Texas Treehugger | "New Beginnings" | Text and 3 Photos by Christy Ilfrey

Hopeful seedlings emerge from once-flooded gardens
Shh, our gardens are sleeping. While gardeners in much of the rest of the country are harvesting their summer crops, we in South Texas have mostly put our gardens to bed (pun intended) until Labor Day. For the next month, we will tip toe around the solarizing plastic and whisper over seemingly empty plots. In the landscape, the natives are thriving…

Our Live Oaks, Redbays, Yaupon Hollies, and Texas Palms appear lush and verdant despite the oppressive heat. Shade-loving shrubs, such as American Beautyberry and Coralbean, are holding up sturdily, as well. None of these plants has been watered, fertilized, or groomed by human hands. They create the perfect backdrop for colorful perennials and grasses with various textures and movement. On the prairies Coastal Bluestem, Big Bluestem, Silver Bluestem, and Switchgrass frame perennial wildflowers. Our grasses, though they fought valiantly, lost the battle and drowned in the hot, stagnant floodwaters. Throughout the clean-up process – which began mid-July – we will continue to bury their remains in the compost pile. (RIP to all the edibles we lost, too.)

Most of the water is gone now. As it recedes, the pond deposits in odd places all that it had scooped up and floated around. Growing containers strewn along trails into the forest; pilings once staged alongside the driveway stacked up in the front yard; toys in storage boxes blasted out of the tent into the water: sifting through debris is simultaneously overwhelming and entertaining. “Hey, look where I found Sage’s art caddy! It’s in the potato patch!” But the most remarkable discovery has been the magic of Nature itself. When the gardens flooded, thousands of tomatoes in five or six varieties were in various stages of ripening. Our family paddled our kayak into the garden fast filling up with water to harvest as many tomatoes as we could reach. The rest bobbed around the pond, paddling on their own, in a way. Nature’s processes broke down the fruit and dispersed their seeds. Today we have hundreds of tomato seedlings popping up in the front yard, driveway, raised bed gardens, and even in the forested areas of Sage Hollow. It seems as if a giant hand tossed them onto the breeze and left them to germinate where they lay. Now the fun is in discovering new seedlings – not just tomatoes, but peppers and squash and zucchini and whoknowswhatelse – in their new homes. Strange as their locations may be, these little seedlings give us hope: they represent another new beginning for our family and Native Dave team. This weekend I pulled the packets of seeds we planted earlier this year. Most are approximately half-full of seeds. Soon, we will plant them and bring the gardens back to life. Soon, we will also begin propagating plants and bring the nursery back to life, too.

More seedlings...
There is an old saying about gardeners, seasoned and green alike (another intended pun): people who garden live longer because they always look forward to the next harvest. My next one is several months away but at least I have more than my fair share of hope.

Hopeful new beginning: tomato seedlings are popping up everywhere!

Christy Ilfrey and her husband David own and operate NativeDave.com. Their mission: "To make positive changes in our community by way of sustainable landscape design and consultation services, speaking engagements and writing projects. We strive to educate, entertain and empower audiences to conserve, preserve, restore and celebrate Nature." You can find Christy and David's informative articles through their column entitled "Texas Treehugger" here.

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