Preserving Native Texas: Conservation Workshops, Native Garden Tours, and Family Festivals!

With spring well under way and summer fast approaching gardeners are getting in gear, families are prepping for outdoor fun, and everyone eco-minded is thinking about surviving the dry months to come. From fun kid-friendly festivals and volunteer opportunities to local sustainable garden tours and informational seminars, you’ll find plenty of spring and summer Hill Country activities that promote watershed stewardship, wildlife awareness, and the ongoing native species landscaping revolution in Central Texas.

Family Festivities and Volunteer Opportunities

Mulching Trees in Austin – TreeFolks

Help keep Austin green, learn about urban forest stewardship, and get a feel-good, practical introduction to the fundamentals of good mulching and composting. Volunteers will help to mulch trees throughout Austin parks, protecting them from the harshest summer heat. All ages are welcome to join in the effort, and drinks, light refreshments, and tools will be provided–just bring yourselves, your sturdiest work clothes, some sunglasses, and a good pair of gloves!

May 31, 7 A.M. – 10:00 A.M.

Nature Nights Summer 2014 – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

A summer series of interactive presentations, expert-guided local hikes, and fun educational activities for kids of all ages that explore the native plants, animals, and ecology of Central Texas. Visit the Plant Petting Zoo in the newly opened Luci and Ian Family Garden, learn about invasive species and Colorado River conservation, and enjoy nature-themed activities and entertainment.

June 12, 19, 26 and July 10, 17, 24, 5 to 8 P.M.

Mother Earth Day Festival at the Springs – Barton Springs, Zilker Park

Bring the whole family and enjoy a special “Earth Day” celebration that’s all about the unique Barton Creek and Barton Springs watershed that sustains the Austin metro area. Learn more about local endangered species that thrive in Texas waterways through interactive games and booths, music, dancing, artwork, puppet shows galore, and appearances by “Barkley” from TreeFolks and The Water Treasure Pirate!

May 9, 9 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.

Garden Tours, Wildflowers, and Hill Country Nature Hikes

Wings Over the Hills – Fredericksburg Nature Festival

Get up close and personal with Texas native wildlife during this weekend of guided nature hikes and expert presentations on everything from attracting local birds, bees, and butterflies to your native species garden to taking amazing field photography of some of the Hill Country’s most spectacular indigenous residents.

April 25, 26, 27

Inside Austin Gardens Tour- Gardens Eclectic

Travis County Master Gardeners Association and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service presents six uniquely sustainable Austin gardens along with kid’s activities, one-on-one educational opportunities, and book sales–see for yourself how stunning sustainable can be.

May 3, 9 A.M. – 4 P.M.

National Wildflower Week – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

This year the Wildflower center presents a special photo exhibit showcasing the beauty of native Texas wildflowers. Enjoy some stunning photography of your favorite Texan blooms and learn more about the evolving role of native plants in urban conservation efforts.

May 5-11

Gardens on Tour 2014 – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

A self-guided tour of the spectacular Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center gardens as well as some of the most impressive private native plant gardens in the Austin area. On-site experts provide information at each stop of this self-paced exploration of the design possibilities for native landscaping in Texas.

May 10, 9 A.M. – 5 P.M

Wimberley Garden Club Tour – Wimberley, TX

Visit six community garden spaces and seven private gardens that show off a variety of eco-friendly design elements and an array of native species. This year’s gardens highlight unique rain water collection features, amazing granite groundcover work, drought-tolerant and deer-resistant native plants, and even some well-composted fruits and veggies.

May 10, 10 A.M. – 4 P.M.

Workshops, Webinars, and Local Lecture Series

2014 CER Lunchtime Lectures – Austin Water Center for Environmental Research

This year Dr. Kevin M. Anderson presents a series of lectures titled “Nature and the American Mind.” A geographer and philosopher with an intense interest in sustainable agriculture, riparian ecology, and the evolution of green urban landscaping efforts, Dr. Anderson’s current lecture series examines how public perception has historically affected–and continues to determine–attitudes and approaches toward conservation in the U.S. Each lecture will be presented three times a month, and all are free and open to the public.

12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M. – see lecture schedule for specific dates and locations.

Ecological Literacy Days – Hornsby Bend

Roll up your sleeves for a morning of outdoor volunteer work followed by an hour-long learning and lunch session. On the last Saturday of every month teams of local volunteers gather to help build and restore trails, kiosks, and native habitat gardens along the Colorado River and Hornsby Bend–bring along some heavy-duty work gear and a pair of binoculars for sighting local wildlife.

9:00 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. – Last Saturday of every month

Home Composting Classes and Rebate Program – City of Austin

Learn about Austin’s new zero-waste composting challenge and keep your garden and landscaping thriving year-round with minimal irrigation. Free composting classes are currently being offered at various locations throughout the spring and summer.

See schedule for a list of dates.

Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers – Online

A free three-part webinar series presented by the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. Learn how water conservation concerns affect Texas’ natural water resources and what is being done to protect them.

April 30, May 28, June 25

Permaculture Design Course Summer 2014 – Whole Life Learning Center (South Austin)

An intensive two-week course featuring classroom instruction on diverse environmental topics, hands-on design projects, and even optional on-site camping for a truly immersive experience. Learn everything from the basic principles of ecosystem stewardship to in-depth day seminars focused on native gardening techniques as well as permaculture design and management.

June 2 – 15

Special Topic Gardening Class: Water Conservation – Sustainable Food Center (Austin)

Learn practical water conservation techniques for your home garden and landscaping, including topics like native plant use, specialized irrigation methods, rainwater harvesting, and how and why to mulch.

Jun 14, 9 A.M. – 12 P.M.