TYLER – Feral hogs and vegetables are commonly not topics for the annual East Texas Spring Landscape and Gardening Conference, but times are changing, say horticulturalists.

“Recent national surveys and local observations show an increased interest in home food production, so we added both a home vegetable gardening talk, and one on growing fruits in the home landscape," said Keith Hansen, Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticultural agent for Smith County.

"According to one number I read recently, the value of all vegetable production in home gardens – if they were sold commercially – was $20 billion in the U.S. (in 2009)," said Dr. Joseph G. Masabni, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist, College Station.

Another fact that indicated the rise in interest of home production of vegetables was that in the spring of 2009, home and garden centers throughout the U.S. sold out of vegetable sets and seeds, Masabni said.

"I don't believe this has ever happened before," he said.

But ornamental gardeners shouldn’t despair, Hansen said. The conference, set Feb. 13 at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Drive, Tyler, will include standard fair, including favorite perennial plants for East Texas landscapes, controlling moles in home landscapes and floral design.

“Gardening is a very popular pastime, plus good landscaping adds value to the home,” Hansen said. “Our general focus every year is to present gardening topics for both beginning gardeners and those with green thumbs, with an emphasis on preserving our environment through good gardening practices.”

Registration for the program is $15, payable by check or cash at the door at 7:30 a.m. The fee will include a catered lunch and refreshments at the breaks. Speakers will begin at 8:30 a.m. The program will conclude at 3:20 p.m. with the awarding of door prizes.

Dr. Billy Higginbotham, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, will talk about controlling deer and wild hogs in the landscape and home gardens. Hansen will review mole control in yards.

Masabni will talk about “Home Vegetables – Getting Started and What’s New” in the morning session. Masabni, who works with both commercial and home vegetable growers statewide, will also talk about “Extending the Vegetable Harvest with High Tunnels” in the afternoon.

"High tunnels” are greenhouses without additional heating and cooling, Masabni explained. High tunnels are effective in reducing pesticide use, extending the growing season, increasing yields and reducing nutrient-leaching in the soil.

Monte Nesbitt, AgriLife Extension fruit specialist,College Station, will discuss “Fruit Gardening in the Landscape.”

Detailed programming can be found on Hansen’s Web site at http://easttexasgardening.tamu.edu/ .

The event is sponsored by AgriLife Extension, the Smith County Environmental Horticulture Committee and the City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information, contact Hansen at 903-590-2980 or k-hansen2@tamu.edu.