My first attempt at gardening, as I recall, was in Texas— not in Houston, where temperatures rarely drop below freezing either. Not in Corpus Christi, where the picturesque Shumard red oak may offer shade from 100 feet (31 m.) above its branching colorful canopy, but in the Texas Panhandle.
Texas Panhandle Gardening
Anyone familiar with the area might recall this is the hottest, driest, and windiest location in the world. While that is somewhat of an exaggeration, it often feels like a reality. Let’s not forget the winter cold and snow that settles in most seasons. Rainfall during the gardening season, when you need it most, often does not occur. When there is rain, the soil is dried out quickly by the persistent wind.
The locale of Texas, where bluebonnets are strewn through the landscape, does not include the Texas Panhandle. The prevailing winds ever present there dry out the soil too much or the hardpan enriched soil doesn’t have the proper nutrients for the popular blooms. Whatever the reason, wild cactus plants grow more abundantly than wildflowers.
Learning to garden in these conditions was somewhat of a challenge, but neighbors and family members were happy to advise of what they’d successfully grown. This often included prickly pear cactus and flowering yucca.
Tips for Growing Plants in the Panhandle
The conditions and challenges in the Texas Panhandle also persist into the neighboring Oklahoma Panhandle. Desert plants that are water-wise or drought tolerant are the best choices to grow here. Native plants are well versed in the harsh conditions as well.
Understanding the soil is a vital key for the Panhandle gardener. Choosing the right light for plants is also important and learning the best time to water your lawn and garden is imperative to keeping them healthy. A built-in sprinkler system or a flat hose on the ground is the best way to ensure the water won’t blow away in the wind. Mulching can help hold in moisture too. Plants you’re growing there also have to hold up to perpetual wind.
At that early time in my gardening life, I was not interested or possibly even aware of planting for blooms in every season. I planted in spring when frosts had ceased, and then had summer and occasional autumn blooms. I didn’t name a city here because I lived in two areas of the Panhandle where I planted a garden, Stratford and Amarillo. Landscape materials for these areas have to be hardy to winter temperatures of 0 to -10 degrees F. (-18 to -23 C.). Most of what I planted in Stratford was in containers for winter protection.
I expanded more in Amarillo in ground beds with interesting (and painful to touch) cacti. I planted agave and yucca along with warm season annuals. These planted beds served their purpose as an improvement on a barren landscape. They also served to show me that Texas Panhandle gardening is not always easy.
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