The Newcomers Guide to Gardening in North Texas will be held Jan. 12 at Collin College Conference Center in McKinney. Photos courtesy of City of McKinney.

Jan. 4, 2019

If you think you need a horticultural degree to go up against North Texas fire ants, heat waves and hard clay soil just to grow a garden, you’ll want to mark your calendar for an upcoming event.

Hosted by the City of McKinney in partnership with eight other cities and five agencies, The Newcomer’s Guide to Gardening in North Texas will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 12 at the Collin College Conference Center, 2400 Community Avenue in McKinney.

“The Newcomer’s Guide to Gardening in North Texas event was designed with the transplant or gardening newbie in mind,” says Martha Cavazos-Fipps, McKinney’s environmental education and community outreach coordinator. “The soil, climate and plant species are all very different in North Texas. If you moved here from a mild climate and a place with rich soil, you are in for a shock. We also have pests like rabbits and fire ants that many people are not accustomed to dealing with.”

Newcomers Guide to GardeningIn a series of six presentations aimed at anyone who’s new to the area or just new to gardening, horticultural professionals will share science-based advice mixed with their own gardening wisdom on topics that include how to grow delicious and nutritious food in your own backyard, water conservation, earth-friendly pest control and even how to install host plants and nectar sources to take care of our imperiled pollinators.

Slated to speak at the event are Dr. Greg Church, former Texas A&M AgriLife county extension agent for horticulture in Collin County; Patrick Dickinson, horticulturist and program coordinator at Texas A&M AgriLife Water University; Daniel Cunningham, horticulturist at Texas A&M AgriLife Water University; Nancy Payne, Master Gardener and certified Texas Certified Nursery Professional; Bryan Moore, Collin County Master Gardener and compost operations supervisor at Texas Pure Products; and Gail Donaldson, horticulturist and water conservation manager with the City of Allen.

Topic titles include Why EarthKind is Important, The Dirt on North Texas Soil, Butterfly Gardening, How to Water Wisely, Vegetable and Herb Gardening, and the Top 100 Plants for North Texas. Participants may stay for the all the presentations or show up for just the ones they’re interested in.

Based on feedback from previous gardening events, Cavazos-Fipps says, “We are expanding each topic to cover a bit more. For example, Daniel is going to cover sheet mulching, Patrick is going to elaborate a bit more on turf grasses and lawns and we will have longer for questions and answers at the end of each presentation. We are also adding a few more garden related exhibitors.”

This is the third time the city has hosted the event that has attracted close to a thousand participants from throughout the region as well as locals who just want to brush up on their skills. 

Newcomers Guide to Gardening“Our March 2018 event had record registrations of nearly 700 people from more than 30 D.F.W. cities and people originating from 49 states and 12 countries,” Cavazos-Fipps says. “Attendance is about fifty-fifty. Fifty percent are new to the area and fifty-percent have been here for an extended period of time or are natives that are new to gardening.”

Cavazos-Fipps says the effectiveness of the advice given during the event can be seen in the messages she receives from former participants who want to tout their newfound success. She’s also seen an uptick in attendance at other horticultural events in the area as those initiated into the art of North Texas gardening seek to take their skills even further.

“We have a number of attendees who have shared pictures of their garden projects since our last two events. Many attendees have sent progress pictures over the months to showcase how their projects are coming along. We have one resident in particular who attended seven follow up events and now has the most beautiful yard in his neighborhood,” she says. “Attendees continue coming back to other related events like the Collin County Master Gardener Garden Show, the CCMGA plant sales and expanded green seminars.”

The event is intended to ease some of the frustrations that relocating to a new region can present. As transplanted homeowners unpack and settle in, they eventually take on the chores of maintaining their yard and maybe even planting trees and installing a garden

“There is nothing more frustrating than planting a tree or shrub and having it perish,” Cavazos-Fipps says. “Gardening in North Texas is challenging. Our North Texas soil is different, our climate is erratic and our rainfall is unpredictable. Our expert speakers will share their horticultural expertise and research based information and to help everyone overcome the challenges of gardening here. Honestly, there is no such thing as a black thumb. Everyone can garden; you just have to know the challenges and growing conditions up front and start small with the right plants in the right location.”

Admission to the event is free, but participants must register in advance as seating is limited.

Newcomer's Guide to Gardening

Hosted by: City of McKinney Environmental Education – Keep McKinney Beautiful in cooperation with the cities of Allen, Plano, Richardson, Frisco, Rowlett, Princeton, Prosper, Melissa, Texas Pure Products, the Collin County Master Gardener Association, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Collin County, Texas A&M Agrilife Water University and the North Texas Municipal Water District.  

Info: 972-547-7335 or

When: Jan. 12, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Collin College Conference Center, 2400 Community Avenue in McKinney

Cost: Free


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