Progress in the garden despite an extreme drought, August 10, 2015

One of my green activities is saving rainwater to use on my garden and potted plants. That is kind of hard to do when it isn’t raining. And it generally doesn’t rain in southern California from mid April to October. Except….

It rained in JULY this year!!! Amazing. It never does that. Global weirding.

It rained in JULY this year!!! Amazing. It never does that. Global weirding.

I save rainwater that falls from a gutter and downspout into 3 rain barrels hooked in series. They were still pretty full because I tend to use that water mainly to water my compost bins (another “green” activity). So I put this temporary diverter under the downspout to divert the water to a 20-gallon Rubbermaid trash barrel. It filled up pretty fast, so I used a bucket to transfer water from the barrel to an empty one. I did that three times before it stopped raining. I also had four other barrels under dripping eaves, but they didn’t collect as much water.

I was able to save over 100 gallons of unexpected rain from Hurricane Delores on top of what was still in storage from spring rains. I know, it’s just a drop in the bucket. But every bucket helps, considering that we save the water from running the tap to get hot water in the shower. We use that water to flush the low-flow toilet. We are also turning the tap off in the shower while we soap up between getting the initial getting wet and rinsing off. By using these conservation measures, we are able to keep our fruit trees alive and maintain our vegetable beds, all while using a mere 60 gallons per person, per day. Pre-drought average usage was about 120 gallons of water per person, per day, but almost everyone is conserving now. This has reduced average usage in our area to about 80 gallons per person, per day.

But enough of our drought crisis. We still have a great garden. Well, an interesting one anyway.

The scarlet runner beans are blooming nicely, but surprisingly, no beans have set yet.

The scarlet runner beans are blooming nicely, but surprisingly, no beans have set yet.

I planted a row each of Eye of Goat and Little Goat dry beans. Out of those two rows, one bean sprouted. ONE bean. I was going to photograph it, but something ate it before I could get a photo. Bummer.

We battle constantly against the night critters, like this juvenile possum.

We battle constantly against the night critters, like this juvenile possum.

This is the entire 2014 crop from my Garden Gold ultra dwarf peach tree.

This is the entire 2014 crop from my Garden Gold ultra dwarf peach tree.

These five Asian pears were the last of the pears from my grafted Asian pear tree. I still have quite a few pears on my Shinseiki Asian pear tree that need to be harvested.

These five Asian pears were the last of the pears from my grafted Asian pear tree. I still have quite a few pears on my Shinseiki Asian pear tree that need to be harvested.

I made a batch of blueberry scones from scratch.

I made a batch of blueberry scones from scratch.

We had scones for breakfast along with fruit from our garden (Asian pears and the peach) on cottage cheese.

We had scones for breakfast along with fruit from our garden (Asian pears and the peach) on cottage cheese.

Mean, nasty DinoPeep is laying well. Old Chicken Little is still laying, but only about three eggs a week. Lazy Miss Hillary is molting and not laying at all. Bottom line is that we are getting enough eggs for now from our little

Mean, nasty DinoPeep is laying well. Old Chicken Little is still laying, but only about three eggs a week. Lazy Miss Hillary is molting and not laying at all. Bottom line is that we are getting enough eggs for now from our little “farm.”

Veggie bed #3 has tomatoes, bell peppers, collards, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, and radishes.

Veggie bed #3 has tomatoes, bell peppers, collards, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, and radishes.

I have four female flowers on my surviving cucumber plants. Birds devastated the cuke row before I got some netting over this bed.

I have four female flowers on my surviving cucumber plants. Birds devastated the cuke row before I got some netting over this bed.

Bed #2 has tomatoes, an eggplant, green beans, a cabbage, dill, and some dying basil.

Bed #2 has tomatoes, an eggplant, green beans, a cabbage, crookneck yellow squash, dill, and some dying basil.

This big, fat, tomato hornworm ate the tops off of my tallest Roma tomato before I discovered and dispatched it.

This big, fat, tomato hornworm ate the tops off of my tallest Roma tomato before I discovered and dispatched it.

Bed # 1 has tomatoes, peppers, collards, and an eggplant.

Bed # 1 has tomatoes, peppers, collards, cabbage and an eggplant.

I FINALLY got a harvest of some summer vegetables. This was it.

I FINALLY got a harvest of some summer vegetables. This was it.

