Daily Archives: January 20, 2011

Spring Push-ups

Mid-winter, but Spring has nonetheless sprungWe’re apparently scheduled for at least a week’s worth of lows in the mid- to lower 30s here at the One-Acre Ranch, which can get a little hard to take what with tomatoes and peppers sprouting obediently in what we call the Jethro room upstairs (the un-renovated one with the switchable 1,000-watt remote ballast, Yield Master II reflector and 1,000-watt metal halide bulb).

Yet nature, along with some anonymous former owner of This Damn Old House, provides hope of a not-far-off Spring, in the form of a few hundred snow-drop bulbs, already pushing their dark green leaves up toward the sky. Blow and bluster if you must, Old Man W., but your time is short.

Posted in Nature

Location, Location, Location

In yakking the other day about planning for your suburban garden, I didn’t say much about location. That’s partly because people with relatively small yards often don’t have a lot of choice. When I lived in west Houston 10 years ago, my little yard was all but blanketed in shade from a huge live oak tree, and I had to grow banana and pepper plants in a 4-foot-wide electric company right-of-way just to find a little sunshine.

But if you’re lucky enough to have a big yard, there’s more to consider than sunlight when locating a garden. If you can put your garden, or plant containers, near a south-facing wall or building, it’ll provide protection from harsh north winds, and the microclimate likely will provide warmth earlier in the year than other locations. This means you can probably get away with planting tender plants (tomatoes, squash, beans) a little earlier in the year than otherwise would be practical. Or you could locate an avocado or other semi-hardy fruit tree in that space.

Brazos River winter micro-climateWe have a narrow strip of property out back that abuts the Brazos River, and I’ve been tempted many times to at least put some containerized plants down close to the riverbank. The catch is that, once ever 12-24 months it seems, that river rises out of its banks – far out of its banks – and sometimes covers 50 yards worth of property in water for several days. I tried planting a banana down there one year, but it didn’t survive the flooding. Then I planted some Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger) to try to control bank erosion, and four years later it’s survived the flooding and thrived.

The river paints a wide green swath as it meanders through the county in winter. On cold days, the water is warmer than the air, and some years the willow trees don’t even lose their leaves until new ones form in spring. If I had more land near the river but above the common flood line, I think I’d be inclined to try a peach orchard or something similar.

My back garden is near the top of a rise that marks probably about the 100-year flood line, facing the south and benefiting nicely from the Brazos microclimate. I figure it’ll be probably 40 more years before anyone has to move to higher ground from that spot, although I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Posted in Brazos River, Garden Planning