Gumphrey's Gaze

Beautiful gardens by Williams Johnson

Overall, this winter has been rather mild for Gulf Coast gardeners and rainfall has been ample. In the next few weeks, landscapes will be blanketed with new leaves in varying shades of green and an array of colorful flowers to lift our spirits.
The new gardening year will be in full swing this month, with many activities and options for growing and learning.
Peaches and plums have already started to display their beautiful flowers and the promise of spring can be seen. Members of Galveston County Master Gardeners Association have planned several programs for the month that will be of interest to local gardeners.
Hands-on rose-pruning demonstrations: Did you know that the time to prune your roses is Valentine’s Day? Are you a bit hesitant on what types of rose to prune and not prune? Then be sure to visit the master gardener horticulture demonstration garden in Carbide Park at 4102 Main Street, La Marque, at 9:00am on February 11.
Master gardener and consulting rosarian John Jons will provide demonstrations on how to properly prune your roses. Please bring hand pruners and gloves – they’re not required but they are needed if you wish to practice pruning on site.
The program is free of charge but pre-registration is requested, either by phone at 281-534-3413, ext 1-2, or by e-mail at 160203 Gardening Sam planting tomatoesExperienced vegetable growers know that mid to late February is the ideal time for transplanting tomatoes. Master gardener Ira Gervais will present a program on growing tomatoes at the Galveston County AgriLife Extension office from 1:00-3:30pm on Saturday, February 6.
PHOTO CREDIT: William Johnson

Upcoming seminars
On Saturday, February 6, master gardeners are sponsoring two educational programs likely to be of interest to gardeners across the county.
I looked up the term “book-learning” and one definition goes: “Knowledge acquired from reading books as opposed to knowledge gained through experience; theoretical or academic knowledge as opposed to practical or common-sense knowledge”.
The speakers for both programs have “book-learning” – they have, after all, earned the title of certified master gardener – and have amassed a wealth of practical or common-sense knowledge from their lifelong experiences as gardeners. Moreover, they gladly share their knowledge and experiences with the public.
Chris Anastas will provide a PowerPoint presentation entitled Growing Backyard Citrus from 9:00-11:00am. Chris, who has a sizable home citrus orchard, will discuss a variety of topics including rootstock and variety selection for citrus, cultural care of trees, common disease and insect problems and how to manage them, control of birds and critters and freeze protection.
Then from 11:00am until 12 noon, master gardener Robert Marshall will present a PowerPoint program entitled Citrus Greening Disease. Citrus greening is a bacterial disease affecting citrus fruit that was first confirmed in Harris County in 2014. To help reduce the spread of the disease, the Texas agriculture department has quarantined Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties and two counties in the Valley.
Robert has been trained as a first responder to help identify new occurrences of the disease. His presentation will cover what symptoms to look for and preventative measures home growers can practice to help reduce the chances of citrus trees grown at home becoming infected with citrus greening.
On the same day, master gardener Ira Gervais will present a PowerPoint program entitled Growing Great Tomatoes In Galveston County from 1:00-3:30pm as part two of a three-part program.
Ira will discuss his secrets for successful planting and production of great tomatoes. Program participants will learn about the various varieties that do well in this area and when to transplant tomato seedlings, as well as various growing techniques.
He will also discuss information on soil requirements, needed nutrients and the temperature ranges for best tomato fruit set.
All three programs will be conducted at the Galveston County AgriLife Extension office in Carbide Park. There’s no fee but pre- registration is required, either by e-mail at or by phone at 281-309-5065.
I can vouch for each presenter being “book-learned” and “common-sense”. Additionally, I know that they are also gifted and entertaining speakers. I have attended their seminars on several occasions and have learned something different each time. Even though there isn’t any registration fee, I am tempted to apply an entertainment surcharge fee as they deliver their programs in a most engaging manner.
William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit his website at

SHARKS’ travel habits are the subject of a study being led by a marine biologist at Texas A&M University at Galveston.
This month, David Wells, an assistant professor of marine biology at the TAMUG campus, and a group of his graduate students are spending 20 days attaching satellite tags to sharks to record their movements throughout the Gulf Of Mexico.

Scalloped Hammerhead
By the time their project ends, they hope to have tagged at least 20 to 30 sharks, which they will study for up to two years, analyzing the data recorded by the tags.
Wells said last week that the data will include the sharks’ location and preferred temperature and depth preferences in areas 100 miles offshore between Corpus Christi and New Orleans.
He said his ultimate goal is to have the biggest sample size possible for the study and he is aiming to tag 50 scalloped hammerhead, above, tiger and shortfin mako sharks.
His team is focusing on those species because of a shortage of information about their way of life. It will try to determine where the sharks move and why by concentrating on their feeding habits and the environmental and oceanographic features that affect their lives.
“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about sharks in the Gulf,” Wells said last week. “This includes their general movement patterns and how these patterns are linked to oceanographic features, along with an integration of their feeding habits, which likely plays a large role on overall movement.
“Each tagged shark will have a sensor on it that will relay back the critical data we need to study them.”
Other research groups involved in the project are Harte Research Institute, which studies the Gulf from A&M’s Corpus Christi campus, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Mote Marine Lab and University Of North Florida.

