January 2014–heat and drought are wilting my southern California garden

Southern California is in a record-breaking heat wave and is experiencing horrible drought with precipitation at 20% of normal. This is our rainy season, but it isn’t raining. I don’t think it has rained since early December. Temperatures in the garden are hitting mid 80s every day. This is NOT NORMAL for January, and is wreaking havoc with my orchard and vegetable garden.

By the time I got home from work today, the sun had almost gone down. I wanted to make a blog post, so I took some photos before I lost the light completely, just to show you what my January garden looks like. With record-setting heat, things have gone into bloom prematurely. And with no rain, what is blooming is wilting. I can’t seem to keep up with the watering. I am 2/3 of the way through spring planting. Here is my urban mini-farm and orchard, all on a 4500 sq ft lot with the house, 3-car garage, driveway, and sidewalks occupying most of the space.

My mini-farm boasts a mighty flock of five laying hens.

My mini-farm boasts a “mighty flock” of five laying hens.

The garlic has sprouted. I have about 17 Sonoran garlics, about 18 Early Italian, and about 14 California Early garlics sprouted. My favorites, the Ajo Rojo, haven't sprouted yet. Will they? Don't know.

The garlic has sprouted. I have about 17 Sonoran garlics, about 18 Early Italian, and about 14 California Early garlics sprouted. My favorites, the Ajo Rojo, haven’t sprouted yet. Will they? Don’t know.

This little raised bed has green onions, one lone chard plant, and all of my Sonoran garlics.

This little raised bed has green onions, one lone chard plant, and all of my Sonoran garlics.

I am growing four onion varieties this year: Texas Red, Texas Yellow, Texas White, and "Sweet". We shall see if any of them make bulbs. Some years they do, and some years they don't.

I am growing four onion varieties this year: Texas Red, Texas Yellow, Texas White, and “Sweet”. We shall see if any of them make bulbs. Some years they do, and some years they don’t.

I am growing some green bunching onions in bowls. I don't have much garden space, so I grow food wherever I can.

I am growing some green bunching onions in bowls. I don’t have much garden space, so I grow food wherever I can.

This is the second year that these strawberries have been in this planter box. I wonder if I should dig them up and replant them. Does anyone know?

This is the second year that these strawberries have been in this planter box. I wonder if I should dig them up and replant them. Does anyone know?

Our Florida Prince peach tree is blooming extra early this year. The flowers opened yesterday, and are already wilting. I don't know if I will get fruit set in this heat. It's still early for the bees to be out.

Our Florida Prince peach tree is blooming extra early this year. The flowers opened yesterday, and are already wilting. I don’t know if I will get fruit set in this heat. It’s still early for the bees to be out.

I am growing arugula in planter boxes. We harvested the first today for a salad.

I am growing arugula in planter boxes. We harvested the first today for a salad.

I harvested some leaves of speckled lettuce today to go into the salad as well.

I harvested some leaves of speckled lettuce today to go into the salad as well.

I planted radish seeds in a nice regular pattern for square foot gardening, but they came up in a jumble. I'm going to try transplanting some of them to give the others more room.

I planted radish seeds in a nice regular pattern for square foot gardening, but they came up in a jumble. I’m going to try transplanting some of them to give the others more room.

I have a LOT of cilantro that seeded itself in my raised bed. Why can't it be ready to pick when tomatoes are ripe? But no, it is all gone by summer.

I have a LOT of cilantro that seeded itself in my raised bed. Why can’t it be ready to pick when tomatoes are ripe? But no, it is all gone by summer.

But thanks to Global Weirding, I have a tomato that is ripe. In mid-January! This is a first for my garden, a winter so mild that tomatoes set fruit and ripened.

But thanks to Global Weirding, I have a tomato that is ripe. In mid-January! This is a first for my garden, a winter so mild that tomatoes set fruit and ripened.

I have a few more tomatoes coming along. I just can't believe it. This is SO early.

I have a few more tomatoes coming along. I just can’t believe it. This is SO early.

I have a half dozen chard plants coming along nicely, but they are not ready to harvest yet. I take only the outer leaves to keep the plants producing over a long period.

I have a half dozen chard plants coming along nicely, but they are not ready to harvest yet. I take only the outer leaves to keep the plants producing over a long period.

I have six collard greens plants, two of which are almost ready to provide leaves for cooking.

I have six collard greens plants, two of which are almost ready to provide leaves for cooking.

These Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas are the normal size for January, but the birds ate all of my Sugar Snap peas. Time to replant those.

These Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas are the normal size for January, but the birds ate all of my Sugar Snap peas. Time to replant those.

Our navel orange crop is ready to pick, and we have been enjoying fresh oranges since the first of the year.

Our navel orange crop is ready to pick, and we have been enjoying fresh oranges since the first of the year.

It looks like the navel oranges will be huge this year. The Valencia oranges are tiny and not even close to being ripe yet.
I have a couple of Eureka lemons ready to pick and a few more ripening. I have a bumper crops of Meyer lemons and need to do something with them SOON.

