Good Weather Can Be Bad

This should be the rainy season.

As if the lack of rain is not serious enough, the lack of cool winter weather will also cause problems for gardening. Warmth is certainly not as bad as drought, and makes gardening and other outdoor activities more pleasurable, but it interferes with the schedules and cycles that we and the flora in our gardens rely on. Something as natural as the weather should not be so unnatural.

The earlier unseasonably cold weather convinced plants that it really was winter. The problem is that the weather then turned unseasonably warm, and has stayed this warm long enough for plants to believe that it is spring! Some established (not freshly planted) narcissus and daffodils that should bloom as winter ends are already blooming, and some that are naturalized where they get no supplemental watering are already fading from the lack of moisture.

Buds of dormant roses are not staying so dormant, and may soon pop and start to grow. Buds of dormant fruit trees could do the same. When the rain finally starts, it will likely damage and spread disease among freshly exposed rose foliage and newly developing buds. Fungal and bacterial diseases that get an early start will likely proliferate more than they normally do through the following spring. Rain can likewise damage and dislodge fruit blossoms.

The many plants in the garden fortunately have a remarkable capacity for adaptation to weird weather. Bulbs, roses, fruit trees and other plants should eventually recover and get on with life as if nothing happened. The weather is actually more of a problem to those of us who want an early and healthy abundance of roses and an abundance of fruit in summer.

It is still a bit too early to know how the weather will affect what happens in the garden this spring, but fruit production of many types of fruit, as well as bloom of some types of flowers is expected to be inhibited.

This Parade Needs Some Rain

Now, this is something you don’t see every day in a chaparral climate.

The lack or rain has really gotten serious! This winter so far has been the driest ever recorded. The past two winters had already been unusually dry. Even when the rain starts, it will be considerably behind schedule. Some seriously torrential rain will be needed to catch up.

As much as we like to think of gardening as something that brings us closer to nature, it demands unnatural volumes of water. Only established native plants or plants that are native to similar climates can survive with the limited moisture that they get from rain. This is why gardens get watered as much as they do.

Lawns of course require the most water because their shallow root systems require such frequent watering, and also because their vast foliar surface area loses so much moisture to evapotranspiration (evaporation from foliar surfaces). Lawns are the first and most prominent of landscape features to succumb to water restriction. Flowering annuals are the next to succumb, because they too want regular watering, especially while they are not getting any from rain.

Fortunately, lawns, annuals and other plants that want an abundance of moisture need less now because they are dormant or considerably less active through winter. Besides, evapotranspiration is inhibited by cooler temperatures, shorter day length, and most of the time, by higher humidity. It is nothing like the warm and arid (minimal humidity) weather during longer days of summer.

Many large and established shrubs and trees can survive quite easily with very minimal watering or even none at all. Established oleander, bottlebrush and juniper may not be as vibrant without watering, but should survive. If they notice a lack of water at all, it would not be until they start to grow again in spring. Mature trees take even longer to notice a problem.

Deciduous plants that are now bare really do not consume much moisture at all and really only need enough moisture in the ground to keep their roots from desiccating. This will only be a problem if the soil is very sandy and drains too efficiently to retain adequate moisture, or if freshly installed plants have not had enough time to adequately disperse their roots into the surrounding soil.

Automated irrigation systems should still be operated only minimally or not at all through winter. However, because of the unusually dry weather, they may need to be used a bit more than usual for this time of year to keep some things from getting too dry.

Foliage Is Meant For Weather

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Lush foliar houseplants enjoy occasional rinsing.

Foliage needs sunlight for photosynthesis. Foliage needs air for respiration. Roots need moisture to sustain foliage. Houseplants can technically get all of what they need from the confinement of their pots within the interiors of homes and other buildings. They only require sufficient moisture to be delivered to them, and sufficient sunlight from windows. The air is the same that we all utilize.

However, there is no substitute for nature. While hydroponics and synthetic light facilitate yet more deprivation of what is natural, the plants involved would appreciate more consideration. Without exception, domesticated plants are descendants of plants that grew wild somewhere. Those that dislike local weather would be pleased with the weather of their respective ancestral homelands.

Most of the popular houseplants that are grown for their lush foliage originated from tropical forests. Many were understory plants that prefer the shade of larger trees. That is how they tolerate the relatively shaded interiors of buildings. Now that they are here as houseplants, they appreciate shelter from frost. They probably miss rain, humidity, sporadic breezes and tropical warmth though.

Rinsing tropical foliage plants in the shower eliminates some of the dust that they accumulate where air stagnates. Rinsing them out in the garden is even better because it does not make such a mess in the shower. What is even better than both of these options is allowing a gentle rain to rinse the foliage. Plants only need to be moved to a windless spot prior to an expected rain shower.

The weather was much too cool earlier in winter. There will be no rain later in summer. This time of year, and again next autumn, the weather is safely mild; and eventually, a few showers are likely. Timing is critical. Plants should be brought out just prior to rain, and brought in before the weather gets sunny. Foliage that has always been sheltered is very sensitive to scald from direct sunlight.