So long, farewell

TODAY’S Gumphrey’s Gaze will be the last as I will be leaving The Post Newspaper on Friday for pastures new.
It has been my privilege to bring you the latest information on Texas’ outdoors, its wildlife and the state’s environment. I encourage you to continually search out new information about what’s happening in the environment, in nature and beyond.
I encourage you to keep getting outdoors, whether it be kayaking through the countless miles of waterways in Galveston County or taking a road trip beyond our humble region to hike up a mountain or trek through a forest.
Whatever you do, make sure you get outdoors and see nature for what it is – the best part of our Earth.
Diligently support the environment and Mother Nature by writing to the politicians who represent you about any thing, action or legislation that threatens our planet.
The planet belongs to all of us; let’s not let it fall to ruin.

GULF COAST residents will soon have a chance to comment on an all-embracing $8.8 billion ecosystem restoration plan announced for the Gulf of Mexico last week.
Trustees for the Gulf Coast region’s natural resource interests say the plan could allocate $238m for restoration efforts in Texas as part of an agreement to restore natural resource injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill using funds from BP compensation for the spill.
The trustees will present the plan to Texans during a public meeting in Galveston on November 10 and have made it available online and at public repositories throughout the region for comment until December 4.
According to the plan, funds will be allocated to meet five goals divided into 13 restoration types covering a broad range of ecosystem impacts at both region and local levels.
The five goals are to restore and conserve habitat, restore water quality, replenish and protect living coastal and marine resources, provide and enhance recreational opportunities and provide for monitoring, adaptive management and administrative oversight to support implementation of the restoration.
Among the 13 proposed restoration types are wetlands, coastal and near-shore habitats and projects for habitat on federally managed lands. Others are aimed at nutrient reduction, water quality and the provision and enhancement of recreational opportunities.
The remaining types aim to restore or conserve the habitats of fish and water-column invertebrates, sturgeon, submerged aquatic vegetation, oysters, sea turtles, marine mammals, birds and low-light and ocean-floor species.
According to the Texas parks and wildlife department, the plan does not identify specific projects for each restoration type but lays out a framework for developing projects in the future.
The meeting at which the plan will be presented for comment to the Texas public will be held at the Hilton Galveston Island hotel, 5400 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, at 6:00pm on November 10.
To see the restoration plan and its accompanying impact statement, go online to

FIVE WINNERS in this year’s State Of Texas Anglers’ Rodeo fishing tournament were from Galveston County, the competition organizer said when announcing its final list of prize and scholarship winners on Monday.
And three of them were students who swept the contest’s Time Warner Cable-sponsored inshore scholarship division, each winning a $20,000 scholarship for reeling in the division’s biggest flounder, gafftop and sheepshead.
Freddie Velez, 14, from Santa Fe won the division’s flounder section, David Hill, 12, from League City won the sheepshead section and Colton Carner, 14, of Santa Fe won the gafftop section.
The other two county winners were adults James Pallan of San Leon and Nathan Crowe of Seabrook.
The annual Coastal Conservation Association contest, known as the STAR tournament, concluded on Labor Day, September 5, after more than 48,000 took part, including around 7,000 new members of
the association.
The tournament dished out 123 prizes this year, with 118 already claimed. The 26 top prizes will be presented to the winners during the CCA State Of Texas BBQ and STAR Awards on Friday, October 9, at the Stafford Centre in Stafford.
This year, the tagged redfish division had five winners of a Ford F-150 Texas edition truck with a Haynie 23-foot Big Foot boat equipped with a Mercury 150 OptiMax XS motor and Coastline trailer.
The truck-and-boat package winners are Scott Hajovsky of Hempstead, Michael Gibbs of Hemphill, Cuong Nguyen of Katy, Ryan Cantu of San Antonio and Joe Contreras of Corpus Christi.
In the adult trout division, winners in each of the upper, middle and lower coast regions will receive a 21-foot Shoalwater Cat equipped with a 150L OptiMax Pro XS motor and a McClain trailer.
James Pallan is the winner in the upper coast region. The middle coast winner is Skip Kramer of Rosenburg and the lower coast winner is Lee Roy Navarro of Corpus Christi.
In the offshore division, anglers who hooked the biggest kingfish, dorado and ling will each take home a Polaris Ranger Crew 570 EPS utility vehicle with a Big Tex 35SA trailer.
Nathan Crowe is the winner in the ling division, the winner in the kingfish division is Krystal Treybig of Wallis and the dorado winner is Austin Overstreet of Houston.
In the inshore division, the catchers of the biggest flounder, gafftop and sheepshead will take home a Blue Wave 180 SV-Southern Skiff with a Mercury 115L OptiMax engine and a McClain trailer.
The flounder winner is Eric Thomas of Houston, the sheepshead winner is Wayne Grice of Houston and the gafftop winner is Larry Capps of Bay City.
For youth anglers, the STAR tournament provided a lot of opportunities to take home a scholarship worth a pretty penny.
In the StarKids scholarship flounder division, Adair Bates, 10, from Corpus Christi, won a $50,000 scholarship.
In the Houston Community Newspapers StarKids scholarship sheepshead division, Martiza Martinez, 8, from Baytown, won a $50,000 scholarship.
In the FS Southwest StarKids scholarship gafftop division, Laken Bellanger, 9, from Orange, won a $50,000 scholarship.
In the Academy Sports StarTeens scholarship trout division, anglers reeling in the biggest specimen in the upper, middle and lower coast regions each won a $20,000 scholarship.
The winner in the upper coast region is Austin Calhoun, 15, from Texas City, the winner in the middle coast region is Tyler Gully, 15, from Houston and the winner in the lower coast region is Collin Dzuik, 15, of Falls City.
In total, the CCA STAR Tournament awarded $5,525,000 in scholarships.
For tickets to the CCA BBQ And STAR Awards ceremony, go online to

