A tree’s genetics picks its fungus

From Ars Technica, an interesting study about the Pinyon pine and its fungal associations.

Researchers took seeds from drought-tolerant and drought-intolerant trees, then exposed them to soil containing fungal communities from both drought-tolerant and drought-intolerant roots. Even when grown with the opposite soil, the seeds ignored the local fungal community; both drought-tolerant and drought-intolerant seeds still cultivated the same species of fungus as their adult forbears.

It turned out that the inheritance of the fungus is what actually made the different trees drought-tolerant or drought intolerant; seeds from drought-tolerant mothers only grew larger than their drought-intolerant cousins when in the presence of their attendant fungi. The tree’s genetics simply helped it recruit specific species of fungi.


Pima Country Public Library circulates seeds too

"In addition to books and DVDs, in 2012 the Pima Country Public Library system became one of the first in the nation to circulate seeds. Aspiring gardeners can look up varieties electronically, put seeds on reserve and check out 10 packs at a time. Availability changes with the seasons: By mid-September, tomato seeds are long gone, but many other seeds — including dill, arugula, cucumbers, the flat white teardrop shapes of squash seeds, and the small dry beads of tepary beans — rattle in paper envelopes. Participating branches offer support as well as seeds, such as gardening classes, brochures, and, of course, books. The greenest beds flourish with flowers, herbs, vegetables and an idea: That public libraries can be resources for local food growers as well as local readers."

See more High Country News (http://www.hcn.org/articles/communities-tucsons-seed-library-fosters-food-sovereignty-in-a-desert).


0.03" rain so far in September

We've had a couple rain events so far this month.

9/3/2017 0.02" rain
9/21/2017  0.01" rain

I'm not taking this as a harbinger of a wet water year and you shouldn't either.  Still, it's nice to settle the dust and in some cases help with brush fire control.


0.2" rain; 25.72" season total

The forecast was for 10 to 20% chance of rain.  This time of year in LA that usually translates to no meaningful rain.  However, this time was different and we got 0.20" in a series of showers over my back yard.  Mountain areas had unexpected snow as well.

Given recent history, I feel reasonably confident that the graph below is about all that Nature has to offer us until the start of the next rainy season. As you can see, rain has been plentiful this year, particularly in comparison to previous years' low rainfall.  While the state has declared the drought over, I'm not convinced that it is; entirely due to the large previous overdraft of groundwater that doesn't really get counted in the state's assessment of drought.


0.27" rain; 25.52" total rainfall

9 Apr 2017 0.27" rain last night.

Another storm is slated to hit the area Thursday, but the lights are starting to go dim on this winter.

Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Weed cloth always fails


Check out Emily's article, linked above.  

I have to admit that I used a permeable cloth between a sand + gravel + paver walkway and the underlying soil. I don't remember where I got the idea to do so, but in that situation the idea was to keep the lower sand bed of the walkway from intermixing with soil.  The hope was that it would extend the life of the pathway.  There was little area to grow weeds and I don't know well it worked, since I moved from that house. However, I never had the expectation that it would be weed-free.

Emily responded in another forum and stated that she might be the source of that erroneous advice.  Currently, and based on studying paths over their life, she didn't recommend weed cloth for that use. 

I've pulled up enough failed weed cloth used in other more "standard" applications that I would never use it with its original intent in mind.   I can also imagine that any path repair involving a prior application of weed cloth would be many times worse than if weed cloth had not been used in the first place, so I'll let the expert lead here and agree that I [now] can't see any use for weed cloth.

My photos of failed weed cloth look strikingly similar to Emily's - rather crappy for a "garden".


0.02" rain; 25.00" this year!

Recent rainfall:
21-Feb    0.33  
26-Feb    0.05  
5-Mar    0.02  

For a grand total of 25.00", a banner year of rain.

I was fortunate to have captured more of that in my back yard than in earlier years by using a new gutter drain that I fortuitously added last summer.  Before that I might have lost a lot of that rain to run off.  The added water should give our garden extra legs in the summer, for which I am thankful
Rainfall totals in 90275 2011/2012 to 2016/2017

The last time we saw significant rainfall in the 20"+ range was 2004/2005.  Going by the recent typical endpoints of the rainy season, we have a few more storms to get out of the way before the end of the season, so I don't expect the rainfall total to stay at "only" 25".


3.37" rain; season total 24.6"

This isn't even the latest - there was a day of drizzle that added on, but you can still be amazed at 24.6" of rain as of Feb 19th!  That's huge for the LA area.   Notably, the rainfall on 18 Feb brought about twice as much to the Santa Barbara area only 100 miles to the north, and got them out of the worst of their drought.

11-Feb    0.24"    21.47"   
18-Feb    3.09"    24.56"    6"+ in Santa Barbara
19-Feb    0.04"    24.60"   


2.81" of rain; season total 21.23"

2/7/17 2.81"

A banner year for rain, with 21.23" in my back yard so far.  As I write this (on 2/10, I'm not quite up to the moment in my reporting), more rain is falling.

If you are not from Southern California, you might not appreciate how beyond normal this is.  To put it in perspective, between 1944 and 2010 in Los Angeles, only 6 years had greater rainfall during the entire winter season than we have to date!   Interestingly, those 6 "high water marks" all occurred in water year 1977 or later, which seems to be a statistical anomaly that it's tempting to blame on climate change.


