Author Archives: sheryl.williams

About sheryl.williams

Horticulture Program Assistant

Leafcutting Ants

Large Mounds Made by Leafcutting Ants Too Texas leafcutting ants, Atta texana, are fascinating ants native to Texas, Louisiana, and parts of Mexico. Leafcutting ants create large, extensive colonies, often with multiple mounds clustered in a single area. Mounds are volcano or crater-shaped with a centralized opening and may be mistaken for fire ant mounds, but fire ant mounds do NOT have a centralized opening. Usually, worker ants of this species, who forage for food, are the most commonly seen leafcutting ants, but in spring it is possible… Read More →

Texas Tough Plants Featured in 2024 Webinar series

Texas Tough Plants for Austin These past couple of years have been especially hard on our landscapes. The extreme cold and summer droughts have left gaping holes in many of our yards, and it’s hard to know which plants should be chosen as replacements. Help is on the way! Webinar Series Focused on Plant Selection Travis County Texas A&M AgriLife will be hosting several programs in 2024 to help Austin area gardeners be more successful. Topics range from native landscapes to container gardening. The program features experts from… Read More →

What’s Happening in the Austin February Vegetable Garden

The Austin February Vegetable Garden Checklist by Paula Wolfel This month is filled with multi-tasking in the garden. For those who have a winter garden, you will spend this month cleaning up from last’s month’s freeze and continuing to be on the defense, protecting your garden from temperatures that drop below 32 degrees. Take advantage of the warm days and pull weeds and pick and discard any frozen/defrosted, dead leaves or plants. Early in the month, work 1-2” of compost into your soil and put a layer of… Read More →

Exoskeletons – The Part That Goes Crunch

Why Insects Crunch by Wizzie Brown Insects and other arthropods have an exoskeleton, which means their “bones” are on the outside of their body. The exoskeleton serves as a protective covering, helps prevent desiccation, allows muscles to attach to it from the inside for movement, and provides sensory information. Four Layers The exoskeleton is made up of four layers: epicuticle, procuticle, epidermis and basement membrane. The most outer layer, the epicuticle, serves as a barrier to the outside environment and helps the insect avoid desiccation. If you have… Read More →

What’s Happening in the Austin January Vegetable Garden

The Austin January Vegetable Garden Checklist by Paula Wolfel Many in Austin saw at least one freeze by early December.  With that occurrence, I picked the last of my summer eggplants and made Pasta alla Norma and Eggplant Parmigiana (both can be stored in the freezer if you have a lot of eggplant) and I pickled my jalepenos.  And with that is the end of my summer garden—except my chard—and magically space in the garden is free for more winter vegetables like greens, lettuces, brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower,… Read More →

Woollybear Tiger Moth Caterpillars

Woollybear Caterpillars Common Right Now Woollybear caterpillars of the Tiger moth have been a common sight lately in the Central Texas area. These insects are native to the United States and are sometimes called “woollybear caterpillars”. “Woollybear caterpillar” is a more general term that refers to various species of caterpillars that are densely covered in hairs, called setae, and tend to wander. Common Color Variations While these caterpillars can be highly variable for individual species, the common ones seen lately are woollybear (Isabella tiger moth), saltmarsh caterpillar (saltmarsh… Read More →

What’s Happening in Austin’s December Vegetable Garden

December Vegetable Garden Checklist by Paula Wolfel The short lived cold front that passed through a few weeks ago definitely teased Austinites.  My basil plants took a beating and my summer squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes that were already struggling from the drought did not survive. But my eggplant and peppers are still going strong, so I face the struggle of every Austin gardener: when do you call it quits and move on to the next season!?  Hopefully by now you have your brassicas, root vegetables, and leafy greens… Read More →

What’s Happening In Austin’s November Vegetable Garden

November Vegetable Gardening Checklist from Paula Wolfel November is a beautiful time in the Austin garden: pests start to ease up or disappear and the heat and humidity are also gone. Gardens are filled with brassicas, leafy greens, and artichokes, while root vegetables are starting to pop out from the soil. There are also still so many flowers and pollinators. Summer Harvest and Seed Saving Summer plants that survived the harsh heat and drought of this summer will continue to grow until the first freeze, which the average… Read More →

How to Choose Vegetable Varieties

Have you ever found yourself at a garden center, staring at a rack of seeds or a table full of transplants and wondering how to choose vegetable varieties for your garden? The many selections at nurseries and online can seem a bit overwhelming, and ending up with plants you don’t need can be costly. The following tips may help with the decision making. Plan Before You Buy Assess your garden situation, considering the space you have, the time you can devote to tending plants, as well as the… Read More →

Texas Tarantulas by Wizzie Brown

Texas Tarantulas Use Hair As Defense Tarantulas, also known as baboon spiders in Africa or hairy spiders in South America, are the largest spiders in the world. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Tarantulas have two body regions, eight legs, and hairy bodies. Tarantulas that are found in North and South America have hairs used in defense. These tarantulas use their legs to flick hairs off their abdomen and into the face of predators. Hairs cause irritation to the eyes and mucous membranes. Tarantulas can… Read More →