Happy Garlic Ready for the Snow

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Snow! April! Southern California!

Garden Tasks This Week:
- Incorporate cover crop for 3 sisters field
- Pot up last of the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants
- Harvest asparagus, artichokes, fennel, and overwintered spinach
- Mow cover crop for melons, tomatoes, and peppers (work soil when it dries down)
- Weed garlic

It is a misnomer that Southern California is a desert - in fact most of the areas west of the mountains should properly be described as semiarid grassland, chaparral, or coastal sage-scrub. The extreme aridity seen in the true Southern California deserts such as Anza-Borrego, Palm Desert, and Joshua Tree (Sonora and Mojave desert regions) is mitigated west of the mountains by Pacific moisture/humidity. That said, while water is not "severely" limiting to life most of the time" (Dimmitt, Biomes and Communities of the Sonoran Desert Region) in most of the urban/sub-urban areas of Southern California, it is certain limiting to non-native species (especially of the garden variety).

This year, there-fore Southern have a lot to be grateful for. As I sit writing looking out at our gardens from our office at 4200 feet in the San Diego mountains snow is falling and the precipitation of this last storm looks to push us over the 33" mark for the year. Truly a sort of blessing or whatever you might call that, something to be thankful for anyway. I've seen the results of ample Southern California moisture written in the deserts already this year as they are the first to burst forth after almost a decade of dessication, not that it bothered them. Brittle brush blooming as if it had been all along. The coastal slopes all around us are rich, green, and lest we forget, fleeting. We are in for an amazing dry season, this is our one and only ecology in full effect, forget the Easterners who drowning in weeds can't see the ephemera of it here, who I've heard describe the west as "brown and poky". When the now verdant "eastern looking" pastures of our west once again turn tawny, deep ochre, red and burning on the edge of the sea, lets love that too.

Now is a great time and this is a great year for the gardener to pull out a little lawn or other water hungry and minimally useful landscape plant and replace it with something more appropriate to Southern California. Food crops are always a great option to lessen our dependence on the ecological disaster that is the food system, but if you are interested in landscaping with native plants (and you should be) check out Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano or Las Pilitas in Escondido. Both nurseries have awesome websites and a huge selection of plants that will not only naturally thrive here and meet any of your landscaping needs, but also provide habitat for native wildlife. Through over-development, we Southern Californians have taken so much habitat away from the native birds, insects, mammals, and reptiles of our region that it is a crime against nature to not give back when we have the chance. I can imagine an urban-wilderness interface in Southern California which respects the habitats and corridors of our wild neighbors. Where the health of our gardens and lives are maintained by an ecological balance. One in which we fulfill our role and responsibility as stewards of our ecosystem not exploiters. Where we grow food for ourselves in our communities and foster the complex and beautiful communities of the wild, that we let wilderness back into our lives.
We're all in this thing together,