Monday, March 21, 2011

Oklahoma Redbud

Two young Oklahoma redbud trees were on the property when we moved in last December, two Texas natives all but surrounded by invasive, non-native photinia. I took a cutting from this one Saturday, placed the cut stem in water and about a half inch of new tap root was showing Sunday! The stem was treated with root hormone powder and placed in potting soil.

Work with what you've got

Cat litter buckets, particularly flaming yellow screamers like these, may not be the most aesthetically pleasing choice for container gardening, but they serve the purpose. The price is right if one must buy cat litter, and they make themselves useful in other ways.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Project Planning...or something like it

Everything I've ever read about gardening invariably started out the same way: Plan Your Work, and Work Your Plan. I'm sure you've seen or heard the same theme, too. All them what are supposed to know always say to meticulously plan out your garden plot, neatly diagramed and labeled on graph paper, ere ever putting plowshare to dirt.


That's fine and dandy, I suppose, for all the meticulous planners and designers out there. I'm not one of those people. I tend to be, shall we say. Shoot from the hip, and let the seeds fall where they may! Yeah, yeah, yeah; I know it's far easier to correct a mistake on paper than it is in the yard, but you know what? We seedslinging, organic types don't make mistakes. We have happy accidents!

Not to say that I do not plan my work at all. I plan...sort of. My approach to planning, however, comes more from the make-it-up-as-you-go-along school.

Project in point is our new-to-us digs in the Brook Village neighborhood, and this blog will be following that project in the weeks and months to come. This Sunday morning mostly was spent preping an old flower bed along the western edge of the backyard. This area is home to a couple of rose bushes of yet-to-be-determined variety and old photinia runners along with an odd lot of velcro weed, dandilion, henbit and other assorted rascals. This week past we've evicted most of the invaders, scattered a home-tossed mix of herb seeds and installed two hills of zucchini squash.

Today we followed up on what was started by extending the concrete border blocks and working sand, humus and manure into the soil in the newly-turned section. Not sure what direction that plot will take. Leading contenders are a couple of "Silverado" sage shrubs, perhaps another yaupon, a pondling (not enough room for a legitimate pond) or other water feature and just maybe some sample stands of the taller native Texas grasses.

Both the roma and cherry tomato seedlings broke out today. Those seeds went into containers (recycled cat liter buckets) March 13. The Turtle Island water feature--a most minature pondling and place holder for a water feature to come--just happened while on a breathing break from working in the dirt. That's a big part of the appeal of my kind of planning. I'm not locked in from the git-go!
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Making rain and creating rainbows

Perhaps it is because I am a grandson of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and wartime rationing that patience never has been my long suit. I don't want much, but what I want, I want NOW.

Set up camp in the backyard Saturday morning on the pretense of "doing yard chores". That was about 10:30, and the temperature already was north of 70F degrees. Cedar row between our house and our neighbor lady to the east was cacophonous with boat-tailed grackles, but it beat all to hell whatever babble was issuing forth from the TV inside.

Right off we got the rainmaker going on the front lawn as it takes right at an hour to deliver an inch of water across the yard. No doubt you've heard by now that the Rolling Plains--all of Texas, for that matter--is facing what the folks that are paid to know are calling "moderate to worsening" drought conditions. Here in River City we're running some 7.5 inches behind our mythical annual rainfall average. When that happens responsible citizens (and I pretend to be one) begin throwing water at their lawns, mainly to keep alive turf grasses that have no business being in this part of the country. With any luck and a lot of education, we may be able to change that pig-headed behavior before we go completely dry. Anyone who cares to read more on what I'm talking about is encouraged to read Eric Berger's piece from the Houston Chronicle, "Drought's grip threatens state with arid 2011" .

But I digress, for it was not a lack of patience, waiting on the Lord to deliver rain, that got me going Saturday. It was that damned itch to scratch in the dirt. Around these parts our mythical average last frost is mid March, but everyone knows to be prepared for what is known as the "Easter Freeze". With the warmer than normal weather we have experienced for over two weeks now, I have been not entirely successfully resisting the urge to put seed in the ground. Yesterday I gave up and gave in.

The good news is if we do get that late freeze down the road, the roma and cherry tomatoes are in recycled cat litter tubs that can be brought inside. The sage, dill and poppies, however, will just have to take their chances with what Ma Nature delivers.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bloomin' Redbuds

Spent the late morning and early afternoon clearing out underbrush along the back fence. A tangle of shrubs gone wild and invasive vines from who knows where, that 20-foot run was where Stanky, the outside cat, and assorted other feral felines liked to lie in wait to ambush birds coming in to the feeders. Damned cat just kept giving me the Stank Eye all the while I was trimming out his playhouse which made the chore that much more gratifying.

The calendar records today as March 5, a good ten days shy of the average final frost date for this hump on the Rolling Plains. Tackling the tangled fringes of our still new-to-us backyard is my primary strategy for not putting seed in the ground, even as the urge to sow grows with each passing day of temperatures well above seasonal normals. Yes, I know seeds could be started indoors now, but I prefer not to do that for a couple of reasons. The first is lack of space for flats of seedlings, and the other is indoor cats and a dog, all of whom would dearly love to "help" tend indoor starts.

Reckless bradford pear trees bursting into full bloom all over town do not help. Then just today I discovered that buds had erupted on two redbud saplings out back. I knew of the one along the eastern fence, but the second one was not discovered until this morning's clearing chores. Talk about pleasant surprises!

Nor is it just early-blooming ornamentals pushing the season. With consistent daytime highs pushing 80F the tank tops and hot pants are bursting out all over, too. Hell, the neighbor lady across the street already has buzzed her front lawn with the mower!

In other news from the homestead, thistle seed in the tube feeder has brought in a trio of lesser goldfinches, a male and two females. A pair of cardinals also are regulars at the pagoda feeder, along with Carolina chickadees, house finches, house sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. We brought in a ceramic fire pit a couple of weeks ago, and I now have almost resigned myself to backyard camping of an evening.

No, it's not the same, but it is convenient!