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Installment #30: “Gardening With the Official Dallas Season Simulator”
(Originally published February 28, 2022)
It’s the end of February/beginning of March, and we’re starting to get into the beginning of growing season. The garden porn, featuring the absolute best of seeds and bulbs, is already overloading everyone’s mailboxes, and Instagram is full of anticipatory “Yeah, my garden looks as if it was nuked from orbit now, but imagine what it’s going to look like in three months!” poses. The further away from the equator in the Northern Hemisphere, the more frantic the need for green, even in the face of a few more potential ice storms, and getting tomato and pepper seedlings going on one’s windowsill isn’t cutting it. Here in North Texas, it’s only going to get worse.
The problem isn’t that gardening in the Dallas area isn’t impossible, but it’s close. Conditions in Dallas and Fort Worth parallel those of the famed fynbos of South Africa: it’s not really desert, nor forest, nor prairie, but a combination of all three regularly blasted with extreme heat and extreme cold that test the tolerance of pretty much any plant. The popular options for trees, grasses, and bushes aren’t optimal, but that’s because the local condition kill anything that isn’t tough enough to fight back.
Ray Bradbury’s classic novella “Frost and Fire” chronicles the people of a world so violent that a typical person’s entire lifespan, from birth to senescence and death, only lasts eight days. Anyone who’s lived through the full range of seasons in Dallas can sympathize with the attitude, because it seems as if we only get eight days of good growing weather before it’s either too hot or too cold for anything other than silk ficuses. In fact, it’s actually remarkably easy to recreate a Dallas growing year in one hour, if you have the equipment and the wherewithall.
Firstly, pick a good garden area. Cover it with a good thick layer (at least one meter, but more is better) of standard modeling clay. This clay is where you’re going to be planting everything. Add a bit of grass cuttings, some leaves, and plenty of dead cockroaches, because this is going to be your fertilizer. Don’t worry about turning it into the clay, because the Dallas season simulator will take care of that shortly.
Secondly, buy a good Dallas season simulator. These are usually found in airports, abandoned airfields, and your local Boeing dealership: for instance, a typical B-52 bomber had eight of them on its wings, but you can always steal a jet nacelle from a 747 or even a DC-10 in a pinch. Set up two mounting brackets at the north and south sides of the garden, and start out with the jet engine at the south side with the exhaust facing north. If you get one that throws out lots of bad exhaust, or even one that catches fire from time to time, keep it: this helps recreate typical Dallas air quality. If the exhaust is so thick you can’t see and the stuff in your lungs is burning holes out your back, welcome to our “purple” ozone alert days.
Now, we’re going to start our hour at the equivalent of March 17. St. Patrick’s Day is a perfect day for gardening in Dallas, partly
because you’re reasonably past the last frost of the season by then, and partly because you don’t want to be anywhere near a road when the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts and every paved surface between Dallas and Kansas City is full of drunken SMU brats puking on everything. Let’s just say that you’re reasonably smart, you don’t want to wake up with a nearly-terminal hangover, eight or nine STDs previously unknown to science, and a car that’s been used as an air sickness bag and Port-o-Potty by a few hundred random strangers, and you’re staying at home to plant and till. The clock starts…now.
00:00-00:10 – Start planting your seeds and seedlings. If the seeds you put into the ground don’t start sprouting before time’s up, don’t feel badly: in real life, if they didn’t sprout within ten minutes, they aren’t going to sprout for the rest of the year, either.
00:10-00:20 – Ask a friendly fire control plane to fly over and dump a full cargo of water on your garden space all at once. Alternately, crack a water main with an explosive charge and wash out the garden. This simulates the gentle rains you’ll be getting for the entire month of May. Turn on the jet engine and set it for “11”.
00:20-00:30 – Bury a $100 bill somewhere in the garden and then tell all of the neighborhood kids about it: they’ll manage to do in five minutes what they’d do in a month when they’re home on summer vacation and you’re at work. Dump a few hundred liters of gasoline and rubbing alcohol into the engine once they’re done to simulate the effects of July and August sun and our traditional smog, and saturate the area with anti-personnel mine explosions and judicious use of fragmentation grenades in lieu of typical caterpillar and grasshopper damage.
00:30-00:40 – With a standard hand fertilizer spreader, saturate the grounds with napalm and powdered metallic sodium, then cut the engine and the flamethrowers within the last minute. At this point, you get to harvest your crops, so get a move on. Don’t bother to bring a bag, because your entire output will fit in one hand and still leave you with enough spare fingers to throw a good fastball.
00:40-00:50 – Time for a break. Grab a beer or a glass of iced tea and look upon your handiwork and despair. Isn’t your garden pretty?
00:50-1:00 – Now’s time to prep your garden for next year, so move the engine to the other end of the garden, with the exhaust facing south. Again, turn it up to “11”, and throw in random blocks of dry ice and dead birds into the nacelle. Toss as many bags of grass
cuttings and dead leaves as you can into the area, noting how it all ends up in the neighbors’ yards. Finally, go out and pick the stems, stumps, and random bits of detritus left from your efforts, but not after flooding the area once again (with the engine left ON) so as to make the clay particularly sticky. When you’re not watching, have someone mix up a big batch of chopped leaves, ice water, and a cup of standard liquid dish soap and pour it down the back of your shirt or blouse, and just be thankful that you have to deal with this for ten minutes instead of for all of January and February.
There, in the space of an hour, you have a typical gardening year in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. And why would any sane person want to go through this in real time instead of this sixty-minute capsule demonstration?
Because it’s fun.
On a personal level, the move out of the old house is done, and now it’s just a matter of getting the last items unpacked, getting the workshop in full gear, and amping up enclosure construction. I owe finding a fabulous house in a great neighborhood (with great neighbors, naturally, who love the transplanted loquat tree out front) to Toni Youngblood, an absolute paragon among Dallas realtors. Whether you’re looking for a place yourself or helping someone else, give her a call, because she’s an absolute machine in finding the right houses for the right people.
As with reading this month, music diving has been at a premium, but I’d be remiss in not sending you in the direction of Dallas music weaver Mark Ridlen, now a friend for a solid 30 years since his days as a DJ at the long-defunct State Bar in Exposition Park. Go give him lots of work and even more recognition, because this man is a hoot.