RAIN!

Rain is naturally and innately . . . wet.

(February 12, 2012)

More than a week ago, many of us were astonished to witness countless drops of water miraculously falling out of the sky! What could this be? Where did this water come from? It is actually not such a mystery. These unfamiliar falling drops of water are merely a type of weather known as “rain”. “Rain” is actually nothing new, and happens every winter. Typically, there should have been an abundance of “rain” by this late in winter.

The problem with “rain” is that it is wet. Whatever it encounters also becomes wet, and often messy. Wet dirt becomes mud. Wet roads are hazardous to traffic. It is uncomfortable to go outside to do any gardening when everything is wet and muddy.

However, “rain” is very important to everyone’s survival. It is what moves water from the oceans back onto land, so that it can be collected and used for the many things that water is needed for. “Rain” also brings needed water to gardens, landscapes, and even the forests outside of urban areas. In one way or another, every living thing needs “rain”.

But wait! There’s more! “Rain” so efficiently waters gardens and landscapes that no other watering is needed! Most watering systems should therefore be turned off as long as there is enough “rain” to keep everything wet. Even when the “rain” stops, cooler temperatures and higher humidity keep things from drying as efficiently as they would during warm summer weather. Consequently, most watering systems can remain off until after winter, when the “rain” stops until next winter, and the weather gets warmer.

Actually, the only plants that may want water are those that are sheltered from the “rain”, and perhaps a few large potted evergreen plants that continue to lose enough moisture by evaporation from their foliage to get a bit dry between periods of “rain”. Even these sheltered and potted evergreen plants use less moisture this time of year because they are less active, and evaporation from their foliage is limited by the weather.

Remember; for plenty of moisture that is one hundred percent natural and absolutely free, try “RAIN”!

If A Tree Falls In A Forest . . .

If a tree falls in a forest of the tallest species of tree in the World, things might get messy. Understory trees often fall without much commotion, but the demise of this particular redwood was observed from all over the neighborhood. The forest that it inhabited is too crowded for good pictures of where it landed. I got what I could. Falling trees is one of the unpleasant and hazardous results of the recent epically abundant rain.

About twenty feet of trail dislodged with the massive root system that nearly inverted as it fell into the canyon below. The gap was less than fifteen feet long on the left and uphill side of the trail when this picture was taken, but widened as more soil collapsed into the muddy void below. Obviously, the trail is now closed. Repair is not a priority until after winter at the soonest.

The dislodged root system is about thirty feet wide. I did not estimate how far into the canyon it slid. Since I can not see the base of the trunk, I did not estimate how wide it is. The trunk extends diagonally to the right, where it is obscured by vegetation in the foreground. It broke many other trees as it fell, leaving the shattered trunks and limbs that are visible to the upper right and left. Some of the debris near the water was deposited by earlier flooding.

The trunk fell upstream into a curve in Bean Creek below, so almost crossed the creek twice. From this distance, it is difficult to estimate the width of the trunk. Because the top is not visible, it is impossible to estimate the height. If it did not burn up in the atmosphere, someone in Nevada might have received an unexpected delivery of lumber.

Six on Saturday: Excuses

It had not rained so much here since 1982. Consequences of such excessive rain were the priorities at work. I neglected to procure pictures of horticultural topics while the first of the problems associated with the weather began to develop two weeks ago. I was unable to transmit new pictures last week because of disruption of telephone service. Now that I am able to share new pictures, I find that a few are redundant to some that I posted two weeks ago, and none are any more horticulturally oriented than a few unidentifiable logs and an unseen redwood tree. Well, at least they demonstrate why I was too busy to share horticultural pictures on Six on Saturday.

1. Mudslides blocked a few portions of the main road into town at various times. None of them stayed for long, but they took turns. Shortly after one got cleared, another one slid.

2. Sinkholes were mudslides from below rather than from above, and ruined portions of roads that were not under mud. I nearly dropped the camera here to hastily grab Rhody.

3. Floods got deeper than since 1982, and took trees that were big enough to leave twigs two thirds of the way up the right and upstream side of the pillars nearest to the middle.

4. Logjams collected some of those trees that would otherwise be on beaches near Santa Cruz by now. Ironically, that is a municipal water pumping station across Zayante creek.

5. Fallen trees are particularly dangerous within forests of the tallest trees in the World. This one took out about twenty feet of the trail. I will share two more pictures of it later.

6. Rhody was exhausted from exemplary service to his similarly exhausted crew through many days of the rainiest weather here since 1982. He is enjoying sunnier weather now.

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/

Six on Saturday: 2022 Ends II

2022 ended with what might have been the worst series of storms since 1982. More rain is in the forecast, so the situation has potential to get worse. As I was composing my ‘Six on Saturday’ for last week, Zayante Creek behind the shop buildings at work was coming up higher than it has been in many years. An adjacent neighborhood was evacuated later in the day. Evacuated neighbors parked their vehicles in a big parking lot across Zayante Creek, and partied in the rain until 2023! By then, they could go home on muddy roads. It was a unique way to celebrate the New Year. Picture #1 was yesterday. #2 and #3 were Wednesday. #4, #5 and #6 were last Saturday, 2022.

1. Mudslides caused a few road closures and other damage elsewhere in the region. This was the worst for us. It was mitigated yesterday. Vegetation did not control this erosion.

