Saturday, September 6, 2008


I ran into Annie in Austin today at the Natural Gardener and realized that I wasn't the only one Austin gardener gearing up for the fall season. We can't plant just yet but the moment that window to plant appears, we'll be ready.

The plants have been selected and purchased. (If I ever make a list of essential gardening tools, a wading pool will be one of them. It's great for soaking wine bottles and keeping potted plants watered during the summer from heck. Oops, looks like I forgot one wine bottle.)

The seeds have been purchased. The seed starting tray has been assembled. The grow lights (really just one warm and one cold fluorescent bulb hung in a work light on a chain) have been taken out of the shed.

I've filled my staging area (aka my driveway) with two kinds of mulch: the standard Texas native hardwood mulch in bags and the special cedar mulch that survived a recent spontaneous combustion. (I helped chip the cedar branches about a year and a half ago. My friend still hopes to plant grapevines on the cleared quarter acre.)

The fire started inside the pile and burned out from the bottom, incinerating the cedar logs my friend had saved for fence posts but sparing much of eight-feet tall mulch piles. The fire department didn't want the mulch hanging around any more, and now that my friend and neighbor as well as gardening buddy has a truck, I have mulch. You can see small pieces of charred mulch if you look closely. The combined aroma of cedar and fire make my driveway smell like a fall campout. I go outside and inhale and immediately feel 10 degrees cooler.

Behind the mulch is the revitalizer compost we (my neighbor, his truck, and me) picked up at the Natural Gardener. Have I mentioned how handy it is have to have a friend and neighbor with a truck?

The blue bottles that Pam passed on to me when I was collecting wine bottles are waiting to be turned into a bottle tree.

The new bed is well, not exactly ready to go. I successfully solarized the area but found it hard as a rock when I started digging. I reasoned that the baking sun had hardened the area as it killed the weeds so I watered the area thoroughly for several days. I started digging again yesterday and found that the the area wasn't just hard as rock--it was rock. Lots and lots of rock. The worst area I have ever tried to turn into a garden bed.

I sharpened my tools, which didn't help.

Getting nowhere fast I tried harnessing the natural tendencies of my garden helper.

Tossing a few dog treats in the area didn't hurt. But as it turned out, she had the attention span of well, a dog. A bird, a cricket, a shadow on the ground, and a stick distracted her, and she was off running in the yard.

Maybe I should get her a harness?

Normally I'm not a stickler for advance preparation but I know that once that glorious moment of fall hits it will be a headlong rush into winter--installing new gardens for Green Corn Project, refurbishing the garden at Lady Bird Lake, attending a week-long entolomology training, taking a plant photography class, surviving the heat at ACL fest, vetting a friend's new boyfriend for his husband potential, buying more plants the Wildflower Center sale, celebrating a marriage, celebrating a birthday, and celebrating GCP's 10 years for feeding Austin, one garden at a time at the end of October.

Whew. No wonder I'm getting READY TO G A R D E N!


  1. I've been hitting the nurseries this week too! I just got back from Barton Springs Nursery with a few more roses to wedge into my front bed. And my driveway is so covered with various kinds of mulch that you can barely get a car in there. I'll be out there when it cools off this evening working my wheelbarrow for all that it's worth. Good luck breaking up your rock for a new bed-- I had to use a pickaxe on mine. Good times. ;)

  2. I'm so jealous... I wish I were gearing up for a second planting season, instead of for putting the garden to bed! :)

  3. I enjoyed hearing about your fall garden plans and seeing the start of your new bed. I'm envious. I have a few potted plants on hold that I'd planned to stick in the garden this fall. But now that I'm moving, my gardening plans are on hold. Like you, I feel the itch to get ready for fall gardening, but I'll just have to be patient.

  4. Looks like you're all ready to go. The change of seasons has us all restless with anticipation--just like those northerners coming out of a nasty winter.

    I'm fascinated/frightened about the spontaneous combustion of mulch story. I'm always afraid of something like that happening when I collect Christmas tree mulch. How big was the pile that burst into flame? and why didn't everything burn up?

  5. Everyone seems to be hitting the nurseries except me... I am envious! All I am doing right now is excavating trash "treasures" and digging in my landfill with my broken shovel! I cannot wait to be where you are now, all organized and ready to go with the on-set of the cooler weather! Good for you.
    What ideas do you have for this bed?
    Do you know when the natural gardener starts their sale?

  6. I loved running into you at Natural Gardener, Vertie - we really came for soil and compost, but who could leave without a few plants?

    Like you, I've been trying to have my supplies organized, so that once the weather gets milder, we can just start right in without driving somewhere. Have fun with the projects!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  7. Way to go, Vertie! We worked hard yesterday and got our main fall veggie bed started. I linked to your blog and Tim Miller's schedule in my post today.

    And thanks for reminding me that I forgot broccoli yesterday! I'm hoping to sow those seeds this evening.

  8. MSS, the pile that burst into flame was very large--8-10 feet tall and had been there in the sun since May 2007. The fire spread from the bottom out and burned the nearby logs first. The flames reached 30 feet. I don't know for sure but the pile may have been spared because the fire department arrived. Lori might have some more information because she actually went out there. I just relied on the kindness of my neighbor with a truck.

    ESP, that new bed was going to be my new herb bed but it's getting more shade than I thought so I think it will be a shade bed. I've got plans for another bed for the herbs.

  9. Vertie and MSS - Yup, it was the fire department to the rescue. They said that there were 4 fire trucks there, and I believe it. The area that's charred is quite large, and the fire burned the underside of the oak canopy around the pile. I could see why the fire department was so adamant that the giant mulch pile had to go, since the burned area was not too far from the house! That said, thanks to the fire, the cedar mulch now smells like really great BBQ. ;)