Sunday, February 26, 2012

How the Winter Garden Turned Out

In my first winter in Texas I planted a garden.

Herb seedlings and tomatoes were planted out in the first week of September. It was in the 90s and sunny, still scorching weather back then.

When we moved in there was an empty raised bed, 4x6 feet. We spent over $50 on organic soil and organic compost, purchased at the big box DIY store to fill it.

I had high hopes. I watered every day by hand so as to not waste water by using a sprinkler.

The entire backyard here or shall I say the entire tropical garden in the land in the back of the property is in partial shade. The ground is in the understory of many trees and close to this property that throw their shade down. There is red oak, unknown pine varieties, and sweetgum over 50 feet tall. Then I have about 30 small trees in the 40x50 foot back "yard". Also there are a few different types of palm trees (varieties unknown to me) and then maybe a hundred of some kind of tropical plant that looks like and serves a purpose similar to what the hosta does in the north.

My point is, the raised garden bed is only in partial shade. I have no other options for the back yard to raise edible crops in full sun.

My side yard is in shade and planted out with more tropical plants and bushes and big old trees.

I have a patch of lawn about 10x10 feet directly next to the road which I cannot garden in.

Do you see that my options for gardening what I want to grow are limited?

Long story short the winter garden plants did not get enough sunlight to do well. I grew exactly two green tomatoes. My tomato plants didn't grow more than two feet tall. The basil froze during the frosts we had. (I really wanted them to thrive as it is hard to find fresh basil in the grocery store here and what they have costs $3.50 for a small bunch. Ouch.) The one rosemary plant is doing okay. Everything else I planted didn't produce enough to harvest.

As the spring gardening season approached I didn't get too excited about gardening this year. No one has made an offer on our Connecticut home so we are not yet purchasing a "real house" here. It looks like we may be stuck in this rental house over the summer which means that 2012 will not be my first season to garden in the spring and summer growing season.

Yesterday I attended three lectures about gardening in Texas. The details of the program were not shared ahead of time. Come to find out the things I needed to know were never discussed. Instead I learned a lot about trees and drought's effects on trees. I heard about organic gardening which was a very good presentation but I already knew 99% of the content from years of autodidact learning. I heard a lecture on native plants to Texas that will attract pollinators, it was all about flowers. (Interestingly enough I know of these already being featured in perennial gardens elsewhere as non-natives to New England but here they are native.)

What I did not learn that I need to teach myself was the planting seasons, when to do what. I heard nothing about gardening herbs and vegetables.

I'm getting the itch to plan a garden and to dig into the soil. With temperatures last week in the upper 70s and even up to 81 with lovely sun and blue sky I want to get out there and garden. (This feels like the best kind of May and June day in Connecticut.)

I have also decided that the excellent winters in Houston make up for the too hot and too humid summers. When comparing New England to here, I'd rather take a mild winter and a brutal summer to what we still consider a brutal summer and also a brutal winter (with dangerous driving conditions and labor to shovel the walk of ice and snow and with bills to pay for driveway plowing).

I'll have to wait another year to have a garden in Texas I guess...


Robinella said...

I didn't see anything about a deck area in your post, but we are selling our house and decided this year to plant in containers on the deck. In the event our house miraculously sells, we can take the containers with us. For the items you are trying to plant, containers would be perfect but you'll need to keep up with the watering.

Hope you get to get your hands dirty.

ChristineMM said...

Hi Robinella,
Thanks for your idea. I have done container gardening on the deck in the past. I can't do it here as one deck in the backyard is under a roof and the second deck is in the backyard is under all those trees in mostly shade. My third deck leads to the front door and is under a roof and under a big tree canopy of shade.

The driveway area is on the north side of the house so I can't even put containers near the house near the garage as shade from the shadow of the house is on it!

Gardening is doomed here!


SchrefflerFamily said...

I grew up in Houston and live in Austin now. My mom was never successfully able to garden. I do know a blogger in Dallas that has done so (Smockity Frocks). And my sister (College Station-ish area) is trying a garden this year. I've not been brave enough to try.

Your mention of shade being bad makes me glad I didn't try tomato gardening in Seattle on our deck -- it would have been all shade all the time.