Page 1

Build   &Bloom Home and Garden Guide

Home staging can make a property move p.5

Curl’s keeps it in the family


Spring 2020

Grow your own tomatoes



A publication of the Fredericksburg Standard


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Spring 2020

Article Index Home staging ............................................ 5 Local builder ............................................ 10 Historic building guidelines ..................... 14 Real estate ............................................... 17 Hill Country Homes ................................. 18 Water schedule ........................................ 20 Native plants............................................. 22 Growing tomatoes ................................... 25 Trees ......................................................... 30 Wildlife habitat ........................................ 32


Thomas Lipe, of BCI Custom Homes, completed this new-construction home in 2018. The home is located at Bear Creek, just south of Fredericksburg. The home features custom cabinets and hardwood floors throughout. — Submitted photo

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Agave............................................. 2 Appretiare................................... 22 Audio Video Technologies.......... 13 B BCI Homes................................... 22 Bluebonnet Furniture..................30 Braunbach Granite...................... 28 C Culligan.......................................... 4 Curl’s Construction..................... 25 Curtis Staudt Construction......... 26 D Diamond W Specialties............... 17 Distinctive Homes....................... 16 Durst Sheet Metal....................... 31 F Facets........................................... 33 Falco Pest Management............. 14 Fathom Realty............................... 7 FRC Construction.......................... 7 Friendly Natives............................. 8 Fredericksburg Flooring Center... 3 Fredericksburg Metal Recycling... 6 G Guttermann ................................ 26 H H2O Designs............................... 20 Hester Window Coverings.......... 32 Hill Country Finishing.................. 26 Hill Country Lighting Center....... 10


Hill Country Pest Control........... 21 Hill Country Propane................... 14 Hill Country Refrigeration.......... 36 Hill Country Sod.......................... 12 Hill Country Windows & Doors.. 11 Hills of Texas Homes................... 15 I Inside Story, The ........................... 5 J J Bar C Septic............................. 24 K Kelly Hallman Design................. 27 Kevin Kramer Construction....... 30 Kingwood Cabinets...................... 3 L LED Lights................................... 22 M Manitzas Audio/Video............... 29 Moore’s Supply........................... 33 N Nixon Roofing ............................ 34 Plant Haus 2, The......................... 33 Rdz. Irrigation.............................. 23 S Security State Bank & Trust........ 12 Superior Services........................... 9 Sutherland’s................................ 35 T Texas Steel Building................... 22 Texas Tree Service....................... 33 V Vapo Butane................................ 21

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Spring 2020

Setting the stage

5 Home stager helps sell any on-the-market space

By McKenzie Moellering Standard-Radio Post reporter


fter working for years in a corporate environment, Kim Rabon was ready to explore her creative side. In May 2016, she started Here & There, a concierge service focusing on home and real estate staging and decorating. “We realized quickly that this market didn’t really have anyone locally that did staging and so we wanted to fill that niche and that need,” Rabon said. After almost four years in business, Rabon estimates she has staged between 75-100 homes in the Rabon area and often manages seven or eight homes at a time. “Homes we stage typically average just one month on the market, so it can make a big difference,” Rabon said. Down to a science Home decorating involves getting creative and having an eye for design. But many may not realize that there is a science to the entire process. “There’s definitely a science to staging as you want to control where the eye moves; you want to figure out ways to make the room look bigger,” Rabon said.

Kim Rabon, owner of Here & There, stages homes that are going on the market. More often than not, she sees homes sell in about 60 days or less. — Submitted photo

In a vacant home, the owner has moved on. Rabon doesn’t like seeing photos of how the room was set up, giving See STAGING ▶6

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Spring 2020

With Rabon’s help, a home owner has a higher chance of selling their home in a shorter time frame. She focuses on selling the home, rather than the existing possessions. ▶ STAGING continued

her the chance to get creative without any preconceived ideas. “I don’t want a preconceived notion of how it looked or how things flowed, I want to be able to do what makes the most sense to me,” she said. In an owner-occupied home, Rabon has to work with existing set-ups and possessions. “This can be more sensitive because we are coming in, taking what they have and making it as palatable for the masses as possible,” she said. One example could be built-ins with a large display of family photos and a beer stein collection. While Rabon likes looking at these kinds of things, her focus is making the built-in shelves pop. Rabon also says good photography can make a difference as well as smaller details like moving a chair to the opposite side of the room or taking out an extra dresser. “People spend a lot of heart and time decorating their home and we want them to know we aren’t saying the home isn’t pretty but we want to make the house the focus, rather than the possessions,” Rabon explained. Other challenges can be staging homes with young kids or if the owner has other special needs. “You have to live there and cook your supper there, so it’s impor-

