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Sunday, May 31, 2009


Life is full of surprises.  

Just when you think your roots have you so firmly anchored that nothing can move you, something comes along and rips you right out.  I didn't think I would ever leave the Pacific Northwest, but here I am, living in Austin Texas.

My, my, my.  And you know what else?  I like it.  Austin is a great city and it provides me the opportunity to landscape a whole new yard in a climate that is very different from the one I just came from.  

Here in Austin it's all about the heat.  Even though, technically, it is in the same Sunset climate zone as Portland, Oregon (same average rainfall too) it couldn't be more different.  Austin has a humid subtropical climate, characterized by hot summers and mild winters. On average, Austin receives 33.6 inches of rain per year, with most of the precipitation in the spring, and a secondary maximum in the fall. During springtime and sometimes in August, severe thunderstorms occur. Although tornadoes are rare in the city, we've had several warnings.  

Austin summers are usually hot and humid, with average temperatures of approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit from June until September. Temperatures above 100 °F are common. The highest recorded temperature was 112 °F on September 5, 2000.  For the entire year there is an average of 111 days above 90 °F and 198 days above 80 °F.  I have struck up a friendship with a gal who works at a local nursery here.  She is originally from Bend, Oregon and has lived in Austin for eight years.  She warned me that I have to change in order to survive.  "Just because it's a nice day doesn't mean you go out and work in the yard."  She said that when summer arrives I am to force myself to go into the house at 10 a.m. in order to avoid heat stroke.  She said that her first summer here she would come home and just lay on the floor to cool down.  I can already see what she means.  I have sweat from pores I had no idea I had.  You cannot drink enough water to replace what pours off of you.

Winters in Austin are mild and dry. For the entire year, Austin averages 88 days below 45 °F and 24 days when the minimum temperature falls below freezing. The lowest recorded temperature was −2 °F on January 31, 1949.  Snowfall is rare in Austin, but approximately biannually Austin may suffer an ice storm that freezes roads over and affects much of the city for 24 to 48 hours.   The weather here changes very fast.  And even though it may be chilly in the morning it warms up to 70-80 °F by the afternoon.

So what does this mean to me, gardening wise?  Citrus trees darling, I can have citrus trees.  And I can grow okra, southern greens, summer peas and beans, melons, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and everything else that pouts because it doesn't get hot enough in Oregon.  What will I miss?  Rhubarb and the smell of lilacs.  Everything has a price.

I'm excited.  I have already sprayed the lawn to kill the grass.  I have a contractor coming in the next few weeks to install a rainwater collection system (all that research into cisterns for our Alaska project is paying off), and I've gotten some help with an edible landscape design.  I've signed up to become a Master Gardener and have my first application interview next week.  Another gal at another local nursery that I met is on the board and she says I have a good shot of getting in.

Now that Ed and I are all moved in and settled, I'll do a better job of keeping everyone up to date on what's happening in my yard.  And guess what?!  My Meyer Lemon tree is blooming. 

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