In New England, I had a large, traditional vegetable garden – tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplants and squash, pole beans galore.

When we moved to Houston in 2013, I knew that gardening in East Texas was different – spring and fall growing seasons, an emphasis on raised beds due to the thick, gumbo clay that underlies much of the land, different crop challenges.

I found great information at the Fort Bend County Master Gardeners – and joined them, becoming certified as a Texas Master Gardener in 2014. Subsequently, I received additional certification as, first, a Vegetable Specialist and, then, as an Entomology Specialist.

During the three-day entomology course in San Antonio, we not only learned about insects but how to sweep them up in nets and mount them for display. Here’s my modest collection from that experience. Actually, since I prefer photographing them to collecting them, this is my entire collection.   

To receive specialist certification, you have to take a course and complete a project in the specialty. As a science writer with a bent for educating, I gravitated toward two projects involving printed pieces. Once again, I indulged my inadvertent penchant for interesting, creative, labor-intensive volunteer projects.

Click on the image to see the card for Cabbage Loopers. 

For a Vegetable Specialist project,    I wrote and and designed a Field Guide to Vegetable Garden Pests, a set of cards with information on 20 common insect pests, their characteristics and techniques for dealing with them.

Click on the image to see the Bee Talking Points (my photos added).

To assist the Entomology Group in educational presentations about insects – so that each time a new person volunteered to give a talk they wouldn’t have to develop it from scratch – I created a set of “talking points” for topics like insect anatomy, pollinators and other beneficial insects.