Central Texas vegetation and produce thrive amidst one of the area’s driest periods

Central Texas’s dry climate and last year’s drought are still affecting the local vegetation. As summer is approaching, local farmers must continuously adapt to maintain a healthy produce harvest.

San Marcos residents are witnessing a resurgence in sustainable farming practices. As the area experiences fluctuating weather patterns and prolonged droughts, local farmers are innovating to ensure the success of their vegetation and produce as the weather gets hotter.

Sustainable San Marcos is a local non-profit environmentalist group established by volunteer directors aiming to advertise resource conservation. Sustainable San Marcos has led campaigns, hosted educational workshops, and created many gardens across San Marcos. They own and operate the Alamo and Dunbar Neighborhood Gardens with the motive of providing locals the guidance to successfully harvest their own produce. Betsy Robertson, who manages both gardens, is a Certified Master Gardener who has been gardening throughout her entire 48 years of living here. Robertson describes gardening in Central Texas as a constant learning curve.

”Texas is a really hard place to garden in,” Robertson said. “It’s got a very challenging climate, and I didn’t grow up here, so I had to learn all about it once I got here.”

Both of Sustainable San Marcos’ neighborhood gardens use multiple techniques in order to have fortunate seasons. It’s most important that local gardeners plant the kind of produce that is acclimated to the heat.

Because of the constant heat and dry weather, even acclimated plants can struggle to stay alive during summer. There are many protective measures taken at their neighborhood gardens over the course of summer. The Alamo and Dunbar gardens also implement the use of outside materials in an effort to remain sustainable. Mulching or covering the soil for ideal water retention is a common practice to prevent evaporation. Mulching is typically started throughout May as the summer starts. As a bonus for the plants, all organic matter is used for mulching so it can sit in the soil for composting afterwards.

The main concern is keeping moisture in the soil before the sun soaks it back up. Through the use of irrigation systems, the plants get the best benefits. Robertson says learning how to effectively water the plants is key. It’s better for the plants to have long and deep soaks opposed to frequent watering. Robertson says the over the years they have been able to observe the most effective watering techniques.

“There’s one other thing called ‘Ollas,'” Robertson said. “They’re large terracotta pots that are put down in the soil, and they’re filled with water so the water can actually soak through the walls of the pots to keep the soil moist. It provides a more steady source of moisture than intermittent watering.”

Richard Zarria, an environmentalist who works with Zara Environmental LLC, has his background in horticulture. Horticulture studies focus more on the native vegetation than produce that can be eaten. Through observing the climate overtime, Zarria emphasizes that Texas has always been a dry state.

”A drought is a period where rainfall that we’re accustomed to, is missing,” Zarria said.

Through his work, Zarria aims to redefines the definition of drought to align with the climate patterns of Texas. Even without the help of humans, it’s been observed that Texas will continuously get more dry. So, opposed to calling it a drought, scientists claim that in certain years Texas only does not have the assumed rainfall. The seasons where a surplus of rainfall is being observed are typically the ones out of the ordinary. Any unsuspected rainfall is simply a bonus for the plants.

Scientists have observed that some native plants are declining in population due to the dry weather. Because a dry climate is the natural state of Texas weather, many plant species have adapted to these conditions though. Central Texas shares many of its native plants with the desert states in the west. So, while added rainfall to the season helps the plants, many species have learned how to survive without it.

To learn more about the Central Texas environment visit Sustainable San Marcos or Zara Environmentalist LLC online. To start our own plot at the Alamo or Dunbar Neighborhood Gardens contact 512-667-3454.

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