Water and Gardening go Hand in Hand

I woke up Wednesday morning to a slow and gentle rain; the kind that makes gardeners smile.IMG_1609

Water from Wednesday’s rain collected in my stock tank.

When it comes to July & August, Texas is a cooker.  I feel fortunate I live in east Texas versus central Texas where I lived previously.  On the whole, Central Texas has always been hotter and drier than east Texas. This year was no exception.

This summer, Central Texas experienced several over 100-degrees F (38 degrees Celsius) days, some of which were record breakers.  In contrast, my little town has yet to break 100 F/38 C.  We’ve also seen far more rain than Central Texas.

For most of July, I watered the in-ground plants every 4 days, and the potted plants get a daily drink.  Watering everything can take a couple of hours, so I work to get it done in the early morning when it’s cool, and of course, any drops of rain are deeply appreciated at this time of year.

I water by hand using a garden hose.  I’d love to know how you water.  Is your water costly? Does your area suffer from droughts and if it does, do you do anything special at those times?

Water can be expensive in Texas depending upon where you live.  There have been private corporations that purchased the water sources for small towns and subsequently increased the prices to outrageous levels.

That’s not happened here, thank goodness.

Apparently, our town wants to conduct a rate study for water and would like to install new water meters. Does this mean our water bills will rise?  Maybe.

Related to the water meters, I came across this fake news article that made me chuckle. I thought you might find it funny too.

IMG_1610

Newly planted (June) Globe Thistle, Echinops Ritro, in mulch.

Most of my in-ground plants are mulched with wood chips.  Some may not need as much mulch once established.

From time to time, I read plant articles from other areas of the U.S. with a negative bent given to mulch. Yes, mulch can be ugly, but I believe it is almost essential for healthy plants in Texas.  I’m guessing other areas of the U.S. get more water than Texas, and their hot temperatures aren’t as extreme and don’t last as long.

All of this post is to say, I think as gardeners it’s important to look at how much water we use and to find clever ways to reduce our water consumption or waste when possible.   I do believe in climate change, and I think water will only become more valuable as time goes by.

Finally, unrelated to water, my Kolstad Inn neighbors gifted me all of their concrete stepping stones, which they plan to replace with flagstone.  I was very happy to get them, and I believe I can use them all.

IMG_1607

Above: Stepping stones from my neighbors at the Kolstad Inn.

IMG_1612

Above: A few stepping stones put into place.

I’d love to add black Mexican beach pebbles around the stepping stones, but they don’t sell them here or in Tyler, TX, our closest big city.  In fact, when I called a Tyler, TX gravel yard to inquire about them, the guy said, “No, we don’t have them.  They cost too much.”  Bummer!

Happy Blogging!

 

Advertisement

Why Garden Tasks are Never Completed

IMG_1008

Free mulch acquired from the tree service who cut down my neighbor’s tree.

The goal:  To distribute the mulch you see above.

The scenario:  You work seven hours in the garden pulling up noxious weeds growing around your plants. You are set to spread your mulch (Go girl, go!), early the next morning.

A note about weeds:

The weed in question isn’t a weed depending upon whom you ask.

IMG_1004

Horse herb.  Isn’t it cute? In Austin, it’s used as a ground cover.  It’s native.  It only grows to 6″ tall in Austin.

So in Austin, Texas Calyptocarpus vialis or horse herb as I call it, was never a weed to me.  It was a plant.  In Austin you can find it for sale in finer plant nurseries such as The Natural Gardener.

In east Texas, little horse herb gets 12-14″ tall and crawls over your cultured plants.  In east Texas, horse herb is a WEED.

But  I didn’t know that when I first moved here so I let it do it’s thing.  Bad choice.

IMG_0998

Area where all horse herb (WEED!) was removed and decomposing leaf litter was sprinkled between plants.

Back to the story:

The morning arrives and you think you’ll be ready to start laying down mulch after two cups of coffee and the reading of a few fine garden blogs.  (Well, maybe more than a few, but we won’t go there.) Regardless, coffee and blogs go well together.

