Rain is a good reminder of how tired we are of drought gardening 1-21-16

A old wheelbarrow planted for drought.
A old wheelbarrow planted for drought. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

This drought has been tough for garden columnists.

I’m sure I’m not alone. Other writers in California, Nevada and parts of Oregon must also be weary of drought-tolerant topics, drip irrigation checklists and the multitudinous benefits of mulch.

We’ve yammered on cheerfully about lawn conversion projects and the joys of houseplants. We’ve yanked cactus spines from tender skin, watered hardy bushes with dishwater and waited to wash clothes until we had a full load.

However, rain clouds have parked it over my house. El Niño may really be here.

There is still time to go buy cute rain boots. These are necessary because there are actual puddles in my gravel driveway.


Now what? I rattled off a quick note to Kay Perkins, one of my go-to gals for garden advice. Kay has been down and dirty establishing the drought-tolerant garden at the Patrick Ranch, along with those diligent volunteers from Butte County Master Gardeners.

“Here’s what I’m thinkin’,” I told Kay via email. “If we plant drought-tolerant plants now, in the wet season, will they have enough time to build up a good root system? When summer comes along, will these drought-tolerant plants be able to make it without extra water?”

I was hoping for encouragement to load up a cart at the local nursery.

The answer, of course, is that it is not that simple.

Kay checked with Eve Werner, of Eve’s Garden Design. Eve agreed now is a good time to plant native and summer dry plants.

“As soon as it starts to warm up, they will begin root development that will help them be drought ready in the summer,” Eve replied. She also noted its important for native and Mediterranean plants to have the root ball slightly higher than the surrounding soil.

“If the roots are not well formed or if the root ball falls apart during planting, lightly prune to reduce, but not eliminate, top growth,” Eve said. “Sages, lavenders, rosemary and buckwheats should be planted without a ‘berm’ around the plant so that water drains away from the plant stem,” Eve advised.

Another native plant expert, Cindy Weiner, adds that it “takes natives a couple of summers to become fully established. Until that time, they will need supplemental irrigation during the dry season. Typically, that means once a week the first summer and twice a month during the second.

“After a couple of years many natives will no longer need any further irrigation, but some will do better with continued irrigation. A lot depends on the habitat to which the plant is native. A plant native to redwood forests of the north coast, riparian areas, or higher elevations in the mountains is likely to need ongoing irrigation,” Cindy stated.


Some people have terrible luck with drought plants because they think the plants need zero water. Those first two years, the plants definitely need water to become established.

After that, some people will kill their plants by loving them too much — continuing to water them when they do not need water.

Part of the bad luck is that certain fungi can kill dry-loving plants, and the fungi only grows when its wet.

I’ve heard it suggested that people put all their drought-tolerant plants in one place. This way they can take care of them in the same way, in this case, watering at first and neglect later.

Kay also provided a link to this very thorough guide to native plants from Native Again Landscape,http://www.native-again-landscape.com.


We’re still in the middle of the winter citrus season, and some folks are swimming in lemons.

What ways can we use lemons to help us maintain this winter weight gain?

Do you have a very cool citrus recipe to share or any other tips on using or storing lemons?

Please share.

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