Michael Battalio


weather

The mid-summer lull

We had a spectacular rain event on Thursday night. My house received 5.86” of rain in approximately three hours (including a one hour period where we got over 3”). This now brings my house over the average yearly rainfall for this time of year. I never believed we would catch up after getting less than five inches during the first five months of the year. I wish I could save about three inches of that to fall during August here.

As it is the middle of summer and though we haven’t hit 100 yet here, the garden still suffers from the heat. Thusly, I don’t have much to show in the garden. One daylily is still trying to make a go of it. ‘Pardon me’ is a short, late-blooming variety.

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Here I have a simple Black Eyed Susan diligently making a show.
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At bottom I have a shot of a naked lady lily (Lycoris squamigera), a type of amaryllis, so named because the flower stalks emerge quite suddenly after the foliage has died back. These happen to be at my parent’s house where I must sadly confess my father has mowed all the flower beds down. Despite my parent’s neglect, these will continue flowing so long as my dad never catches the plants with the mower while their foot high strap-like foliage is out.

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new plants

The harsh winter is finally subsiding. 2013 was a year of weather extremes. I’ve been very busy, so this will be a bit of a long entry. I’ve planted a lot in preparation of the hot summer. I fixed two beds near the road with plants I brought back from my parent’s house during Christmas. There was a stowaway in the irises and daylilies, a lovely crocus.

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The Billbergia nutans that I planted in September has bloomed. The foliage still looks rough though.
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I’ve taken a chance on a couple of shrubs from a big box home improvement store. They look nice now, but I’ll save judgement until July.
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Here is a lone columbine I planted a few weeks ago. I’m told that it will be able to take the heat, but it is so delicate that I’m not sure. Thusly, I only bought one of them.
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The vegetable garden progresses along. I inattentively let some of the broccoli go to flower, but the spinach and peas are doing quite well. In the raised beds that house my daylilies I left room for corn and tomatoes. The peppers and eggplant remain in the greenhouse until mid April.
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I planted some daffodils around the property, and some of them have bloomed quite late.
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I bought another round of plants from Yucca Do Nursery (see “Getting ready for fall”). Mostly I’ve been using them as a source of shade and drought tolerant perennials. Here is a Chinese bloodroot (Eomecon chionantha). It will get about three feet wide and has half-dollar sized white flowers. In the foreground on the right is an African Hosta (Drimiopsis maculata). It is not a true hosta, but is equally as beautiful and should be drought tolerant (supposedly). In the background on the right is a Blue Rabbit’s foot Fern (Phlebodium pseudoaureum). I also purchased a Sinningia sellovii, Pittosporum heterophylla, and Carex leavenworthii. I’ll reevaluate these plants come fall.
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In other news I’ve applied a top dressing of compost to the lawn and have started coleus in the greenhouse again. In the near future I’ll be putting down a new layer of mulch on everything in anticipation of the long summer. I recognize that this year and the next should be major planting years so that everything will acclimate in time to sell the house sometime in 2017. Realizing that my timeline is years out I can save money and buy the smaller plants and let them fill in.

Winter's toll

Winter has been hard on the garden this year. We had the fourth coldest Dec-Feb period for Bryan. Consequently several plants that should live through most winters did not make it including a plant I bought just during the fall. I’m most disappointed in the lavender which I meticulously watered during the summer in the hopes that once established it would survive on its own. We had several episodes of winter precipitation, and the weather station recorded a low 21.6 in January. While that is nowhere near the lowest temp that we usually get (in USDA zone 8b for Bryan temps can get to 15 F), temps were cold for long periods. Additionally, we have gotten very little rain since the large amounts last Fall.

On the garden front I’ve been working on getting beds ready for spring. I’ve finally edged the beds along the street (below) and planted some perennials in there (mostly to take up the space the lavender was supposed to fill).
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I planted peas a few weeks ago and it has taken them this long to finally start to grow thanks to the cold. Some broccoli is already starting to head much smaller than I wanted. I believe as a result of planting in the shade and the cold. Spinach is also starting to grow. I have some more in the greenhouse that I will set out in a couple of weeks. I planted a spring crop of broccoli today.
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Lastly, I built the second raised bed in the side yard. I’ve put some day lilies and irises in.
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I’m waiting for a shipment of roses to come in; one will be placed in the blank spot between the windows in the above photo. Soon I will order some foundation plants for the eastern front of the house. I’m still debating whether to tear out the healthy boxwood on the western front.

Fall

The TX state climatologist is the professor in one of my classes this semester, and he made the comment that Texas droughts are those times between Texas floods. We are now above average for rainfall for this time of year. We have made up about 10” of rain deficit in about a month and a half. Everything is soaked, so I can’t really garden, but everything is looking great. This being fall, not much is in bloom, but there is a clematis blooming and a clump of mums.
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I have also had the chance to repopulate the sunny perennial bed with plants again. We will see how they do come summer, but most of them are fairing well at the moment. The biggest short term plans are to make a second raised bed on the southeastern side of the house and to figure out what to do about the bed adjacent to the driveway.

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I’ve planted a couple of new roses in the rose garden. I have decided not to baby these plants. I will water them (as I had to water everything during the summer), but I don’t have to to tend to roses that need a ton of care. So, if the plants can’t take care of themselves, they’re out. I’m going to try to get some antique roses in the near future. We’ll see. The one below is a floribunda ‘Foxy Roxy’. I also bought an ‘Iceberg’.

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Rain

Finally rain. Over two weeks the house has picked up about 7” of rain. We needed all of it. Everything is finally green again. Wildflowers that were on the edges of the lawn (in the weeds) have started to flower. Among them is a dwarf coreopsis, a white rain lily I didn’t know was there, and a third familiar plant whose name escapes me at the moment. They distract from the crabgrass that grows where the St. Augustine does not, so I leave them where they grow and try not to hit them with the mower.

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Despite the heat and drought I have managed meager harvests including these peppers and okra. Everything is really cranking now that it has cooled off though. I’m going to have more peppers than I’ll ever know what to do with. Still no tomatoes though. We’ve only managed two days below 70 at night (see previous post about tomatoes and low temps).

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Lastly just a beautiful hibiscus I picked up for cheap ($1.50) the other day. I haven’t done anything with it. I’m just leaving it in its little 4” pot and letting it bloom its heart out. The setting sun catches the blooms in the late in the day, and it is gorgeous.

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Summer drought

It’s hot, very, really hot. We had an all time high for June in College Station at the end of last month. It got up to 106. It also hasn’t rained since the 8” we got in the middle of May. I’ve had to water something almost every day. The vegetable garden has just shut down. Nothing is up to producing. I did harvest probably 10 lb of potatoes from my two short rows. That is going to be something I continue planting in the future. I’ve had some of the perennials I planted in March die. I’ve had a coreopsis and a salvia die. Those are both generally very drought tolerant plants, however they must become established before they can tolerate the kind of annual drought we get here in TX. There are still some bright spots even in the middle of July. I have Crinum Lilies scattered throughout the property from the previous owners (left photo). They have done just fine, though their foliage is kind of battered. The coleus and caladiums are also doing well (baby caladium leaf with a water drop on right). The best I can hope for now is to just get to September. I will be reevaluating what to do with some of the beds now that I’ve been in the house for a year. I’m definitely going to have to increase the organic matter content of the beds so that they retain moisture better. That will have to be a project for fall; it’s just too darn hot to do anything now.
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