We had a great turnout of members. This is the season of the year to gather the nuts so they can be prepared for the students to plant in their classes with Gonzales Master Gardeners. The black walnut trees have played a part in the Gonzales County history. We are proud to have an opportunity to work with the youth of Gonzales to educate them about the black walnut tree history and to plant and raise seedlings. The seedlings are made available to the community through the AgriLife Extension office at no charge. They are distributed annually to those who sign up in advance. Tree distribution this year is November 12.
Every year the third grade students from Gonzales Elementary School help plant Black Walnut tree seeds in the fall so that the trees can be distributed the following year to Gonzales community residents for restoration of this lost species in Gonzales County. The trees are cared for by Gonzales Master Gardeners throughout the year and distributed the following fall. The program was begun in the fall of 2014 and is repeated each year. If you wish to be a recipient of a Black Walnut Tree(s), please contact the AgriLife Extension Service in Gonzales, Texas to be place on the list to receive a tree(s).
The students from the 3rd Grade Class of 2017-18 were asked to draw a design for a sign to be placed at PACE where the walnut trees are grown each year. It would be titled the “Gonzales Elementary Orchard”. One drawing was selected from each of ten third grade classes (approximately 220 students). The judges then had to choose one drawing that would be used to make a permanent 3 x 4 foot sign to be placed at the orchard. The winner was Layne Barnick. On April 20, 2018, Board members Fran Saliger, Arline Schacherl and David DeMent met with the Gonzales Elementary School Principal, Mr. Workman along with Dr. Stroizer, GISD Superintendent, and several other school representatives to judge the art contest held for the third grade students.
Once the sign was completed, the orchard area completed with drip irrigation, and many rain delays, the sign was dedicated on May 22, 2019 with Layne Barnick present at the orchard. This was a great day for all the Master Gardner’s who participated in making this happen. Stop by the Gonzales Elementary Orchard to see the trees which are located at 623 N. Fair Street at the PACE building, home of the Gonzales Master Gardener’s.
Remembering the Immortal 32 from Gonzales County
In memory of the Immortal 32 men of Gonzales County who answered the call for aid at the Battle of the Alamo against Santa Ana in February 1836, the Rotary Club of Gonzales enlisted the help of Gonzales Master Gardeners. Their goal was to plant 32 Black Walnut Trees in the J.B.Wells Park to remember these brave men. The Black Walnut trees were started from seed by the third graders from Gonzales Elementary School in the fall of 2017 as part of the program taught by Gonzales Master Gardeners. The program is an effort to restore and conserve the black walnut tree in Gonzales County. Last October, a dedication ceremony to honor the 32 Gonzales County men who died at the Battle of the Alamo was held at J.B Wells Park along the sleuth just south of the river. At that time, the area was too wet to plant the 32 Black Walnut trees but is an excellent location as the area retains enough water during most years to provide the needed moisture for the trees. On March 27, 2019 the trees were planted and will be monitored by the members of the Rotary Club. It will be exciting to see the progress of their efforts.
The Gonzales Elementary Orchard Update
The area for the tree orchard, south of the PACE building, finally dried out enough that our County Commissioner, Donnie Brzozowski, was able to fulfill a promise to help GMG. A better surface on which to grow our walnut trees and other trees has been needed for some time. The existing drip irrigation was put aside so that the heavy equipment could bring in 4-6 inches of road base material into the area. Hopefully this will alleviate some of the standing water issues we have had before. Jan Fiebig, program leader for the Black Walnut project, is working on a plan to put the drip lines back in place and move the growing walnut trees off the deck and back to the orchard. Stay tuned for volunteer opportunities to help with this project.
The third graders planted approximately 300 seeds last December and approximately 180 of them have germinated. These will be distributed to people in the community sometime in the fall of 2019. If you want some of these trees, contact the extension office to be placed on the list for distribution.
The walnuts are coming up daily now! At last count we had over 50 seedlings that have sprouted and they will continue to sprout for several more weeks. You can see that some have a number of leaves and are up to 6 inches tall while others are just now breaking out of their husks.
The Master Gardeners are doing a study of the productivity of four trees: three from Waelder and one from inside Gonzales. We hope to learn more about how the condition of the trees and the nuts when we harvest them affect the success rate of the seedlings. We have four nut batches and a control batch. And so far, Tree 2 is doing the best by far. We plan to continue our study for several more years as the Master Gardeners and the 3rd grade students of Gonzales Elementary work to help restore black walnuts in our county!
The 3rd grade has planted their black walnut trees. This year we did a little different program for them. Arline, Carolyn Wilkerson and Gail read a skit for the students with a lesson on local history featuring the adventures and achievements of August Kleine and a lesson about conservation and restoration. We encourage students to not only care about their environment but to know that each person can make a difference in caring for the environment.
The school program is just one part of our restoration efforts for the year. We are conducting a modest experiment on the viability of the nuts from our various seed sources to see if we get better trees from one tree than another. You will notice that the trees are separated by survey flags to indicate the origins of the trees and each pot is also marked as to its seed origin. We may need to repeat this experiment for several years before we have any data we can rely on, but it should be interesting.
Thank you everyone who helped with the project this year from the party to get pots ready for the school children to the day of the event. There is a lot of interest in our community about these trees and we look forward to getting more of them out in the community.
By the time you read this, we will have planted a bunch of walnuts with the 3rd graders! We are in our third year of this program. As you know, last year we didn’t have such good results from our nuts—a problem we are working with this year by gathering nuts from several different trees. We were able to gather nuts from three different trees in Waelder in November with help from Arline, Thomas, Jackie, Carolyn P, Gail, Nancy F (and I know I have left someone out.) We now have nuts from at least four trees. We hope to track the success rates of specific trees by marking the pots to identify the tree it came from.
We had a successful potting party last Tuesday and prepped 260 pots to receive nuts. With the help of Fran, Nancy F, Barbara, Carolyn P, Carolyn W, Lynette, Jackie and Gail, we did it all in about an hour and a half including emptying the old pots and unloading the milk cartons Nancy had arranged for us to borrow from HEB. Wow, you should have seen those milk cartons on the back of that truck. They towered over the cab.
We’ll be doing a little different program this year, including a skit for the kids on natural resource conservation and we will let you know how it goes. We are also going to double seed the pots to try to ensure that we get a larger number of trees. I’ve also heard some interest from the community this fall in our efforts to restore black walnuts in Gonzales. It’s great to know that folks out there are paying attention and appreciate the effort.