Tuesday, October 22, 2013

[Green Thumb] Plant According to Your Regional Climate

Happy autumn, blogworld!

I'm sure many of you read that and think, "Ummm, fall has been around for a while now, chief," and whilst that may be true for most of you, those of us who live in Austin have a different story to tell. I'm loving it, though! (Especially after working in the +100 degree heat all summer.) The weather is cooler, the sky is bluer, and best of all Joy's been making all kinds of tasty treats which means being her taste-testing guinea pig has been all KINDS of delicious fun - even if I am feeling more like a farmhouse pig instead of the smaller, fitter rodent variety of pig. :p

Usually the fall season brings with it increased chances for precipitation, too, which has certainly been the case in Austin lately, and thankfully so! It seems like the more weather reports I hear for the United States, the more I'm told that our country is experiencing widespread drought. I've been working near Austin's famous (possibly infamous by this point) Lake Travis, the single source of water for the second fastest growing city in the country, and I've gotta say, it is a sad sight indeed. I lived in Austin when I was a kid, and my Gramma used to live right next to Lake Travis. It was a beautiful, lush, full body of water fully capable of sustaining wildlife, civilization, and multiple recreational activities, and it was actually known to flood with heavy rainfall.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.hurstcreekrvpark.com/Lake_Travis.html with text added)
Take a look at the lake today...

Sad, yeah? I'm going to apologize in advance here everyone, because there's a solid chance that I'ma get somewhat preachy today, but believe it or not, there is a green thumb point here, and conveniently it's the first rule of xeriscaping, too: Green Thumb Gardening Guideline #1 - Plant according to your regional climate, or if you'd prefer something a little more catchy, "Just because you CAN plant something, that doesn't mean you should."

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to live in Austin - one step away from being a desert ecosystem - and every day I drive by banana trees, sprawling lawns of tropical grasses, pools and hot tubs, free-flowing water fountains, sprinkler systems, and water features in restaurants and eateries. Ignorance is usually bliss, I understand, but I'm afraid ignorance has turned into intentional apathy in our country.

Obviously Austin's water supply is on the verge of drying up. Water restrictions are in place, drought warnings are everywhere - street side, TV, radio, internet, and every other form of mass media - and yet people are still dropping what we call "straws" into the lake to suck out water which is used to keep their "grass" green (I say "grass," because 99 times out of 100 it's not grass; it's Bermuda or St. Augustine which are both weeds that pose as grass). You can see a couple of 200 ft straws pictured below. 

Did you know that the concept of a lawn originated in England amongst the filthy rich simply as a means of showing everyone, "Look how much space I can afford to waste." If you don't believe me, look it up! And yet somehow, this concept of purposely wasting space, money, and water has jumped the pond to our country, trillions of dollars indebted as it is and dried up as we're making it.

Check it out, guys: just because you live in an area with little water to go around, that doesn't mean you have to settle for rocks and cactus in your yard and dust in your garden. Save for the poles, there are fully edible plants to grow for every region of the world. Here in Austin, just about any plant you can find in Africa or other desert regions will flourish with little to no maintenance: kiwano melon, peanuts, leafy greens, yucca, agave, pomegranate, figs, and blue mesquite & Buffalo grass just to name a few. They take next to no water, they are great producers, and most importantly, instead of contributing to the deterioration of the world climate shift, making those changes will actually help to repair the teeth missing from the cogs which make our planetary clock tick.

If you live in Austin or surrounding cities, here is a short list of plants you should avoid like the plague if you're interested in proper xeriscaping and/or water conservation:
-tropical fruits like bananas, papaya, and guava
-grasses like Bermuda grass, xoisia, and St Augustine
-open outdoor gardens full of cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, and corn

If you're not from around here, post a comment telling me where you're from, and I'll gladly give you a list of what to plant and what not to plant, but guys, the point is that not every plant is meant to be grown in every corner of the world. Doesn't mean we need to do without plants - not at all! Just means you should do some research before you stick something in the ground. (:


What sort of things have you been doing to contribute to the repair of your local and global ecosystem?


  1. I live in Houston and live in an itty bitty apartment with strange sunlight. Also, I have a black thumb. Suggestions?

  2. Hey Alexandria!
    Black thumbs don't exist. Joy used to say the same thing, but now she has a small potted garden on her patio!
    There are lots of veggies you can grow indoors and in shade, no less. Swiss chard is a good one for the greater Texas area, bush beans usually do well, and there are lots of herbs you can grow with pretty minimal light, as well! Just set up some small pots on the window sill (or whatever you've got), keep your soil well-draining and moist but not soaked, and those plants will do just fine!
    Oh, and avocados are always a lot of fun too! Technically they're tropical plants, but since they can be grown from a pit in a glass of water, running up the water bill and draining the water supply won't happen. I have thirteen myself. :p