Category Archives: Weather

Wind! Good God, Y’all! What Is It Good For?

My least favorite weather event by far. Wind. I hate it. I’m not talking about a breeze, a gentle stirring of the leaves. Nor do I refer to wind that is good for kite-flying and refreshes the atmospheric conditions. No, I speak here of gusting, tearing wind. Wind that blows and batters and blasts the land, the trees, and all that stands in its path.

Here in the sun-kissed Inland Empire, we get a hefty helping of this wind. I know, it’s my fault for buying a house below the Cajón Pass. Said geographical feature acts as a wind tunnel, it seems providing a natural easement between the great Mojave Desert that abuts the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains and the Inland Region that leads to the California Coast. This easement is the path of least resistance when there is a pressure difference between those areas. If an area of low pressure sets up off the coast, and high pressure is situated in the desert, then wind will rush through the Pass and eventually over my yard on its way to freedom over the ocean.

Like a young child let out of school for the summer, the wind breaks headlong toward, with speed and heedless of anything between it and its desired destination. This rough passage has an impact of no small import on my landscape.

As I walked around my yard, I find that where I used to have 1-3 inches of mulch (red bark, mostly), there is now bare ground. The aforementioned mulch is gathered in places I wish it was not, such as the base of my young Cleveland sage, which now has 4-6 inches surrounding it. The wind breaks some of the branches of my plants. A couple were entirely snapped off of their main trunk, effectively killing the plant. I believe I lost today a penstemon, a milkweed, and a monkey flower. I saw one of my Chickering Cleveland sage lost a major branch, too.

Bare ground showing after wind blew the mulch away.
Allen Chickering Cleveland sage with broken branches courtesy the @&$#%! wind!
Poor baby milkweed plant desiccated and thrashed by the wind.

Besides doing physical damage thusly, the wind is also dry. Very dry. The humidity today is currently 15% and dropped as low as 12% yesterday. My understanding is that this dry air has a desiccating effect on the plants, in some cases wicking moisture from the leaves and branches, not to mention from the ground. Ideally, mulch should mitigate this, but not if the wind manages to blow that mulch aside.

So, even though we just got weeks of rain and that brought 11 inches to the ground, I still had to go out and water my plants. Dry, young plants are less supple and weaker, more prone to breaking off. Their leaves shrivel as the dry air blows across them. Some of the plants, like manzanita, have leaves that don’t lose as much water. But, for the younger plants just installed this last season, I have to water them, too.

Rain, at least, will give us much needed moisture. Cold and hot temperatures give the plants a sense of season, reminding them to grow, to sleep, to flower, etc. But, wind? Wind doesn’t offer me anything. It makes a mess. It blows trash into my yard, moves furniture, knocks over containers and as I mentioned before, scatters my mulch.

And, listen, lest you, dear reader, get the misconception that I’m airing a grievience over a brief event, an occurrence that is evanescent in nature and I ought to simply hush. Well, please find it in your heart to understand that this wind has been blowing since Thursday. That’s four straight days of wind averaging 13 mph. That’s the average. And, I just checked, we’ve averaged 13 mph for the entire month! We had wind like this in the middle of the month, too. My weather station recorded a high wind speed of 20 mph January 14th. Yesterday, we had a gusting wind that hit 22 mph. Imagine getting the plants in your yard, putting them in pots, then strapping them to the roof of your car and driving around for four days around the streets of your neighborhood. You drive the whole time, too. Vary your speed if you like, but average about 15 mph and that’s what is going on with the plants in my yard.

Four days. This wind is forecasted to blow through the night and into tomorrow morning, but it is supposed to, at least, begin to subside and be a much more manageable 5-10mph. Still, I hate this wind. There’s just no good from it, to me.

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Dry no longer: drought broken, or just at bay?

My region of Southern California is often dry. Total days of rain are usually few, less than 30, I’d say. Additionally, inches of rain average between 10 and 15. But, in the last several years, California, and here specifically, has been in the grip of severe drought. I estimate that we got something like 6 inches of rain all year last year (by which, I mean, the “rainfall year” which typically is said to begin in October. This month alone we have doubled that. In January, my weather station (which is probably fairly acurate but not necessarily precise) has received nearly 12 inches, and will most likely exceed that today.


I’ve become much more aware of the weather and rainfall since starting my garden/yard. The majority of my plants are drought tolerant. They still need water and in times of drought, they need supplementary irrigation. But, I think I may not be watering much this Spring. In fact, more than half of my plants have been in the yard over a year. My understanding is that after a year, California native plants are “established” and need significantly less water. For some, that means none. There’s a great site, Las Pilitas, that is primarily a nursery but is also a treasure trove of information about California native plants. On that site, they specifically state that most truly drought tolerant California native plants hate water after the first season or two. For example, I have a few different Ceonothus species. These are also known as California Lilacs.


