Digging Deep With The Garden Goddess, Cynthia Brian


Posted on August 4, 2021
Digging Deep With The Garden Goddess, Cynthia Brian
Daylilies flower for a single day and are drought tolerant. Photos Cynthia Brian

“When the well is dry, we know the value of the water.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

We turned on the faucet. A net. A few seconds later, nothing.

For over 100 years, the Deep Well has served three homes, several barns and all of the gardens on our Napa County ranch without a problem. This summer, the well is empty. The bucolic lake built by my father and brothers in the old horse pasture has served as a family playground, fishing area, and agricultural irrigation reservoir for decades. In 2021, it is a large pool of cracked clay. There is no water.

In the San Joaquin Valley, an area known to be America’s home of fruits and nuts, aquifers and canals are depleted. It is predicted that by 2040, 535,000 acres of agricultural production will be lost. If drought persists and water is not available, double that area will not be planted, leading to food shortages across the country.

Seventy-one percent of the earth is covered with water. More than 96% of this water is saline, represented by our oceans and seas. The human body is made up of 60% water. H2O is an essential nutrient for the life of every cell. People can survive without food for several days, but without water organ failure begins around the third day of dehydration.

Water matters and water is scarce. Climate change causes temperatures to rise, and when the ground warms, heat waves get worse. Fifty-five percent of the West experiences extreme drought conditions. Some scientists have declared the summer of 2021 to be the worst drought in over 1,200 years.

What should a gardener do?

Due to efforts to reduce water consumption as well as higher water costs, many people have asked me if it would be better to ‘leave their landscape’. My quick reaction is a “NO! Besides the financial burden of landscaping, maintaining a garden during a drought is essential not only for the aesthetics and beauty of a garden, but also for keeping your home cooler and contributing to a fire safety zone. . If you let your plants and trees die, your parched landscape could become a fire hazard.

Here are ways to minimize watering while keeping your plants alive.

1. Weed your garden carefully as weeds are huge drinkers.

2. Straw to conserve water. Add three inches of good quality mulch to your entire landscape to smother weed growth, conserve water, prevent evaporation, and reduce soil heat.

3. Check for leaks in your sprinkler system. If you find a spike in your water bill, you probably have a broken pipe somewhere.

4. Water abundantly and infrequently. Once or twice a week will suffice. Most plants need about an inch of water per week. Check your soil to make sure water is getting into the soil. Dry soil rejects water in the form of runoff. If this happens, water twice at five minute intervals until the soil is saturated. Deep watering encourages a healthy root system while short, frequent showers are unnecessary and are not beneficial for plant growth.

5. Water early in the morning or early evening when moisture is retained.

6. Refrain from fertilizing during the summer months as food promotes thirsty hyper-growth.

7. Mow your lawns without using the bag. Clippings provide nutrients to the lawn with less water use.

8. Don’t worry about keeping your lawn very green. Keep it alive and it will turn green again when the weather gets wetter.

9. Use weeping pipes around the plants to eliminate evaporation. Trees can be particularly vulnerable during a drought. Use a deep soaking wand to deliver water to the roots.

10. Do not schedule your watering. Instead, check your soil moisture and watch your plants. Turn on your system when needed, but be sure to keep it running to keep the system from invading bugs, roots, and standing water.

For fire and water gardening, permeable surfaces in your landscape such as decomposed granite, gravel, stones, and mulch are recommended. They provide a fire-safe area and allow rainwater to seep into the soil without runoff.

For a list of fire and drought resistant plants, re-read my article located at www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1508/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Fire-retardant-and- plantations- fire resistant.html.

11. Summer is not the time to plant, but to plan. Any specimen planted in August will require regular, concentrated watering to establish strong roots. The end of autumn before the frosts will be optimal for sowing.

12. Recycle your domestic water. Keep a bucket in your shower and bowls in your sinks to catch your tap water. Use it on your houseplants or pour it into your garden. When you steam or boil vegetables, let the water cool, then use it on your plants.

13. Minimize your personal water consumption. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or soaping yourself in the shower. For the toilet, maybe we’re getting closer to the old drought mantra “if it’s yellow, let it soften. If it’s brown, flush the toilet.” It is obviously a personal choice.

14. Adjust your expectations for your garden. Accept the fact that your garden might not be as green, lush, and colorful as it would normally be if water scarcity weren’t an issue. Plants wither to conserve energy. Many plants are hardy and can cope with hot weather. They will bounce back with the winter rains.

For the past two months, I have personally been busy fixing broken pipes, valves, sprinklers and PVC pipes as it was impossible to hire someone to help me. Between marauding deer, shifting soil and invading roots, the work is interminable, arduous, intensive and necessary. I have also implemented the advice I suggest.

Taking a long, relaxing shower was my reward after a day of digging, weeding, pruning, repairing, building and planting, but for the past few years I’ve resorted to three minute scrubs to save money. the water.

Living in Lamorinda, we are lucky to be able to turn on our taps and have water. Farmers across the state are not so lucky. Keep growing edibles, as growing your own groceries will become more and more critical as the drought continues.

Right now, on our family ranch and vineyards, we’re buying water. Last year’s harvest was 100% destroyed by the taste of smoke. Due to the triple-digit temperatures known so far, we have already lost 20% of our Cabernet. I pray for a winter of maximum snowfall.

Water is life. It is precious. Don’t waste, save.


On Saturday September 25, Be the Star You Are! R will participate in the Pear and Wine Festival’s first live event with a booth sponsored by Lamorinda Weekly. Details on www.bethestaryouare.org/copy-of-events

Good gardening. Good growth.

Crocosmia, the firecracker plant is not a sinkhole. Photos Cynthia Brian
Don’t eat the poisonous leaves of rhubarb. Photos Cynthia Brian
Chamomile is drought / fire resistant. The flowers make a comforting tea. Photos Cynthia Brian
Summer apples are ripe in time for school meals. Photos Cynthia Brian
Cynthia Brian Photo Jim Scala Cynthia Brian,

La Déesse Jardinière is available for hire to help you prepare your spring garden. Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia is a New York Times bestselling author, actress, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach, and founder and executive director of Be the Star You Are! R 501 c3. Tune in to Cynthia’s StarStyler radio show on www.StarStyleRadio.com. Shop for copies of his books, including Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/boutique-en-ligne. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special discounts. Hire Cynthia for inspirational writing projects, gardening tips, and talks. [email protected] www.GoddessGardener.com


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