You’d think that my garden is now in full production. Wrong. (The pathetically tiny harvest above is the sum total of my summer veggie production.) This is the only zucchini from my three big plants, with no female flowers anywhere near ready to fertilize. Then the plants flopped over, effectively smothering the carrots and radishes. VBS. The yellow crookneck squash shows no signs of producing any  squash, and one of those two plants up and died for no good reason. We don’t have squash borers (knock on wood).

I got ONE Better Boy tomato and four little yellow pear tomatoes. There are no other tomatoes getting ripe, and hardly any have even set fruit. This is my entire eggplant crop so far. I have a Ping Tung Long and an Ichiban. Neither one have set any fruit other than the tiny one above. So maybe we’re going to starve after all.

Without any August produce to harvest and preserve, I mainly sit on my deck and watch the garden grow.

Without any August produce to harvest and preserve, I mainly sit on my deck and watch the garden grow.

I love this little piggie planter from Mexico. I call him El Señor Puerco. Now how many people name their planters?

I love this little piggie planter from Mexico. I call him El Señor Puerco. Now how many people name their planters?

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia

Coneflowers

Coneflowers

Bromeliad

Blooming Bromeliad

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

A rose

A rose

One solution to having a pretty garden during a drought is to grow succulents in colorful pots.

One solution to having a pretty garden during a drought is to grow a variety of succulents in colorful pots.

This is one of my newest planters of succulents, with a red bromeliad in the background.

This is one of my newest planters of succulents, with a red bromeliad in the background.

I am rapidly going through the rest of the water in the rain barrels, and have emptied at least 8 of them. I still have about 150 gallons remaining. Bring on El Nino!!!

And that is my update.

Harvest for the week ending August 9

FRUIT

12 oz Asian Pear, grafted tree

6 oz limes

2 oz Peach, Garden Gold

subtotal fruit 1 lb 4 oz

VEGETABLES

2 oz bell pepper

1 oz Eggplant, Ichiban

1 lb 5 oz Garlic (not pictured)

11 oz summer squash, zucchini

4 oz Tomato

subtotal veggies  3 lbs 3 oz

TOTAL HARVEST 4 lbs 7 oz produce plus 11 eggs

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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13 Responses to Progress in the garden despite an extreme drought, August 10, 2015

  1. Michelle says:

    That’s so sad that your veggies are so unproductive. But your garden looks so pretty, hopefully that provides some consolation. I’m hoping El Nino brings us some rain too, but not too much…

    • Michelle, I hear you on the rain. Have you seen the temperature maps of the Pacific Ocean? I’m worried that we are going to get way too much rain this winter, after four years of not getting much at all. Time will tell.

  2. Norma Chang says:

    I too am battling the critters, they are so destructive. Hope you get some rain and your surviving plants start to produce. El Señor Puerco sure is cute and colorful. Would love to grow containers of succulents but the deer would devour them, cannot even grow hens-and-chicken deer loves them.

    • Norma, I am grateful that we don’t have to battle deer. That is one blessing of an urban garden. I’m glad you like El Señor Puerco. I smile every time I see him. As for rain, what’s that? It never rains here in the summer. Except it did in July this year. My stored rainwater is nearly gone, so I am crossing my fingers for a wet El Nino year. The Pacific Ocean has really heated up this summer, to unprecedented levels and extent. We could get a gully-washing deluge this fall and winter. I feel really sorry for folks living below burned slopes. The hills slide down during heavy rains after fires, and we have had an unprecedented amount of fire in the West this year. And fire season just started!

  3. daphnegould says:

    It is too bad about your low harvest this year. Mother nature can be cruel sometimes.

    • Daphne, I think my really low harvest is due to the fact that I had health issues all spring and into summer and didn’t get my summer garden planted until early July. I am finally seeing some progress on produce setting fruit. There is a long time before harvest though, still time for something to go wrong.

  4. Mary Mueller says:

    If you are going to starve, at least you have a beautiful spot to do it in! I no longer grow tomatoes because of the hornworms…15 off one plant last year, so we are letting that soil rest a few years.

    • Yeah Mary, if I depended on my garden, I would indeed starve. It is feast or famine, as all the fruit on a tree ripens at once, and then nothing. I finally have my first red tomato. And what is it today, August 23. Starving here. About those tomato hornworms. They come from a big moth, so letting the ground rest won’t stop them.

  5. Linda Scotton says:

    Love to read your posts. Despite all the setbacks it is great to see your determination and efforts. It is an adventure not the final result right? I often get bogged down in the setbacks. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. I always like your posts. I love the little piggy planter! So cute! I read this article and thought of you. Maybe you will enjoy the read.

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/plant-a-food-forest.aspx

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