Gardening through winter drought

by CHRIS WINSLOW

This fall has been extremely dry. November was the driest in more than 100 years, and our first real freeze – on Dec.10 – came almost 30 days late.

What can we do to help our landscapes, trees and gardens get through this winter drought intact?

One of the best ways is to use generous amounts of mulch. A layer of it around your landscape and garden plants will slow down water loss due to evaporation.

Mulch also protects the roots from extreme temperatures. Roots stay warmer when it’s cold, and cooler when the summer heat arrives. Three to four inches of mulch can save gallons of water.

Deep, infrequent watering will also encourage roots to grow deeper into the soil. The deeper the roots, the greater the water reservoir the plant has to draw from. Buffalo and other native grasses have roots as deep as six feet, allowing them to survive a drought.

Drip irrigation is another way to get the most from your watering. Traditionally, drip irrigation is located below the mulch and provides water directly to the root zone, limiting water loss due to evaporation.

Finally, at my nursery we constantly promote native and adaptive species that naturally suit our often-arid climate. Lots of area nurseries stock an excellent booklet called “Native and Adapted Landscape Plants – an Earthwise Guide for Central Texas.” This is the place where you will find a complete list of xeriscape plants for our region. This City of Austin publication is invaluable… and free.

Let’s hope and pray for rain and a return to wetter conditions soon. And please water your trees. That’s what they’re asking Santa for for Christmas!

Happy gardening everyone!

If you have a gardening question, send it to me via email: iathyme@yahoo.com. (Please put ‘Ask Chris Winslow’ in the subject line.) Or mail your letter or postcard to: Ask Chris Winslow. It’s About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Rd., Austin, TX 78748

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