Texas Drought Map
2011-05-31. 2011 Texas Drought.

June 3rd, 2011
Week 22: 5/28 – 6/3

Dateline: 2011

According to the National Weather Service, “The warm spring from March to May was the 10th driest ever at Camp Mabry and the warmest since 1854.” Worse than the heat, the drought is now exceptional. Most of May felt like August. We did get one lovely heavy rain two weeks ago but my rain barrels are already empty and the pond is quickly evaporating.

Speaking of the pond, Monday (5/30) AJM noticed a heron stalking around. The fish are in hiding. Or eaten. We can’t tell yet how many fish have been taken. We didn’t see any for a few days. Then a couple peeked out. We’ve put the netting up again until they have a chance to recover and the pond water clears up again. When critters chase the fish, they stir up the water and the pond gets all mucky.

First flowers: Asclepias curassavica (6/1); water lily ‘Helvola” (6/1).

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People just don’t realize how conservative I am.

August 24th, 2009
August Water Usage

Update: August 2009
Worst summer ever. However, this year’s August water bill is somewhere in the middle of my highest and my lowest years, mostly because so many plants died last summer that I don’t have as much to water.

I gave up on the garden somewhere in early July when we hit 30 triple digit days. We are now at day 64 and expected to break the all time record of 69 days set in 1925. Stage 2 water restrictions go into effect today, August 24th. I have already been following those stricter restrictions, so I do not expect to be able to conserve water much more than I’m doing now.

Unlike 2005, my lawn no longer looks like dried hay. It looks like dirt.

1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 6500 gallons (07/17/2009 – 08/17/2009)
3. cost: $19.87 (water only; not wastewater charge)

Update: August 2005
Wow! This August my water consumption was low. I was in England the first two weeks of August, so used no water at all. Luckily, it was cool and rainy. These last two weeks of August should make next month’s bill skyrocket. My lawn looks like dried hay.
1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 3500 gallons (07/19/2005 – 08/18/2005)
3. cost: $9.16

In today’s bill the City of Austin included a brochure reminding us to check for leaks, especially if our consumption is above 25,000 gallons. 25,000 gallons! Hey! Save some water for the rest of us. What are you guys doing? Bathing in the stuff?

Update: September 2005
September was hotter than August and I used twice as much water. We reached our high for the year of 108 and we had 8 record-breaking highs in a row, all above 100 degrees. The rains never came this far west. I’ve lost two or three rose bushes. Most of the garden looks terrible. This is the first time I’ve ever seen nandina wilt.
September consumption: 8200 gallons (08/18/2005 – 09/19/2005)
cost: $19.92

Update: August 2004
1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 5600 gallons (07/19/2004 – 08/17/2004)
3. cost: $12.66

Original Post: August 2003
I try to be conservative in my water usage, but I don’t have any idea if I’m using more or less water than the average homeowner, or the average gardener. Sometimes I think I’m a little “penny-wise and pound-foolish.” After ten years of gardening, I have a sizeable investments in plants. It doesn’t make sense to skimp on water if I end up losing that investment.

So how much water do you use? Would you leave a comment and leave this information? I’ll do mine as an example.

1. location: Austin Texas
2. August consumption: 9,600 gallons (07/17/2003 – 08/15/2003)
3. cost: $20.82

I put the cost of just the water, not the wastewater charges which are figured separately on the Austin utility bill.


Zanthan Gardens: Our Summer Dilemma The post I wrote last year generated a lot of discussion.

prickly pear cactus
When a cactus wilts the pads curl inwards and shrivel so that you can see the veins.

August 7th, 2009
Even the Cactus Is Withering

There are no green thumbs or black thumbs. There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises. It sounds very well to garden a ‘natural way’. You may see the natural way in any desert, any swamp, any leech-filled laurel hell. Defiance, on the other hand, is what makes gardeners. — Henry Mitchell

I’ve quoted this passage from Henry Mitchell before but I don’t know if I believe it anymore. It’s nicely phrased. Well, sometimes words have their way with writers. We exaggerate or expound because the words flow together. They seem to write themselves. They reveal unarticulated truths to us. We feel our muse has spoken, believe our own arguments, talk ourselves into a position.

I don’t believe that any one trait makes a gardener. Gardeners are gardeners simply because we can’t help ourselves.

We Austin gardeners are having a tough time these days. Today, the National Weather Service confirmed we are in the hottest summer ever recorded in Austin. We are in a drought so severe and ongoing that they’ve had to come up with a new classification to describe it. It’s like we’re in Spinal Tap with the volume set to 11.

As garden bloggers we feel the need to cheer each other on, to raise our fists defiantly together, to commiserate and console each other in our losses. I wonder, though, am I the only one whose cheerful front is wearing thin? Am I the only one who doesn’t want hear another word about planting xeriscape or native plants or adding still another layer of mulch? Am I the first one to crack under the heat as I run screaming from the room, “EVEN THE DAMN CACTUS IS WITHERING!”

Is Henry Mitchell really going to drum me out of the corp of gardeners because I think in times like these it’s foolish to be defiant? In some situations isn’t it better to bend gracefully like the bamboo than break like the oak?

drought-stressed cedar elm
The top of this drought-stressed cedar elm just fell over last week.

If there is anyone else out there who feels less of a gardener for not living up to some standard of defiance or cheerfulness in the face of this calamity, I want to reassure you. It’s all right to hate your garden right now. It’s all right to feel joyless as you water your potted plants twice a day. It’s all right to feel sullen as you drag your hose around before the sun comes up. It’s all right to feel sad, anger, disgust, and despair. I won’t try to cheer you up. I’ll start looking for silver linings after I see some dark, rain-filled clouds.

We are cautioned not to envy others with a trite, “The grass is always greener elsewhere.” I say, it would pretty much have to be.