Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gardening in the Time of Drought

There they are, fifteen pounds of tomatoes.

Half of them I picked yesterday, but quit when my back began aching. (I'd been out on the horse for over an hour.) The rest I got today.

We gave away about eight pounds a couple days ago, and Bernie used another eight or so making an incredibly delicious canned salsa. The salsa was so good that he could use this whole batch as far as I'm concerned. There are plenty more to come, too, depending on how bad this coming heat wave is. Sometimes it gets too hot and the fruit more or less cooks on the vine.

Only one cluster of grapes from our vine has ripened -- the rest look to be about a month away from edibility. No idea why one ripened so soon, but it was a delicious preview of coming attractions.

That many tomatoes during California's drought? you may well ask. And I will tell you in answer that the key is water management. Aside from a little square of grass in the front yard, which has two automatic lawn sprinklers on it, the entire rest of the property is on a drip system, which puts a small but adequate amount of water on individual plants.

What had been perfectly useless lawn was removed, and Bernie built planter boxes, which will eventually also be on a drip system. See the black tubing? That carries water to three small fern pines (podocarpus -- neither fern nor pine, really) and some tomatoes. Each plant has its own emitter; weeds get no water, empty dirt gets no water, sidewalk and gutter get no water.

Is it enough in high summer? Just about ... but we make up the difference from inside the house. Any time we run water, waiting for it to heat up for washing dishes or taking a shower, we collect that runoff into buckets. Some of those buckets go directly into container plants, but what is not urgently needed goes into my "well" -- a 33 gallon plastic garbage can, to bank against dry and excessively hot days.

Looks a little bit like Mars there, with no plants, but by next Spring, there will be drought-tolerant lavender, maybe a few blueberry bushes, and bark mulch to hold moisture and soften the view.

Ahh, the view. That's the back patio in the morning, more container plants, everything on drip or hand-watering, no lawn ...

... And all gorgeous. Fortunately my neighbor to the north used to live in the mountains near Santa Cruz. She's heavily invested in her urban forest, too; ground shaded by trees doesn't need as much water.

So far, so good.

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