Although well into summer, and an ongoing drought, former master gardener Leslie Courington believes area horticulturalist can still keep their thumbs green this summer.
Courington spoke to approximately a dozen are gardeners Tuesday evening inside the Brownwood Public Library as part of her program ‘Going Native: Drought Tolerant Plants for Brown County.’
“In Brown County, we just don’t have the rainfall that other places do a little bit further east,” Courington said. “Right now, we have something to worry about. My husband (Sammie Courington) and I live out on the lake, close to Flat Rock Park. We see those lake levels going down daily … Restrictions are around the corner right now. I was planning on these rain events to be in our watershed and help our lake. We have to worry and this is something I worry about quite a bit.”
Despite facing drought conditions, Courington said horticulturalists have options for keeping their gardens green and lush throughout the summer without feeling he or she is exacerbating drought conditions by needlessly using water. She later added more flowering plants will attract more bees, which in turn assists other crops, even the non-drought resistant ones.
“One of the things that helps pollination is having all of these flowers out there for [bees],” Courington said. “… The best we can do is plant stuff that they can move the pollen around in and have the flowers around our vegetable garden to help do that.”
Courington recommended trees such as chitalpa, crepe myrtle, desert willow and retama. For bushes, she recommends esperanza, rosemary, lantana, Mexican sagebrush, turk’s cap, Russian sage and salvia greggi. For flowers, she recommended Echinacea, meadow or maynight sage, yarrow, lamb’s ear and Moses in a boat or the wandering Jew, Blackfoot daisies, pink skullcap and fall aster and for grasses she recommends Mexican feather grass or gulf muhle. Due to their nature, she said many of the plants listed are easy to manage.
“Their stems are like little straws,” she said. “If you cut them back in the fall, when we get our promised fall and winter rain, the little straws fill up with water. The water goes down and rots out the roots. Guess what? You might as well have just planted an annual … Please do not cut them back in the fall or winter. Wait for the spring.”
While discussing managing drought plants, Courington said another option for not stressing city and county infrastructure in drought conditions is using collected rainwater. She recommended painting clear or white rainwater catches in order to prevent sunlight from hitting it and creating algae. She also recommended painting black rainwater catches a lighter color, preferably the color of the home, in order to keep the water from getting too hot and scalding the plant.
“I collect a lot of rainwater. The water that comes out of the sky is much healthier for these plants,” Courington said. “I never fertilize. I don’t have to. I use rainwater … Collecting your water is very important.”