Ho, hum, hot!

I’m a seventies gal. That is to say that I prefer temperatures hovering around 72 degrees with a slight breeze. I have British Aisle genes and a California address. Now that we’re approaching the hottest months of the year I must hide from the heat and sun. Tomorrow’s forecast: 101°F (38°C).

Gardening used to happen at the end of the day when I could safely venture back outdoors. As we settle uncomfortably into year four of the California drought, not much gardening is happening at all.

Planting pots with annuals on the deck and porch has long been a favorite ritual. This year I emptied all but a few pots, and planted what remained with succulents. They don’t need much watering, perhaps just once a month, but they don’t need much care either. Part of the joy of gardening is watching new growth, pinching back leaves, dead-heading flowers and making tiny bouquets. It’s fun to see an annual double in size over the course of the summer. This year I’m forgoing that tradition.

What remains of the lawn resembles a bed of straw. I’m happy to see the lawn go, but had hoped that by now we would have our native plants in place. I met with a designer in April who promised a two-week turnaround, but as we approach July we remain in limbo. I’ve completed the landscape rebate program application but I can’t submit it until I have both the list of plants and the specific irrigation components for the rebate.

drying grass

Drying grass, dead sweet peas

DSC_0189

The Statice likes the dry conditions and attracts butterflies. The sweet peas are a different story.

In the back garden, I sheet mulched half of the lawn thinking I would replant this spring. That too is in limbo, awaiting plans. For now that area is a patch of brown, albeit fertile soil.

drought garden

Half lawn, half dry patch, and an all-volunteer tomato crop

I didn’t plan a vegetable garden this year either, other than the raspberry vines that come back time and again without fuss. With no effort on my part, three tomato varieties self seeded: one grew under the Acer, several in the gravel surrounding the rotating compost bin and a few in the actual planting boxes. Mike added a drip line, so we could eek out some drops at the roots.

three tomato collage

Self-seeded tomatoes

A few weeks ago more tomatoes popped up in the patch of former lawn. They seem to be surviving without any water, something that doesn’t seem possible. I scratched the surface of the soil and it remains dry at least an inch down. The plants must be getting by on morning dew and perhaps some ground water. Amazing.

In the same sea of dirt stands a single pumpkin, ringed by several tomatoes. The plant’s leaves droop in exhaustion at the end of each day, and I whisper my understanding. I head to the swing and enjoy the green that remains while longing for a refreshing downpour.

self planted pumpkin and tomatoes

A pumpkin or squash surrounded by tomato plants

It’s survival of the fittest out there under the hot, dry early summer sky. Indoors this seventies gal needs to improve her attitude.

36 thoughts on “Ho, hum, hot!

  1. At least a few things are hanging on. I would hate to live in such dry conditions… here in west Wales water is not something we are usually short of, although it hasn’t rained much recently and some of the leaves are falling from my willows even this early in the season. I hope that you get some relief from the drought soon, but I can’t help thinking that California is just not a sensible place for large numbers of people to live in any more.

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    • You know you’ve hit part of the problem straight on the proverbial nail. As our population swells and the water available decreases, something has to give. We have many problems that need to be addressed. Urban lawns must go. Not just our lawn, but the lawns surrounding industrial parks, wealthy neighborhoods, etc. I read an article with the gentlemen complaining that the park like setting on his thousand acres dwelling was ‘always’ that way, so that it needed to remain that way. That kind of thinking always gets us in trouble. Some places are using reclaimed water (hurray) and others have gone native.

      As a state, California must rethink our crops and our industry in general. It takes an extraordinary amount of water to raise cattle. I’m wearing my vegetarian diet proudly in this drought, knowing that eating lower on the food chain is also making a difference in water use overall.

      So much to think about.

      I’ve never been to Wales and hope to visit one day. My husband has been, many years ago with a girlfriend. Hopefully one day we’ll get there together.

