Trying to grow things in Texas can be heartbreaking. It's been hot and dry, dry, dry for much of the year lately. I was getting discouraged for a while, but this year I decided to try again, and try harder.
First, I bought two more rain barrels so I could store the water when it does rain. (They sat empty for three months, but we finally had a storm last month.)
Then Eric bought me a giant compost tumbler for Christmas, which was a very romantic gift in that it was exactly what I wanted.
It didn't fit under the tree, or really anywhere except the backyard, so for present-opening time Eric wrapped a tiny box with this card inside. Hooray!
I got to researching and ran across the concept of hugelkultur. Basically the idea is you build a raised garden bed on a base of rotted wood--if the wood is old enough it's able to soak up moisture like a sponge and release it back into the garden over time.
We happened to have a big, extremely rotten tree trunk that had made up a portion of the crummy old fence we replaced in the fall, plus the remnants of a youngish pecan tree we lost to the series of droughts. (Like I said, it's heartbreaking.) That seemed like a good start for a tiny bed.
Soon Kristy mentioned the number of leaves she'd been raking and bagging from the many trees in her yard, so I offered to take them off her hands. She began saving them for me, and when this is done I'll use them to make compost for some other, as-yet-unplanned project.
Somewhere in all that, Lei-Leen sent me a link about keyhole gardening, which has been used to great effect here in Texas. The idea is that you have a round, built-up garden with a compost basket in the middle to toss your kitchen scraps in. You water the garden through the basket, pushing the moisture and nutrients below the soil's surface, which is supposed to reduce evaporation and encourage roots to grow deeply.
I had already started heaping up wood and leaves for a hugelkultur bed and was amassing extra kitchen scraps as we waited for the first batch of compost to cook, so I decided to make a hybrid of the two.
At first it looked like a complete shitty mess (especially compared to what it replaced). The white stuff is flour, which this blog taught me is a good way to sketch outlines in the yard (and also reassured me that it's fine to adapt these principles according to what you already have and can feasibly do).
Today we moved the original wood/leaf/hay/dirt pile forward to join the keyhole bed. Eric broke up the big tree trunk so it would fit in the circle, and we began to build the rock border.
We soaked it halfway through to get as much water into the base as possible.
It still looks kind of shitty and messy, but you can see where we're going with this. We'll slowly build up both the soil and the rock wall over the next six weeks or so until it's time to plant spring vegetables. Hopefully between the soaked wood and the center basket and the mulch I plan on spreading, I'll be able to grow even in a really dry spring.
Will this work? Hell, I don't know! I guess if it doesn't we can always throw some ollas into the mix and turn it into a drought-fighting collossus.
Or maybe it'll rain every day for three months and everything will turn to mush and rot. If that happens I will give up on gardening in Texas forever, secure in the knowledge I did everything I could with the hand I was dealt.