I have a couple of Eureka lemons ready to pick and a few more ripening. I have a bumper crops of Meyer lemons and need to do something with them SOON.

Our little dwarf Valencia orange produced 7 oranges this year. The stone border around the flower bed is new. I emptied the water barrel, shown at the right, and put it up on concrete blocks to allow us to get the last of the water out more easily. This is the first time that I have used all of the water in this barrel during the rainy season. Normally it empties partially with use and fills with each new rain, empties and fills until the rainy season is over.

Our little dwarf Valencia orange produced 7 oranges this year. The stone border around the flower bed is new. I emptied the water barrel, shown at the right, and put it up on concrete blocks to allow us to get the last of the water out more easily. This is the first time that I have used all of the water in this barrel during the rainy season. Normally it empties partially with use and fills with each new rain, empties and fills until the rainy season is over.

We have a few limes that are ripe, and many more forming. Not all of the flowers in a cluster get fertilized.

We have a few limes that are ripe, and many more forming. Not all of the flowers in a cluster get fertilized.

We are still harvesting ripe bell peppers. This heirloom Giant Marconi sweet pepper is about to turn red.

We are still harvesting ripe bell peppers. This heirloom Giant Marconi sweet pepper is about to turn red.

I am still getting Black Beauty eggplants ripening, which is pretty strange for January.

I am still getting Black Beauty eggplants ripening, which is pretty strange for January.

Our border of jade plants is in full bloom. Since the neighbors to the south cut down the tall cypress trees, the jades are getting more summer sun. This is their best bloom ever.

Our border of jade plants is in full bloom. Since the neighbors to the south cut down the tall cypress trees, the jades are getting more summer sun. This is their best bloom ever.

These Snowdrops are blooming a couple of weeks early.

These Snowdrops are blooming a couple of weeks early.

These double paperwhite narcissus are also blooming a couple of weeks early. The single paperwhites started blooming in November, and have already finished blooming. Crazy.

These double paperwhite narcissus are also blooming a couple of weeks early. The single paperwhites started blooming in November, and have already finished blooming. Crazy.

These Mother-of_Thousands succulents have pretty blooms this time of year.

These Mother-of_Thousands succulents have pretty blooms this time of year.

These tiny orchids bloom nearly year round.

These tiny orchids bloom nearly year round.

Most of my Cymbidium orchids bloom in February-April, but these bloom in January. They all stay outdoors on the patio.

Most of my Cymbidium orchids bloom in February-April, but these bloom in January. They all stay outdoors on the patio.

These artichoke plants are doing nicely and should make some artichokes in a couple of months.

These artichoke plants are doing nicely and should make some artichokes in a couple of months.

Here is my next garden project--finding space to plant this grafted Asian pear, a dwarf Kieffer pear, and a dwarf Fuji apple.

Here is my next garden project–finding space to plant this grafted Asian pear, a dwarf Kieffer pear, and a dwarf Fuji apple.

I hope you enjoyed my tour of our January garden. I hope it rains soon, and I hope this heat goes away. Temps in the mid eighties are not normal for here for January.

5 responses to “January 2014–heat and drought are wilting my southern California garden

  1. Great photos! Last summer we got rid of all of our grass and planted a vegetable garden and natural landscape. We’re in North Huntington Beach, so we have the same weird weather. I think my soil is lacking nutrients so the vegetables have struggled– this is my first real vegetable garden, so I’m sure I’ll learn as I go. Thanks for blogging, I’m loving reading about your garden!

  2. Enjoyed seeing your garden. I see that we have some of the same problems. My biggest problem every year is having to take out producing vegetable plants in order to get in the crop for the next season. It hurts to have to do it. We also are still eating tomatoes from last years planting, though i have now taken all but one plant out. We have about a dozen tomatoes left and are enjoying them in salads and in tacos, also sliced along side an omelet for breakfast. mean while my new tomato seeds are popping up as well as all other plants for the spring garden. I plant mine in my potting shed which has heat and plenty of sunlight as the windows face the east south and west. My winter veggies are just getting big enough to start harvesting now. It looks like you may be buying onions from Dixondale Farms too? I got mine plants in the ground about the end of November and most are about 12-14 inches high now.
    I’m now trying to figure out where I could plant some potatoes this year. Like you I never have enough space.
    Well I’m running on and on. Just wanted you to know I enjoyed your blog.
    George Aust

    • George, thanks for stopping by. I grow potatoes in my DRIVEWAY, in grow-bags from Gardeners Supply Company. I get about three pounds per bag, not the fifty that they claim is possible, but it is still fun.

    • George, yes, the onions are from Dixondale Farms. A friend of a friend places an order for a group of people so they cost next to nothing, $2.80 for a bunch of bareroot seedlings. I think there were 60 onions in the bunch, not sure. Maybe double that? I know I got a heck of a lot of seedlings out of it.

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