Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Texas Summers and Drought

We are well into fall already, but here in Texas, you might not even notice.  We have been happy to have days under 90 degrees.  "89 degrees... it's the new 60"?  Due to the extended drought and many fires, some trees have lost their leaves and many have just given up completely.  Without rainfall, how can we sustain?  Is it possible to have green landscapes?  Is it possible to go outdoors when the temps are above 100 degrees?

Native Buffalo Grass

As climate change becomes more apparent to us, we need to modify how we think about weather.  We can no longer rely on the average rainfall along with the expected extra rain in late spring and fall.  Those patterns have changed.  Rain may be sparse or it might come in deluges, like in the South East.  What can we do to use less resources in these trying times?  One way is develop a more natural landscape. 

  • Collect rain water.  Even in the suburbs, you can purchase rain barrels at the garden center or buy olive barrels for the purpose.  These barrels can be situated at the bottom of the gutter downspouts to collect water.  Out in the country, more people are buying large tanks to collect and store water.  Remember, when the deluge does come, you want as much collection and storage as you can affort.
  • Remove as much sod as possible.  Sod grasses use a lot of water to stay beautiful.  Replace sod with beds filled with mulch, rocks, gravel, native plants, and a few specimen plants.  If you are attached to lawn, then try these: 
    • Remove sod slowly, over time, making a more natural landscape.
    • Diversity your lawn by adding native grasses; this will allow you to have a green yard even when the sun and lack of rain kills the St. Augustine and Bermuda grass. (See Native American Seed company http://www.seedsource.com/) Many native grasses will use less water and withstand the long periods of rain or drought.  Even if the situation becomes dire, many native grasses will go dormant rather than perish.
    • Use short grasses as walking paths.
    • Choose grasses that don't need mowing.
    • Mow grasses at the highest setting your mower will allow; this puts less stress on the grass and does not trigger the plant to replace the lost "leaves".
  • Plant wildflowers.  Yes, they may look like weeds at first, but you will forget about that when you see the beauty of its bloom.  During bloom, these will attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.  During the fall and winter, wildflower seedheads will feed winter birds.
  • Use greywater.  Direct your "used" water towards your plant beds and trees.  If you don't have the resources to redo the plumbing, use a bucket. You can bucket bath water.  Keep a bucket near the garage sink and wash your hands over the bucket.  If you have ducks or geese, dump their soiled water onto trees nearby.
This was a tough summer for those of us that enjoy being outside.  My suggestions are: work in the morning when the sun is less intense (oh, it will still be hot).  Drink a lot of water.  Wear sunscreen to protect your skin. 

I would like to know what ways you survived this summer.  Send me your tips for staying cool and hydrated.  Tammy.SustainableSolutions@gmail.com