Monday, June 30, 2008

My Favorite Bloom Today...

So, over the weekend we made a conscious decision to kill our TV. We were given a large TV for our wedding and it was the first TV I have ever owned. Last year we got a second computer and had to upgrade for speed(two teenagers and spouse working on his PhD)along with it came cable TV. Wow. I have to admit that it was I who became addicted to HGTV, food network, all the animal channels, National Geographic and the likes. There are about 5 channels that were cutting into my work day and quality family time, so we had to do something. With the girls being away at camp, we decided to take advantage of the quiet and re-feng-shui. Upon rained. Coincidence? you say...maybe. For me, it was like a baptismal font...I'm back to being my boring self...thinking about things instead of thinking about things I just saw. I spent this morning working in the Green Garden at Zilker and after lunch took a walk around my yard which I have been avoiding. It's been so nice sitting inside with the air conditioner on, sipping sun tea, watching folks on TV deliberate over what to do in their spring green gardens, cursing the heat. I needed to shake myself out of it and get to planing my next project. While I was taking stock though I realized that the healthiest looking little plant in my yard is a gal I didn't really know that much about so I wanted to investigate. She's Perovskia...or Russian Sage, perennial, from the mint family or "dead nettle" about 30in. She grows strong from USDA zones 5a to 9b. I cut her skeletal figure back to 6 inches this spring out of habit and thought she'd died over the winter but Man is she looking hot! I'm super conservative with watering (once a week...maybe if there's weeping going on) and she's full of bloom in this oppressive steam bath. According to my research the northerners just love her as well. I'm going to try collecting seed (after the seed heads dry on the plant) this year and doing stem propagation...I'm excited to see how it all comes out. With the TV gone there should be more going on in the little nursery that is the back of my house.

I always like to see what sort of history plants have in case some ancient use has been lost to my! look at the eye candy generation. What I've found is that it's an aromatic (easy to tell...)that has been used to repel insects in animal bedding and as a coolant. One source states that it's tasty in salads...not according to me...I went out to sample a tender new leaf and almost gagged. It was like licking a new-aged cleaning product off the wall....mmm, lemony, sagey clean. I can see soaking it in my tea for a cool edgy flavor...even freezing the leaves in ice-cubes for a Martha Stewart suburbanite fete but too bitter for a salad! Never the less,
I recommend Russian Sage for you butterfly garden fans and, like my friend Suze...survival gardeners. Udachi Perovskia! She's Russia tough and handles the heat better than I. Happy Hotter n' Hell Gardening:)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's Still Green in your Yard?

Man, I wish I could get out and dig in the dirt. It feels like August, my poor garden. I've spent the last few weeks removing a monster amount of cactus and being torn to shreds in the process. The mountain o'mulch has been spread and I'm waiting for my rock to be delivered for the dry ditch of a swale in the front and back yards. Out of sympathy for the birds, I've given up the fight for pathetic tiny tomatoes and am just hoping that my new babies will make it through.
I remember feeling the same way in winter in Alaska when I was a kid, staring out at the snow wishing I could just walk freely down to the beach. Instead, I'd sit inside where the temperature was stable, knowing it would be months before that was possible. The summer here is like my winters in Alaska...sans water. Usually the urge to travel and escape this heat would come just before Autumn (like hoping a plane to Hawaii in January ) but now, well it's everyday...the fear is that if I do go, what will happen to my yard...will firecrackers send it up in flames over the 4th? Will a careless smoker touch it off like my first summer in Santa Barbara? The recent National Geographic episode on global warming suggested that this part of the country will become a dust bowl...become? This howling wind is driving me mad...I'm about ready to strip down and beg for rain, I'm afraid my whirling dervish dancing might start a dirt I'm just too damn hot to move. Need beer, or Margaritas.

Hang in there!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Carbonated Water for Chickens?

My girlfriend, who is a Chemistry Teacher is over for lunch and she read something interesting about carbonated water and chicken eggs...I have no idea if this is true and am wondering if any of you bird brainy types can help...According to "Chemistry in the Community" Textbook, chickens pant to cool themselves causing them to loose carbon dioxide (carbon) which is a necessary component for the development of the eggshell. So the suggestion is to give your chickens carbonated water to replenish carbon loss and strengthen the eggshell...anyone doing this?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What the....!

