Monday, March 17, 2008

Where I Live and Garden.

I thought you might like to know a bit about where I live and garden.

Towering 1500-year-old virgin redwood trees, wind battered 125-foot Douglas firs, and majestic tan oaks surround my home and neighborhood. The hill I live on is about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. The ridge I live on meanders east-to-west and at 1234’, on the vineyard next to me the elevation, at 1245’ is the highest point south of the Russian river that separates the ocean’s marine influence from the hotter interior flatlands of Santa Rosa. This ridge divides the inland plain from the aquamarine, rich-blue Pacific ocean just five miles to the west of my home as a crow flies. I’m pretty far back in the woods.

It’s one-half mile from my house down the meandering gravel driveway to the mailbox at the blacktopped lane. Walking to get the newspaper, I track the types of animals passing through by studying their scat on the gravel. I watch spring unfold with the appearance of the diminutive, but glorious, redwood orchid. Until gophers got it, I watch each year for six years as a single fritillary bloomed along the fence line. And I observe the passing seasons in a rare patch of native grasslands with pale, blue-green bunch grasses; purple flowered Brodiaea (The small onion-like bulbs of Brodiaea were eaten by Native Americans and called “grass nuts.”); the tall, limber white flower heads of the soap root, the flat flowering head of a yarrow and paper-thin pink clarkias (also called godetias) in the summer.

Here, there is a combination of moderate, foggy coastal breezes and sunny, warm days and cooler nights in the summer and moderate, sunny winter days—when it’s not raining! Winter temperatures seldom drop below 320 F—the 25-year low was 15F. It has snowed only two times since I’ve been here. Summer temperatures used to rarely reach above 90F, until the summer of 2006. During that summer the temperature was over 1000F for weeks at a time starting mid-summer instead of the brief fall Indian summer heat. Hot days can see the humidity drop to as low as four percent. The nights usually stay below 60F in the summer and near or below 40F in the winter. Coupled with low humidity, I can no longer see myself living far from he coastal influence of the Pacific ocean. I’m less than 10 mile as the crow flies from those magical waters and glorious waves. My mind starts to do a meltdown at 900 F and I shiver and huddle indoors when temperatures sink to a lowly 250 F. This location has made me soft, but relaxed.

Rain falls usually from about October through April. The 35-year average rainfall on top of this cloud-grabbing ridge is 58 inches. The wettest winter was in 1982-1983 with 120 inches of rain. That winter, 20 inches fell in one 24-hour period. During any given year, it sometimes rains four inches in one hour. A well-drained yard, garden and gravel driveway is one top priority.

Summers are dry. This is a Mediterranean climate much like Greece, Southern France, Sicily, the middle elevations of the Chilean mountains, portions of South Africa, parts of Australia and both sides of the Gibraltar straits. Drought protection in the garden is a top priority. The well here is 265’ deep and nearly peters out by late fall—pumping only one- to two-gallons per hour sporadically. The 8,000 gallon water tank begins to drop come October and isn’t replenished until the winter rains have begun. I’ve had to truck in drinking water twice over the past 27 years. So, water conservation throughout the summer is essential. Such constraints lead me to figure out how to grow and ornamental garden, herbs and fruit trees with no irrigation—more on this later.

All rights reserved Copyright 2008

Visit Robert Kourik's web site to learn about his great gardening books.

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