0.56" rain; season total 18.42"

3 Feb 2017 0.53" the main storm
4 Feb 2017 0.03" overnight
That season total is a lot of rain for us!

More storms are rolling in right now.


0.49" rain completes the last storm; 4.99" storm total; 17.86" season total

I mentioned previously that I had taken a rain gauge reading mid way through the last storm - the rain was so intense and prolonged that I thought it might overflow.  It turns out that we only accumulated 0.49" more.

22-Jan-17 0.49" (plus prior 4.5" measurement) = 4.99" for the storm system.

We're in a sunny trend now and for the next week at least, according to the weather report, so there will be plenty of green growing things in the yard.

4.99" of rain is the largest amount of rain that I've seen locally reported for this storm, which is unusual for my location.  Normally I measure less rain than nearby cities.


4.5+" rain in recent storm; 17.37" season total

19 Jan 2017 0.87"
21 Jan 2017 2.6"
22 Jan 2017 4.5" rain..

...and the 22nd wasn't even over when I took that reading of 4.5".  I was concerned the rain gauge would overflow so I drained it mid-afternoon.

I don't have final figures, but I noted about another half inch on 22 Jan, which make the total for that storm about 5".  This seems to be a greatest amount of rain reported among our local cities including Long Beach which had flooding at only 4" of rain, which they reported as a record for one day's precipitation.

Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Broken hoe

I like the design of this hoe.  I had a memory that it might be called a skiffle hoe, but I probably made that up.  "Scuffle hoe" actually returns search results using Google.  In any case, it does a far better job at weeding than a standard hoe due to the way the angle of the blade glides in the top layer of soil as opposed to digging down into it.

broken scuffle hoe with young California poppy
It's broken now after several years of service.  I'll be looking for a replacement since the rain has brought up all sorts of weeds and this is just the sort of tool to demolish them when they are young.  The one drawback of this hoe was that the spring steel of the blade wasn't sharpened and it didn't take an edge easily. The one I have resembles the "Luster Leaf WW100 Original Winged Weeder" which the ad copy claims is sharpened, but it's not. Nonetheless, the blunt edge worked well enough to break off weeds.  Other triangle and diamond-shaped hoes with a similar cutting angle also seem appealing so I might give those a try.  Those tend to look like they have an actual sharp edge. 

Alternative designs like a "hula hoe" aren't the right tool for me based on prior experience.


Eat your heart out, Mexican feather grass!

Aristida purpurea 'Chino Hills' at RSABG with monolith in background.
Aristida purpurea 'Chino Hills' at RSABG
This is Chino Hills purple three awn. I think it's a bit strange to have a grass selection, don't the prolific seeds dilute the original selection after a few years? What do I know.
Aristida purpurea 'Chino Hills' at RSABG
San Marco growers notes "Originally collected by Dylan Hannon (RSABG) in Tonner Canyon (Chino Puente Hills-Orange County near LA County line)"


Rain 1.16"; season total 9.40"

12 Jan 2017 1.16"

Quite a bit of rain, with more on the way.

Of course the news has been full of receding drought concerns.  A secondary news item that sometimes follows is that the drought is defined by surface water.  This is the most important caveat.

Ground water usage and replenishment are not well measured, tracked, or inventoried, and what you don't know you have you can't keep track of.  Measuring by ground level subsidence, we've kept withdrawals well ahead of replenishment for many years, a fact that is only now coming to light.

Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Aesculus califonica (Buckeye) at RSABG

Here's an Aesculus Californica at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. This seems to be one of their favored trees, since I saw more than just the two in this blog post while wandering the trails on Jan 4. The one below was particularly striking from this angle with the agave in the foreground.


Repetition in the color purple

Repetition is one of the fundamental building blocks of gardening, yet sometimes I find it hard to get right.

Here's a couple repetitions in the color purple that I happened to notice recently. In neither case do the purples exactly match, but that doesn't seem to matter for their impact, which I have to admit is better in person.  Perhaps this has to do with the color punch being small in the field of view when there in person versus dominant in the field of view in the photos.

The first photo is from RSABG.  You'll have to imagine the salvia when it's larger, but to my eyes there's a clear visual link between the butterfly garden ornament and the flowers that enhances both 
The second of photos below is from my back yard.


"Normal" comments enabled again

I had some feedback that the Google comments that I had enabled were not optimum, so I've switched back to more normal comments that don't require a Google sign-in.

Rain 0.35"; season total 8.24"

11 Jan 2017 0.35"

This makes the season total 8.24" at my house.  I (and most of the state) are above average by all measures as you probably already know if you read the news. 

Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Beautiful native grapes

Here's a beautiful way to plant native grapes that was brought home to me in stunning color while I visited Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens on Jan 4.  The juxtaposition of leaf colors in these native grape hybrids or cultivars takes this to a whole new level.

1.05" rain; 7.89" season total

9 Jan 2017 1.05"

Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Rain 0.8"; season total 6.84"

5 Jan 2017 0.8"
This has been a banner year for rain, so far. More is on the way as I'm sure anyone who has a pulse in California could tell you. Wildflowers are going to be good this year!
Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Rain 0.02"; season total 5.99"

31 Dec 2016 AM 0.02"

There's more on the way later today according to the weather forecast. Our total to date this season is well above typical, but our heaviest rains are usually in February, so keep an eye on the weather and don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

Sent from my iPhone at great expense