California, garden

This month, the garden

One of the misters I’m aiming to replace.

Last week, a headline ran in the local newspaper: storm coming! More rain than we’ve had all year! 

It netted out to about half an inch. 

It was probably the last real rain we’ll see till October. 

Usually I turn off the sprinklers & drip system in winter, but a few weeks back I looked around and realized pretty much everything needed more water. I’ve been gradually switching to more natives and Mediterranean plants, aiming for a low-water garden, but *low* water isn’t *no* water, and even California natives need some moisture in the winter, especially if they’re baby plants which aren’t yet established. Plus there are the citrus trees, and the vegetable garden, and the berries. We’ve had a lot of drought years and I aim to mostly grow things that make sense in this climate, but watering plants that produce food feels like a solid trade-off. 

So, for the past few weeks that’s been my focus: repair, update, overhaul the sprinkler system. Partly this was just reminding myself what needed doing and repairing lines that various critters had chewed through (I’m telling myself it’s bunnies, which is a nicer thought than the alternatives), but I also switched from misters to drip lines in an ornamental bed where I plan to make a dry garden, and indulge my love of cactus & succulents; ripped out the water-hungry invasive blackberries that were strangling the fig tree (the berries were tasty, but so are figs, and there are more blackberries elsewhere); replaced some lavender plants that didn’t make it last year; planted tomatoes & basil (it’s early, but it’s an experiment, and one of the basil varieties is supposed to manage okay in cold nights); added more strawberries because why not; and planted, indeed, more natives. 

There’s still more I want to do on the drip lines. Having seen how much more pleasant they are than misters, and how much less prone to breaking, I want to switch them *all* out, not just the ones I’d initially targeted. And I still need to get the sprinklers for the (very small; another tradeoff) back lawn up and running, which means replacing & adjusting all the pop-up heads. 

From January through March, I also logged how much time I spent working in the garden. Three months of data seems like enough to give me a clear picture. It feels like a lot, but is it really? I’d like to set the garden up to be low(er) effort. But how much of a diff can I get to? Unknown. Nearly everything I’ve done in the past couple of months goes beyond maintenance to improvements (although I remain amazed by how fast weeds grow back). I’m aiming to get to a point where I can both maintain what’s here, and make small improvements, in maybe two afternoons each week. 

Meanwhile, it’s incredibly satisfying to look at the new native huckleberries, and the mallows along the fence, and the starts for rainbow chard, and the flowers interspersed with the jacarandas, and feel the sense and shape of the garden coming into focus. This morning when I went outside the drip lines on the citrus trees were humming away, and I thought, okay, that’s good, that’s better.

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