By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Did you know that there are ongoing trials of plants by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in the Permian Basin? Two trials are established and data is being collected. The EarthKind grape cultivar trial and the perennial trial are both located in Gardendale.
Another trial, a rose trial, is currently being planted at the Midland County Courthouse.
These trials are run by the local Extension Agents with the help of Master Gardeners.
AgriLife EarthKind gardens are designed to serve two main goals: educate industry professionals and homeowners on EarthKind practices and identify plants that offer West Texans an appealing landscape and, in the case of grapes, high-quality fruit for eating, canning jellies or making wine.
EarthKind involves soil improvement through the incorporation of plant-based compost and maintaining a four inch layer of organic mulch over the root zone.
Work was begun in 2015 on the grape trial and 2016 on the perennial trial. Weeds were killed with glycosophate and then a 4” layer of compost was tilled in. Posts were installed with wire running in between to direct the growth of the plants. Drip irrigation was installed and then a 6” layer of mulch was applied.
Champanel, Miss Blanc, Lake Emerald and Southern Home grapes were randomized and then planted in four rows of ten plants each. In addition, Herbmont and Lomanto were planted at the end of each row to help protect the grapes during the trial process. Just a few years into the evaluation some plants are showing promise while one variety is not.
The perennial trial was installed much the same way. There are ten flowering plants randomized in 4 blocks. Each plant receives water through its own drip irrigation.
Once the plants are established the water is slowly cut back in an effort to see which plants will grow in our desert environment and which will not. The plants from both trials that show the most promise of thriving in West Texas will be recommended to professionals and homeowners for use.
Keep watching for updates from these EarthKind gardens as data collection progresses.
For more information on EarthKind practices go to AgriLifeExtension.tamu.edu or call your local extension office.