From the Ground Up

Gardening, books, and other interests


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A Historic Occasion at Morelos Dam

I’ve been reading some firsthand accounts of something that happened earlier this week: On March 23, several hundred people gathered to watch as the gates of the Morelos Dam were opened for the first time in five decades, to allow a “pulse flow” of water to flow through the last 70 miles of the Colorado River, before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. As part of a landmark agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, the Colorado River Delta will once again have water coursing through its dried-up channels, which will extend to the lower delta and go all the way to the sea. With the exception of a couple of isolated “El Niño” rainstorms during the 1980’s and 90’s, this will be the first time that water from the Colorado has reached the sea since 1960. This is all made possible by Minute 319, an amendment of a 1944 treaty between U.S. and Mexico, that concerns their shared responsibility for the Colorado River. Scientists and officials of the two cooperating governments hope that the water will help efforts to restore the Delta and revitalize an ecosystem that once included native willows and cottonwoods, and teemed with insects, birds, and fish. The pulse flow, which will continue through May 18, will mimic the natural yearly flood from snow melt in the Rocky Mountains that used to take place before the Colorado River was dammed up and diverted to support the growth of arid desert communities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and Denver.  

Jennifer Pitt of Environmental Defense Fund, posted on the Water Currents webpage about her experience as a witness to this historic first. She has been following the flow and marking how long it takes for the river to move downstream. The pictures on this webpage are glorious.

Minute 319 has been hailed by countries in Asia and Europe as a model for binational cooperation over shared rivers as well as policies that promote practical adaptation to climate change.

Encouraging news, isn’t it? Water is life, and life could now Imagereturn to the Colorado Delta as a result of this far-sighted policy.

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Big on Color, Low on Water– Plants for Drought Tolerant Gardens

I want to share an excellent article I came across, courtesy of Christine Tusher and Houzz.com. There are some very good suggestions here regarding low water and drought tolerant plants for your garden, like lavender, kangaroo paws, sea lavender, succulents and sedum. Depending on how you group them, they can have a modern, highly symmetrical look, like a cool, arty Mondrian painting. Or they can be grouped together to form a lush, exuberant, cottage garden-type vista.  Thanks, Christine and Houzz!


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Wake up “Early Girl”–or– Spring is around the corner

Last weekend I started on my annual cleanup and prepping the garden for spring.  This consists of pruning back frost damaged plants and deadwood, allowing air and light to get to the new emerging growth; cleaning up any old leaves and debris from the ground; adding and tilling in fresh amendments to the raised vegetable beds; inspecting all the plants for snails and snail damage (handpick any live snails and toss into a bucket of water); replenishing mulch so there is at least 2-3 inches in all planter areas. I also make sure to inspect and repair any leaks in irrigation lines, and flush out the sediment and gunk from filters and at the end of each line. When I see new growth at the base of my established perennials, I know it’s time to cut back all the dead growth. But I don’t do any fertilizing until April!

I’ve been getting my raised veggie beds ready for tomato planting. Tomato seedlings are available at the garden centers now. You can buy them now if you like, but wait another week or two for planting, just to make sure the soil has warmed up enough. Also pay attention to nighttime temperatures–if temps are below 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t plant yet! When you buy tomato seedlings, here are a few pointers to keep in mind: Don’t buy a plant because it has lots of flowers or even little tomatoes on it; this is a plant that has already spent too much of its short life in the pot. Start with a younger plant. The idea is to look for shorter plants with thicker stems and healthy green foliage. Avoid long and spindly plants that have weak, brittle stems and yellowing leaves. When you get the plants home, harden them off by keeping them outdoors in a spot that’s sheltered from direct sun and wind. After a week of hardening off, they are less likely to suffer shock when planted in the ground.

Attention Southern California residents: For the largest selection of heirloom tomato seedlings in the state, check out a Tomatomania event near you. If you’ve never been to a Tomatomania sale before, it’s a lot of fun, and  Scott Daigre and friends are there to offer the best expert tomato-growing advice.

tomato seedlings

tomato seedlings