And then you think, I should put in a load of laundry before I go out to mulch, so you do. You also remember you really should call the appliance repair company to see about scheduling an appointment for your under-warranty broken appliance, and you call.

This is when you find out you’ve already been scheduled.  FOR TODAY.  No problem, you think.  The Big Box store that sold the appliance called the repair people for you, but you’re assured the repair folks will call 30 minutes before they come out.

You head to the sink to rinse your coffee cup and the phone rings.  The appliance folks say they’ll be at your house in 5 minutes.  You mention the 30-minutes notice they’re supposed to give you and ask them if they can wait.  (You’re still in your sleepwear, holey T-shirt and underwear, and haven’t brushed your hair or teeth.)  They say “no.”

This is the only time you notice the dirt in your house. The house is dirty because it’s spring. (EVERY gardener knows gardeners rarely-if-ever clean their homes in the spring unless it’s raining.  It brings bad luck, plus all of the dirt can be used to pot a plant at the season’s end.)

IMG_1010

Dust bunny ‘Americanus’  I’m just one dust bunny shy of a load!

In an attempt to clean a little, you scoop up the biggest dust bunny that lives in the hallway and then throw on your clothes. Just as you do, the doorbell rings and the Appliance Guys are there.  You are happy to be dressed.

Thirty minutes pass. The Appliance Guys diagnose the problem and say they need to order a part.  Great.  They leave.

It’s mulch time! Mulch time-mulch time-mulch time!  Finally!

Now, you change from your “Meet the Appliance Guy clothes” to your “Homeless-Style Gardening clothes” along with your matching Homeless Gardener sandals. You are ready.

But wait….Your laundry is finished washing and needs to dry, so if you’re a bit eco-minded and it’s sunny, you might hang them out on the clothesline like I do.

You get the wheelbarrow, wrangle it through the gate, head for the mulch pile, and load up.  Easy-peasy.

Wheelbarrow in place by the plants, you realize your bridal wreath spirea could use some compost before you lay down the mulch, so you grab a bucket and head to the compost pile.  As you pass one of your tomato plants you notice it refuses to stay inside its cage. YOU are the master.  IT is a wild green monster!  It needs to be shackled inside the cage to teach it where it belongs but…wait….It’s noon and time to eat.

New Goal:  Eat lunch.  Mulch later.

This, my friends, is why garden tasks are rarely, if ever, completed.

Happy Monday!

Diggin’ Weeds in the Hot Sun…

Feeling silly:

Diggin’ weeds in the hot sun
I fought the weeds and the weeds won [Repeat: x2]

I needed flowers ’cause I had none
I fought the weeds but the weeds won [Repeat: x2]

I left my doggy and it feels so bad
Is she’s having fun?
She’s the best dog that I ever had
I fought the weeds and the weeds won
I fought the weeds and the weeds won

Diggin’ weeds will never be done…Yes, I fought the weeds and the weeds won.

Have been working diligently on my new planting area.  I spent 3 hours pulling weeds Saturday afternoon after attending the Stephen F. Austin plant sale. Yesterday, I spent another hour pulling weeds and then 6-1/2 hours spreading organic matter and mulch.  (After my old wheelbarrow lost a wheel and the other barrow has a flat, the mulch was carted in one red wagon-load at a time from my driveway.)

IMG_0917

Above:  Mulched area looking right.

IMG_0916

Above: Mulched area looking left.

IMG_0918

Above:  Looking straight down the middle from the back fence.  The remaining weeds are where the path will go and will be smothered by cardboard with a commercial wood mulch on top.

I’m pleased with the result but, in the process, decided the English language needs one succinct word to say, “Too tired to move.”  After some thought, I’ve come up with  smooped = Slow Moving and Pooped.  As in, “I am smooped.”

I played with the drawing made of the planting area on graph paper and filled it in with plants, then yesterday, I re-drew the area with specific measurements, and put the potential plants in place again.

