Saturday, September 26, 2009

Planting wildflowers by the bayou

Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou. No, no jambalaya or crawfish pie. Just wildflower seeds and some volunteers in Mason Park in Houston, alongside the bayou.

Houston parks recruited Vilma Burwick, a bunch of high school students, and me to plant wildflower seeds along the bayou. The seeds came in huge bags from Wildseed Farms in the hill country, and the parks people mixed them in buckets and we dipped our cups in the buckets to get a mixture of seeds, which we then scattered on the mowed grass.

Normally when you plant wildflowers in the fall, you kill the grass with Roundup and then till the ground lightly with a rototiller before planting the seeds. It's good to till them in lightly as well, and then cover the ground with straw. But there was so much ground to cover at the park that we didn't do all that, and our seeds will probably come up anyway, if it rains some in the next two weeks. (A lot of the grass was dead anyway because of a long drought this past summer.) The flowers won't bloom, though, until next spring.

The bayou looks particularly nice at this park, because it isn't channelized into concrete drains as it is in other parts of Houston. Houston is gradually getting rid of the concrete channelized bayous, in order to improve flood management. Ironically, channelizing was originally done to help water run off more quickly in certain parts of town, but because the channelized bayous carry so much water away so fast, they can cause flooding problems downstream. Returning the bayous to their more natural state, with parks on either side of the bayou, is supposed to create holding areas and slow down the flow of water after a massive rainfall. The parks are designed to flood during a heavy rain, as happened during Tropical Storm Allison, or during any hurricane, but when they fill up with water, they also act as holding basins, temporary wetlands, absorbing water and allowing it to drain downstream more slowly.

And anyway, more natural bayous just look better.

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