Ceonothus plants, as far as I can tell, hate water, especially when it’s warm. They will accept water when it’s cold, like right now, but that’s it. What I have read is that there are microorganisms in the soil that live when it is either cool and moist or warm and dry. Warm and moist soil kill these microorganisms. They are what provide nutrients to the roots of many native plants! This is why, by the way, you also should not amend California soils when planting natives, and do not add fertilizer. Apparently these mycorrhizae feed the plants are vital for their growth and survival. You might say that if you are a gardener of California natives, you aren’t growing the plants so much as these mycorrhizae!

So, I have killed at least two Ceonothus plants by watering them too much. I’m doing better with the ones I have right now. I have four that have been in my garden over a year now. Two others were growing and looking good but they were eaten by gophers. Speaking of, I just read as I was getting links for this post, that gophers tend not to eat plants that aren’t being watered!!! Oh yeah! So, maybe this year will be better if I’m not watering so much, then maybe the gophers won’t eat so many.

That doesn’t mean my hose will be idle. About once per week, I will go out and “wash” the dust off the plants by spraying the leaves. This won’t really water them but it will keep them from getting covered in dust, something else they hate. That will be nice to just go spray my plants down and not worry about watering deeply. Let’s be clear, though, this only applies to established plants. For the plants that are still young and in the first season, I will definitely be watering those plants (and keeping an eye out for gophers!).

The rain coming down right now as I write this means I will probably not water any of these established plants at all this Spring. We’re having a good year for rain, even by California’s standards. It looks like we will at least meet the “normal” averages for rain and that should make my garden very happy.

A couple Black sages, and a California Buckhwheat in the foreground. Behind it is my baby Live Oak. 01-22-2017
The garden on January 22, 2017

Rain and rest

Since finishing the paver patio/pathway, I’ve been resting a bit. I get back pain due to a bad S-I joint. It’s been nice to rest and maybe just stroll around the garden a bit, but I’m also thinking about the next thing. The south side of my yard is small, gets some shade, and I’m planning to put in vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs. I have two raised garden beds ready to go and plan on maybe a third. The area needs some work, though. There’s a lot of soil that was removed from the front yard when we put in some additional concrete for parking. And, the retaining wall I installed needs another 15 feet to really be finished.

My idea is to bring the wall over and curve it a bit, similar to how I have it on the north side. That will give a slightly raised area. Then, I will try to level the rest of the area and plant lime, orange, and avocado trees, one each. I have some heirloom seeds on order for vegetables and herbs.

And, of course, I’ve never really done gardening like this before. I had a tomato plant in 2015 that never really made it through the summer. I’m guessing I didn’t give it enough nutrients in the soil. But, I plan to have the beds have much better soil and fertilizer. They have hardware cloth across the bottom so that should keep at least the gophers out.

Rain has been much better this year than last. I remember going all of December with no rain. This year we’ve had over 5 inches since October! Most of it came in the last week of December. That’s great for my garden. I’m very interested to see what happens with my California native plants. I have California Buckwheat, manzanita, and sage that have been in the yard over a year now. My understanding is that after the first full year, the plants are usually established in the garden and they require little to no water.

In November I attended a workshop at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden nursery, called Grow Native. They sell, as far as I know, only California native plants. Anyway, one of the workers, a young guy who is studying native plants in school and sounds like he has a lot of experience gardening/landscaping, gave a workshop on planting and watering. To summarize, you did a hole twice and wide and 1.5 times as deep as the pot the plant is in. Then, you fill the hole with water, let it drain, then fill it with water again, same. Then, install the plant with the base of the plant about an inch higher than the surrounding soil, then water it again.

After that, I didn’t water much. I had some bad luck though with plants I bought in the Fall Planting Festival at Grow Native. We got some really damaging winds in November. I always seem to lose a plant or two to the wind. Sticky monkey flowers do not seem to respond to the wind well, at all. Also, four penstemon (electric blue) died. They just turned black. I don’t know what happened there. It wasn’t lack of water. Maybe the heat got them. Or, a disease. But, anyway, they died. Then, many of the sages I bought got a powdery white mildew that hasn’t gone away. The black sages and the Cleveland sages all got them. I was careful not to get water on the leaves and that never happened with the plants I have now. I’m waiting it out to see how it goes. I lost two Bee’s Bliss plants to that mildew. Bummer

Most of my plants seem to be doing well at the moment. I’m seeing some new leaves growing on the manzanitas and sages.