What’s new in the garden? Renovation at Pfluger Bridge Garden

Travis County AgriLife Extension Demonstration Gardens

Here’s what’s new in the garden this week at the Earth-Kind® Demonstration garden at Travis County AgriLife Extension.

French Sorrel Thriving in the Herb Garden

Pat Cabella, Master Gardener for the herb area in the AgriLife garden, cut back the French Sorrel (Rumex scutatus) a while ago. It is now flush with growth and ready to pick again. French Sorrel can be tricky to grow here in Austin because it wants regular irrigation and shade. Luckily it has both in the herb garden bed here at AgriLife.

Dahlia Blooms Persist Despite Cold

A surprise bloom peeks out of  the layered garden managed by Master Gardener Jane Peart. Jane planted several Dahlia (Dahlia pinnata) seeds and tubers in her area this year, and right now ‘Karma Lagoon’ is still blooming. It’s a shock of pink color that has caught the attention of the bees that are still hanging about. You can see what else Jane has planted by visiting the Earth-Kind® Demonstration Garden plant list.

Perfumed Air Courtesy of Mistflower

The White Greg’s Mistflower (Eupatorium havanensis) is covered in blooms and scent. It’s right by the sidewalk and the sweet perfume catches you off guard as you come into the office. The tiny white blooms are a favorite of all sorts of native bees, including some impressive black bumblebees. This shrub can also be a important source of nectar for migrating Monarch butterflies.

New Plants at Pfluger Bridge Garden

A renovation is underway at the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge garden,. The bridge spans Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin and connects up the north and south sides of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. The initial planting from a few years ago outgrew the space.  The new plants are primarily from the Texas Superstar® list. Texas Superstar® plants have been tested by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and have proven to be good performers under the tough growing conditions throughout Texas. You can see a list of what has been planted here: Pfluger Bridge Plant List


The Red Flags of Diet Advice & Where to Turn for Help

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@SpendEatSmart Whether it be probiotics to boost your gut health or intermittent fasting, everyone seems to be an expert. While there is no shortage of diets, reliable nutrition information…

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Why You Should Create a Personal Health Record

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@BerkeleyWell Have you ever struggled to answer questions from your doctor about your health history because you can’t recall certain details, such as dates or test results? If so, keeping a personal health record (PHR) might serve you well.

View Full Article: https://bit.ly/2Df0InR

Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health

nuts arranged in a heart shape

@MayoClinic Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet may be good for your heart. Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients. And they’re a great snack food.

View Full Article: https://mayocl.in/2CgVhEo

The Yoga of Starting

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By Carol Blanchard
Master Wellness Volunteer

If you are like me it is the actual starting of something that requires the most effort.
Do you find yourself delaying your morning walk by trying to find your shoes, or filling up your water bottle and gathering up your hat? Then there is hoping for emails on your phone, making sure lunch is made, responding to kiddie cries and all the other morning rituals that demand our attention.


Starting a yoga practice includes all of the above. But what is really great about your home yoga practice is that it doesn’t requires shoes, not even a yoga mat. I love using a mat for many reasons but think of all the yogis throughout the centuries who never heard of a yoga mat. What is so special about your home practice is that it can be done anywhere. A small area in your bedroom, an available hall or room or best of all, outside on a grassy patch all make great places to do your yoga. I think we all know those places where we feel more peaceful, secure and private. Finding your place is the first and most satisfying way to begin your home practice.


Now that you’ve identified your home yoga practice place, it’s time to actually take your first breath. Here is where our busy, over-active minds can inform us that we really don’t have time for this today, or question whether we are doing it right or maybe we need to take the incoming phone call just as we think about getting started. Does this sound familiar?


All of us begin right here. I sometimes tell myself that ok, all I will do now is take 3 full breaths, following the path of the breath from my nose to filling my low belly and reversing that path on the exhale. Interestingly enough, after those breaths I just might want to use my arms to increase the capacity of my inhale and the bend forward to deepen my exhale. One thing leads to another and I then might continue with a longer yoga session.


Ok, we’ve started! Wow, we’ve gotten over the first hurdle. But that’s not the best part. The best part about starting is that we can start over and over again throughout the day! We can take these Breath Breaks in our car while waiting in traffic, or give ourselves a Breath Break mid-morning at work, or while standing in line at the grocery store. Starting our practice has many benefits and whether we use our starting breaths to begin a home practice or just to clear out our busy minds during the day, we gently take control of our habits so that we can develop the healthier ones that we prefer.

6 Things to know about travel-related ailments and complementary health approaches

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People planning to travel internationally are often interested in complementary or integrative health approaches for travel-related illnesses and conditions. Some of these approaches for travel-related health problems are promoted widely in advertising or marketed on the Internet. However, little of this information is supported by research evidence, and some of it is misleading or false. Here are 6 things to know if you are considering using herbal remedies, dietary supplements, or other complementary health approaches for travel-related ailments and hazards.