Here & There works with homeowners to develop strategies to stage homes that are going on the market. Owner Kim Rabon offers free estimates, low-cost consultation and affordable staging services.

tant that we make it a livable space,” Rabon said. In some instances, an owner can be very reluctant to changing the space, so Rabon finds herself bargaining and doing one room at a time, rather than all rooms at once. Rabon will also problem solve when a home has been on the market for an extended period of time. “We can go in and change the furniture, maybe do some painting, hang new art on the walls and sometimes that makes a big See STAGING ▶8


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Spring 2020 ▶ STAGING continued

difference,” she said. “We have seen a lot of cases where the 1970s called and they want their couch back so we have to just reset and refresh.” Affordable service From the start, Rabon wanted to offer home staging at an affordable price. She charges an hourly fee and most projects take about four hours. In addition, there is a monthly rental fee on some items. Most projects for 60 days cost about $1,000 total. She offers free estimates to customers and offers consultations for under $100 if owners want to stage the home themselves. “If someone has a $250,000 house, we want them to afford our services so they could better sell their home,” she said. “We want to work with their budget and their needs.” Other services Rabon carries a variety of different styles of inventory as to serve tastes from modern to traditional, doing the best to match the house. She can purchase slip covers for old couches, she can rent homeowners a couch and add a few pillows. In addition to staging homes, Rabon also stages windows for businesses on Main Street and helps them lay out merchandise.

Rabon can rent furniture from couches to tables to lamps and art pieces. She can also rent pillows and slip covers if furniture is outdated. — Submitted photo

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Spring 2020

Keeping it all in the family Curl’s Construction, Inc. doing business since 1982 By Yvonne Hartmann


hether it is with metal or wood, David Curl has always been in some aspect of the building in-

dustry. Curl’s Construction, Inc., has been doing business in Gillespie County since 1982 as a family-owned and operated company. They specialize in new construction, remodels and light commercial construction. “We want to give our customers their dream home,” David said, while working on a very energy efficient home. “We are primarily a new home builder, but we do a lot of remodeling and some light commercial jobs,” said Cathy Curl, adding that they just finished a job that included completely gutting the home and moving walls. With all of their jobs, David said that

In business since 1982, the family-owned and operated Curl’s Construction, Inc. includes from left, Keith Curl, David Curl, Cathy Curl and Kevin Curl. — Submitted photo

their main goal is “to have happy clients when they are done.” David leads the company as president

and CEO. He works directly with the customers, prepares quotes, checks job sites at least daily, orders materials and handles

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Curl’s Construction, Inc. built the first ICF home in the Fredericksburg city limits. The home was featured on the 2019 Christmas Home Tour. — Submitted photo

all of the administrative duties. Wife Cathy has been working as bookkeeper, quality control inspector and directly with the customers, assisting with selections for the homes since 1999. Their two children, Kevin and Keith, joined in the company after graduating from Fred-

ericksburg High School in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Both are job superintendents and each runs a crew of workers. The Curls’ daughter, Theresa, while growing up in the business, chose a different direction in pursuing her future, but still resides in Fredericksburg.

Getting started David has always been involved in some part of the construction business, according to Cathy, who added that his parents owned a welding manufacturing business in the valley. See CURL’S ▶ 12

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Spring 2020 ▶ CURL’S continued

While living in Edinburg, David was involved in welding and repair and did a lot of work on agricultural equipment. After the Curls moved to Fredericksburg in 1980 from the valley, David did some welding jobs. “There just wasn’t that much demand, so he went to work for Stein Lumber Company,” Cathy said. “He saw the demand for building construction so he went into the business. After having several partners over the years, he took the plunge and went out on his own.” Satisfied customers “Our goal is to have satisfied customers,” Cathy said. And to that end, David said, “We work really hard to try to please our customers.” She said that most of their customers are referred to them by word of mouth and that they have a number of repeat customers. “A lot of our jobs are repeat customers,” Cathy said. “Some have sold their homes and want to rebuild or remodel. A lot of times we get a customer because they liked