2. Fallen trees were another major problem elsewhere in the region. A big coast live oak squashed a car nearby. This Italian buckthorn was the worst for us. It damaged nothing.

3. Widowmakers are terrifyingly dangerous during windy weather. All too many free fall silently for more than a hundred feet from the exteriors of canopies of coastal redwoods.

4. David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree is barely visible to the right of the center of the lower edge of this picture. It is immobile, but has never been this close to Zayante Creek.

5. Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree resides in the same Memorial Grove as the David Fritiof Lindberg Memorial Tree, so is also now closer to Zayante Creek than it should be.

6. Conference Drive Bridge over Zayante Creek is a short distance north and upstream of the Memorial Grove. At the time, most vegetation was obscured from view under water.

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/

Horridculture – Horrid Weather

Alviso in 1983

This is no horticultural gripe, as is traditional here on Wednesday. Actually, it is not much of a gripe at all. It is merely a brief description of the unpleasantries of the current situation here.

Rain is predicted to resume prior to two this morning, and continue almost until tomorrow evening. It is expected to be remarkably voluminous. Strong wind that begins about eleven is expected to continue for a bit more than a day, until about two tomorrow. The ground is already saturated from the major storm on New Year’s Eve, and minor rain afterward. Rain may pause only for Friday, but may then resume for the foreseeable forecast.

This weather could be the worst since the winter of 1982 and 1983. If so, the results would be worse now than they were then. So many more people live here and nearby now. Flooding, mudslides and everything that stormy weather causes will affect many more people than ever before.

The area across the road from here is to be completely evacuated in the morning because of expected flooding. It already flooded on New Year’s Day. A parking lot nearby is already full of cars from that neighborhood.

The burn scar from the CZU Fire two years ago has not yet recovered, so is unusually susceptible to erosion and mudslides.

This sort of weather may be no more than what is normal in ‘average’ climates. It is just more than we are accustomed to in the mild climate here. As I schedule this to post at midnight in about a quarter of an hour, the weather is still pleasant, without indication of what is predicted.

I should get some sleep now. The crew and I will likely be very busy in the morning, and exhausted, cold and wet by noon.

Rain Initiates The Rainy Season

Weather generally conforms to the seasons.

Seasons here may seem to be less extreme than they are within other climates. Summer warmth is rarely too hot, and when it is, it does not continue for too long. Winter chill may be insufficient for some plants that rely on it to sustain their winter dormancy. Autumn and spring are as notable for the first and last seasonal rain as for colorful foliage and bloom.

This is actually very relevant within local chaparral climates. Rain and lack of rain define seasons here as much as extremes of temperature. Where the traditional four seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn merge so softly, the rainy season and the dry season generally do not. Rain begins abruptly in autumn, and ends almost as abruptly in spring.

Consequently, home gardens can get inhospitably dry without adequate irrigation during more than half of the year. Then, they may require no irrigation for almost half of the year. Warm weather that coincides with the dry season enhances aridness. Cool weather that coincides with the rainy season enhances dampness. Mild climates can get extreme too.

Recent rain ended both the dry season and the fire season, and began the rainy season. For many plants, irrigation will be unnecessary until the dry season resumes next spring. Plants that continue to require irrigation will require much less, and only as their soil gets dry during prolonged lapses of rain. Therefore, automated irrigation requires adjustment.

Potted plants, bedding plants and young plants with minimal root dispersion will be more likely to want watering during warm lapses of rain. Substantial foundation plants beneath eaves generally extend roots beyond sheltered soil, but some do not. Also, potted plants under eaves of porches are unable to reach rain moistened soil with their confined roots.

While diminishing the need for irrigation, rain can be messy. It is, of course, wet. It makes soil muddy. Runoff can cause erosion. Stormy weather, which typically involves both rain and wind, dislodges copious foliar debris. Such debris accumulates while no one wants to go outside during stormy weather to rake it. Inconvenient timing seems to be a pattern. Yet, rain is undeniably gratifying.

Six on Saturday: Happy Beginning

Vermin, weeds and insects can be major problems. Gophers continue to inflict serious damage within the landscapes here. The predators who help with other vermin would get gophers too, if only they were more accessible. However, it could be significantly worse. Some weeds are actually pretty. The worst insect damage was neither serious nor prominent. Deer just glare at me as if wondering why I glare at them.

1. Gophers are the most destructive of the wildlife here. This was a new and perfect hedge of variegated Pittosporum tobira before the gophers got in. The spacing of its plants was impeccable.

2. Perennial pea should have finished blooming a while ago. It typically gets crispy during the warm and arid weather of summer. It is an annoying albeit pretty weed in some of the landscape.

3. Katydids chewed my roses last summer. Fortunately, the damage was not serious, and only affected my own roses that are not within the landscapes. This one seems to be in the family way.

4. Deer have potential to cause major damage to the landscapes, but never have. Their nibbling is minimal. No one knows why. They are a significant problem within adjacent neighborhoods.

5. Predatory birds ‘control’ some of the rabbits and other vermin, but not gophers. I do not know who this bird is, but would guess that it could take off with Bambi if she nibbles the camellias.

6. RAIN! This is the happy ending of the Fire Season, as well as the happy beginning of the Rainy Season! The first storm of the season is always major news here, but is rarely this significant. The flashing blue light on the windshield of one of the pickups is a motion activated security system that began chirping in response to so much water falling from the perforated gutter above.

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

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.