Saturday, February 15, 2014

Easy to grow and drought tolerant plants for Austin TX

One would think that most plants would be easy to grow here. We rarely get freezing weather, we have decent soil, we used to get an adequate amount of rain especially in the winter. Now and for the for forseeable future it looks like we are going to be in a drought. 

What makes plants easy to grow? Is it that the seeds come up easily? Is it that the plants thrive once they are up and produce? Is it that they do not require a lot of tending? A lot depends on the gardener in this case. 

One of the things that makes plants easier to grow takes a little work up front. Especially during times of drought and heat it is essential that the garden have adequate mulch around the plants. This serves to keep their roots cooler and to retain moisture in the soil. It is also beneficial to establish a soaking program for the plants so that they develop deeper roots and are less

dependent on frequent watering. Some plants however do not have deep roots systems, it is not their culture. This includes peas and beans and many of the cole crops like broccoli and cauliflower.  Many leafy plants can be grown in the heat of the summer like lettuces if they are grown in a much shadier location where they only get 2 to 3 hours of sunshine per day. Plants that have smaller leaves also tolerate drought better as do plants that have fleshier leaves or hard stems. You may want to choose plants with shorter days to harvest in the spring to assure a better chance of picking before it gets hot>> VegetableVarietiesTravisCounty   It is a good plan to place the plants with the same water requirements in the same areas of the garden. If you put your plants in pots, you may want to avoid clay pots that are not glazed in favor of the glazed and plastic pots. Darker colored plastic pots may overheat service of your plants in the summer causing them to die. Best to use lighter colored or to cover the outside of the pot with a wrap to not cook the roots.

When you consider what plants to grow in a vegetable garden for spring and summer most years we need to plant plants that we can harvest the fruits before July. The easiest plants that can be planted very early in the spring February through April are of course the lettuces, some greens like kale, peas, root crops like beets, radishes, spring onions, and carrots, and several types of beans. We are still able to transplant broccoli through mid-March but it frequently will draw diseases to the garden.

 There are several seed suppliers that specialize in plants that seem to do better in Texas and the Southwest where it is drier and hotter. A number of vegetable plants do well until it gets into the 100s in July and August like tomatoes, Peppers, and eggplant. These can be grown from seed on a windowsill and then transplanted into your garden when the soil is warm enough in late March through early May. Black-eyed peas or cow peas thrive in  the heat as does okra and malabar spinach. And sweet potatoes are very easy to grow the summer both for greens and tubers if you can keep them irrigated over the summer. Swiss chard will grow for several years at a time and does not mind a bit of shade.

Landscape plants for the garden should be selected from the list of Texas natives when at all possible. Most of these are perennials and unfortunately during their first year Will require much more water and in subsequent years. Gardeners get the idea that they want A blooming English garden but our climate just doesn't support those kinds of plants very well. It is possible even in a drought tolerant Garden to have blooms from spring through late fall if you pick the right plants and put plenty of mulch around them. They are finding that plants from the nursery that are grown and squarish containers transplant better because their roots don't get all wound around and will spread out better in the garden. 

links:   Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Travis County  Fruit and Nut Fact Sheets  Vegetable Varieties for Central Texas—Great list  Seed source   seed source  seed source  has lots of hot weather seeds—got my summer lettuce here  nice list of plants with interactive features  great discussion on types  shade tolerant veggies  plants to attract butterflies