Adding a porch to a remodeling project done by Curl’s Construction Inc. were from left, Keith Curl, Kevin Curl and Jeronimo Arias. — Submitted photo

our camaraderie, our quotes, the way we do business or they saw a project that we have done.” For example, she said, when they present a quote to a customer, the information is based on a spread sheet. “We figure line by line how the project is going to add up at the bottom,” Cathy said. “We include what the materials are going to cost, the cost for the plumbing, electri-

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cal, flooring, etc. We break it down line by line.” Cathy said that they used to attend building trades shows, but now they primarily rely on research, their customers and subcontractors to keep up with the latest trends. “We are relying on our subcontractors for new innovations and new products on the market,” she said.

Spring 2020


When it comes to designing a home, the Curls utilize designers and architects for the blueprints. David does do some in-house floor plans while working with the customers. Some of their work After being in business for almost 40 years, the work of Curl’s Construction can be seen around Fredericksburg and Gillespie County. The Curls built the first ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) home in the Fredericksburg city limits. “It looked like a Lego house before the finishing façade was put on the outside,” Cathy said. In ICF homes, the exterior walls are poured with concrete to ensure safety and energy efficiency. Curl’s Construction also completed the first house in the Stoneridge subdivision and built the original structure at Wildseed Farms. In addition, they remodeled Friedhelm’s Bavarian Inn following the owner’s ideas and concepts. Doing business today Cathy said that they are fortunate to be able to continue working due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This kitchen is a cook’s dream in a new construction home built by Curl’s Construction, Inc. — Submitted photo

“We are still working, but we are not going into the individual homes,” she said. “We are putting off interior work until the pandemic calms down.” Rather, they are keeping busy building greenhouses, fences and work outside the homes. “We are doing everything we can to keep the guys working,” she said, while making sure that they stay compliant with safety

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Spring 2020

Preserving small town charm Historic preservation officer protects Fredericksburg’s architectural history By Samuel Sutton


ince the 1980’s, the City of Fredericksburg’s Historic Review Board has worked to preserve the town’s notable properties. From historic homes misidentified as “low importance” to neglected buildings, this board has used a Historic District to help bring these properties out of disrepair. “The city’s Historic Review Board has been placed to review all applications for exterior changes in the Historic District and really are there to protect the historic resources in the district,” said Anna Hudson, the City of Fredericksburg’s Historic Preservation Officer. If a landowner in the Historic District wishes to make any changes to the exterior of his or her building, a Certificate of Appropriateness application must be filed. The board will then review what types of alterations are being requested. Hudson Depending on the type of alteration and the rating of the property, the alteration could either be approved immediately through Hudson’s office or have to



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be approved by a board vote. “If it’s an 1880’s limestone house versus something from the 1960’s, we look at those buildings a little differently,” Hudson said. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Certificates of Appropriateness can be submitted via email to ahudson@fbgtx.org. Applications can be found at https://www.fbgtx.org/DocumentCenter/ View/3218/CofA-2020-fillable. Success stories The Historic Review Board has helped protect several properties from neglect. For example, a “hidden gem” on Creek Street was misidentified in a 2003 survey as a “low-rated structure.” “An owner in town discovered it and said, ‘Wow, there’s an old log cabin in here,’” Hudson recalled. “We were able to rerate that and we let the owner do some additions.” After it was rerated and the cabin was restored, Hudson said the house now tells its story better. Another example Hudson mentioned was a building at 411 E. Main Street. It had been neglected for so long that it nearly fell into demolition. Using the “Demolish by Neglect” ordinance, the Historic Review Board was able to stabilize the property. Through more mainte-


Spring 2020 nance, new owners were also able to help save the property. A current success story is an ongoing process at a home on South Milam Street. “An elderly couple that has lived in the house for 20plus years just needed help to keep the wooden house painted,” Hudson said. Since property values do go up when a home is in the Historic District, this elderly couple wasn’t able to afford the maintenance on the home. The board was able to use preservation grant money to keep up the painting and save the house. “This was really an example of us doing some outreach and really helping Fredericksburg’s Historic District expanded over the past year. This map shows the previous boundary and those in need,” Hudson said. the expansion area. — Submitted photo

