“Whan that Aprille with hise shoures soote,?The droghte of March hath perced to the roote…”
– The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
As Chaucer so charmingly wrote, April’s sweet showers bring the end of winter’s drought – and the official beginning of spring. But we can only hope for those showers. As we all know, Texas’ long-standing drought continues to plague farmers, ranchers and even home gardeners.
On March 14, Gov. Rick Perry issued a proclamation renewing the previous certification that exceptional drought conditions pose a threat of disaster more than 140 counties in Texas, including Erath County.
According to most sources, the current drought began in October 2010. Although the situation has improved slightly, the drought is far from over and conditions that caused it aren’t going away any time soon.
Part of the problem is, Texans are known for their green lawns and prolific water use. In contrast to that, the new State Water Plan relies heavily on conservation strategies. If implemented, saving water we already have will account for nearly 25 percent of the water Texas needs in the future. And we know conservation can work. San Antonio has reduced water usage by 42 percent over the past couple of decades even though it has one of the fastest growing populations in the country.
So the mantra for gardeners becomes conserve, conserve, conserve – which means it may be time to design a more drought-tolerant garden.
While there are numerous conservation strategies home gardeners can use, including extensive mulching, collecting rainwater and reusing gray water from showers and washing machines, the essential, rock-bottom tactic is choosing plants that are relatively self-sufficient and don’t need a lot of water. Plants native to this area are generally well adapted to local conditions, including hot, dry extremes, and there are drought-tolerant non-natives, too.
The University of Texas at Austin provides a list of 75 drought-resistant plants native to our area online at www.wildflower.org/collections. First, click on North-Central Texas on the map. Then, on the right-hand side of the next page, narrow your search by selecting “Soil Moisture – Dry.” Then browse their colorful photos to your heart’s content.
In addition, a good local source for information about plants is the Tarleton Horticulture Center, located at 1910 W. Washington Street. The center, operated by Manon Shockey, has weekly plant sales open to the public. The Center also has a staff member on hand to answer any plant or landscaping questions you have.
Sale days are Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but call first, because greenhouse maintenance temporarily shuttered the plant sale last week. The telephone number is 254-968-9208.
Another idea is proposed by Keep Stephenville Beautiful, a nonprofit organization that works to keep our town spruced up. The group is encouraging Stephenville property owners to add vibrant color to their flowerbeds this year by planting the rose that took the world by storm – easy-to-grow Knock Out roses.
Jason Lovell, owner of Lovell Lawn and Landscape and pPresident of Keep Stephenville Beautiful, says, “When it comes to landscaping and gardens in this part of Texas, I tell people to plant tough plants. Knock Out roses do require some water, but they’re tough plants that can survive the Texas heat, and that’s why KSB has promoted them.”
The Knock Out rose was named the All-American Rose selection of 2000 and broke all records for the sale of a new rose. The original rose was red, but these hybrid shrub roses now come in pink and yellow varieties, too, with single or double petal blooms.
Keep Stephenville Beautiful is selling three-gallon containers of the popular roses for $15 as a fundraiser. If you’re interested, you can find ordering information at keepstephenvillebeautiful.com.
One last tip: The best time for watering gardens and flowers is in the morning, which reduces evaporation. Late afternoons are okay as well, as long as you keep the foliage from getting wet, which can lead to fungal issues. Water less often and more deeply to encourage deeper and stronger root growth.