Free crapemyrtle trees

ARBOR DAY Foundation is offering free crapemyrtle trees to anyone who joins the organization this month.
New members will receive five free crapemyrtles or five other trees selected for the region along with a book with information on tree planting and care.

Arborday crapemyrtle figure-member-tree-package
The free trees are part of the nonprofit’s Trees For America campaign, a program dedicated to environmental stewardship through tree planting.
“Crapemyrtles are especially beautiful in the fall and were selected for this campaign because of their elegant color and form,” foundation chief executive Matta Harris said.
“Crapemyrtles make an attractive addition to the home landscape.”
The trees will be shipped between November 1 and December 10, which is prime time for planting. The foundation guarantees that the six- to 12-inch plants will grow or they will be replaced free of charge.
Planting instructions will be included with the trees.
To receive the free crapemyrtles, send a $10 membership contribution to Five Crapemyrtles, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by October 31 or join online at

CHRONIC wasting disease has been found in two deer-breeding facilities in south-central Texas, leading the state’s parks and wildlife department to ramp up its efforts to test for the disease.
And the department is calling on hunters to play a leading role in the program.
The disease, commonly referred to as CWD, was first recognized in the United States in 1967 in mule deer at a wildlife research facility in Colorado. To date, it has been found in 23 states.
It is found in deer, elk and moose and causes weight loss and alters the animal’s brain, leading to behavioral changes, including fewer interactions with other animals, listlessness, lethargy, repetitive walking in set patterns and nervousness.
This year, TPWD hopes to make hunters the heroes of its program by strategically sampling their harvested deer for CWD at a greater level than in previous years.
The department is encouraging them to assist with its statewide monitoring effort by voluntarily submitting samples for testing this fall.
Biologists will collect and submit each sample to Texas A&M University’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory at no cost to the donor hunter.
Tissue samples from the heads of harvested deer must be collected within 24 hours of death or up to 48 hours if the carcass is kept chilled. It is extremely important for the test’s efficiency that the deer head is not frozen.
TPWD biologists have been monitoring the state’s free-ranging deer population since 2003 but, with the two recent CWD cases in the state, continued testing is necessary.
Using statistical sampling tables commonly used by animal-disease experts, TPWD biologists have set a sampling goal that would detect the disease with 95 per cent confidence if at least one out of every 100 deer is infected.
Thus far, biologists have collected nearly 30,000 samples from hunter-harvested deer across Texas’ eight ecological regions, in most cases surpassing 95 per cent confidence standards.
To date, the disease has not been found in Texas’ free-ranging white-tailed deer.
According to TPWD, the sampling strategy for this season is being refined to target disease risk levels within the state’s 33 unique resource management units, or RMUs, wildlife conservation areas that the department uses for all other deer-management decisions.
There are criteria in place for establishing risk levels, including factors such as deer density, susceptible species’ importation history and the proximity to a CWD-positive site.
According to TPWD, sampling goals will rely upon hunters’ harvest submissions ranging from 60 to 433 – lowest to highest risk – deer for each RMU and, if biologists can achieve the goals, will result in an excess of 7,000 samples.
The department will also specifically target sampling efforts within a five-mile radius around its CWD index facility in Medina County to determine the prevalence and geographic extent of the disease in that area.
“In the wake of our increased concern about CWD, we are ramping up our sampling effort statewide,” TPWD big game program director Mitch Lockwood said.
“We will be collecting samples from deer and elk and other cervid species in every county where deer hunting occurs.”
Hunters wishing to submit samples can go online to find their local TPWD biologist, listed by county at
The biologist will provide a sample receipt that donor hunters can use to track their samples’ test results online. According to the department, the results could take three to four weeks to process.
The state’s deer seasons start with archery in 238 counties on October 3.