Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Climate is what you expect, while weather is what you actually get.  (Thanks to David C. of It's A Dry Heat for that succinct axiom).  

I'd put in multiple passalong plants, spread seed, and planted any number of four inch beauties-to-be during the last weeks of September following on the heels of a four inch soaking rain.  I put in a few more four inch plants and spread more seed the first week of October, expecting ongoing cooler temperatures and gentle rains to serve as my staunch allies in getting them established.  
Why pin so many hopes (and a significant cash outlay) on an October start? Conventional wisdom holds that in Texas at least, it is always best to get all plantings, even natives, well established before the return of summer's Death Star.  We all "know" that October is when the Death Star finally exits, stage right.  

So it follows that plants started in October have the best shot to get growing before any threat of freezing weather occurs. More importantly, they also have the best chance to get roots established before the sun, heat, and dry winds of summer return.  "October starts for happy plants" is a lesson reinforced through years of experience here, and aside from "use natives!" most of my gardening success relies heavily upon the truth of that timing.

This year unfortunately once October rolled around, the weather systems in play weren't quite finished applying the Hot/Dry treatment to the Central Texas area.  With multiple days featuring highs in the 90's along with drying winds and zero precipitation, seedlings and transplants alike were suffering. And I was suffering right along with them.
The options?  Run our supplemental watering system once per week as allotted under the current restrictions keeping my fingers crossed not too many plants would die.  The alternative was to hand water everything, knowing it was the most reliable way to support those new-to-here plants until we saw a return to "normal":cooler wetter weather.

Successful gardening requires the gardener to do a few unpleasant things.  I accept that, but I don't go gracefully.  I griped, I whined, I growled and grumbled.  This hot dry weather was not good for my plant babies. This hot dry weather was not what I signed up for when I turned the calendar page to October.  This hot dry weather was the epitome of everything that was wrong about trying to do anything beautiful in this part of the country.  How, I asked anyone in earshot, could I possibly be expected to work under these conditions?!?  This is October for pete's sake.  October is when the weather is supposed to work WITH us.
Because unfortunately, the areas where I'd put in new plants and spread seeds, were all over the place.  Front yard, back yard, along the edges and smack in the middle of existing beds. Areas including the deer path we are trying to fill in, which has a several inch layer of Slip'NSlide like, not-going-anywhere, live oak leaves on a slope.  A slope I had to carefully traverse while on one leg of the trip at least, carrying two large (heavy!) filled to the brim watering cans.  

And traverse I did.  Back.  And forth.  Standing smacking at mosquitoes while the watering cans filled s-l-o-w-l-y from the nearly emptied rain barrels. Glowering at the sun.  Muttering at the forecast.  

Then today dawned wet and cloudy.  It rained.  It cooled off again. Considerably. And... it continues to rain with colorful rain blobs the predominant feature for our weather map, assuring more to come.  
I am truly sorry for the thousands of music festival fans who will be dealing with a very soggy second Saturday of ACL.  But for the gardeners in our area? This is precisely what needed to happen and not a moment too soon.  A rainy cool day in October?  
This is precisely what I was expecting.


Kris Peterson said...

I sympathize with the struggle and rejoice with you at your rain! Maybe we'll get some here in SoCal someday. Our temperatures have gone up and down - and up again this weekend, once the marine layer cleats out this morning. However, our Octobers are more notoriously variable. I hope all your new plants bring you a spectacular spring!

TexasDeb said...

Kris: Thank you - I sincerely hope you get some cooler wetter weather of your own ASAP. That said, as I was pulling out the driveway to run errands today I noted several missing leaves, and at least one little plant that had been pulled out entirely by browsing deer last night. Some garden stressors aren't seasonal...

Tina said...

I hope you were careful with your toe! The weather--it's either with us, or against us--to paraphrase. You're so spot on: it's definitely been agin' us recently. Today was rather glorious, wasn't it. I haven't really planted all that much, but I had much staking to do in the land. Sticks and rebar are poking up everywhere. On to cooler and wetter days! Hopefully.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Cooler and wetter days FTW! I hoe you got a nice watering from the rains yesterday.

I don't stake enough. I've never invested in proper stakes and once I run out of old tomato cages I unfortunately start to get what The Hub calls "very trimmy". Sometimes it benefits the plants I cut back, just as often, it does not.

Linda/patchwork said...

This rain was quite nice.
I haven't planted anything this fall. Travel and other things, have gotten in the way.
There'll have to be some clearing out, before putting in starts.
Let's enjoy this weather, while we can, though.

TexasDeb said...

Linda: Your point is well taken. Whether or not things have been cleared out, planted, or seeded in...we should all slow down and enjoy this beautiful time of year!

Debra said...

There is such a tiny window for us to get this done -- to know the roots will be established before the winter cold. I had to lug our watering can all over the place to keep everything alive. I even used cheesecloth over some transplants just to shield them from the sun a bit. Messy looking but everyone around here knows I am crazy anyway. Last year I lost all my seedlings to the Halloween flood. At least in this case I could control the amount of water so I suppose there was a bright side.

Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral starts off with a scene where someone in the desert is hoping it won't rain because she wants to wash her car. I dare say festival goers are capable of wielding an umbrella to defend themselves. Luckily, humans are not soluble.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: I think perhaps all gardeners are a bit crazy (we get that way if we don't start out that way), so perhaps your neighbors are all simply realizing that you GROW things. That kind of magic making in harmony with (or despite of) the elements is not always going to look pretty!