by Charlene Burgi
Holiday music drifted through the house this morning as I tried to figure out how long-accumulated holiday decorations would fit into the new house this year. The propane fireplace flickered and added a bit of cheer as I gazed out the window at the blustery weather conditions. The lyrics of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” broke my focus on holiday decorating as I noticed the frozen fountain water and near-empty birdfeeders.
Grabbing a jacket, gloves and bird food, I braced myself for the winter cold. As I walked out onto the front deck, I noticed the evergreen container plants looking slightly off-color . . . was that their equivalent of turning blue from the cold? I then thought of a doctor on TV this week who discussed how important it is to remain hydrated in cold weather.
I also remembered that the temperatures reached the 70s while I was visiting Marin last week. When did it last rain in Northern California, and how are the plants doing with unfavorable wind conditions, cold temperatures and modest heat waves without water? The plants are mostly dormant now, yet the exposure to adverse conditions can sap the moisture from them as it can from our own bodies.
The dilemma of dry weather this time of year is what to do for our plants? My instinct was to grab the garden hose and watering can. As I walked around, I noticed many plants, like the rhododendrons, blueberries and bulbs, seem to thrive in this environment. However, the container plants appeared to shrivel. I moved some containers to receive more sunlight and hand watered each planter until saturated.
You might ask why I opted to forego turning on the irrigation system. First, this is a crazy, busy time; it would be a disaster to forget I had initialized the controller and let it run senselessly. That would be letting Iggy control the garden instead of me. Second, not all of the plants in the garden demand water right now. They either thrive with the existing weather conditions, or are totally dormant and have enough water stored in their systems. And lastly, the time spent outside—inspecting the garden conditions and filling birdfeeders and fountains—was invigorating! It felt like a mini vacation.
I invite you to stroll through your garden today. Note any plants in need of a drink and grab a garden hose and hand water to quench their thirst. We can’t slather them with lotion or bundle them up in fleece wear as we do to protect ourselves from the elements, but we can spray them with a clear polymer that holds in the moisture and reduces stress when temperatures reach extremes. These products are available at your local nursery. Please read and follow the directions as it may suggest spraying only within certain temperature ranges.
Your plants will be grateful for the time you spent taking care of them. And don’t forget to take care of you. Indulge in a hot cup of tea or glass of water infused with lemon and lime when you come in from the cold.
A side note: While in the garden, take note of what needs to be pruned or treated with dormant spray right now or soon after the holidays. This will give you an opportunity to sharpen saws and pick up necessary oils for the task at hand. I will gently nudge you toward this task in the coming weeks.
Reminder: Rainwater Harvesting Workshop Saturday
With the recent dry weather you may not be thinking about rainwater catchment. But you’ll want to be ready when the storms return. Join us this Saturday, December 10, for a FREE workshop on Rainwater Harvesting Basics, 10:00 a.m. – noon at the Mill Valley Community Center, co-sponsored by The Urban Farmer Store. Call Wendy at 945-1521 to reserve your spot.