Historic District ‘benefits everyone’ Some landowners fear

that if their property is expanded into the Historic District, it means the government is taking

full control of their land. It’s not. “It’s not really as bad as people may hear and the review is just

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Spring 2020 ▶ HISTORIC DISTRICT continued

Hudson said. “There is absolutely no limit on interiors.” She added the board is there to approve projects, not to deny. “We all benefit from it, and most people aren’t going to make huge alterations to their property,” Hudson said. If someone is to make a big change, Hudson said this just gives them a chance to get some expert advice. The Historic District also protects the value of landowners’ property from being ruined by a neighbor’s alterations, like building a big mansion outside someone’s little cottage home. The district also benefits locals by keeping the charm of the streets and properties, Hudson said. Expansion The Historic District expanded over the past year after the City Council adopted new borders in June. “It had gone through a survey and a public process and several public meetings,” Hudson said. After a year-long process of holding several public hearings and surveying the

The Historic Review Board has helped locals preserve buildings like this one at 507 W. Austin St. With the help of Historic Preservation grants, the home’s elderly landowners were able to keep up with necessary painting maintenance. — Submitted photo

properties, Hudson said they were able to expand a bit in each direction. “We did bump it out to the North and also a bit to the west and a little bit to the south,” Hudson said. Included in the expansion was the old Fredericksburg High School Building,

located on the current Fredericksburg Middle School campus on Travis Street. Hudson said this was done after the City Council had deemed the building as an historic landmark.

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Spring 2020

Real Estate sales rebound in 2019 First quarter sales up in 2020 before COVID-19 pandemic Staff reports Real estate sales in Fredericksburg and Gillespie County recovered in 2019. The Hill Country Board of Realtors reported a total of $256,109,642 in real estate sales during 2019, up from $231,059,343 in 2018. The area had a record amount of sales during the first quarter of 2020, with $66,105,904 from 160 sold units for an increase of 24.4 percent from 2019’s first quarter. “Obviously, we are all in for a difficult next few months and I am hopeful that with all the proactive steps being taken across the country, we will be seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel in a few months,” said Mike Starks, the 2020 Government Affairs and Economic Development Committee Chair for the Board of Realtors and realtor at RE/MAX Town & Country. “And I think when we are all sure it is safe to get back to life, we are going to see a very busy end of summer and first of fall for the real estate market in Gillespie County.” Sales in Fredericksburg city limits accounted for $100,658,759 worth of real purchase sales in 2019. The first quarter of 2020 brought $27,502,163 from 68 sold

homes. “There are lots of folks who have been talking about getting out of the big city and heading to the Hill Country, and when this is through, I think these past few months being locked down are going to make a lot of people re-examine what is important in their lives,” Starks said. “Are they going to stop talking about getting out of the rat race and make the move?” Starks said Gillespie County’s land sales remained a “little sluggish” with $18,887,272 from 1,685.21 acres of land at $11,207.66 per acre, sold during 2020’s first quarter. Last year, Gillespie County reported $44,454,221 worth of sales from a total of 3,512.55 acres at $12,655.82 per acre. Last year’s Gillespie County sales tax receipts were reported to be $3,075,824, up from $2,633,718 in 2018. Fredericksburg and Gillespie County’s last reported lodging receipts come from the first of 2018. A total of $27,656,096 was spent on area lodging, led by $27,233,551 in Fredericksburg. “Fredericksburg’s lodging/bed and breakfast industry also continues to grow at a healthy pace,” Starks said. “As the Hill Country wine region continues to gain popularity, I am sure the lodging industry will stay strong.”

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Spring 2020

Hills of Texas Homes recently completed this Fredericksburg home in the traditional Hill Country style. — Submitted photos

Homes of the Hill Country Area builders continue construction of fine homes in town, country

This home, by BCI Custom Homes, is located just south of Fredericksburg near Bear Creek. The home features an open living area with crown molding on the ceilings.


Spring 2020

Distinctive Homes built a home on Jung Lane that measures more than over 3,000 square feet with an over 1,000-square-foot back porch. It has many custom features like high beamed ceilings, custom cabinets and site-built bunk beds. — Submitted photo

Distinctive Homes finished a build at Vineyard Ridge that is timber framed and resembles a barn inside. It has custom features from ceilings to walls to custom-built doors.

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This Fredericksburg home, located in Stone Ridge, was completed by BCI Custom Homes in 2018.