Saucers and pots can be cleaned while outside. Crowded plant can be repotted.

Six on Saturday: When It Rains, It Pours

 

The frequency and duration of rainy weather here is not very much more than in the rain shadow where the inland base of the Santa Cruz Mountains merges into the Santa Clara Valley. However, the volume is about triple! My former neighborhood in town just about fifteen miles away gets about one foot of rain annually. The average annual rainfall here is about three feet.

That extra two feet sometimes seems to fall all at once.

1. Rain got heavy enough for me to bother recording this first of six brief videos. I do not know why the lights upstairs were pulsating and blinking. The downspout seems to be jet propelled.

2. This was certainly more than I expected. Off to the left, there were only two sandbags to put in front of a doorway that is three sandbags wide. This was a major problem. I did not panic.

3. Now I panicked. I called for help, but my radio was too wet to operate. There was nothing anyone could do anyway; or so I thought. I stopped the camera and went upstairs to investigate.

4. Removal of debris from the grate over this drain fixed everything fast. This was more than I expected too. We all know that this drain is partially clogged. The water and hail was freezing!

5. Within a minute or so, the water drained away surprisingly efficiently, leaving this icy mess on the small patio between the two stairways. It was like a Slurpee mixed with redwood debris.

6. More of the grungy Slurpee remained on the lower patio outside the doorway that lacked adequate sandbags. Water barely crossed the threshold to dampen a few square inches of carpet.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Rain Shadow

P91222Hollywood is famous as the Cinema Capital of the World. Niles was its predecessor. Both are within regions of remarkably diverse scenery that is so important to cinema. Mountains, deserts, chaparrals, forests, lakes and big cities are conveniently nearby. There are not many places in the World with such a thorough mix of geography and climate. California really does have it all.

It is a challenge for gardening though. The stone fruits that grow so naturally in the Santa Clara Valley are not quite as productive just a few miles to the South in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The pears and apples that do so well in the Santa Cruz Mountains are not quite as happy in the Santa Clara Valley. Species that want a good chill in winter do not want to be in Los Angeles.

On the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just outside of Felton, a few days of rain filled the bin in the picture above. The rain continued just as long throughout the area, including the inland side of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the adjacent Santa Clara Valley. Although the duration of the rain was approximately the same, the volume of precipitation was very different.

The water in the bin is more than a foot deep. That is about the average annual rainfall for my former neighborhood at about this same elevation, but on the opposite and inland side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Storms must drop much of their moisture to get up and over, but are then able to retain much of the remaining moisture as they drop in elevation on the other side.

The drier inland side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and adjacent portion of the Santa Clara Valley are in what is known as a ‘rain shadow’.

Rainy Season

 

 

As I mentioned this morning, the first storm since spring delivered a bit more than an inch and a half of rain before dawn on Wednesday, ending the fire season. The second storm is here right now. It is expected to be followed by a continuous series of storms that will provide rain through Monday, showers through Thursday, more rain on Friday, and showers . . . forever!

It is now the rainy season.

The video above shows what rain does. It gets things wet. It is, after all, composed of water. It falls mysteriously from the sky, which, as you can plainly see, is occupied only by a mostly monochromatic gray cloud cover. Seriously! There is nothing else up there. There is no one on the roof with a hose or anything of the sort. All that water just falls from the cloud cover above.

I could not get video of individual raindrops falling. They are too small and too fast. Only a few can be seen indirectly in the video, falling in front of the water cascading from the rusted out gutter. The spots on the video are raindrops that landed on the lens, so were no longer so animate. The cascading water is, of course, an accumulation of many raindrops that fell on the roof.

Besides ending the long fire season, rain also disrupts the slim fall color season, when foliage of certain deciduous trees turns color as the weather cools in autumn. There is not much to brag about anyway. Only a few native trees are moderately colorful. More colorful exotic trees are not very popular because they do not color as well as they do where autumn weather is cooler.P91130K

Before the rain, these birches were a nice clear yellow, but were already defoliating. Their fallen leaves were as pretty on the ground as they were in the trees, but unfortunately needed to be blown. By now, there is likely more on the ground than there is in the trees, but it will need to be blown too. At least it gets to stay on the open ground in the rest of the casual landscape.P91130K+

The only tulip tree here got cool enough to defoliate before the birches this year, but not quite cool enough to color well first. It is a grand tree nonetheless. We do not expect exemplary color in autumn in our splendidly mild climate anyway. The sweetgums will compensate. They are only beginning to color, and should hold some of their foliage rather well through the weather.P91130K++

Six on Saturday: First Storm

 

The first storm since spring came through Tuesday night. It was cool enough for a bit of snow on the summits of the Diablo Range, including Mount Hamilton, east of the Santa Clara Valley. The fire season is now over. More storms are forecast. More will continue through the remainder of winter and into spring. Even chaparral climates eventually get a seasonal ration of rain.