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  2. I am amazed at the tenacity of those tomatoes and pumpkins – you must tell us what the fruit tastes like when you have bitten in ….. can these volunteer, water deprived plants really provide plump juicy tomatoes? An inquisitive reader must know! Sweet peas, being a cottage garden plant, thereby proving their reliance on a goodly amount of rainfall or watering, are of course not going to survive very long – sadly. It seems cactus and succulents are just the thing for you now, or until the climate changes again 🙂 And I don’t suppose we will live to see that pendulum swing by.

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    • You are so right, Pauline. I was settling in for a summer of lovely blooming sweet peas when the first heat wave hit and that was the end of them. At least I know that I can get a long spring of flowers from the plant with little effort, so I will look forward to that next year. The love-in-a-mist are already setting seed as well. They too volunteered all over the garden. The one volunteer that is going like gangbusters is the yellow Four-o-clock plant. Several of them grew to about a foot, then stopped, but then along came a second crop and they’re three times the height. What a variance!

      As for the tomatoes, the first one or two I tried lacked flavor so that may be true of the rest. If so, Mike will use them in salsa. I’m still hoping for a few juicy, sweet, salad-makers though.

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  3. These photos of your yard are so hard to see. You Californians are really enduring a hellish stretch–I can’t imagine. We’ve had a long, cool, damp June in the Northeast and, when I think about complaining, I remember what other are dealing with.

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    • Complain away! I just did, and I *know* others have it far worse. There are communities here that no longer have water flowing from their tap. Shallower wells have run dry, and big business farmers have the cash to drill deeper so have made the problem for these other communities worse. One woman interviewed drives to another community to take a shower and water now comes from trucks. In some places the ground is depressed because of the over reliance on ground water.

      It’s a sea change for sure.

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  4. This must be quite devasting for you, Alys. I am so sorry! I can relate to your feeling towards the heat of summer. I noticed after 3 years Ohio, I can stand the heat better…but oh, that humidity!!! Oh well…Fall will come again and I wish you a speedier process for your garden and luscious rains. xo Johanna

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    • Thank you!

      We don’t usually get humidity, but this summer we’ve received the remnants of off-shore typhoons so have had the humidity as well. That said, it is nothing like the south so I feel for you. I was in Hawaii 25 years ago in September, and the heat and moisture sat on you like a blanket. Best of luck to you making it through the summer as well.

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  5. All is not lost the tomatoes are looking beautiful, the weather can be so unpredictable at times and it is one thing we can never have control over.Lets us hope that it is not going toget worse for you. In the mean time enjoy your tomatoes.

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  6. I can relate to the 70s girl in you Alys, as I would also prefer cooler summers. It’s really hot here too right now, but the watering situation you are facing makes me so sad – nurturing a garden is the whole joy of a garden after all. But if those tomatoes can make it despite the odds then there is hope yet, I am sure! You will slowly find plants you can grow with minimum irrigation – beautiful grasses, sedums, and hopefully lots more. I do hope your designer doesn’t keep you waiting much longer to seal those plans you have.

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    • Thank you for your support, Cathy. We reached triple digits today and more of the same tomorrow. American Independence Day is Saturday, so I hope it breaks by then or we’ll have all sorts of folks suffering from heat stroke.

      We’ve had two power outages since the weekend, but fortunately the power remained on today. Does your heat also come in waves or will it remain hot for some time?

      When I lived in Ontario, Canada as a girl, we would have extreme heat, followed by thunder showers. Here we almost never get showers.

      I really enjoy all your flowering vase posts, and the beauty you pull together. I used to just plant here and there and follow my own design, but the requirements for landscape replacement are so restrictive that it was easier to hire out a plan. I think the problem is that its a very small project.

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      • Our heatwaves are usually a week or two at most, but some years it just goes on and on… this could be one of those years as the next two weeks are also going to be HOT apparently. It was 36°C here today, which is around 96 or 97 I think, so no gardening going on here at the moment either! Stay cool and have a great holiday weekend Alys. 🙂

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        • Ugh! That’s miserable. Thanks for the holiday wishes. We’re staying close to home and hoping the illegal fireworks that sound off all over the neighborhood are short lived. Our cats are terrified each year.

