Drought despair?

July 23, 2011

Suffering from drought despair? You’re not the only one! As August creeps down on us, so do the plants of North Texas, desperate for rain.  Despite the suffocating temperatures and lack of rainfall there are many ways to protect and prevent harsh weather from destroying your landscape.

Initially, it is best to choose plants that are native or well adapted to Texas, made for the heat and drought tolerant, which saves you money as you water less. Numerous plants thrive in our area; a few are Texas lantana, blackfoot daisy, black dalea, many sages, the infamous bluebonnet, and so many more. However, even the hardiest natives could use some assistance during the blazing months of summer.

Desert Willow bloom

Desert Willow bloom

The health and productivity of your plants depend on the quality of the soil they are living in. Soil is food for plants; they survive on its nutrients.  So, if your soil is deprived of nutrients, so are your plants. Oxygen is a vital component as well. Soil is a combination of minerals and other organic matter. Just as humans need food, water, and air to survive so do plants. They gather their nutrients from the work of tiny organisms, like nematodes, in the soil that transform organic matter into vitamins and hormones. Adding compost back into your beds such as leaves, grasses, manures and mulch allows for more matter that can be broken down into nutrients.  Earthworms also work wonders as they aureate the soil that provides oxygen to the vegetation, which is necessary for survival. Another way to boost your plants is by fertilizing with liquid seaweed, predominantly made up of kelp. Kelp contains zinc, potassium, iron, and nitrogen that are vital during photosynthesis.

Organic mulching is beneficial in multiple ways – it not only allows the soil to retain more moisture and supports less watering but also adds organic matter back into the soil as it decomposes. Mulching lowers the temperature in your beds in the summer, and keeps the temperatures up in the winter, which gives relief to your plants during hot months and protects them in the cold months. It multiplies the amount of worms in your beds that contribute to aerating the soil and provide nutrients to plants. It even prevents soil crusting which restricts water and air permeability and makes it hard for seeds to germinate. Mulching reduces the outlandish growth of weeds –  the only thing that never seems to die.  Last but certainly not least important is the visual appeal of mulch, as it add a neat and finished appearance to a garden bed or landscaped area. Mulch is also an excellent material to use for paths, especially between raised beds.

Texas Rock Rose

Texas Rock Rose

Watering is a significant factor in the survival of your garden and can be effectively executed in several ways. Drip irrigation systems apply water directly to the root system of the plant as it soaks the earth from underneath at a steady pace for a longer amount of time. This allows plants to absorb more water because it is no longer evaporating on the surface and once again you save money as you save water. Since water is applied directly to the root zones, watering can be done at any time of the day because plant foliage will not be at risk for sun damage. Drip irrigation systems are designed to target certain areas depending on each plants specific need. Soaker hoses work in a similar manner, but there tend to be dry and wet zones when using soaker hoses, so it is important to set it up correctly and monitor the water output.

Blackfoot Daisy

Blackfoot Daisy

Don’t forget your trees this summer  – despite their size and general durability they are not “drought proof.” A common and efficient way to water trees is by using gator bags for young trees. Gator bags deliver water to the roots of the tree only, at a steady space, which is necessary for a proficient job.  Aside from purchasing a standard gator bag of some sort creating your own is also an option. Use a five-gallon bucket; drill a quarter of an inch thick hole and face towards the base of the tree. Simply fill with water once and week and rest assured that your tree is getting five gallons a week, the suggested amount. For mature trees it is important to water around and beyond the dripline – the outer edges of the tree’s canopy – to direct the water towards the roots. Slow, deep watering works best. Soaker hoses work well for that purpose.

Remain hopeful as you strive to help your garden survive. These and other tricks will give your plants the much needed relief they are dying for, literally.

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