  1. Malaria. Although some Web sites and news stories have claimed that using the herb artemisia alone may prevent malaria, studies show it does not. The World Health Organization recommends against using artemisia plant material in any form (including tea) for treating or preventing malaria. Additionally, travelers should not attempt to use quinine (from the cinchona tree) to self-treat or prevent malaria.
  2. Zika virus. There is no evidence that any herbs or other products, such as activated charcoal or diatomaceous earth, will protect against or treat the Zika virus.
  3. Probiotics. Research on the use of probiotics in treating acute infectious diarrhea is generally positive. Results from studies on preventing travelers’ diarrhea are mixed but encouraging. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any health claims for probiotics.
  4. Jet lag. Melatonin supplements may help with sleep problems caused by jet lag. Relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation and mindfulness-based stress reduction, may help with insomnia, but it has not been established whether they are effective for jet lag.
  5. Insect protection. Laboratory studies found that botanicals, including citronella products, worked for shorter periods than products containing DEET. For people who prefer to use botanicals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), such as the products Repel and Off! Botanicals.
  6. Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.

How to be Healthy on a Budget

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

You might think it is hard to eat healthy when you do not have a lot of money. Sadly, when people think this way, they pick up unhealthy nutritional habits. There is a way, however, to be healthy on a budget!

Before you go to the grocery store, check to see what you have in your pantry or refrigerator. This helps you figure out what you need to buy. Also, take the time to plan family meals. This will also help you make a list of the foods you need to buy. If you look at your schedule, figure out what easy meals you can make on the busiest days of the week.

Image source: Flicker (USDA, CC BY 2.0)

Another way to save at the store is by using coupons. When you select coupons, look at coupons for items you will use. If you have a tight budget but want to try new healthy foods, take advantage of coupons! Also, check out deals throughout the store. Did you know stores like to put the expensive items at eye level? Look at the items on high and low shelves for deals too!

According to MyPlate, you need to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. When you buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season, they are less expensive and are at their peak flavor. Eating fruits and vegetables fresh, however, is not the only option.

Did you know the benefits of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables? People believe canned and frozen fruits and vegetables do not have all the nutritional value compared to fresh produce. However, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables may actually have higher nutritional value because they are processed soon after harvesting. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables also last longer and are quick to put in your meals when you do not have time to eat or get fresh produce. This allows you to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your meals. Consider buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables today!

Check out Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tips-for-every-aisle

Image source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

It can be especially difficult for families who have low incomes to be healthy on a budget. When families do not have good nutrition, this can affect their health and delay development and learning. Fortunately, there are programs that help low-income families maintain good nutrition.

Become familiar with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides monthly assistance to buy foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread, cereal, poultry, milk, and meat.

Families, who have children under the age of five, check out the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). WIC provides food, health care information, nutrition education, and promotes breast-feeding to low-income women and children who are at risk for poor nutrition.

Take advantage of school meals too! Children are given free or reduced cost breakfast and lunch at school, depending on the family’s income level. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ensures that school meals are healthier by serving low-fat diary, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats.

Remember, look for deals throughout the stores and use coupons! Consider frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Finally, become familiar with assistance programs you qualify for! All of these tips help you manage your food and be healthy on a budget.

How to Keep Your Teen Healthy?

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT-Austin Spring Intern

Adolescence is a period of time during which teens are exploring their choices and adjusting to emotional, mental, and physical change. Not only do you have to worry about the choices your teenagers are making but you have to worry about their nutrition too! It is important we understand teenagers are going through their second major growth period. That is why the nutritional needs for teenagers increase greatly. In order to stay healthy, you have to make sure teens are eating right!

Image source: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/take-charge-your-health/Pages/take-charge-your-health.aspx

Teenagers may engage in risky behaviors that affect their health. During the teenager years, body insecurity is a big deal. When teenagers want to lose weight, they may limit eating all together. Some teenagers take laxative pills or try to make themselves throw up. This can be bad for teenagers because they are not getting all the nutrients that their bodies need to grow healthy. This may also lead to eating disorders.

For more information about eating disorders visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders

There are ways to stay healthy without these risky behaviors. You and your teen should take the time to plan grocery lists and meals. Make sure your teen eats breakfast every day. A banana or apple can be enough if time is limited. Packing school lunches and eating dinner with the family are ways you can keep up with your teens healthy eating.

