Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who Should Be Saved?


Recently there was a house fire in my neighborhood and it completely gutted the structure.  Thankfully no one was injured, but I can’t even imagine the pain the family is going through over the loss.  At times like this I reflect on what I would do in a similar situation.  If my house was filled with smoke and I had to get out, what would I save?

I’m facing something similar in my garden right now.  We now have had over 70 days where the temperature was 100 or more degrees.  Worse, in my yard, we have had only 5 inches of rain since January 1.  To say that it is an inferno out there is truly an understatement.  We are also on water restrictions and can only run sprinkler systems (including drip and soaker) once a week.  You are allowed to hand water with a hose as much as you want – for now.

I know some long time gardeners here in Austin who have had enough.  They are saying that they are going to let nature take her course and stop watering.  If the plant dies, good riddance you weather wimp.   I sympathize.  My husband, Ed, has been a savior and waters by hand in the morning.  We use the condenser water from the air conditioner and supplement with the hose.  But even my modest yard is too big to hand water.  I have to choose what to save.

Some of the choices have been easy because the plant has simply died.  My hibiscus was an early casualty, as well as nearly 80% of the perennials I planted this spring.  My vegetable garden has limped along, but now the heat stressed plants are being attacked by scale and white flies.  One by one I have pulled up tomatoes, okra, and eggplant and added them to the compost.  It makes me very sad to shut off the water to each raised bed as the casualties mount.  I don’t dare plant any seeds right now to replace them because they won’t germinate in this heat.

But now I have some harder choices.  I have native shrubs that are struggling.  My citrus trees are yellowing and curling in the heat.  Should I try to save them?  Or should I just walk away and let them burn?  They are just plants after all.  Someday the rains will return and I can replace them.  The smoke fills my nostrils and the light dims. I start to stagger and lean against my garden fork.  Who can I save?