20 Years of Climate Change in My Gardens in Austin Texas (Updated March 13)

By December 19, 2012March 22nd, 2013Austin

Original Discussion: https://climatediscovery.org/20-years-of-climate-change-in-my-gardens-in-austin-texas/

Planted tomatoes the first week of February. I was amazed to find plants at Home Depot. Normally we don’t get tomato plants until the first of March. For the last half dozen or so years spring has been coming earlier, requests for transplants rising and the suppliers have been meeting the demand, but until this year at Depot, before Valentines Day (14th February). The plants have doubled in size and fruit is now set.

I planted squash and zucchini in little pots on Valentines day and noticed that same week that a volunteer squash had sprouted in the garden. I’ve not watered it, and it virtually did not rain from early January until March 9 when we had an inch, so it’s really dry. I have been watering my lettuce every day  because I started losing some of them.  The squash plant is not as big as the ones I planted in pots, but leaf development is the same. I have brought the ones in pots in the house on a half dozen nights where low 30s were forecast. We have had a light freeze or two since mid January, but my min/max broke and I don’t know for sure. Peppers showed at the nurseries last week.

Arizona Ash (not native but widely planted as fast growing trees in residential subdivisions) began budding out in Oak Hill the last week of January. Normally they bud in late February or early March. Redbuds on the Rio Grande campus of Austin Community college bloomed all winter and even kept some of their leaves. they are normally completely deciduous. I did have a few bloom buds come out enough to see their color on one of my redbuds in oak Hill, but because it is several degrees colder out here west of town in the hills, they never developed. It cooled of back to four or five degrees above “normal” for about two weeks at the end of January and into early February. The Arizona Ash stopped developing during this “cold” period.

My creek plum was just about peaking on Valentines Day. In the past I have been thrilled to have it begin to bloom on Valentines Day because my wife adores the fragrance. Mountain Laurels were blooming downtown on Valentines Day, a couple of weeks early.

There are bluebonnets blooming at City Hall, they began about March 1 at least two weeks early. Also at city hall there are redbuds with some of last years leaves on them and some brown blossoms that I did not see in bloom sometime over the winter. Redbuds are peaking right now in Oak Hill, they peaked over the last two weeks downtown, several weeks early on both accounts. Also at City hall were lantana in full bloom, with last year’s. Lantanas always freeze back to the ground, or at least they once did. over the last half dozen years I heard reports of them making it through the winter, but seen it until this year.

The big Spanish oak in my back yard began to bud out in late February, several weeks earlier than ever. Several frostweed plants did not freeze back this year at my house too—never seen that before. the Anisicanthus (hummingbird bush, native to the Trans Pecos) began budding at the end of January, more than a month before anytime before.

The Mexican buckeye is now blooming, doesn’t seem to bee too early relative to the last several years. The live oaks too and they have lost most of their leaves now again, not seemingly too early relative to the last half dozen years.  But the oaks have been trying to lose their leaves all winter—twice they started to fall then stopped when it cooled off. This is not totally unusual as false springs have been something that happens around here since I have been paying attention (since the mid 1980s).

That previous paragraph is just for the record for my use in coming years. It’s also been so dry here that I feel fairly certain that some more plants would have budded earlier with more moisture. Two species of agaraita for example, began to bloom the last week of January, but the blooms did not open until about March 1.

This is likely the best winter garden I have ever had. Since the turn of the century the winter garden has really come into its own with fewer and less extreme freezes. I have cherry tomatoes ripe on the vine (only a handful) under a plastic lean-to on the west side of the house and Celebrities have set bud the fruit is not swelling yet. I took cuttings of my last year’s crop of tomatoes in December to get this crop.

My green onions started sending up bloom stalks about a month early this year, I think I saw the first about Valentines Day. I have a few kale plants that blossoms began to appear on about Valentines day and several are in full bloom now.  All of my fall lettuce bolted  and most of it froze in January because the blossom stalks were tender, but some did not. These have been blooming since the first of February.

We went to two pages of tree pollen on the nightly pollen report about the first of March; early, but not sure how much.

The cabbage loopers finally froze out, I haven’t seen one in six weeks. But I have never seen on in January like this year. The white fly infestation from last year continues, although subdued in January and February, it is getting pretty bad now. Thankfully they do not do much damage.

I finally determined why I had so much trouble with seedlings last fall. I planted some kale in little pots and they had the same trouble as those that I put in the ground. I used garden soil and when I took one of the pots in to have my local nursery Look at the murdered seedlings under a microscope they found lots and lots of teeny snails. Hard to say if this is because of changing climate (yes).

My water barrel has been dry most of the winter. This happened for the first time during the drought of 2010/2011.

And we turned the central heat  on maybe three or four times this season. I did have a fire in fireplace almost every night it was chilly though.

Update March 22:

I seem to have lost the first installment, maybe I will find it again.

Turned the A/C on for band rehearsal tonight. I waited till 4:30-mistake. It’s 6:00 and the temp in the studio is still 81 and I even turned on the house unit to help. This winter (hah!) I had to use the A/C to cool down the studio 5 or 6 times but only the two window units in the studio. In recent years past, maybe I would have to do it once or twice, maybe not. Before about 2005/6-never. This just ain’t right. It was above 90 again today.

Spinach is starting to bolt, some of it is in bloom already and the little blister beetles are out-early. I had to get my soapy water spray bottle down from winter (hah!) storage. I saw my first squash vine borer moth today-ooooh those things are terrible, they usually don’t get into the swing of things till April. The multiplying onions are about to be in full bloom, the creek plum has not had a bloom on it in two weeks both early. the Mexican Buckeye has been in bloom for a week and the live oaks have about lost all their leaves and are pollinating enough to start the annual yellow dust coating of everything. Not sure how early these last tow things are.

Spiderwort started blooming last weekend and baby blue eyes about ten days ago. There are not many things growing around, too dry.

Went to Lake Buchanan last weekend and bluebonnets are up, but not in force yet. Looks like they had enough rain to get a halfway decent beginning of a bloom. If we get some more rain soon it will be a nice show. Not sure if this is early or not.

There are willows and cottonwood saplings in the dry lake bed. That’s not good. It means that it’s been dry for a while now. normally only rank pioneer (seed) species grow in the lake in dry times. There is just not enough dry for the longer lived species to get growing.

We went to three pages on the pollen report on the 14th. Everything is budding out, except I have not noticed oif the pecan’s are out—they are usually very late. 

On the Buchanan trip I saw huisache (a mesquite-like tree) that did not lose it’s leaves this winter-sad. 20 years ago, down in Corpus most years husiache would lose it’s leaves during the winter.