Spring 2020

City keeps watering schedule The City of Fredericksburg has implemented Stage 3 water restrictions for its residents. Under the restrictions, all outdoor irrigation may occur between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and again from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on designated days. Watering of plants with a bucket or other hand-held container, hand-held hose or drip irrigation is permitted through Stage 4 of watering restrictions without limitation as to the day of the week; however, it can only be done during the hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and again from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The designated days for watering depend on what number a resident’s address ends in (see sidebar).

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The watering of the ground around foundations to prevent foundation cracking is permitted only during times designated for outdoor irrigation, except when watering to protect foundations is accomplished by a drip irrigation system



Spring 2020 or a hand-held hose. A drip irrigation system or hand-held hose may be used to water the ground around foundations to prevent foundation cracking at any time. Hotels, motels and other lodging must institute, offer and clearly notify guests of a “linen/towel change on request only” program. With the summer months fast approaching and water bills expected to rise, local homeowners can be proactive about protecting both their landscape and their pocketbook by reviewing the City of Fredericksburg’s water rationing policies. City staff encourages residents and commercial businesses to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the ordinance, which is available for review online at www.fbgtx.org, and contact staff if they have any questions.

Addresses ending in: 1 or 2 - Monday 3 or 4 - Tuesday 5 or 6 - Wednesday 7 or 8 - Thursday 9 or 0 - Friday Hand-held — Means used or operated while being held in the hand or hands. Hose — Means a common residential garden hose not more than one inch in diameter, which includes a positive cut-off nozzle.

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Spring 2020

Learning about native plants Local NPSOT chapter offers educational opportunities By Paula Stone President, Fredericksburg Chapter Native Plant Society of Texas


e are lucky to live in one of the prettiest parts of Texas. The natural beauty of the Hill Country is what draws many of us and yet we sometimes do things that undermine the very nature that we came to enjoy. For most of us, it isn’t deliberate, it’s just that we didn’t know any better. When we know better, we can do better. The Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) was founded to help us learn about and enjoy the NATIVE landscape around us. Here in Fredericksburg, we have a very robust NPSOT chapter that offers many educational opportunities. Nature is so much more fun when we

Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum – Viburnum rufidulum. – Photo by Sally and Andy Wasowski

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Madrone – Arbutus xalapenis. – Photo by Paul Cox

know what we are looking at. We invite you to join us as we learn together about the fascinating plants that belong here. For more information, contac the local chapter at https://npsot.org/wp/fredericksburg Below are four Texas natives that we think should enjoy more wide spread usage.

Rock Rose – Pavonia lasiopetala. – Photo by Paula D. Stone

Madrone – Arbutus xalapenis Madrone is a beautiful 20-30’ evergreen tree endemic to the Texas Hill Country and deserving of more use in the home landscape. Colorful outer bark sloughs off to revel a smooth, red, inner bark, very similar to a crepe myrtle. A rounded crown is held aloft by sturdy,

spreading branches. The leaves are darkgreen and tinged with red. Small, white flower clusters appear in early spring, followed by red or orange berries in the fall. Flowers and berries are appreciated by native wildlife. Beautiful all the year round, madrones See NATIVE PLANTS ▶ 24


Spring 2020 ▶ NATIVE PLANTS continued

are probably the most prestigious of all Hill Country native plants. Eve’s Necklace – Styphnolobium affine Eve’s Necklace is considered a tall shrub or small tree. It has lovely, pink, wisteria-like blooms that appear in March and April, followed by interesting, black seedpods that hang on the tree for several months, adding interest. Its graceful shape makes a nice focal point. Planted in a flowerbed, it can offer dappled shade to low growing plants. Rock Rose – Pavonia lasiopetala An open, small shrub, 3’x3’, Rock Rose will grow in shallow soil on limestone, but will bloom better in a flower bed. Cheerful one-half inch pink flowers appear from spring to fall. It will self-seed and when young, can easily be transplanted or shared with friends. Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum – Viburnum rufidulum This deciduous viburnum can be used as a shrub or tree.

Eve’s Necklace – Styphnolobium affine. – Photo by Sally and Andy Wasowski

In the spring, its dark-green, glossy foliage is covered with four-inch wide, flat clusters of white flowers. Then in the fall, it is glorious with leaves turning various sunset shades of pink, mauve and gold. Birds are attracted to eat the fleshy, blue-black fruits.