It's amazing, just amazing to me that in this day of conservation, now having over 10 days of 100 degree weather and a certain hottest summer on record, well on it's way, that every last one of us aren't doing more to watch our footsteps. Over the weekend someone in our neighborhood had a sprinkler system installed for a huge Saint Augustine corner lot with no trees! For the Yankees reading this, St. Augustine is a shade grass, to have it in full sun means daily watering and we are in a drought! Currently, you're only allowed to water twice a week, and that most likely will drop to once a week as the situation worsens. They're also planting trees! In June! Tree planting time is October to March. Not that this isn't enough but when their other neighbors are all putting in gutters, acquiring rain barrels, ripping out driveways doing everything we can to minimize the need to water by mulching and replacing water sucking lawns with natives, increasing the permeability of our land space...they have a concrete patio and path poured all the way around the house to the backyard where another GIANT concrete patio is being layed. It's pretty with inlaid stone...but totally impermeable. I'm in shock. We need more than watering regulations, we need some public service announcements on the news, daily, explaining to folks how to stop the waste. When I lived in southern California in the early 90's there were daily tips and regular citywide interventions going on. For example, I remember when restaurants stopped just giving out water or ice, you had to ask for it. There were examples on how to wash your dishes unlike the television programming of the 50's and 60's that showed folks just letting the water run while they did menial tasks. The ad sported a woman filling a basin half way, then she soaped up all the dishes and then rinsed them into the soapy basin quickly one at a time and when she finished a huge pile, she had only filled one side of the sink. I've been doing my dishes like this ever since and refuse to believe that rinsing, loading and then running a dishwasher which also uses electricity could be more efficient. Bumper stickers that read "If it's yellow then it's mellow, If it's brown flush it down" were everywhere, and the city was all over how to do it better and more efficiently...not about wasting and complaining and waiting for someone else to figure out the problem. I know that it's the big box stores, malls, businesses etc. that are making more of a problem, running the air ridiculously low to make up for the door opening and closing non stop, which by the way can be fixed by having an entry...some stores, like Target have this...but if every home owner just took personal responsibility imagine the difference we could make? Last summer the city of Austin, or maybe it was LCRA had a neighborhood conservation contest...I never heard who won. It would be nice to have reports like this on the general evening news/newspaper about what part of town is doing the best, maybe special interest reports on innovative saving tips etc. I have a girlfriend who's mother recently went into the Peace Corps in South Africa. Their entire family has become so water conscious since then that they take a shower with two buckets to catch the wasted water that doesn't hit them to water the plants with...this may sound extreme to some folks, but pouring concrete over the earth is so insensitive that it's shear craziness to me. This blog may very well become a nasty rant over the August my eyes will ache for green, it's damn hard gardening in Texas sometimes, but living among the ecologically blind is harder. Even if you don't believe we have a problem, or are unable to see it on the horizon, no harm ever came from being conservative with resources. In fact, I think it's the best place to apply a conservative hand. My dear granny, who lived an incredibly modest life, never owned a car, walked or rode the bus, lived in a tiny 2 bedroom one bathroom place would say with a smile "waste not, want not," and I didn't really understand what she meant...not being a waster, but I guess that's on the forefront of your mind when you don't have resources to waste. The question of personal taste or ignorance should not be allowed to come into play...we are all in this together and some folks simply are not ever going to be awakened by a price tag. Some cities are becoming so conscious about the upcoming water situation that they are running field tests on plants to formulate lists of acceptable turf, shrub and trees for new developments. The scary thing about this is the will the lack of variety impact insects and disease? Limitations have to be carefully thought out, so do our decisions. If we don't want these kinds of limitations to be placed on us, we should make conscious decisions and do our part to help prevent water loss, plant appropriately and timely (Summer is time to plan not plant!)
and also make sure we are watering at the right time, and the right amount.

For Austin, odd numbered residences water Wed/Sat that's an either or both and for even numbers it's Thur/Sun. Google City of __________water conservation for your location.

If you don't know what the right amount is, set out an empty tuna can randomly under your sprinkler and when it's full, that's enough for a week. Your potted plants will need water daily when the temps are above 90 and most sturdy shrubs can handle a few weeks without for signs of wilting though and give them a deep soak. It's best to water super early, before sunrise or super late to avoid evaporation. If you have baby plants, less than 2 years old, or you planted late, you're going to have to baby sit these fellows and make sure they don't get too stressed. So, what does a conscious gardener do in the summer other than pray for rain? Remove invasive species, design and build hard scape, turn your compost, get out super early to water and enjoy the brief cool hours of the day and dream about the beach!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What are you doing about water?

Last week my beds were looking badly shriveled so I decided to do the big Mulch...on all of it. We ordered 8 cubic yards of hardwood which is mostly still sitting in my driveway. I've been slowly
chipping away at it with my husband and two daughters for 3 days's taking forever. Buying the bags a few at a time just never seems enough, then... What to do with all that plastic? My husband and I both have deep roots in the Midwest and it has manifest in our obsession with the weather. Apparently we've already had 6 days over a 100 degrees and we usually only have around 10 by the end of the summer. Between the looming massive heat wave that seems obvious on the horizon and this Santa Ana style wind we've been having I'm worrying more than ever about the water situation. Mulch is step one. We've only got two water barrels and I've stacked two layers of pavers where I want the next two to go. I'd like to get a giant rain barrel but my tiny property is aching for space so I've Incorporated a few swales that I'm re- digging and we're going to stop this erosion situation by filling it with fist sized rocks...leaving plenty of room for the water that collects when we get one of those awesome downpours...short of all this back breaking labor, I'm planing a day of rain dancing...if the heavens don't open, I'm going tubing!

Monday, June 2, 2008

What's goin' on in the Garden?

White Yarrow
The first of the summer sunflowers
Celebrity lookin' gawgious!
Guess I'm making enchiladas for supper:) Lambs ear blossoms

Vadalia Onions we ordered the plugs from Omaha, Texas
Rock Rose from Helen's garden...
My lettuce gone to flower!

As you can see, there's still some love in the garden in spite of the heat . I walked out the front door to find these two lovers eye level on my front deck. Some folks just love Monday's.

I spent some time working on my deck this weekend moving pots out of the sun, cleaning up and preparing for what I end up doing most of the summer which is making yard art and working on hard scape. I have so many building projects that I want to do...but that always takes the two things we always seem to be short of...time and money. One of the projects I want to do is built an extension on the pergola to house my ever growing Lady Banksia who has outgrown the front porch and wants to veer westward. I want to put in a swing under the expanding structure and then extend the fence back toward the house in case she still needs more room to meander. The tree house also needs some attention, it was once build with found objects and garage sale items but they've since past. The chicken fence still needs some work and I have got to get to mulching and putting rock in the swale. The house really needs to be painted but that is way low on the priority list. I am longing for the cool days of Autumn but tickled to show you some of the bounty I collected this morning...Happy Gardening!