1. An inch and a half of rain is generous for a first storm. It is more than 10% of what my garden in town got annually. This side of the Santa Cruz Mountains gets about three times as much.P91130

2. My reflection in the rain caught in this ‘tote’ is not as artistic as it was in the green bucket last year. I tried. A flash would have added interest. I do not really know how the camera works.P91130+

3. Cyclamen, even the common florists’ type, deserve more than to be grown as cool season annuals, and then discarded in spring. I can rant about that later. For now, they sure are pretty.P91130++

4. After the rain, even a close up of this seriously abused juniper is pretty. It was recycled from one site into another, only to be removed again. It is now canned and waiting for a new home.P91130+++

5. Storms are messy. There was not much wind with this storm. Nonetheless, rotten limbs get heavier and softer as they get soaked by rain. This one broke apart more as I dragged it away.P91130++++

6. What is worse than runoff from the road washing away some of the yellow birch foliage dislodged by rain, is that it likely took away some of the amaryllis seed tossed out here earlier.P91130+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Almost RAIN!

P91123KThere have been only three hints at precipitation since last spring.

The (sideways) picture above shows the same dampened hood of a Chevrolet that provided the illustration for a post on another blog on September 30.

The picture below shows a similarly dampened but different windshield from that which provided the illustration for a post on November 16, regarding a bit of precipitation two days prior, on November 14.P91123K+

All four pictures here were actually taken just after a very brief rain shower that happened just after midnight on November 19. I tried to be artistic with them, but I am not a photographer.

The picture below demonstrates how difficult it is to hold the camera steady while getting a close up picture of rain dripping from a lumber rack at night. Do digital cameras automatically extend exposure to accommodate for the darkness? Is it blurred or merely ‘abstract’?P91123K++

The rain shower was very brief, lasting only a few minutes, but dropped dozens of individual raindrops, maybe more than a hundred! In fact, there were enough of them to collectively flow from one of the roofs, accumulate in a gutter, and flow down this downspout and onto the pavement below! (I really do not know why a diverter is needed on pavement, but there it is.)P91123K+++

I bet that if all the precipitation than fell from the sky during these last three incidents could have been collected, there would have been more than a pint! As excellent as it was, it was not even the best of it. For the first time since last spring, a storm is predicted to move in and start RAINING about noon on Tuesday, November 26! Showers should continue afterward.

The rainy season will likely begin with this first storm. That is how the weather typically operates here.

Not Quite Rain

P91116KMost of us here agree that the minimal bit of precipitation that fell from the sky on Thursday was not real rain. There are a few different theories about what it actually was though. It could be considered to have been drizzle. It alternatively could have been heavy fog or mist. Some of us make up silly names for what it was, such as fine rain, dusting, spritzes, sprinkles or mizzle.

Is it just me, or do those last three sound like inane kitten names? ‘Dusting’, sounds dirty and dry, which it was not.

Whatever it was, it was the second occurrence of such precipitation since the rainy season ended last spring. Something similar happened on the last day of September. I wrote about it in my other blog, with a picture of it on the hood of a parked car, rather than the windshield. I think it was more of a surprise then because it was earlier, and the chance of precipitation was slim.

This weather pattern is still within what would be considered normal here. The rainy season typically starts a bit earlier, even if with just a single primary storm passing through, followed by a long pause before more follow. There is no strict schedule though. We know that the rain will eventually start, and that rainy seasons that start late tend to provide significantly more rain.

Rain is likely just as uncomfortable here as it is everywhere else. Perhaps it is even dirtier, because it rinses off dust and crud that has been accumulating since spring. No one wants to work in their garden while it is wet. Nonetheless, because there is no rain for nearly half the year, the first storm of a season is something to be celebrated. The forecast predicts no celebration yet.

Splat!

P90310There are a few consequences to all this excellent rain. Gutters are flooding. Trees are falling. Mud is sliding. As much as we should be grateful for what we are getting while we are getting it, it is getting rather old. Clear and sunny weather that is forecast after today will be a welcome relief from all this muddy sogginess.
Almost all of the flowering cherries have somehow postponed bloom. It has not been unusually cold. It is as if the trees somehow know better than to bloom while so much unusually heavy rain is falling. Otherwise, they might have bloomed only briefly before the blossoms got knocked off. The buds are so fat that I expect they will begin to bloom by the middle of the week.
Only one flowering cherry that always blooms significantly earlier than the others bloomed on time, and is already finished. Considering how heavy the rain was during that time, the light duty bloom actually lasted impressively well.
Daffodils tried to delay their bloom as well; but some could wait no longer. Many were not bothered by the heavy rain. Others were knocked flat, and needed to be propped with small hoop stakes. Only some of those that were planted late in the planting season kept their buds closed this late.
I should be pleased that these hyacinth bloomed at all this year. They are the sort of bulbs that bloom only once in their first year, but then do not get sufficient chill in winter to bloom again. They must be in a cold spot. Unfortunately, it is also a shady spot. The floral stems stretched so much in the shade that they were easily knocked down by the heavy rain. Now they lay there like they have fallen and can’t get up.