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The Impatient Gardener: Xeriscaping in Central Texas

12191534_1222190104461573_2142600566728630340_nXeriscaping in Central Texas means, what? What is xeriscaping for our neighborhood? Taking a look around at yards that are using plants/turf/hardscape materials to alleviate overworking the water system in Central Texas is a good place to start with. The advantages to xeriscaping include:

  • Substantial cost savings in water bills.
  • Conservation of diminishing water resources.
  • Prevention of pollution from environmentally harmful run-off.
  • Reduced yard maintenance requirements.
  • Pride in knowing that you are protecting our fragile environment and limited resources.
  • Aesthetic beauty and increased homeowners options for plant material.

Xeriscaping takes thoughtful planning but in the end it will be much more carefree so that we can spend our time doing other things we enjoy. Soil preparation, plant selection, and maintenance need to be considered.

One garden tip to have at our fingertips is the PDF file called “Native and Adaptive Plants”, a plant guide for homeowners who want to be involved and aware of conservation xeriscaping. I use this one regularly. (https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Watershed/growgreen/plantguide.pdf)

Here are few tips to begin with for Water Conservation:

Buy a garden hose and use it more than the sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems do cover a yard well but the run off can be notice in any neighborhood.

Talk to a neighbor or a friend about how those who have made the obvious shift towards xeriscaping made it work. Find out what they did, how it harmonizes with keeping the neighborhood looking nice.

Our local water utility service offers rebates for installation of rain barrels as well as drought tolerant trees and plants. Let your effort make money for you.

Keeping lawns mowed at about 3” is a good rule of thumb for Central Texas. Mowing regularly also prevents weeds from blooming and spreading as well as keeping snakes, mice and other unwanted critters in the green belt where they should stay!

Mulch. Mulch. Did I say MULCH!!!! Best source you have to protect the plants you spent so much money on.

TIP: Water plants BEFORE a night of freezing temperatures. The water protects the roots from freeze damages. Dry freeze damages or kills root/plants.

Be patient! It takes a good three seasons to get the quality of plant you desire. The rule of thumb experienced gardeners know is, first year they sleep, second year they creep, and third year they leap into action with a well-established root system!

 

 

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From the Impatient Gardener: February Gardening


At the far end of town
Where the Grickle grass grows
and the wind smells slow and sour when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...

(From The Lorax by Dr. Suess)

Or at least some days it feels like this is where I live as spring moves into Central Texas. Yesterday I noted that the trees are budding. Already the grass is ready for its first spring mow. I hear the mowers humming away outside and it reminds me of a Stephen King novel in a normal neighborhood, except that one house. You know the house where things happen in the mind of Stephen King.

Since this is my first year in this climate I plan to watch the trees carefully while they leaf out. Then I will know what I want to put in the landscape next Fall. I know where I want to put a couple of Crepe Myrtle trees and a Knock Out rose bush. No use getting in a hurry.

So on to Spring cleaning!!! I have already been weeding the front garden doing away with the dead annuals that needed to be pulled out. Thankfully we have had some good rain to get the season started. More rain on the way this week.

After living for almost two decades in rainy climes it is new territory to simply need to water the yard. My tall guy and I started doing some research on a sprinkler system. So when I get my garden plan on paper we will call a sprinkler installation service. Again, no rush.

In the meantime, I will get the weeding finished up. Get the plants fertilized, mowed the yard and kill the weeds. And speaking of weeds. Here is a home remedy I have used in the past that works for me.

Weed Killer Prep Tonic

1 cup of liquid dish soap

1 cup of ammonia

4 tbsp of instant tea granules

Mix all ingredients in your 20- gallon hose-end sprayer, filling the balance with warm water. Then spray the weeds.

Note: I find that if I take it down to smaller amounts for small jobs it works too.

From Backyard Problem Solver

by Jerry Baker

The last two things I am doing this Spring is asking local gardeners who have years of experience living in Central Texas what works. I went over to my son’s house a couple of weeks ago and over a pot coffee we talked gardening. I gleaned so many good tips. Another place I am gleaning information is from a local tried and true organic gardener, Judy Barrett. Judy does a online Newsletter monthly. I recommend if you live in Central Texas to get on her mailing list at: http://homegrowntexas.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/feb13.pdf


 

 

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The Impatient Gardener: January Gardening

January is a “non-garden” gardening month. It is a planning month. This year that is become obvious with the month starting with an unusual cold front dancing over Central Texas. It has given me time to do some planning.

