Thursday, April 29, 2021

Big freeze cleanup: before and after (continued)

As mentioned, the valentine's freeze knocked a whole lotta plants on their ass, and while they may be down, they're not out.

Here are a bunch of other before and after photos (now with more "4 weeks of recovery" photos).  I've been a busy bee getting plants removed or cut back, that's for sure.  Only really got the front yard to still do...and the part in the back that leads to the secondary compost bin.  So that's still like another 4-weekends' worth or work.

This is some giant petunia that I intentionally planted here when the tree guys cut back the red tip photinia and it suddenly felt like everyone from the street could see into the yard.  It isn't the Mexican variety (leaves are bigger and it's purple instead of a pinkish purple), but it's most definitely invasive. I found it once in the volunteer botanical garden in Key West and it was labeled as "carolina petunia" so who knows what type it was. In any case, the freeze didn't really kill it - just knocked it down to the roots, but I figured it was as good of time as any to try to actually remove it entirely. So I did. It definitely took the whole weekend and required that I dig out the roots and all - and it most definitely was still alive and would have been going gangbusters if I hadn't removed it 

After all the petunia was removed, but before I cut back the chile pequin. I also mulched this area, but since I had started in on the grass corner right afterward, I ended up creating another compost pile in this area. I didn't think you needed a picture of a compost pile.

The grass corner.  I never cut back my grasses. This is because I am lazy. But with the freeze having knocked back all the grasses, and potentially having offed the Bamboo Muhly, I decided to actually cut everything back.

Post hair cut and post mulching. You can see the bird bath again. I've left the Caldwell Pink rose alone for now since it doesn't seem to bloom if I cut it back in the spring. I figure I'll let it bloom and then severely cut it back as well.

With a few weeks of recovery growth.  The plants all growing in front of the bird bath are mostly false day flower or widows tears or something. It is taking over, but is really easy to pull out so I'm leaving it for now.  There is also a poppy or two in the mix.  The bamboo muhly DID survive, btw, but only from the roots.

The cat was not happy about the grass cut back - she would spend most of her day in this corner area because the grasses would create a nice little bower that was protected from the elements, and so we'd find her sleeping in the area she used to, only completely huddled up because it wasn't as warm as it used to be. She is happy all the plants are coming back.

This part usually isn't damaged by freezes since it's got a huge turk's cap plant along the fence, and a yaupon holly close to the temp gage.  Since the freeze knocked the Turks cap to the ground though, it needed to be cleaned.

After cutting everything to the ground and mulching. I posted some of these photos to instagram and everyone was asking what I planned on planting in the newly mulched area. And the answer is NOTHING! Because the Turks cap is still there and alive.

And you can see the Turks cap starting to come back.  You'll also notice that the cast iron plant is looking a little worse for the wear (or as my dad says every time he's been over since the freeze, "I think your succulents are dead." - I don't know why he insists on thinking cast iron plant is a succulent, but whatever).

The front walk area before. Notice the dead, overgrown rosemary front and center.

Post clean up and most areas mulched. The rosemary has been removed, and while that was, indeed, a plant that I killed at least 3 times before I could get it to grow, I'm not sure that I need to race out and get a new one. One: you can't find any rosemary because EVERYONE I'd looking for replacements, and Two: I don't use it that much.  I've actually decided that I think I'll do my herbs on a rotation - I'll grow them for a few years harvesting and drying as I go, and when the plant is big and gnarly, I'll just pull it out and start over with a different type.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Big Freeze Clean Up: Before and After

So I left off with the big freeze having happened. This means that plants got goobered.  Plants that hadn't been cut back in eons died back to the ground, some plants, like my Arizona Ash still haven't recovered since it was already budding out right as the freeze hit. 

The Asiatic Jasmine corner. Before. On the plus side, the freeze really did kill off most of this invasive plant making it much easier to get rid of.

After.  I realize it's hard to see the difference since it was all brown before and is still brown. But hopefully the tree appreciates it.

Can you find all the toads?  There was a whole family of them living under an old grill cover which was in the Asiatic Jasmine.  The cover had been full incorporated into the jasmine. 

The Toadrys.  I had to text my "snake guy" coworker because he's into all the cool animals - like seriously, I've brought him skulls, jaw bones, snake skins, and pictures of snakes in the past to find out what they are. So naturally I texted him a photo of the toads and was like "uh...I'm doing yardwork, how do I save these guys? Do I need to use gloves or anything?" So this was the first time in my life where I went about catching toads and putting them in a bucket.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going, mister?!". The amount of talking I was doing to those toads and the spiders I found probably had my neighbors questioning my sanity.

Adult Rough Earth Snake. We have these occasionally in the yard and I love them. This was my first time actually catching and holding one. And then I had to catch him AGAIN because he was intent on needing to be in the part of the yard where the asiatic jasmine was and didn't WANT to be in the garden area.  Bonus points to me that I didn't need to contact "the snake guy" since I joined a snake identification group on Facebook and now spend a lot of time looking at snake pictures and have gotten much better at identifying them - Shawn says hopefully this means I'll actually SEE the snakes before I step on them (I've almost stepped on a racer, a bull snake, a rattlesnake, and a rat snake).

As for planting things in this area, I'm trying to generally keep it unplanted through this summer (because I predict it's going to be a summer from hell a la 2011 again). BUT, this is also an area that like years ago I had planned to plant some beauty bushes in this area - bushes that I promptly had purchased with the misguided idea that if I had the bushes on hand, I'd remove the asiatic jasmine sooner rather than later. 