IMG_0932

First drawing above.

IMG_0922

Second revised drawing above.

I think Piet Oudorf influenced me a bit, which is the reason for the purchase of so many grasses.  I love most of Oudolf’s work.

As I played in the dirt, I kept digging up pieces of bricks, iron, bottles, broken glass, a large piece of tin, part of a leather belt, and so forth.  It wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t a car down there somewhere.

IMG_0936

Just a few of the items dug up.  There were far more.

In an attempt to plant the last of three yarrows  (Achillea ‘Terracotta’), I encountered a rock that wouldn’t end.  No matter how wide the hole, the rock or concrete (?) went on beyond my shovel.  I finally gave up and moved the hole.

I can’t imagine how that rock got there.  It’s gotta’ be man-made, and why is it set so deeply in the ground?  Of course, my imagination ran wild…

Perhaps Count Jackula is buried in my garden. (Jackula would be Dracula’s third cousin on his American grandmother’s side and great uncle to Donald Trump.)  Jackula’s slayer probably put a stake through his heart back in 1933 and covered him with a huge impenetrable-to-weak-women rock.

Anyway, after installing 17 plants, I gave out.  I still have 7 more to go plus the 9 that will come by mail and others later. (I didn’t buy too many plants for the area after all.  Yaa!)

IMG_0923

The moaning and creaking that went on in the garden to stand upright after all that planting was worse than what one might hear in a brothel.  My left knee aches.  My left shoulder hurts. My neck has a crick, and my right hip is sore.  A few good drugs or maybe a cold wine cooler would be good.

Back to the Count:  If I could dig him up, I wonder if Jackula would be interested in a job since he’s been out of commission for so long? (I don’t discriminate because of age or choice of beverage.) I could use some help, and Jackula probably wouldn’t realize wages have increased since he’s been underground.  For my part, I could certainly point him in the right direction for the blood of a few folks I’m not fond of. (Let me know if you have any you’d like for him to bite.)

Some late breaking news:  Elly-Belly-Munchy-Mouth, the !@*$! dog, tore up the container that held my foxglove seedlings so I’ll need to start over with them.

I’ll end this post with a photo of my New Dawn rose that bloomed (first time ever) in the rain on Sunday.–That is to say, she’s a little worse for the wear.

IMG_0927

 

 

 

 

The Sky is Orange (Willingness to Learn & Change)

 

img_0368

Photo above:  Water Oak (Quercus Nigra)  Didn’t know they don’t shed their leaves in the fall.  Notice the orange sky.

Not so long ago, recommended gardening practices revolved around routines such as tilling before planting, the widespread use of broad-spectrum herbicides and pesticides, concrete to fill in tree cavities, using only chemical fertilizers, and the planting of primarily non-native plants.

Fast forward to the “here and now,” and we see gardening has changed. A LOT. But NOT for everyone.

Changes?

  • The use of compost and mulch is recommended far more often now than 30 years ago. (The brown pile on the ground in the photo above is mulch.)
  • Suggestions to remove a water-hogging lawn (a monoculture) and replace it with more sustainable ground covers or plants
  • Saving your “ugly” leaves to use as mulch or to put in your compost.
  • We no longer fill tree cavities with cement.
  • Native plants are promoted more often.
  • Suggestions now are NOT to use landscape fabric. It’s kinda’ worthless.

In a recent talk given by Brent Heath from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, he recommended the use of compost over bone meal when planting bulbs. (Bone meal used to be a bulb-planting standard.) Finally, the most current advice for vegetable gardening is no longer to till but to layer organic matter on the soil and simply plant in it or to use a raised bed if the soil can’t be easily re-mediated.

Why do I bring this up?  Is it that important?

I think it’s extremely important.

Newer gardening recommendations are often research-based, not just tradition, hearsay, or the advice of big ag and those corporations who stand to make money off of their gardening products.  Unfortunately, sound plant research is sometimes drowned out by the companies who want our dollar.