This is my first year in my new home. Which means a new garden. I have spent years in either cold zones or wet zones. Or combinations thereof. But now I am living in a very arid place that has been under a severe drought for a few years.

Here are a few things I decided to do this month that would help me get a new garden going. I have very few plants, a freshly sodded yard that needs attention. So where do I start?

The soil sample. If you have been following my gardening blog for any amount of time you know I preach the soil sample. Why? For a few reasons. First I do not know the needs and nutrients that this yard requires. I could waste time and money to just get local fertilizer and plants hoping by guess and by golly I would get it right but, why not know for sure. The second thing is, I need to know what the water needs of this area are. Dependent on rain and rain barrels for over two decades this has now become important. This January the sky has opened up and we are getting an unusual rainfall. Talk about moving at the right time! This part of Texas has been suffering under drought conditions. You may have been aware there were fires in the Bastrop area in 2012 as the drought gripped the area. So now water is “king”. The third thing that is important is, I love to plant. Trees, bushes or whatever. But as I walk around the neighborhood seeing what others have planted I have had a real eye opener. Again, in humid, cooler climes I was able to just put plants in the ground and let the rain do the rest. Now I have to help them along with watering and mulching. So….I am in need of learning what plants are drought tolerant.

Typically January in Central Texas is for planting fruit and nut trees. I am not going to plant either of these things since my yard is so small. So I can mark that off my list. Another plan is putting roses in during January. While I am anxious to plant roses I do not know the condition of my soil yet so, I will have to be patient on that account. I will have plenty of time to plant roses once I get my soil sample back and learn a bit more about the hybrids, floribundas and grandiflora species.

So I turn my attention to watering. With the absence of water soil and plants suffer. I learned it is probably a good idea to water at least one good time during January. But as of late we have been getting some good rain so that takes care of that as Mother Nature is helping me out.

I want to prune a few branches of the small live oaks growing but I will wait until February to do that. Although winter weeding and fresh mulch is always a good idea. The front yard has a small garden that I will clean up and put in some fresh mulch. That is about all I can do right now.

Before I started all these plans I had already created a landscape design that I wanted to develop over time. My tall guy reminded me that we need to get advice about a sprinkler set up before our plans move from paper to garden. I will be putting this plan into practice now. However, being an impatient gardener it is hard to slow it down. Easy does it!

But for now a soil sample, some watering needs along with weeding and mulch is the plan. And, this is a good time of year to clean up my gardening tools and get a place set up to begin the season. And I do have a blank canvas to work with so I am thankful for that! Enough sitting at the computer. Time to get outside!

 “Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them.”
~Vincent A. Simeone~

 

 

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Inside the Concrete Jungle

I have to find a place to be with nature inside the concrete jungle of San Antonio Texas. All around me are sidewalks, freeways and tall buildings. This country girl needs some nature to feel at home. Some days I can walk in McAllister Park. Other days I have to rely on dodging the morning work traffic to find a place to walk and relax. Yesterday I was aware how many flowering plants were along the sidewalk and decided to share with you.

 Concrete Jungle

Wooden bridges and dirt roads,

Through the changing world,

None remain to see today.

Metal bridges and gravel roads,

Safer for us with new improvements,

Only few stand tall but beaten.

Now, concrete bridges and blacktop roads,

Surrounding us in our own deadly world,

Only the concrete jungle lives now.

Strangling us with exhaust,

Motors revving and sirens whirring,

We only keep the concrete jungle now.

Blood is spilt and tears are shed,

The living die and the living cry,
All for this concrete jungle.

Everything turning dirty and black,

As we slowly die,

Suffocated by our concrete jungle.

(http://www.myspace.com/rubyfang/blog/233029092)

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So you want an organic garden?

I like the idea of having an organic garden. And when it comes to my edibles “chemical” free has its attraction. However, I do not want to be over come with weeds or pests. The misconception is, if you do not have huge bottles of sprays and pesticides on the ready to control the natural environment that the garden will look “au natural” or overgrown or weedy. That is not my idea of organic gardening. Nor is time consumption. I do not want to maintain anything that takes so much of my time that I have no life except my gardening.

