Gravel-sized hail, tornados like the one that sent Dorothy and Toto flying to Oz, record snow packs in the Sierra, winds to 60+ MPH, unending rains— three inches in a day— flooding, and a couple of the most breathtaking rainbows I have ever seen while driving in a monsoon, distinguished the beginning week of what we lovingly call “spring” here in California. Man! Am I glad that’s over!
Looking back, this crazy “spring” weather happens virtually every year, as does another rather predictable phenomenon: A mass hysteria drives winter-weary people longing for warmth and dry sunny days to stampede, often prematurely, through the garden centers, grocery stores, drug stores—any store with fresh gorgeous flowers, herbs and vegetables grabbing everything in sight. Every bloom and leaf is perfect-bowls and pots and flats of color and fragrance beckon you — “Pleeeeeeeeease take me home — don’t worry about the weather — just take me home and it will be instant spring at your home!” Sort of reminds me of “the first day of fall”, when the winter wools pack the stores and we’re still begging for a day under 100 degrees.
Gardening calendars, magazines, and newspaper columns are bursting at the seams, with all the things you ”should” be doing and buying right now to have the garden of your dreams. There’s plenty of time for all that — don’t worry!
So, wait a minute and do this first: Begin with some planning and fact-finding before you buy new plants and all the other stuff. Patience! There will be plenty of time to spend and shop, you’ll make wiser choices, bring home water-wise plants you’ll adore, save time, water, and oh, yes, some cold hard cash to enjoy when the weather really gets warm.
As soon as you can, walk through your garden and really look at everything. See what plants look healthy and those that look not so healthy. Evaluate things you love and also those areas or plants that you find troublesome—there are hundreds of ways to change a pesky area into a dreamy, water-efficient spot. (We’ll be talking about that more in future blog entries.) Look at areas you know are constantly wet (boggy without irrigation) or unusually dry during summer and mark them on a map or a sketch of your yard—doesn’t have to be fancy—just so you can locate them again, correct any problem, and then do something wonderful and logical with them.
Look at your lawn and think about reducing its size or changing to something more interesting and rewarding—like an edible landscape or groupings of low water-use California native plants that will attract hummingbirds and other creatures beneficial to your garden! If you have an automatic irrigation system, turn it on and see what’s leaking or if there are breaks in lines. If this is the case, turn the system off, flag or mark the leaks and breaks so they’re easy to find again, and try to make repairs within 48 hours. Also look for things like misdirected sprinklers watering the sidewalk or the garage wall – the water needs to be directed to the plants and their root zones. If you aren’t sure how to check your system, call your local water provider for a free “Water-wise House Call” or write to us — we know this stuff!!! Also, on this BeWaterSmart.info website, you can find a Qualified Green Gardener to make irrigation repairs. (Green Gardeners are landscape professionals who have successfully completed 10 weeks of training in River-Friendly, water-efficient landscaping, but more about that at another time.)
In closing, remember that there were three inches of hail in Solano County a couple days ago —elevation 15 feet — so the weather still has a little adjusting to do. Even so, there are little “guilty pleasures”, for which I have never felt guilty by the way, densely packed flower-filled color bowls and pots brimming with fresh herbs—living bouquets inexpensive enough that if you need color in unsettled weather, buy one, or two, or ten; accept that they will likely be temporary, and enjoy them until they’ve bloomed for the last time. Then put them in the compost pile or simply dump them into a flowerbed, recycle the bowls, and feed the soil with the spent blooms.
So go forward — walk through your garden — explore and let us know what you discovered.