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Spring 2020

Growing tomatoes in four steps By Beth McMahon


omatoes are the favored vegetable for growing at home. They aren’t difficult to grow either, provided you know how.

Step One: Pick the Best Spot Tomatoes require eight to 10 hours of sunlight. They will grow if they get less, but the plants will be leggy and not bloom much. Wind circulation isn’t something that is normally considered for a vegetable garden, but it’s important for getting tomatoes. Tomatoes need the wind to gently shake the flowers to allow them to pollinate. If your tomato plants are in a location that is too sheltered, your production will likely be low. Bumblebees can visit tomato flowers, but are unlikely to be a major pollination source. Good soil can be hard to find but get your tomato plants started off right with a soil that is at least one foot deep (not counting caliche). If you don’t have this, you can grow tomatoes in four- to five-gallon sized containers. Plant one plant per five-gallon container and See TOMATOES ▶ 26

Ripe “Black Krim” heirloom tomato. — Photos courtesy Beth McMahon Elizabeth McMahon is the Gillespie County Horticulture Agent. Questions and comments can be sent to elizabeth.mcmahon@ ag.tamu.edu.

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Spring 2020 ▶ TOMATOES continued

throughout generations. They typically have unusual colors and different flavors but may not be very productive or as disease and pest resistant. Open pollinated tomatoes are the same as heirlooms, they just haven’t been around long enough to be considered as such. Open pollinated varieties include many of our old field tomato varieties. Hybrids are the result of two inbred tomato lines crossing. These typically have better production and disease and pest resistances, but the seed can be expensive and you can’t save it. There are good varieties of these kinds that can be grown here in the Texas Hill Country. If you’re looking for general purpose or tomatoes to slice and put on a sandwich, try heirlooms and/or open pollinated varieties such as “Cherokee Purple,” “Black Krim” or “Abe Lincoln.” Hybrids include “Celebrity,” “Big Beef,” “Valley Girl” and “Valley Cat.” If looking for smaller tomatoes, such as grapes, cherries or pear shaped, try hybrids such as “Juliet,” “Sweet 100” or “Sun Gold.” Heirlooms to try include “Yellow Pear” or “Vernissage Black.” Cherry tomatoes are less likely to quit producing when the weather gets too hot.

make sure it has many holes in the bottom to promote drainage. If you’ve grown tomatoes before, don’t plant them in the same spot as you did last year, or where you planted your potatoes, peppers or eggplants. These plants are all related and can increase disease pressure for your tomatoes. The deer are hungry and they like eating your tomatoes. If you’re planting your tomatoes into a garden, you will need to have deerproof fencing around it. The deer may not be afraid to come up onto your porch. If you’ve had problems with them getting that close before, try using chicken wire to protect your containers. It being the Texas Hill Country, don’t forget to have a water source nearby. Step Two: Pick the Right Kind There are more tomato varieties than one can imagine. To narrow it down, figure out if you want a determinate or indeterminate tomato. Determinate tomato plants are shorter and produce within a set time period. Indeterminate tomatoes grow tall and produce a few tomatoes continually. To narrow your variety selection further, determine if you would like to grow an heirloom, open pollinated, or hybrid tomato. Heirlooms are special tomato varieties that have been saved

Step Three: Treat it Right

Planting The risk of frost gradually decreases as April approaches. You can plant earlier than April, and indeed, it’s commendable to do so because you’ll want your tomatoes to produce all they can

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Spring 2020


before the heat of summer hits. However, we have had late frosts before, so have a plan to protect your plants. Tomatoes should be spaced two to four feet from each other. If you purchase lanky tall tomato plants, you can bury some of the stem. Incorporate compost or slow release fertilizer at planting. Do not use a fast release fertilizer, because this may burn the roots. After the first cluster of fruit sets, work in two to three tablespoons per plant of a high nitrogen quick release fertilizer. Next year, to give yourself an advance start without worrying about the frost, purchase little square pots of tomatoes early, but transplant them into gallon sized pots. Then transplant these bigger plants into your garden after danger of frost. Staking and Caging Caging or trellising your tomato plants promotes air circulation and less disease. Determinate type tomatoes do not get very tall, so a simple threeto four-foot cage will work. For indeterminate types, you need a tall cage, at least five feet, or trellis them. I tie mine to cattle panels and then drape them over, but there are also ways to weave tomato plants between poles and ropes. Tying an indeterminate tomato plant to a simple bamboo stake may not work, but a fence stay pounded into the ground may

be enough.

