yard log: 4/24/2013

Here on the east side of the Rio Grande, elevation 4976 ft., we have 34 degrees F. outside – a sunny, late April morning.

It’s been cold at night – last week we had two nights in the low 20’s. Last night it didn’t get down below freezing, according to NOAA weather blog.

I write to list the plants in our yard that don’t seem to be doing too well. My spouse says to wait a while til after it’s warmed up. This photo is of the first plant – the big lilac bush given to us by my mom the month after we moved in, 1985.

April 24, 2013  - 28 year old Lilac

April 24, 2013 – 28 year old Lilac

Each spring we witness plants that didn’t make it through the winter. The spring of 2010, there were plants that didn’t survive the week of extremely low temperatures in February of that year (Rosemary, Lingustrum bushes, Spirea).

2013 Plants don’t seem alive:
Red Plum

2013 Plants with major percentage dead growth:
2 Lilacs

I hose-watered every month over the winter. But our rainfall has been zilch. At the NOAA website I looked at this map/graph of last 3 months precipitation (SPI – Standardized Precipitation Index) http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/Drought/Monitoring/spi.shtml
It shows our central NM area as the color light brown (between negative – 0.8 and 0.4 inches).

Here is another map I downloaded (where our area is shown to have ‘drought persist or intensify’):

And here is that same Lilac from 3 years ago – April 28th, 2010:

Mother's Lilac 4/28/2010

Mother’s Lilac 4/28/2010

Mother's Lilac 4/24/2013

Mother’s Lilac 4/24/2013

I read this good overview of water in New Mexico by VB Price in the NM Mercury last evening- http://newmexicomercury.com/blog/comments/a_systems_approach_to_understanding_water_in_New_Mexico

It got me thinking about how my family could make our lives work on 50 gallons of water a day. And this morning I want to start measuring …


5 Responses to “yard log: 4/24/2013”

  1. April 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I tend to suspect water as the problem for your lilac rather than cold. We had lilacs galore in Iowa when I was growing up. (Well – they still have them, of course!) They did very well over the winters – long, cold, often sub-zero winters with lots of snow. Likewise the spirea and catalpa.

    There’s been a surge of interest in xeriscaping here, since the terrible drought of 2011. We’re still not in very good shape regarding water, so gardening tips and prayers for rain are walking hand in hand this spring. I tend to be less panic-stricken about it all than some of my friends. I’ve been doing a good bit of research about drought periods on the plains in the 1800s, and what we’re experiencing isn’t much different than it was then. There are new complexities, of course – due to population growth, inappropriate irrigation and so on. There’s a bit of a water war going on between Texas and Mexico now. Who knows how that will resolve.

    Still, living on less water is good, and possible. I learned how to do it when cruising. A boat carries only so much fresh water, and back in the day, we didn’t have a water maker. I can’t remember what our fresh water limit per person per day was -no more than 3 gallons. Of course, for things like showers it was wash with salt and rinse with fresh. And we had to count water used for cooking, etc. too. The game was to save as much of that 3 gallons per day as possible, and use what was in the “bank account” for hair washing or a really good shower. ;)

    • April 27, 2013 at 7:19 am

      Really, Linda, you all have less rainfall, too? I will gander at the map at coastal south Texas.
      Well, there’s also a water lawsuit filed by TX against NM. We paid TX big in the 80’s over water then, too. There are a lot of pacts about water between the upstream high country and the downstream low country – and for our hi/up state, we have 2 pacts, one for each side of the Continental Divide.
      There’s history in drought, that’s for sure. Our David Gunstler at UNM said the variability of weather patterns is something that won’t change in any climate – the good years and the bad – the stretches of zilch and the year or two in a row when we have lots of rain. The one thing different now, heard thru the grapevine, is the higher temps. Of course there’s precedence on Earth for that, too – the Jurassic – 200-144 mya is one of the ancient warmer times. Earth has seen it before. We will be forced to change our ways. The question is, sooner, or later? Would it make a difference if we helped the atmosphere sooner? As communities in the 20th century curbed burning coal for cleaner air, we could take steps as a nation to create cleaner air … however, it doesn’t seem like we can come together on this issue in our United States. Around the globe, we have company in that category – China and India also not wanting to commit to cleaning up power generation.
      Your story of learning to rever water on the boat is great – that will stick with me. I have written before about my water-wasting ways and as I pull that out again, I will use your example of how someone learned. Speaking of boat life – have you seen the movie Life of Pi?

  2. April 26, 2013 at 5:11 am

    Certainly there are many “foreign” cultivars found in yards throughout our country that would not normally grow there. Both water and temperatures can be a major factor. Most people can’t resist growing things that didn’t used to be there and I’m no exception. Certainly tomatoes are not native to western New England. The only time it seems to be a problem is if our habit makes us use a precious resource, water for example or growing something like a plant that is invasive that will escape and displace a native plant outside of our “yards”, e.g. purple loosestrife.

    I’m sure you’ve thought of growing more drought tolerant species but prefer to have a landscape that is reminiscent of somewhere else. I know I’ve done that myself. Still, your effort to keep track of what works and what does not is an interesting study and one that may be useful as you replace those species that perish. Keep in mind it is very likely to get drier in the upcoming years.

    I really liked this post!

    • April 27, 2013 at 7:47 am

      Bill – well, that’s nice to hear you liked it. I am trying to wrangle, bit by bit, with our reality that is looming much larger this year. There are other posts looming in my mind.
      As it warms up and we look at plants coming out of winter dormancy, the tale around our river valley from most folks is that stuff ain’t the same as usual. “The iris didn’t bloom,” or “My pine died” echo in conversations. These cold snaps in April have played a part, that’s for sure, on top of the “negative moisture” we’ve had (referring to the graph that called our last 3 months -0.8″).
      In Sunset’s Western Garden Book, Albuquerque is in the narrow finger of Zone 10 -“High Desert of Arizona and New Mexico”- that extends up into Zones 1 and 2 of the northern half of our state (1= “Coldest Winters in the West,” 2= “Second Coldest Climate-Soil Freezes in the Winter”). Our high desert river valley is oasis. In the description for Zone 10, I found this sentence: “Here the low winter temps give necessary chilling to make possible the growing of all the deciduous fruit and the perennials that thrive in the coldest climates – lilacs, spiraea, and the like.” That echoes what Linda said above about lilacs. If I read about lilacs more, I bet it will say they do need moisture. I didn’t winter-water those plants enough.
      In our state we are seeing water law being put to the test this year. This article http://lajicarita.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/avoiding-priority-calls-for-the-right-and-wrong-reasons
      shows how an agricultural area in SE NM is using “Priority Call” as senior water right-holder over the junior water right holder of city … And in our central valley a big news item two weeks ago was this: “With drought sapping flows in the Rio Grande, central New Mexico’s largest agricultural water agency announced Monday it is curtailing water deliveries to some of its farmers.
      Customers who have no water rights of their own, who instead buy water one year at a time from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District’s “water bank,” got word Monday that their irrigation would be cut off unless and until Rio Grande flows improved.”

      Sorry for the long reply – as you can see, I need to process this.
      I know you know our area. We are seeing heightened challenges this year, that’s for sure.

    • April 27, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Need to add – your bio-eyes and ears do see our picture clearly – certain plant species will need to be replaced.

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