Fall gardening in a drought? Yes!

Texas in Drought Again (Still, Always)

It's mid-November and my garden is as dry as a tumbleweed rolling down 290 West toward Junction. My yard has received less than 3/4 inch of rain in the past two months. Nearly everyone in Austin got a good soaking in the second week of September. But my garden hasn’t seen much more than a brief shower or two since.

Latest Texas map from the US Drought Monitor

Meteorologists confirm that Central Texas is in a “flash drought.” This means we’ve moved through at least two drought classification categories in a four-week period, as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Travis County has gone from no areas of drought in October to Moderate Drought across the county in November. Williamson and Bastrop County gardeners are starting to see areas of Severe Drought develop and spread. 

Fall is the Best Time to Plant 

The showy foliage of Tradescantia spp. endures through drought and deluge.

Despite the droughty conditions, fall is the very best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. Cooler temperatures allow root systems to become well-established well in advance of the next hot summer. Once established, these Texas-tough plants should not only survive but thrive with little to no watering. Even better, when rains return, they’ll easily rebound without drowning in the deluge. 

Help is Here! 

Skyflower (Duranta erecta), a tropical plant adapted to Central Texas, blooms from summer to first frost.

Starting off fall with a drought is the perfect time for the Travis County Master Gardeners Association to release their fully updated book, From Drought to Deluge: The Resilient Central Texas Garden. I love this book. (I am the co-editor of this edition, and will admit some bias.) As I worked on fact-checking, referencing, rewriting, and proofreading every word, I learned so much about Xeriscaping, our climate and our soils, the plants that excel here (and why), smart irrigation (hydrozones!) and rainwater harvesting, dealing with pests and weeds safely and effectively, and so much more. 

We streamlined the book by removing the endless pages of plant lists and replaced them with online resources that offer more information on native and adapted plants than any book could ever include, making the new edition much easier to read and navigate. Every section of the book anchors on Xeriscaping principles which address drought while protecting our aquifers and watersheds from unnecessary use of pesticides and fertilizers. You can use the notations to take a deeper dive into the facts and figures. 

A car load of shade-loving waterwise plants to install: Ligularia, Carex phyllocephala 'Sparkler' and Justicia spicigera.

My shady front yard, stripped of its long-suffering sun-loving perennials, weeded, mulched and ready for replanting

I’ve found the information in this book invaluable during my own front yard overhaul this fall. I know I’ll need to water my new landscape a little more frequently during the current La NiƱa weather pattern, for example. 

Local independent bookstores and nurseries will have copies of From Drought to Deluge: The Resilient Central Texas Garden in stock soon, but if you don’t want to wait, order a copy online now at https://www.tcmastergardeners.org/drought-guide/

 This drought, too, shall pass. Let’s get to gardening! 

(This blog post originally posted on the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension - Travis County Horticulture Blog.)

Words and photos © 2005-2020 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.