Sunday, July 24, 2011

The San Antonio Garden

I've put my country garden on hold until I can figure out how to work around the grasshoppers. I've thought of a couple of new things to try. One is an automatic watering system. The soil at Tilmon is sandy, so even after a deep watering, the upper layers of soil dry out quickly. Until plants get their roots down deep, they suffer from lack of water when I'm not there during the hot part of the summer to water them every 2 or 3 days. The plants that were kept in containers through the summer last year survived with only minor grasshopper damage. This year, when they were planted in the ground, they didn't survive. I dug them up, planted them in containers, and brought them to San Antonio. Three have died -- a Fuji apple, a peach (lost the tag and don't remember what variety of peach), and a catalpa. The rest seem to be thriving. I've already planted two peach trees. two mulberries, a fig, and a pineapple guava in the garden here in San Antonio. Looking good in containers are an Anna apple, a Le Conte pear, and an Ein Shemer apple. Thes Israeli apple trees (Anna and Ein Shemer) can take the south Texas heat and need very few chilling hours. The grasshoppers have killed 4 peach trees, 3 pears, an apple, and a fig. (I'm making myself feel bad taking inventory in this way; I need to focus on the future instead)

Asking why the trees survived in containers but not in the ground, I came up with the following answers:

1. soil
2. location
3. frequency of watering

I've tried enriching the soil. This actually seemed to increase the grasshopper damage. I guess they were getting more nutrients from the plants grown in healthy soil. I tried planting in the ground where the containers had been. The grasshoppers still defoliated the trees.

The one variable left, unless I've overlooked something, is water. I had an automatic watring system set up to water the containers.

So this is the next thing I'll try in my attempts to make the land at Tilmon into an edible garden.

Meanwhile, the garden in San Antonio is taking shape. We have a small 1-story house (2200 sq ft) on half an acre, so there's a lot of garden space. The existing shrubs and small trees include anaqua, sophora (aka Texas mountain laurel), nandina, pomegranite, and loquat. There are three oak trees, which I have not precisely identified (this is a whole different biosphere from Altamira and Tilmon, and many of the trees are different), an elm (I think), a palm which I think is a Windmill Palm, but I'm not 100% sure, some china berries, and some trees I've never seen before that have very brittle branches. One recently fell across a part of the garden I'd been in only a couple of minutes earlier. It was a large tree, about 40 feet tall. There's another growing next to where it was and seedlings coming up all around. I think I'll keep the one that's still there as a nurse tree while the young fruit trees are getting started, then have it removed. The wood is so brittle, I think it's probably dangerous.

There were no shrubs defining the perimeters of any of the garden spaces. The place was mostly a jumble of weeds. I've let many of them grow back, just to hold down the soil and give the birds and lizards food and refuge. There are many sunflowers, which attract dozens of cardinals and doves. The hedges I've planted are growing so you can sort of see the outlines of the hedges; there are always dozens of tomatoes and peppers to eat and give away and many flowers blooming. I was pretty sad for a while, because of the grasshopper devastation in Timon. I felt like a failure as a gardener. But I'm beginning to feel better now, as the SA garden takes shape.

Here are some photos. Next year at this time, I'll look at these and say, "It looked so bare!" But it's a beginning. I've included a very quick and very rough sketch of the part of the garden directly behind the house. The yellow highlighted areas are raised beds. The Hever Castle Buddleia is planted along the drive way. There are cannas planted in front of the ugly wooden fence. they should grow tall enough to almost complete hide it. In front of the buddleia (looking from the direction of the house) are shrub roses. In front of the rose bushes are various perennial flowers including salvias and day lilies. The Pride of Barbados (what San Antonio garden would be complete without this flamboyant shrub?) is against the stucco wall of the back underpinning. The house is built on a slope. The floor is at ground level on the north side and high up off the gound on the south side. The south side was the front yard when the house was built. Later, the lot to the south was subdivided and sold, and another house was built on it. So the back of our house now faces the street. This all sounds very confusing as I read it. I apologize for that, but I don't have time to go back and make it clearer now, as the outdoor temperature is getting bearable. Time to go outside and play in the garden. It gets too hot here for gardening to be enjoyable except in the mornings and evenings. At those times of the day, it's rather pleasant.

1 comment:

  1. You're definitely not a failure as a gardener. I'm very impressed with all your work. I don't think the best gardeners are going to be thriving at this point.

    I'm getting hungry reading about all the fruits and vegetables. I'm sorry you've lost a lot of the plants. I hope the surviving ones do well!