Take Care of Texas News: New license plate, spring gardening, and fix a leak week

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Show that you Take Care of Texas with this brand new license plate!

From the $30 specialty plate fee, $22 goes directly to the Take Care of Texas program. Purchase one now, and help us educate others on conserving water and energy, reducing waste, and keeping our air and water clean.


Ready, Set... Grow!

Most of Texas sees its last frost in March, so start now to get your soil ready for spring gardening. You want to plant your garden as soon as possible to allow vegetables to grow and mature during ideal conditions. Using transplants, instead of seeds, can extend the productive period of many crops. Vegetables that are easy to transplant include broccoli, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.

With anything you are planting, find the best variety for your location and climate. It will make a difference. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension provides a vegetable variety selector that lets you search by county or region and also gives you days to harvest for a specific variety. Here are some guidelines to get your garden growing:

- Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable in Texas. They grow best in well-drained soil and need at least six hours of sunlight each day. Tomato Gardening Guide

- Yellow, white, and red/purple onions grow well in Texas and thrive in full sunlight and well-drained soils. You can transplant onions before the last frost, because they tolerate lower temperatures. Onion Gardening Guide

- Spinach and most greens must be grown in early spring. They do not do well in Texas summer heat. Greens prefer full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade. Spinach Gardening Guide

One of the best things you can do for your garden is to use compost in the soil. Compost forms when you mix together things like leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds. When combined with water and heat, the mixture breaks down into a nutrient-rich material that can reduce the need for fertilization and help conserve water in your garden – saving you money. Composting also reduces food and yard waste in landfills.

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If you are worried about how the compost will look or smell in your yard, use a container or bin. There are a variety of commercially made bins if you don’t want to build your own. An enclosed container also keeps out pests and retains heat and moisture needed to break down the materials. If done correctly, the compost shouldn’t have an offensive odor. If your pile smells, it likely has too many “green” materials or is too wet. To fix this, simply turn and mix the compost and add “brown” materials like dead leaves and papers.

The decomposition time depends on a few factors. The smaller the pieces, the faster the materials will decompose. Turning the compost also speeds up the process. If you turn your compost once a week, you can expect the compost to be ready in 3-4 months.

For detailed compost recipes and troubleshooting, see the Take Care of Texas Guide on Mulching and Composting. You may order free copies of this and other landscaping guides at TakeCareOfTexas.org/publications.


Check your faucets, toilets, and valves for leaks.

March 17-23 is Fix a Leak Week. The average household's leaks can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year, or the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry!

water use

Image courtesy of the University of Georgia.

Many household leaks are easily correctable, requiring only a few tools, and the costs are offset by the water savings. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month.

To check your toilet for leaks, place a drop of food coloring in the toil tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak. An old or worn-out toilet flapper is often the cause. Flappers are inexpensive rubber parts that can build up minerals or decay over time. Luckily, replacing them is quick and easy. Visit your local hardware store to buy a new one. Tip: Take your old flapper with you to make sure you buy the right model.

Many leaky showerheads just need a tighter connection between the showerhead and pipe stem. Pipe tape and a wrench can solve the problem. Pipe tape is available at most hardware stores and is easy to apply. For more complicated valve leaks where the showerhead drips when not in use, contact an experienced or licensed plumber. Tip: It's also a good idea to check and, if needed, replace the washer or "o" ring inside the showerhead while making this repair.

Go a step beyond fixing leaks. If just 20 percent of households in Texas retrofit with water-efficient fixtures and appliances, we could save more than 50 billion gallons per year—enough to fill the new Dallas Cowboys stadium more than 60 times.


Win a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4!

contest march

To be entered into the contest, visit our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, follow us, and like the specified photo. Each like/follow is a separate entry, so if you follow all three pages, you triple your chances to win! Make sure to follow us AND like the photo. You must do both in order to qualify.

Contest ends Monday, March 9, at 2:00 pm. We will announce the winner that afternoon on social media. The winner then has 48 hours to claim the prize. Good luck!


Past prize winners:

Congratulations to Lisa G. and Annette S. for winning the Facebook contest from last month’s newsletter. Each won a $20 H-E-B gift card.

Patsy M. won a $40 H-E-B gift card in a Take Care of Texas trivia contest on Facebook earlier this month. Do you know the most littered item in Texas? If you guessed cigarette butts, the winner could have been you!


Electronics Recycling Results for 2014

Texans turned in more than 25 million pounds of electronics to computer manufacturers for recycling. Visit TexasRecyclesComputers.org for more information.





Did you know using a programmable thermostat can lessen your energy use by ten percent and save up to $150 a year?

See other energy-conservation tips in this brand new publication, dual-sided in English and Spanish. Order FREE copies online at TakeCareOfTexas.org/publications.

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(Bring Your Own Bag)

Tips to remember your reusable bags when you go shopping:

  • Keep the bags on a hook near the garage, front door, or where you keep your keys.
  • Write "bring bags" at the top of the grocery list.
  • After you unpack your shopping bags, don’t throw them in the pantry to be forgotten. Return them to your car, or try hanging them on the doorknob of the door you use to leave your home. 
  • Fold the bags and put them between the driver’s seat and the center console, or with your purse, so you easily see them when you arrive at the store.
  • Store extra bags in your car trunk.


Expand your backyard knowledge at these upcoming events.

Take Care of Texas will be at both. Hope to see you there!

Hill Country Home and Garden Expo, March 14-15 in Fredericksburg, hosts HGTV star Abby Vasek and features cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, and an interactive kids' zone. Learn about gardening, sustainable living, solar panels, water conservation, and more.

Texas Wildlife and Woodland Expo, March 28 in Conroe, features free, live demonstrations on taking care of your plants and trees and attracting wildlife. While you learn, the kids can climb a rock wall or jump in a kayak in the Family Adventure Zone.

Groundwater Awareness Logo

Groundwater Awareness Week is March 8-14.

Spring is a good time to have an annual water well checkup before the peak water use season begins.


The TCEQ Environmental Trade Fair and Conference is May 5-6 in Austin.

Exhibitor spaces are sold out! See the draft program for classroom topics. CEU information will be posted later this month, and registration prices increase after March 27.


Thanks to all of our new PROUD PARTNERS:

  • Arlington Bowie FCCLA
  • Baylor University
  • Bear Springs Blossom Nature Conservation
  • Bluebonnet HVAC, LLC
  • Breitling Consulting, LLC
  • Carling Technologies, Inc.
  • Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center
  • City of Mesquite
  • City of Nassau Bay
  • Converse Economic Development Corp.
  • Cook-Joyce, Inc.
  • Crop Production Services
  • CRS Printek
  • EMSI - Environmental Services
  • Endura Advisory Group
  • Fredericksburg Shines
  • Houston Wilderness, Inc.
  • Intercontinental Terminals Company
  • Keep Bastrop County Beautiful
  • Keep CyFair Beautiful
  • Keep Dickinson Beautiful
  • Keys To Understanding Life
  • Martin Brower - DFW
  • NatureReach
  • Prairielands GCD
  • Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District
  • Quintana Beach County Park
  • R.E. Cavazos PTO
  • Ron Perrin Water Technologies
  • Seville Water Supply Corporation
  • Sherwin Alumina Company LLC
  • Texas Tech University Llano River Field Station
  • The Dow Chemical Company - Texas
  • TNG Utility
  • Tyco Fire Protection Products
  • Tyco-Williams Fire & Hazard Control
  • Valley Nature Center
  • WaterSmart Software
  • West Fort Bend Buzz, Inc.
  • Youth For Better Life