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150511-0626

Dear friends,

The time has come for a big change!

If you are close to me you know that the continuing and deepening California drought has taken a big bite out of my work as a nature gardening consultant. Here in the Bay Area the climate has shifted, and I’m not just talking about the weather. People are pulling back on all kinds of gardening, letting their lawns turn brown and planting slow-growing xeriscapes with vast expanses of dry mulch.

No matter the cause, be it global warming or simply long-term climate cycles, the Bay Area’s climate is passing into a semi-arid phase. Even if we get a big fat El Niño this winter the chances are the drought will resume soon after.

As beautiful as the dry, brown hillsides may be, I am a creature of the rain.

That is why I am moving to Corvallis, Oregon. I will be leaving the Bay Area on June 20, 2015.

Creating deep nature gardens in the Bay Area has been a wonderful, fun, educational project. Now I am moving on, to a place where it rains in every month of the year (usually!) and sometimes in the winter there is snow.

To Bay Area clients, my deepest thanks for the opportunities to work in your beautiful gardens.

To future new clients in Corvallis, I look forward to meeting you!

Many good wishes to all garden lovers!

Nick Turner

 

141209-0710

For once, all the weather models agree: We are going to get really, really wet!

As you may be able to discern from the IR view above, the jet stream is aiming right at us, sucking up gigatons of water off the warm ocean between Hawaii and the California coast. Yes, it is one of those iconic “pineapple express” patterns, and this is going to be a big one. We can expect a day of heavy rain and lots of powerful wind.

141209-0712The storm is expected to arrive in the Bay Area early Thursday morning, with rain and wind lasting all day.

If you have outdoor furniture or any other large, light objects now is the time to move them indoors or out of the wind. Check that your gutters and downspouts are clear. If there are lots of fallen leaves in the street, now is a good time to rake them into a pile away from street drains, or put them into the green bin. Better yet, spread those non-conifer leaves across your garden’s open spaces, where they will not only fertilize the earth, but protect it from erosion by heavy rain.

If you have plants in containers out under the sky, especially if they are succulents or cacti, it might be a good idea to move them to a sheltered spot where the rain will not flood them for hours and hours. Some plants might be killed or damaged by prolonged root flooding.

Trees or bushes with extended branches might be damaged by many hours of high winds. You may be able to protect some of these by tying down the long branches or covering the plants with a tarp that is tied firmly to heavy objects like cinder blocks.

If you have an open composting system, it’s a good idea to cover it with a tarp weighted with bricks or other heavy objects. While the compost will not be killed by a long, heavy rain, such a deep soaking will definitely wash many valuable nutrients down into the ground, where they will eventually be lost into the water table.

I am excited that we are finally getting a beautiful, powerful winter storm. This one looks like the biggest one in years. I can’t wait for those first drops, waking me up Thursday morning early. I hope you will enjoy the storm as much as me!

Want to know more about this coming storm? Check out this blog post from WeatherWest.com.

Below: A water vapor picture, showing how the jet stream is sucking up moisture from the ocean.

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141031-0746

At last, it looks like some good rain is coming to the Bay Area. This morning’s sunrise flared up with brilliant red fire, lighting up the landscape with crimson.

There was a brief photography window for about five or six minutes. What an explosion of color!

Sailors (and gardeners) take warning! It’s going to be wet soon.

Yay!

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140811-1253

The headlines proclaim, “The Worst California Drought In Recent History!” At the same time, thousands of gardens across the Bay Area still feature green lawns watered every day by pop-up, high pressure sprinklers, releasing a flood of water to keep them green, along with copious mist that evaporates into the air. What’s wrong with this picture?

In our semi-arid climate with frequent, prolonged droughts, any kind of lawn that needs regular water is wasteful of one of our most precious resources. More people are choosing to reduce or eliminate their lawn irrigation. You might have a golden-brown lawn or an inert, sun-baked gravel- or dirt-scape. There are even dead, dry lawns that have been spray-painted green.

Some people might choose to replace their lawn with a succulent garden, or with a heavily mulched space with super-drought tolerant plants (often California natives) watered by tiny little drip heads.

There is certainly nothing wrong with these water-wise lawn replacements. Every one of them reduces water usage and helps us better manage our resources. Congratulations to all gardeners who choose these and other xeriscaping options.

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At deep nature gardens we have developed another water-wise alternative for ecologically conscious gardeners.

If you value beauty, diversity, and abundance but you don’t like drip-watered mulch-scapes, slow-growing succulent gardens or spray-painted lawns, consider creating an ultra-drought-tolerant deep nature garden.

Here in the Bay Area we are surrounded by hills covered with some of the lushest, most diverse and abundant ecosystems in any dry climate on the planet. Our beautiful chapparal hillsides are supremely drought tolerant and yet they are densely clothed with rich, diverse vegetation. How do they do it?

We have studied the evolution of drought-tolerance in garden spaces, especially the kind of “managed nature” that is present in a deep nature garden.

You can have a garden of exceptional beauty, diversity, and abundance that is able to survive even times of extended dryness. Even when it is dry, such a garden can feature green leaves and an assortment of open flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and many other critters.

Any time is a great time to get started. We’ll remove that thirsty grass. We’ll move some soil around, making high and low places, and add some beautiful natural looking rocks with moss and lichen. We’ll plant a few starters and scatter a layer of eco-mix seeding blend. There will be a carefully managed watering scheme that will encourage just the right blend of plants. As everything grows in we’ll remove anything that does not fit.

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Within a few months you’ll see the beginnings of something extraordinary: a natural looking garden that is equally healthy whether it is in the middle of a wet rainy season or an extended California drought. Not only is it resilient to wet and dry, it is also beautiful. Deep nature gardens are living works of art.

If this sounds interesting please get in touch. Let’s have a free visit to your garden and talk about what is possible.

We look forward to hearing from you.

130107-1658

Now that the 2012 holiday season has finally flown by, it seems like local life is more or less settling down. After the much vaunted but ultimately “invisible” apocalypse and the big December storms, normal life seems like quite a relief. How’s your local life these days?

As of the new year there are now four active deep nature garden projects, including my own. The schedule is full, at least for this month.

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Wet, windy winter weather has definitely had an impact on the gardens. Some plants have been broken or tilted by the winds. Many plants call out for major pruning and thinning. Areas where the ecosystem is relatively new feature large, vigorous pioneers. There are droves of seedlings almost everywhere. Many of them will be removed, leaving behind the most interesting of course.

Here in the blog there are several open threads at the moment.

In the projects we have Elizabeth’s Garden and Little Yellow House, both of which are currently tracking months behind real-time. But we’ll fix that! There are interesting developments coming up in both stories, plus a brand new deep nature garden project, starting with the first official visit tomorrow, January 8. Watch for Porchside Ecology‘s garden story, coming soon.

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There is also the recent mushroom walk, which still has two more exciting installments. As we will see, there can never be too many cool shrooms.

All sorts of interesting life forms are alive in this wonderful, wet time. Finding them and capturing their portraits is a good adventure. Watch for the best ones here.

Happy New Year to all!

121223-0941

Another winter storm rolls on through bringing wetness and more wetness, turning everything gray and shiny. Not a good day for gardening, but great for growing things.

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What glorious fractal ripples in the transparent water puddles!

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Gray on gray can be beautiful too.

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