Image source: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/nutrition/Pages/A-Teenagers-Nutritional-Needs.aspx

Below are tips to choose healthy foods:

Fruits & Vegetables
Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
Add tomatoes or spinach to sandwiches
Choose whole wheat grains like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal
“Power up” with low fat or lean meats like turkey or chicken
Choose seafood, egg whites, beans, nuts and tofu which are also great sources of protein
Choose fat-free or low-fat milk products
Choose Lactose-free milk or soy milk with added calcium


Physical activity will help your teenager stay active and healthy too. Running, hiking, dancing, soccer, volleyball, and basketball are only a few ways in which your teen can stay active and have fun! Teenagers should be active for 60 minutes a day. Being active with others also helps make friends!

While not nutrition specific, the Austin Healthy Adolescent (AHA) Program works with communities across Travis County. The AHA support the youth in becoming involved in their health and improving the health of their communities. For more information visit http://www.austintexas.gov/department/healthy-adolescent

Get educated about your teens needs to provide the best nutrition. Teenagers with good nutrition grow to their full potential!

Let’s Talk about Breastfeeding

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT-Austin Spring Intern

There is no doubt that breastfeeding is a healthy practice for mothers and babies. The problem is not all mothers know the benefits of breastfeeding. Mothers may also have questions about breastfeeding. Some of these questions may include, are there foods I should avoid eating while pregnant? How often should I breast feed? How will I know whether my baby is getting enough milk? When should I introduce the bottle if I decide to stop breastfeeding or alternate between breast milk and formula milk? Doctors tell mothers that babies should be fed only breast milk for the first 6 months. It is recommend that babies should be fed breast milk up to their first year too.

One of the benefits of breastfeeding is that it might help mothers lose weight. The woman’s uterus returns to the size it was before birth too. Breastfeeding also lowers the chances of breast and ovarian cancer.

The benefit breastfeeding brings to babies is the lowered risks of ear infections, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding give mothers and babies bonding time too. Breast milk is a great resource for limited resource mothers. As long as breastfeeding is done regularly, breast milk will always be available to the baby. Babies are also able to digest breast milk more easily.

There are programs in Austin that are looking out for mothers. Some programs educate women about their nutritional needs and other programs focus on breastfeeding.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) educate people with limited resources about nutrition. EFNEP added a class this year for pregnant women and teens. In the Today’s Mom class, mothers take part in fun activities with other mothers and the adult educators of EFNEP. Mothers also learn how to practice a healthy diet while being pregnant. This builds a sense of support and community.

There are some requirements women have to meet to attend the class. Women or teens must be pregnant. Expecting mothers must be participants in federal food assistance programs or be at or below 185% poverty level. This helps limited resource mothers get help for their special needs.

Image source: http://texasmotherfriendly.org/everyone-benefits

Other resources in Austin for mothers include:

Mom’s Place has peer counselors that help mothers in the process of breastfeeding. At Mom’s Place there are also free weight checks for babies. Visit www.momsplace.org for more information.

Texas Lactation Support Hotline (1-855-550-6667) answers to questions and concerns about breastfeeding. Visit https://www.dshs.texas.gov/wichd/bf/hotline.shtm for more information and locations with WIC partners.

La Leche League holds meetings for breastfeeding mothers. Visit http://www.texaslll.org/central-texas for meeting details, times and locations.

Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin provides donor breast milk to very sick babies. Visit http://www.texasmilkbank.org/ to learn how you can help.

To help mothers feel good about breastfeeding let’s support them in doing so!

Stay Physically Active with Your Family Year-Round!

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Do you find it hard to be active with your family? The key to an active family is finding fun and exciting things to do! Combining a healthy diet and physical activity is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To be healthy, you can be physically active with your family! There are activities you and your family can do every season no matter the weather outside.

Image source: Flicker (Va. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When you find yourself indoors during winter, taking the stairs instead of the elevators is a good way to start being physically active. Consider taking a stroll with your family at your local mall too. If you prefer to be outdoors, consider playing a friendly game of football or soccer with your family!

Spring is a beautiful time of the year. Outdoors is where you want to be! Consider setting up a garden with your family in the backyard. Ride your bikes together around the neighborhood or take a walk at your local park. If you find yourself indoors or it is family movie night, get up and walk in place during commercials.

Summer is an exciting time of the year for all. Go camping and hiking as a family! You should make walking, running, and biking regular activities to do together!

While the air gets colder during autumn, do not let that stop you from continuing those family walks around the neighborhood. If you prefer to stay indoors, follow an exercise DVD or video with your family. Do not feel silly engaging in fun physical activities together!

Image source: Flicker (Joe Van, CC BY 2.0)

In Austin, many events are fun and exciting for the whole family. Below is a list of popular events you should check out. These events will keep you and your family active!

For a full list of events visit http://austineventsandfestivals.com/