Watering To determine if you need to water or not, dig down six inches. Grab See TOMATOES â–ś 28

Instead of cages, tying tomato plants to a cattle panel is an option.


Spring 2020 ▶ TOMATOES continued

some of the soil and form it into a ball. If it leaves a wet outline on your hand when you squeeze, it doesn’t need water. If it’s cool to the touch but crumbles when you make a ball, you should water. Water slowly and deeply, whether through drip irrigation or furrows dug into the ground around the plant or down the row. Avoid overhead watering with a sprinkler because wet foliage can lead to disease. If you’ve had issues with your tomatoes cracking, try putting a light mulch, such as pine needles, herbicide-free hay, or leaves on top of the soil around the plants. Mulching can insure a more constant moisture flow which may help decrease cracking. Shade Cloth Some of the Master Gardeners that I know use shade cloth to great effect in growing their tomatoes. I can certainly understand the benefits. Row cover or shade cloth draped over your tomatoes creates a cooler climate, decreasing sunscald and helping to conserve moisture. It may even decrease your chances of getting spider mites. Row covers permit a certain percentage of light. For tomatoes, try a 30-40% row cover. Using a row cover is not the same as growing in an area with less than eight to 10 hours of sunlight.

Common Problems Early in the season you may see blossom end rot. This is when the tomato has a large black spot on the bottom of the fruit. This technically isn’t a disease, just an inability to move calcium properly in the plant. Wait until it gets warmer or stop watering daily, and the disease should correct itself. Septoria leaf spot and early blight are different diseases, but both cause the tomato plant to defoliate from the bottom leaves upward. Keep your plants off the ground, trim off leaves touching the soil, and if you start to see spots, spray a chlorothalonil fungicide such as Daconil or Bonide Fung-onil to treat these two diseases. Hornworms are large caterpillars that can take out a small tomato plant in only a few days. The caterpillars look fierce, with a horn on their rump. Don’t be fooled, these will not sting, though they may curl themselves threateningly. Hornworms blend in and can be difficult to see, but if you see a lot of damage on a plant or do manage to spot them, pull them off and squish them or throw them to some chickens. Chickens love hornworms. Sunscald can happen when the tomatoes don’t have enough foliage cover. You can’t fix the tomatoes already scalded but prevent damage to future ones by draping more foliage over the plant, using shade cloth or taking clean panty hose and bagging the fruit. Spider mites are a difficult pest to control on tomatoes in home gardens. They produce webbing and their feeding on plants gives the leaves a stippled appearance, as if they were sandblasted. Some years and gardens can be more susceptible than others.


Spring 2020 Oil sprays such as neem oil are labeled for spider mites, but by the time you have the mites, you’re likely to have the hot weather, too, and it will be too hot to spray unless it’s at night (which causes the neighbors to ask questions). Use row covers or shade cloth on your tomatoes if this has been a historical problem, mulch your plants, and consider watering a bit more. When the night temperatures rise above the middle 70’s, pollen shed in tomatoes can be disrupted, so your regular tomato plants may not set as much fruit as normal, if any. Try shade cloth to keep the plants going longer or grow cherry tomatoes instead. Step Four: Harvesting In a perfect world you would be able to harvest your tomatoes at peak ripeness. It is not a perfect world. Likely some bird, probably a cardinal or mockingbird, is going to come along and peck your perfect tomato before it’s fully ripe. If it’s not the birds, it’s the diseases or insects. Thankfully tomatoes can be hand ripened on counters.

Tomato flowers need wind to form little tomatoes.

Simply pick at first blush of color, then allow your tomatoes to finish ripening to the desired degree out of the sun at room temperature. Do not refrigerate. --Tomato transplants have been selling

very well this year, and I suspect there will be many first-time growers. If you encounter a problem that wasn’t written about here, feel free to send me an email at Elizabeth.mcmahon@ag.tamu. edu . Good luck!


