Yes, I know, we've been hearing, ad nauseum, about drought lately in California. But what is it, really? According to the dictionary, it means a "prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall; a shortage of water resulting from this." No kidding, right?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this current drought is more a matter of weather than humanity. As luck would have it, the 2011-12 El Nino meant higher ocean temperatures, which led to hotter, drier conditions in CA. A high pressure system has held those high temperatures in our area for the past 4 years. Historically, however, there has been no appreciable change since measurements were initiated in 1895.
The real problem for our local flora and fauna is that this drought has gone on as long as it has. Most significantly, old trees are showing signs of severe water stress. While our pretty annuals and productive gardens are nice to have, we can always try again next year. When working with limited water supplies, it is best to watch for symptoms of stress in your oldest and biggest plants. The UC Extension urges us all to watch for these symptoms:
Look around as you drive to work and you will see many large trees showing these signs. The problem is, a drought-stressed tree becomes more susceptible to pests and disease. As trees die, erosion increases, causing more drying out. It's a tough cycle. Rather than letting water go down the drain, collect it in a tub or bucket and give it to your local trees. You'll be happy for the shade, come August!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!