Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring After IKE...

Spring has definitely appeared in Houston, Texas... The azaleas are blooming in lavish abundance in all the yards on my street. The penta and fountain plants are lush and colorful and the butterflies flit happily around them. It's as though the plants feel another hurricane is on the way this summer and they need to spread their seeds before it's too late. One last call - one last S.O.S.

After Hurricane Ike, we lived two weeks without electricity. I was too cheap to buy a generator because I did not want to spend $4/gallon on the twelve gallons of gas/day to keep my refrigerator cool and one TV or radio working. Why bother? We were content to read by candlelight. It was cool enough to keep the windows open (we had screens...) and we had batteries to keep the radio working, so we could get some news as to what was going on in the world. Debris was everywhere and I had an old oak tree crash into my house. Fortunately, the "crash" sounded more serious than it actually was. It only leaned on our house and caused no major damage. We eventually got a new roof out of the whole episode which was a nice perk.

But two weeks of having a 100 foot tall oak leaning on your home was a little unnerving. Would it move with the wind and actually fall into the house? Fortunately, it was wedged pretty tightly on the eaves of floors one and two, so we were lucky. Our tree man came two weeks later to cut the tree down and that was a huge relief.

Six months later, the tree trunk is now gone thanks to a stump grinder and our plants are now happy with the oak mulch. We planted a Meyer Lemon in the area and it has gone beserk, blooming vigorously. All of our plants seem to be blooming vigorously, afraid, it seems, that another storm may be on the way. And with it, their doom....

Scientifically, plants do become stressed out after a major storm such as Hurricane Ike and so some will bloom excessively or not at all. Or even bloom at the wrong time of the year. I've had Lily of the Nile blooming in February when it should bloom closer to the May/June timeframe.

Tips for the month:

1. Put water out for the birds. Southeast Texas is under a severe drought. Birds are in desperate need of water. The water bird colonies along Bolivar Peninsula and Anahuac have not begun to nest yet because of lack of fresh water and food. Frightening!

2. Avoid over-fertilization of your yard. Excess fertilizer will run off whenever we do get rain and end up in our estuaries... Instead, add mulch to your lawn. The natural nutrients will help loosen and aerate the soil. Your lawn will become healthier and more resistant to bugs...

3. You can plant your flower beds now...We are now past our freeze dates.

4. Plant native. You'll use less water once the plants have become established.

By the way, that Meyer Lemon? It should have at least a hundred lemons ready for plucking in August. Just in time to make fresh Lemonade!

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