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Agriculture Today


Residents can get heaps of hort help from AgriLife Extension




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AgriLife Extension Service
December 21, 2011 | 2,943 views | Post a comment

By Paul Schattenberg

SAN ANTONIO -- Ever wonder who to call for advice on the care and maintenance of your lawn, trees, shrubs, and ornamental and vegetable plants? The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has professionals, publications, and other educational materials to inform South Central Texas residents on a host of horticultural issues, said an agency expert in San Antonio.

“We want to remind South Central Texas residents that in addition to calling a nursery or landscaping professional, they can get objective, relevant, research-based advice, and information from AgriLife Extension, including online information,” said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture, Bexar County.

Rodriguez noted that some AgriLife Extension offices in metropolitan areas have Master Gardener “hotlines” staffed by members of AgriLife Extension’s volunteer Master Gardener program.

“These people are knowledgeable on a wide array of topics relating to gardening and general horticulture, and someone is almost always available to answer hotline calls during regular AgriLife Extension office hours.”

Rodriguez said in 2010 Bexar County Master Gardener hotline volunteers responded to 2,599 phone calls and 991 e-mails. The phone number for the hotline in Bexar County is 210-467-6575, and the e-mail address to send an inquiry is info@bexarcountymastergardeners.org.

“There are also call-in and live-chat format opportunities for people to contact me to ask a horticulture-related question,” Rodriguez said. “We try to give area residents different options that are compatible with their schedule, lifestyle, and comfort level with technology.”

Rodriguez said he provides advice and takes call-ins from 7-10 a.m. each Saturday during the weekly Home and Garden show on WOAI Radio hosted by Bill Rohde and broadcast throughout South Central Texas. The show’s page at http://radio.woai.com/pages/homeandgardenshow.html also contains archived podcasts of previous broadcasts and a gardening calendar with seasonal advice and information. The call-in number for the show is 210-737-1200. He also responds to live chat requests on http://www.mysa.com from 11 a.m. to noon the last Tuesday of each month.

“Of course, AgriLife Extension also conducts Master Gardener classes and agency personnel and Master Gardener volunteers participate in numerous community educational programs throughout the year,” he said.

“We provide information and offer advice that emphasizes environmental responsibility, such as water conservation, the use of low-maintenance Texas SuperStar plants, proper use of herbicides and pesticides, and the benefits of using mulch and compost.”

Agency data show that in 2010 Rodriguez and Bexar County Master Gardener volunteers made more than 250 community presentations reaching 28,025 Bexar County residents. They provided instruction and gave hands-on demonstrations in small community venues and at larger venues, such as the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo and Festival of Flowers. In cooperation with the San Antonio Botanical Garden, they have introduced hundreds of area youth to horticulture and gardening through the Children’s Vegetable Garden Program at the botanical garden and Terrarium-Ecosystem workshops in schools.

“Through our Youth Gardening Program, we serve more than 200 schools, the majority of which are located in low-income areas of Bexar County, introducing elementary and middle school children to gardening and horticulture,” Rodriguez said. “This helps give them a respect for nature and also provides them with another interesting outdoor school activity.”

He noted that, in addition to in-person contact for addressing gardening and horticultural issues, residents can access information online at Aggie Horticulture, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. This website contains a variety of fact sheets, guides, and databases, as well as an extensive archive of horticulture-related questions and answers. He added that the AgriLife Extension Bookstore website at https://agrilifebookstore.org is another source for gardening and horticultural information.

“The Bookstore has materials on everything from planting a home vegetable garden to turf grass selection, landscaping and landscape maintenance to xeriscaping, building a butterfly garden or constructing a home rainwater harvesting system,” Rodriguez said. “You can download a lot of free information, and many of the publications are offered in Spanish as well as English.”

For more information, contact Rodriguez at 210-467-6575 or dhrodriguez@ag.tamu.edu.

Paul Schattenberg is a media relations specialist and member of the news editing team of the Agri-Life communications department of the Texas A&M University System.
 

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