I have been creating a garden here in Houston, Texas for a year now, and it has been a fun, strange and exciting journey. And what who proved to be the biggest garden challenges has been a bit of a surprise. When you come from the Scandinavian garden culture you have some perceptions and expectations on how it will be making a garden in a subtropical climate, but I was wrong in a lot of my beliefs.
The biggest surprises was: How do I prevent shrubs from drowning, when should I water the plants again, how should I prune the palm trees, where do I place plants, shrubs and trees in relation to the garden sprinkler system, how often do I need to fertilize the garden here compared to the short growing season in Scandinavia, and how much poison (insecticide, pesticide) do I really need to use in the garden to keep all the critters and diseases at arm’s length.
The ground here is compact clay. Really, really compact clay without the slightest drainage. I have written about it here.
Improving drainage, increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture and nutrients is the MOST important thing you do in your garden around Houston. Plants here are often either drowning or drying out. So keep pouring sand and organic matter in your garden beds are the best you can do both on short and long term.
Putting a $1 plant in a $10 hole as the real Texan plants-men says is the best you can do! Almost everything grows tremendously fast if the soil conditions are appropriate. It can also be very advisable to make raised beds here to improve the drainage since it often comes a lot of rain in a short time here.
The butterflies was the most positive surprise of them all. When I moved in there wasn’t much other flying insects here than large amounts of mosquitoes. No bumblebees, and very few bees and no butterflies at all. I wrote about it here. But this fall everyone was present! Bumblebees on the (Buddleja lindleyana) (a kind of Butterfly bush who endure the heat here a lot better than the other kinds), loads of bees in the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis), and loads of butterflies on the Zinnias and other single flowering plants.