I do like the idea of composting. That is good organic materials that are going right back into the earth. But I am puzzled as to why this earth that knows how to feed itself needs our help with so many fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. What are we doing to the soil that it is stripped of every nutrient so that we are dependent on the local garden center to reintroduce vital nutrients back into our earthen environment?

For example, I have seen over the years that fall cleaning means to rakedup the yard free of leaves and other debris. Things that grow naturally in my yard. Okay, I am good with that. I don’t like a messy yard but the next step is bag it, burn it or some other disposal option that is “away” from the yard. Then off to the garden center to get new stuff that was never grown in my yard to replace vital nutrients. That is not for me.

Instead I think that composting or mulching with my yard friendly fall leftovers is just smart gardening. My plants know these vitamins and eat them up. And I am not spending uselessly on garden materials or wasting vital energy getting rid of good stuff.

I admit that is an over simplification to be sure but the point is, stripping the lawn environment or vegetable patch is not smart gardening. I do believe there is a time and place for adding amendments that I do not have in my yard. But balance is the real key.

Three things I do regularly are: compost, mulch and water. Then I add as much natural or xeriscaping as I can to make my life easier. Got the latest gardening catalog? That plant you see looks oh so fabulous and would be just right in a special place in the yard. But! It is not zoned for the area. This has happened to me more than once. So now I take a walk or a drive in my area to see what is growing in other yards. Things that are tried and true to survive where ever I am living.

Right now I live in the humid south. Many of my plants are “old timey” plantings that have been here for generations. They need little care and can germinate easily new starts while defying pests and diseases.Can it get any better than that?

Soon I will be moving to a place that is very dry and desert-like. With that in mind I am considering xeriscaping because I see that this new place I am going to has difficulty growing lush plants like I am use to in the humid south. Xeriscaping is perfect for a drought tolerant, low maintenance garden environment and I look forward to do my gardens this way. So I will start blogging my gardening for the desert prairie soil of the Edwards Plateau area of Texas. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

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The jury is out until the tall guy gets home.

Why? Well let me explain. I got up at the crack of dawn, I mean literally, to take my dog for a walk so that we could both get some exercise. After days of raining it is not yet raining today. I thought this would a be a great morning to pull weeds with the earth all soft and easy to work.

And so I grabbed my garden gear and sat down on my little stool to enjoy an hour or so of gardening. It started to really shaped up and I was feeling pretty good about it. I stood up satisfied of a job well done and I started collecting tools, raking up the mess and looking around and there…… and there, at the other end of MY garden is my Lizzie digging away with great glee.

Now, I have a spot that she can dig. She knows that. Or at least up until now she knows that. It is seven years we have had Lizzie so I am pretty sure she knows her spot, right?

Well I scolded her, “Lizzie get out of my garden!”. Off she ran across the yard. Thinking that was the end of that I walked over to throw some stuff away and looked over by the veggie garden. And there she was! Digging and throwing fresh clean veggie dirt sky high! What! What is wrong with this doggie today? Is it too many days being cooped up in the house? Who knows.

I have to say in her defense, when I tell the “tall guy” about his veggie patch, that I did not stop her yesterday when she was digging behind the hydrangeas. I should have but, I will plead lack of discipline as an excuse. I knew I should let her know but I just wasn’t on top of it yesterday.

Now I am thinking this is not going to fly (ha, get it? Fly?). There was no remorse from my Lizzie girl. She ran to her spot she is allowed to dig that is littered with plastic bottles she steals out of my recycle bin and half buried stuff animals with a big muddy smile on her face.

This is not going to be easy to get her inside I tell you, I now have to lasso her with a leash and drag her over to get her feet washed off with the hose so she can come in. Another game mom, ha, okay I am in! All the while she is playing like I do not mean business. I do mean business! But just like a kid, I see her having so much fun with such a happy face and how can I be mad?

Her paws are clean and now I am dirtier that I planned on so it is off to shower and prepare myself to to plead her case. Will my “tall guy” be really mad? Probably not, once he reads this blog he will grant her leniency I am sure of it!

 

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