Author Archives: katherine.whitney


Some of my favorite memories as a kid revolve around the garden, especially during this time of year when the blackberries are ready.  We had a good patch of wild blackberries on the back fence of our place in Comanche County, and we spent evenings picking berries with a one-gallon ice cream bucket in hand.  About half the berries went in the bucket and the other half were eaten while we picked. Later, my dad planted two 50-foot rows of blackberries in the garden, and we spent many… Read More →

Be Water Wise This Spring

The recent rain was a blessing to see after a very dry winter and spring.  The average rainfall reports I have seen show about two inches of rain in much of Williamson County.  I have not been able to bring myself to water my yard so early in the season, so it looks green and happy now after the rain. Even with the rain, the majority of Williamson County is experiencing abnormally dry conditions or moderate drought.  My social media newsfeed is full of Texas drought maps (further… Read More →

Spring Allergies and Pollen

Central Texas is known for its allergy season, and this spring the allergens are living up to their name.  I like to get outside to enjoy the spring weather in my garden or on the hiking trails, but I keep a package of tissues and a bottle of allergy pills handy to enjoy springtime. It is not hard to see why our allergies feel out of control.  One finger swipe on my windshield reveals a yellow layer of pollen, and my outdoor furniture has to be wiped down… Read More →

Pill Bugs

Pill bugs, doodle bugs, roly-polies.  These little critters have some cute names, and it’s so fun to watch them roll up into a little ball when you touch them.  They are a harmless bug with no bite or sting, and I always enjoy watching them crawl around.  Pill bugs have become a hot topic of discussion in our demonstration garden after they munched their way through a few rows of tender vegetable plants. The common pill bug, Armadillium vulgare, is an isopod.  This is a type of Crustacean… Read More →

Stop the Crape Murder!

Spring is in the air!  I am so glad to see trees blooming and starting to put on leaves, and I cannot help but stop at almost every nursery I see to check out their plant selection.  Unfortunately, springtime brings out terrible violence in the hearts of some gardeners, and they take it out on poor unsuspecting crape myrtles.  I have already witnessed several crimes this year, and I wish I could hand out tickets for the gardeners and landscape crews who insist on the crime of Crape… Read More →

Soil Test vs. Plant Diagnostic Test

One of the fun parts of my job is helping residents solve problems in their lawns and landscapes.  Many times, folks will call or stop by the office to pick up a soil test bag and form, and I cannot help but be curious about what they are growing or what kind of lawn and garden project they might be starting. Sometimes, I get to visit with folks who have plants that are dying or already dead, and they want to submit a soil sample to find out… Read More →

Irrigation System Tune-Up Time

Spring is on the way!  I am already enjoying the warmer temperatures, and I confess to making a few impulse plant purchases.  Those new tomato plants were too tempting for this horticulturist to resist, even if I have to protect them from potential freezes this month. While our lawns have not started to green up quite yet, this is a good time to start preparing for warmer weather.  One task to start doing now is an irrigation system check-up.  You can perform a three-part check to make sure… Read More →

Oak Wilt Prevention Time

Every February, I start to get excited about spring and warmer weather just around the corner.  During this time of year, we start to think about pre-emergent weed control in lawns, pruning fruit trees, and trimming back perennial plants for new spring growth.  This February, I would like to put out a reminder about oak wilt prevention. Oak wilt is caused by the fungus, Bretziella fagacearum, that invades the water-conducting vessels of the tree (xylem).  The tree responds to this invasion by plugging the tissues, which stops the… Read More →

A Valentine’s Day Rose

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, just in time to buy your sweetheart a rose bush!  February is a good time to plant both bare root and container grown roses so they can establish their roots before spring and summer. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension identified four varieties of roses as Texas Superstars: Belinda’s Dream Rose, Knock Out Roses, Grandma’s Yellow Rose, and Marie Daly Rose. Texas Superstar designated plants have been grown throughout the state and proven to be good performers in the diverse regions of Texas. Marie Daly… Read More →

The Colorful Christmas Cactus

By A. J. Senchack, Williamson County Master Gardener Christmas cactus refers to many winter holiday plants whose common names are used interchangeably. Confusing?  Most gardeners who think they are growing a Christmas cactus are not actually growing a true Christmas cactus, Schlumbergera x buckleyi?  Ninety percent of what are sold at retail as a Christmas cactus are actually a Thanksgiving or false Christmas cactus cultivar, S. truncata var., and they are not even a cactus (an epiphytic succulent). These minor points aside (both plants look the same except… Read More →