.
Why not the pepper, Hot Big Boss Man, that you grew last year?
 We like to try new varieties and interesting vegetables each year.  This year the peppers will be from the All America Selection list.
Ok, that was my next question. Did I hear that all seeds would be All-American varieties and why is that important? 
All of our peppers will be All American Selections (AAS) winners, except for the Poblano L.  AAS winners have been “Tested and Proven Locally” for garden superiority by horticultural professionals across North America.

Last year’s tomatoes(2018) started by seed, thanks to Jim!

You are an expert on tomato grafting! Which tomato varieties do you plan to graft and on what stock? 
No, I am not an expert by any means. I attended a workshop at a MG state conference and have grafted tomatoes with some success several times.  I also, presented an informal presentation at Joe Field garden years ago.  We plan on using the rootstock Estamino VFFNTA hybrid and grafting heirloom tomatoes, Brandywine Red and Cherokee Purple onto the rootstock.  Hoping for the same excellent flavor of the heirloom with improved production.
When do you plan to start these seeds indoors for the spring season?  Peppers we start mid-January and tomatoes mid-February. Probably, the other seeds around mid-February.  That will give us about 6 weeks before we set them out into the garden. The seedlings will be in the greenhouse the last two weeks before transplanting.
Thank you, Jim, this will help all of us as we plan our gardens for 2019.
Here’s a partial list of the seeds we are starting at the Raincatcher’s Garden:
Tomatoes-Lemon Boy and Celebrity
Peppers-Carmen, Carnato, Gallo, Gypsy, Poblano L and Hot Sweet Hybrid
Ann Lamb
Picture in greenhouse by Starla Willis

More About Fall Color in Dallas 2018

The trees in North Texas are brighter and more colorful than ever — or at least that’s what some Dallas residents have determined.

Dallasites on Facebook have taken notice of the colorful fall foliage, with one poster saying, “All of that rain must’ve helped because I’ve never seen such pretty autumn leaves in Texas as I have this year.”

Another commenter said, “This year has been the prettiest of the 13 years we’ve been here.”

While that’s all conjecture, Daniel Cunningham, horticulturist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and self-proclaimed “Texas Plant Guy,” said Texans taking notice of brighter colors might be onto something.

Cunningham explained that cool weather helps to break down the chlorophyll — that’s the green pigment in plants — allowing the yellow and orange pigments to shine through. When temperatures reach just above freezing, it increases anthocyanin formation, and that pigment produces the red and purple leaves.

The rain storms that plagued North Texas recently may have also helped the trees keep their leaves longer, giving them more time to change colors for all to see.

A commenter in a Facebook thread of Frisco residents comparing North Texas’ fall leaves with the colors of Northeastern fall leaves said, “As a lover of all things fall and someone who finally did a fall foliage trip a couple of years ago, it really is stunning this year.”

Cunningham said that autumn is the best time to plant trees in Texas as well as the perfect excuse to head over to a local tree nursery.

Another Facebook user said, “It’s gorgeous if you take side streets to your destination wherever that may be just to see the foliage.”

Cunningham agreed.

“Folks, get outside and enjoy it,” he said. “Whether you do that by walking in your neighborhood or hiking around DFW, do it because we probably only have two more weeks of this lovely fall color to enjoy.”

Thank you to the Dallas Observer and Nashwa Bawab  for allowing us to print this story.

Ann Lamb

Click here for tree  suggestions to plant now that will be rock stars next spring, article by Daniel Cunningham

Japanese Maple picture by Starla


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