Yeah - the beautyberry, Mexican buckeye, and agarita sat in tiny pots for YEARS. I needed to cut the containers away from the roots and still dig them out of the ground.  BUT! I did get them dug up and then replanted in this area. But since those plants were also damaged by the freeze, they all got a severe cut back and now I'm waiting for them to leaf out more so you can actually see them in the photo. But with the warmer weather, I am getting some of the Asiatic jasmine coming back from root pieces I missed, so I need to keep the area clear for a growing season or so, just to make sure I got it all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Now... where'd we leave off?

Okay, so essentially 4 years after leaving you guys, I decided I should take up blogging about the garden again.  We'll see how long it lasts.  It may be only 2 weeks.  The suspense is terrible, I hope it lasts.

So I left off in March 2017. This basically coincided with me really getting into kitten fostering and volunteering at the animal shelter. So let's get you caught up - there was racist rally in Virginia in which the president refused to condemn the white supremacists and insisted that there were "very nice people on both sides."  Actually, the president never did condemn white supremacy the entire time he was in office.  Not surprising since they did (and still do) make up a significant portion of his base.  The US left the Iran Nuclear deal and the Paris Accords, killed NAFTA, and started courting Russia and North Korea as allies while telling Europe they could suck it.  the #metoo movement happened and generally abated with not a whole lot having changed (other than Harvey Weinstein going to jail and a lot of men being upset thinking that women were out to get them).  There was also something about a Hurricane that the president tried to alter it's path with a sharpie and questions about the president's mental aptitude (I mean, the man DID look directly at solar eclipse).  

And then the 2020 pandemic happened. 

That's right. A pandemic. A mother-effing flu-like pandemic that resulted in working from home, wearing masks everywhere, and avoiding elderly family member like you had, well, the plague.  Mixed in with all that, race relations came to a head because for some dumb reason cops refuse to stop killing Black people for doing normal things like "sleeping in their own home," or "going for a run," or for minor law breaking like "used a $20 counterfeit bill" or "had expired license plates."  

Other shitty things that happened in 2020: Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, as did Elijah Cummings, and John Lewis.  But here we are, on "the other side" with vaccines being stabbed in arms and things returning to "normal." Why, we've already had 2 school shootings and schools aren't even really in session. So yeah, the world is healing.

While everyone was like "oh man, at least 2021 can't be any worse," 2021 was like "here, hold my beer" and kicked off with an armed insurrection at the national capitol on January 6, followed by a polar vortex in February which caused the Texas power grid to shit itself like a newborn babe. And I mean one of those shits that shoots up out the back of the diaper and somehow covers EVERYTHING.  

And so, I feel like this is a good point to pick back up with the gardening. Because there's nothing that likes shit more than a gardener (hey oh!)

The polar vortex messed shit up, yo. It knocked enough plants back on their ass and required such a massive amount of clean up (which I'm still doing), that it really resulted in me getting everything almost back to "clean slate status."

First the ice covered everything and weighed it down

Then the snow came and covered everything.  

And then the power outages started.  Ted Cruz ran across the border into Mexico in order give his family a better life with electricity, heat, and running water (seriously, for reals, though sadly he came back). Meanwhile, the Texas grid was like minutes away from crashing to the point that it would have taken MONTHS to fix it.  The outages were meant to be "rolling" but the amount of power that needed to be off the system was so much that they had to kill every "non-essential" circuit - this is why downtowns were all lit up like Christmas while neighborhoods were blacked out - because downtown areas tend to have hospitals and police stations.  So some people went without power for almost a week.  The temperatures didn't get above like 20 degrees for that entire time.  Houses down here are not insulated like they are up north.  Houses down here don't have shut offs to their exterior facing hose bibs to keep the pipes from bursting.  Even if people wanted to leave, they couldn't because the roads were impossible to drive on since we don't have any means of removing snow/ice from the roadways.

At least the snow made for some nice, and not normal for Austin, photos

As the snow was starting to melt, and things were looking up, the water ran out.  One of the Austin water treatment plants went offline for a while because of falling trees and then no one could figure out how to get the power back on because the Water Treatment Plant hasn't been modernized since like 1950.  Because everyone was dripping or running their faucets to keep pipes from freezing, the water reserves got used up REAL QUICK LIKE.  This meant that we were frantically saving snow in buckets and coolers and even tupperware containers just so we had some type of water. Toilets were only getting flushed after pooping, everyone was drinking their beer stash instead of having to boil water, etc etc.  Thankfully, those that had been without electricity for a week, generally didn't lose their water service.

Water outage map for Austin

Thank God for rain barrels which are full of water...though they were frozen solid...dangnabbit.

So. Like I said, the polar vortex was epic and the plants did not like it. At all. Plants which hadn't died back in years were knocked to the ground (e.g. almond verbena, Philippine violet, Turk's cap), plants that had already budded are still recovering (arizona ash), plants which should have made it through with no problems are having problems recovering (yaupon holly), and some of our more tender plants are being watched on baited breath for recovery or have already been ripped out because of the time it would take to recover (lorapetalum, pitsporum, crepe myrtle).  

I'm going to try to do a post per area as it got cleaned up because in addition to cutting back things that haven't been touched in YEARS, I also added compost and mulch so everything is looking tip top - if a little bare while I wait for things to fill back in.