Local weather patterns have been quite unusual, recently.
The Monterey Bay area had a short spell of cold, relative to our familiar moderate temperatures, followed by very dry and warm days. Now, much of central California is officially in “extreme drought,” and likely to remain in that condition for the next several weeks.
The National Weather Service has blamed the recent weather on “a strong ridge of high pressure in control along the west coast,” and on January 21st reported “all signs point to the ridge off the coast rebuilding for next week…this will lead to more above normal temperatures (more records will likely be set) with all of the rain staying to the north. Long range is trending more pessimistic for rain chances out to February 7th…Unless there is a big shift in the pattern, this will go down as the driest January on record for almost all locations.”
The University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources specialists have recommended strategies for keeping edible and ornamental plants alive during this drought.
First, watch plants for signs of water-stress. The symptoms include
- wilting or drooping leaves,
- curled or yellowed leaves that fold or drop,
- foliage that changes form green to grayish,
- new leaves that are smaller than normal,
- lawns that retain a footprint longer than usual.
Ornamental trees are generally in a dormant stage, at this time of the year, and will not require watering until they resume growth. One or two deep irrigations in the spring and summer will keep them healthy and resistant to diseases and insects.
Fruit and nut trees will require adequate moisture from bloom until harvest to produce a good crop. If that level of irrigation is not available, a few early-season irrigations will keep the trees alive, at least, although they might not produce much fruit.
Shrubs will need a thorough watering in the spring, and one or two more summer irrigations to be kept alive.
Most vegetables will need regular irrigation during flowering and fruit production. Squash, zucchini and other vines can be kept alive with irrigation once or twice weekly through the season.
Ground covers should be watered about monthly from April through September, with amounts related to local heat and dryness.
Lawns should be provided at least half the usual amount of water. Without adequate moisture lawns will go dormant eventually, but often can be revised with subsequent watering. Warm-season lawns (e.g., Bermudagrass, buffalo grass) are more drought-tolerant than cool-season lawns (e.g., tall fescue, ryegrass).
For now we can only wish for the overdue rain and water our plants at least minimally.
For the most up-to-date, authoritative information on local weather, click here to visit the website of the Western Region Headquarters of the National Weather Service. Click on “San Francisco Bay Area” for information that is closest to the Monterey Bay Area.