This weekend I decided to heck with the drought, the unrelenting heat, and the stage 2 water restrictions. I will have a fall garden. I must. I limited its size to the area I am willing to water with a hand-held hose or watering can, once we go to stage 3 restrictions: one big 4' x 24' bed. And I'm only planting vegetables Jack and I both like, meaning no turnips, no beets, no cabbage, and no Brussels sprouts. Yes, you can just imagine Jack's disappointment.
I spent Saturday pulling up weeds and spring-planted vegetables. It was hard to pull up tomato and cucumber plants that still had green leaves, but they were half-dead and spent-looking. I yanked them out fast, like ripping off a Band-aid. I left the Japanese eggplant and pepper plants, as they still look healthy, and they started to flower last week when the temperatures dropped below 100°F. After weeding and culling, I amended the soil with organic 8-2-4 fertilizer and some cottonseed meal for good measure, added some compost-rich garden soil, and turned the bed. Well, I turned a third of it, before it got too hot to continue. I'll turn the other two-thirds when I'm ready to plant.
It was hot, sweaty work, in 102 degree heat -- again. My instinct says that's much too hot to plant cool-season vegetables. Even though the Aggies say plant now, I'm waiting a few more weeks to plant carrots, dill, garlic, snap peas, lettuce, spinach, and cool-season herbs like cilantro, chervil and dill. I may be forced to plant broccoli before then, only because I imagine the nurseries won't have any transplants in 3 more weeks. But I'd rather wait.
In honor of La Niña's return, I decided to do something crazy. On Sunday, I planted summer squash, cucumbers and bush beans in the third of the bed that I'd turned. I planted varieties that will mature to harvest in 55-60 days, just before Austin typically experiences its first frost. The Aggies say it's getting a bit late for such nonsense, but the meteorologists say it will be a warm, dry winter. I have floating row cover just in case, but something tells me I may not need it.
I'm not sure what to do about wildflowers this year. Without rain, the seeds will need supplemental watering. I'm also not sure what to do about the the front garden in general. I have some ideas for some drought-tolerant additions, but they would all need supplemental watering until they become established, and I won't have the time or money to hand-water both vegetables and shrubs. I need to think about that some more. I have time.
Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.