For over three weeks, I’ve plowed the matter of fertile young brains, and ignored the gardens that feed me calm and provide me with peace. I have completed the evaluations for the first progress reports, rain has come, and I have progressed into my gardens.
Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled to New Mexico to once again escape the relentless Texas heat. The sun shone brightly, but the temperatures during the day were cool. I wore a light cardigan the entire time. The experimental Little Garden planted by the front steps had not only survived but thrived in the intervening two months. With apologies to William Shakespeare, Alas, poor, Hollyhock! I knew him, a fellow of most infinite stamina, of most excellent fancy, the mule deer have not allowed you to grow. We struggled with the return to Austin.
Ruidoso garden two months after planting
We did have hope for Another Garden, our neighbor called us in NM to report that it had rained almost two inches in the country. It seems that the weather pattern is changing due to El Nino’s influence. All of Central Texas had rain over the span of several days. Some areas received almost four inches while the Garden received only tenths and temperatures remained in the high nineties. However, cloudy skies helped retain soil moisture from the limiting Stage 2 Water Restrictions. The Garden looks good.
It appears that, as of right now, it will not go down in the record books as the hottest summer ever in Austin. We have had 68 days of temperatures above 100 degrees. We need 69 days to tie and 70 to win. Rains came this past week, and temperatures stayed in the eighties or below. It was dreamy to awaken in the middle of the night and hear the tap, tap, tap of raindrops on the roof. Unfortunately, the dream turned nightmarish Saturday morning when we awoke to discover four roof leaks. A new roof is in our future. We shopped Saturday, and every establishment had buckets sitting about catching drips from leaky roofs. The drought was hard on things other than trees, lawns and gardens. Our neighbors had a major water line break beneath the front sidewalk that was attributed to dry and shifting soil.
THE RAINS CAME! The Garden received about two inches at the end of the week, while some areas to the north and southwest received more than five resulting in flash flooding and road closures. A weather low stalled over Central Texas and provided the slow, soaking rains and ameliorated the temperatures. The fifteen day forecast predicts nothing over ninety and several days with temperatures in the low eighties. I am conflicted though. After suffering all summer with high temperatures, why shouldn’t we set the record for the hottest summer ever? At least we would have bragging rights; now we’re just second best!
Smart phones justly deserve their accolades. David and I intently watch weather radar on ours whenever storms arise. We have eight hungry mouths to feed at Another Garden. Grass is our chief crop there, and it hasn’t grown this summer. David has been weekly feeding an expensive bale of hay to the longhorns and donkey all summer long. What an extra expense! We monitor closely for rain there no matter where we are. Because for several days green and yellow have predominated on the radar map, we drove out Saturday evening. Since David’s last visit two weeks ago, we had received almost four inches of rain. The creek flowed, and the tanks contained some water. The temperature of 67 degrees allowed us to sleep with the windows open–a gift that we don’t receive usually until the middle of October. We both slept soundly.
I have not been to Another Garden since June because it is painful to my soul to see the landscape and gardens suffer so. After each of David’s trips, he repeated that it looked like another world. On Sunday morning, I could imagine what it must have looked like. The meadows and pasture quickly had turned to a desert like “Pink Sands” or perhaps looked like a supernatural force had scorched everything with a giant flame thrower. We lost some trees, declining oaks; hackberries; and a few Texas persimmons. Some native shrubs like white brush, yucca, and lantana are brown and appear to be dead. Native fall wildflowers are nonexistent. Some of our plantings like the desert willow and yellow bells, and Turk’s cap, and purple sage, and vitex survived only because of David’s tenacious watering. These are all recommended xeriscape plants. When we are behind more than thirty inches in average annual precipitation over the past year and one-half, even “xero”scape plants can’t survive. The pictures below certainly are not typical of those found on a garden blog, but they illustrate the severity of our summer. Perhaps, the next posted pictures of Another Garden will provide a more pleasing picture.
No grass at Another Garden, September 2009
Yucca, a victim of the 2009 drought
Frost weed, a fall blooming native wildflower
Stressed and dying hackberry trees, September, 2009
The sun is peeking from behind the clouds and rain is ending, but perhaps this is the beginning of a more normal weather pattern. To all my gardening friends, please keep rain dancing and the collective consciousness thinking rain!