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How fast are we losing our trees? Drought stress, disease harming hardwood populations By Jim Stanley

I have written before about what I believe to be the declining numbers of hardwood trees in the Hill Country. The evidence for this has been the fact that almost everywhere I go, I see rather obvious browselines with little or no vegetation (except for cedar) below about four or five feet. The reasons for this are mainly the excessive numbers of white-tailed deer, although in some areas the number of exotic ungulates may have also contributed, as may the current or past presence of large goat herds. All these browsers eat large amounts of woody plant leaves as their main diet component, and, with very few exceptions, virtually all native hardwood trees are on their menu. It is a simple fact that finding any replacement hardwood sprouts or saplings within the reach of deer on most properties is a rarity. If there are no replacement hardwoods surviving to become mature trees with most of their leaves above the reach of the deer, then as the older trees die the numbers of these trees will necessarily decline. What I never had any idea about was just how fast is decline occurring? So, a few years ago I decided to see if I could get any indication about that by counting trees, both alive and relatively recently dead. And because it was as good a place as any to start, and because I knew the area and had a memory of many of the individual trees, I did my survey on part of our property in an overgrazed, overbrowsed wood-

A Blackjack tree which died from drought-stresscaused hypoxylon. — Photo by Jim Stanley


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Spring 2020 land/savanna. I walked the property counting all hardwood trees (everything except cedar) on an approximately 10-acre area. It turns out that all of the hardwood trees in this plot were oaks; live oaks, post oaks, blackjack oaks and shin oaks. I counted 392 living mature oaks. At the same time, I counted 29 trees that had died in the past 12 years or so, most all of which were blackjacks, a lesser number of post oaks and only a very few live oaks. None of the oaks died of oak wilt, but mostly drought stress and/ or hypoxylon. There were perhaps a half dozen trees that were counted as living because they had at least one significant limb with leaves, but most of them showed signs of hypoxylon and will likely die in another year or so. That means that about 7% of the trees in this 10-acre plot have died in the past 12 years plus another 2% that are dying. Extrapolating that rate would predict the loss of about 15-18% of our trees in 25 years. This may be an aberration, since I believe we have lost a larger percentage of trees during and just after with the drought of 2011 than we had in previous years. So, if we have higher rainfall years, the rate of die-off may be lower. But then again, we could also have more drought years. Significantly, I did not see ANY young trees or saplings with trunk diameters of even as much as a half-inch or a height of over six inches. Some short live oak and shin oak root sprouts with a half dozen

leaves were seen, but the deer will soon take care of them. Interestingly, inside our one-acre high fence, I counted 43 mature hardwoods, and two dead blackjacks. But then I also counted 102 hardwood volunteer trees over two feet tall that came up because of seeds or acorns spread by birds and animals or root sprouts from mature trees — some of which would certainly become mature trees in a natural habitat as a few are already over eight feet tall! These volunteer trees include live oaks, post oaks, blackjack oaks, hackberry, escarpment black cherry, flame-leaf sumacs and possumhaws. Clearly, young replacement hardwoods can still become mature trees when browsers are excluded or their numbers greatly reduced. This survey certainly doesn’t constitute any kind of scientific study and the numbers I found on this one plot of land may be very different from other places in the Hill Country with other mixtures of species and other soil and environmental conditions and deer populations. And, while we may hate to see the loss of any of our trees, the Hill Country will still be beautiful with fewer trees and it probably had fewer in the past than it does now, anyway. But it would be nice if we had fewer deer to hasten the decline of our hardwoods. Jim Stanley is a Texas Master Naturalist and the author of the books “Hill Country Ecology,” “Hill Country Landowner’s Guide” and “A Beginner’s Handbook for Rural Texas Landowners.” He can be reached at jstmn@ktc. com. Previous columns can be read at www.hillcountrynaturalist.org.

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Windcrest garden making a difference Medical building efforts to protect wildlife recognized The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, has recognized the Windcrest Medical Building at 506 W. Windcrest as a Certified Wildlife Habitat through its Garden for Wildlife program. “NWF celebrates this effort to create a garden that supports birds, butterflies, bees, frogs and other local wildlife. Every Certified Wildlife Habitat garden provides natural sources of food, water, cover and places to raise young and is maintained in a sustainable way that incorporates native plants, conserves water and doesn’t rely on pesticides,” said a spokesperson for the organization. Celebrating over 45 years, the Garden for Wildlife movement has recognized over 227,000 Certified Wildlife Habitat gardens across the United States to date, encompassing more than 2.5 million acres that support wildlife locally. Katherine Peake, Master Naturalist

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