Our basic knowledge of what plants need has changed based on updated research.  For example, we’ve learned diverse microbial activity in the soil is crucial to plant health, which is why compost is recommended.  We’ve learned to respect the activity of certain insects that eat other garden pests. (We don’t kill ALL insect just because they are insects.)  We’ve learned planting perennials and trees in the fall is frequently better than planting them in spring,

If gardeners would only take the time to research what’s out there to augment their knowledge, it could make such a difference, but I find a lot of home gardeners don’t.  Instead, they run to the Big Box store, grab Miracle Gro, and expect it to take care of all of their gardening needs.

I believe real life examples are important so here are a few:

I have a friend who is a long-time gardener.  She started gardening at least 10 years before I did.  She took a 3- hour college credit horticultural course in the early 1980’s, and this is where most of her knowledge is derived.  Some of her knowledge is on target, but some in my opinion, is dated.

When I told this friend that I planned to plant a vegetable garden, she immediately advised me to till up the bed.  In moving to east Texas and to lovely sandy loam, I decided to plant directly in the ground versus using a raised bed.  I did some research and decided I’d use the lasagna method—layering cardboard, leaves, and then mushroom compost–on top of the existing soil and to plant directly in this.

My friend wasn’t happy about my veggie garden choice.  She implied I was making a mistake by not tilling. She had never heard of the lasagna method. I told her nicely that by using the lasagna method, I’d have fewer weeds because tilling often brings weed seeds to the surface and that I’d read tilling can affect the tilth of the soil for a very long time.

Her response was she liked weeds.  It’s hard to argue with that, and I didn’t.

Next, when I casually mentioned I planned to make newspaper pots for a few of the vegetable seeds I wanted to grow, she advised newspaper pots weren’t durable even though she’d never tried them herself.  She told me she used peat pots implying I should also use peat pots. (I didn’t tell her peat is a non-renewable resource.) I still made newspaper pots, and they worked fine for my needs.

img_0239

Photo above:  Hole in my pecan tree. Is it owl-occupied?  Maybe.  Notice the sky is still orange.

I encounter this “I won’t change,” and “I don’t need to do research” and “I’ve ALWAYS done it this way” attitude a lot.  It’s the same attitude I see in folks who say global warming (climate change) does not exist, and their evidence for this are statements like “It still got cold this winter.” or that they’ve experienced floods before or (and this is a REAL example) I was told climate change was made up by the government to control us, and the cooling is skewed because official temperature readings were taken in the shade.

Another example?  Back in Austin, a coworker’s neighbor killed their on-the-fence-line tree by accidentally spraying it with an herbicide.  The neighbor never once read the herbicide’s instructions.  He just *knew* what he was doing.  The herbicide was supposed to kill the dandelions.

Even when it’s obvious a garden practice isn’t working well, people still refuse to investigate why or to change. For example, a neighbor mounds mulch up against the trunks of shrubs and trees.  Water can’t get through 6” of mulch, and the mulch could be rotting the bark of the shrubs.  Four shrubs die (all of different varieties) and are replaced and mulched in the same manner.  Three more shrubs die and so forth.

Not wanting to sound like a “know it all”, I give my neighbor an index card with a web address that discusses the effects of volcano mulching and what happens when you mulch up against trunks.  As far as I know, he never went to the web address, and his new shrubs and trees continue to die, and he continues to replace them.

I realize I’m preaching to the choir in this blog, but the push back in terms of garden change is surprisingly strong.  People don’t want to change.  They do it the way they do it because that’s the way they do it.

Frustrating!

In regard to wildlife and climate change, I believe home gardens (all put together) can make a positive impact.  Plant a tree.  Feed a butterfly.  Feed the earth.  Don’t kill all insects with pesticides.  To do this effectively, we generally need to be on the same page and many gardeners aren’t.  They don’t want to read or investigate.  Why?

And my point is?  How do you educate people who refuse to be educated?  If these people believe the sky is orange, I’m clueless how you prove it’s not because even facts don’t seem to matter.

Got answers?  I’m all ears.