Earth-Kind Research Program at Myers Park
By Dr. Greg Church, County Extension Agent for Horticulture
Earth-Kind Environmental Stewardship is an educational program focused on protecting the environment and conserving natural resources through research based gardening, landscaping, and agricultural production practices. As with any research based program, it is only as good as the science allows. Therefore without additional research, this is as good as it gets. We can’t move forward and improve our knowledge without trying something different. Earth-Kind is a unique and different way of gardening and landscaping. Our Earth-Kind research is designed to push the limits of gardening, landscaping, producing food, and crops while preserving and protecting the environment and our natural resources.
Research based information is important because the results from experiments give us great confidence that the results are true and repeatable. In Earth-Kind, since our recommendations are based on science, the public can have confidence that they will see the same results when they follow our Earth-kind principles and practices.
The Earth-Kind program has conducted state and nation wide trials on the testing of varieties of roses according to the Earth-Kind research protocol. The research protocol is simple, which excludes the use of synthetic, natural, organic fertilizers and pesticides, and limits the use of supplemental irrigation. This ongoing effort has resulted in the designation of 23 rose cultivars as Earth-Kind. These roses do not require fertilizer or pesticides, and are drought tolerant. The success of this research effort relies on plants with strong genetics and the use of wood mulch. Most recently, the Monsieur Tillier and Mrs. Dudley Cross varieties were named Earth-Kind Roses for 2011 by a team of horticulturists with AgriLife Extension, led by Dr. Steve George. The National Earth-Kind Rose Research Trials at Farmers Branch is in its final year of research. In this study, 100 cultivars of roses replicated 4 times are being evaluated by scientists with the Extension Service. This year provides a great opportunity to see the performance of these roses before they are gone.
It was thought that the same concept with Earth-Kind Roses could be possible with other types of plants, so an effort is under way to evaluate additional types of plants at Myers Park and Event Center near McKinney, Texas. In 2010, the first Earth-Kind Perennial Research Garden was initiated with the planting of 69 herbaceous perennial plants. This year we have installed 24 additional plants in the second phase of testing. An additional 22 species of perennials will be added this spring. This major effort of evaluating 111 species or varieties of herbaceous perennials is the first of its kind in the world. The first year of testing has shown that the concepts of Earth-Kind have real merit not just for roses but for other types of plants too.
Our success with the Earth-Kind Perennial Research Garden has encouraged us to pursue other projects aimed at testing other types of ornamental plants, horticultural and agricultural crops. This May we completed the installation of the first Earth-Kind Crape Myrtle Research Garden at Myers Park. The research garden is evaluating 25 varieties of crape myrtles replicated 4 times; resulting in a beautiful garden of 100 crape myrtles in an outstanding landscape design. This garden was designed along with an Earth-Kind Roses Research Garden that is focused on evaluating 19 Kordez Rose varieties. The Kordez roses offer great potential as Earth-kind Roses because they were developed without the use of pesticides. In April 2011, we made the first steps toward developing an Earth-Kind Vegetable Research Garden. This garden is uniquely designed to compare the production of vegetables with and without the use of a hoop house (an unheated greenhouse). The hoop house offers the benefits of storm protection and season extension that result in increased production and risk management. All these research efforts follow the same principles of Earth-Kind Research, which excludes the use of synthetic, natural, organic fertilizers and pesticides, and limits the use of supplemental irrigation.
Regularly scheduled tours of the gardens are available at Myers Park. The first Wednesday of every month starting at 10 am, we will have garden tours. To schedule a group tour visit: http://ccmgatx.org/forms/contactus_form.aspx?i=speaker
The goals of the Earth-Kind Environmental Stewardship program are to reduce the use of water, fertilizer, pesticides, energy, and reduce waste from entering landfills. You can find out more information about Earth-Kind Education and Research by visiting http://collincountygardening.tamu.edu.