          I hope we are both back to gardening soon, Cathy.

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  7. We just had 2 inches of rain on Saturday. That doesn’t count all the other rain. And I know some folks in Illinois who’ve had 14 inches in the last two weeks. Yep. You read that right. They’d love to give you some. Oh, it looks so sad. I can only encourage you to get succulents that flower. It’s such a surprise to see that color when it comes. Kudos to the tenacity of the tomatoes and the pumpkin!

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  8. Alsy,

    I am with you in terms of the 70s. I have wanted to live over the hill all along but Buddy never wanted to make the commute so here we still are. I need to work on having a better summer attitude as well. I hope some of your tomatoes end up tasty for salad-it is pretty amazing that they are growing so well in this weather. (I am not).

    XOXO Betsy

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    • I hear you, Betsy. I think we’re a lot of like in he heat department. I feel so irritable and uncomfortable and then I feel bad for being so irritable.

      It would be nice to live over the hill, and perhaps when Buddy retires you can head that way. I’m hanging my hat on a cute place in Victoria.

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  9. Hi Alys. Isn’t nature incredible. Had you planted the pumpkin and tomatoes, then they probably would have sulked and died. But here they are all by themselves and look to be flourishing.
    I hate to think what I would do without water and without gardening, I take them both for granted. (Although I do think of you when I’m running the tap longer than need be and turn it off feeling a little guilty) It must be so trying, especially when you see others in your community not doing what is best for the greater good.
    I do pray you get rain soon.
    Cheers Sarah : o )

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  10. I almost missed this. I loved how you wrote it. Made me smile. I’m a 60’s girl. By 70’s I’m starting to fade a bit. We’ve had nothing but mid to high 90’s for the entire month of June. I’m barely moving or thinking. I happened to notice on my Facebook page my hometown had posted a graph chart of their temps. They are floored by high 90’s too. In Germany! That’s the up north part not the Bavaria part in the south. It’s so unusual for them. We could barely find a fan when we were there in August many years ago, as they never needed any cooling. I hope you get your landscape plan soon. I used to work for a landscape architect who lied to every client that he was done and on the way, stuck in traffic when he was actually still sitting at the drawing table. Then I had to call and say he couldn’t get there. I hated that part of the job and not fond of him. What is it with some people? I’m outside at 5-5:30 in the a.m. Too hot here at night. But we will cope won’t we. There are no other options.

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  11. Oh dear. I can’t imagine how walking thru your once green garden is affecting your mood. Of course it would hon and no appology is needed at all. We’ve really mucked up our poor Earth haven’t we? Scientists have been warning us about this for at least a decade, yet very little has changed. As I read thru every single message here, it’s obvious the temperature is up all over the globe. We normally have a lot of rain in June but this year it’s been a lot less. We get a couple of rainy days followed by more days of unseasonable hot weather. Seems we can’t keep up.
    As I type this, Jim’s watching ‘This Old House’. They are standing on the bed of Lake Mead and it’s over 150 ft down from where it should be. I don’t know how it will recover in our lifetime. They are showing a ‘water smart’ yard that looks so nice. So it’s absolutely possible and can be a reality for you too. Maybe you can consider working with a new landscaper who can address your plan in a timely manor?
    Here, fire’s are burning in northern BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan due to the unusual dryness. So it’s not only hot, it’s smokey. I’m spending far less time outside even though I know winter isn’t far away. Who know’s what winter will bring. Last year there was far less snow and it melted earlier. It seems like no area of the continent will escape the reality of the change in the weather. Seeing your little volunteer pumpkin and tomatoes gives me hope, so thanks for sharing their story. Maybe we can all lean on each other and know we’re not alone. xo xo xo k

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