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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Gardening During Drought Conditions

Host Nan Sterman highlights DRiWATER as a great way to improve water conservation. DRiWATER is a time released irrigation solution that saves time, water and money.
Courtesy of AGP Productions, LLC
Host Nan Sterman highlights DRiWATER as a great way to improve water conservation. DRiWATER is a time released irrigation solution that saves time, water and money.
San Diego Gardening During Drought Conditions
San Diego Gardening During Drought Conditions
GuestNan Sterman, garden expert, host, "A Growing Passion"

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. State and local officials are gearing up for the consequences of almost zero rainfall so far this winter. They are planning for water conservation measures cutbacks to agriculture and increased fire danger, but on a smaller scale, San Diego gardeners are trying to figure out what to do when the rainy season is not. Nan Sterman is here to talk about this. She is here to offer some ideas. We have had no rain this month. Only two days of rain in December. Have you ever seen it like this before? STERMAN: I have never seen this, and this is the first year that I turned off the irrigation and turn it back on. Usually it's off from October until March or April. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What you would gardeners usually use these months for? STERMAN: This is usually the best time to plant because it is usually very cool and there is moisture in the soil, and it's a great time for the plants to get established and the soil stays warm enough that the plants can establish. It is not that it's too hot to plant, but it's so dry that we have to irrigate when we are planting a much more than we usually do, usually not the mother nature helps us. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Besides the lack of water, what does conditions like this do to the plants? STERMAN: If the air were drier I would say that it probably would put strain on them, but it's probably not that stressful. Last night I walked outside round it o'clock and booked up and it was sort of foggy, and I thought I never been so happy to see fog before. If there was a little more fog drip that would have been great. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's scary in a way, which plants and vegetables are most affected by the strange weather that we are having? STERMAN: Anything that is an annual or short or shallow rooted, but have the hardest time because Woody plants and plant the have the proof's and they are going deep into the earth and fighting the most moisture. Is the plants that have the shortest routes that have the hardest time. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How often should you be watering? STERMAN: That is the million-dollar question, it depends so much on where you are and how the areas, how well draining your soil is clay soil you do not water very often because clay soil cold water for a long time. If you have sandy soil like I do you have to it often because the pore spaces between grains but that water trained through. And your elevation, so many factors that you can have. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What should you look for the condition of the soil to let know whether or not this is the time that you should water now? STERMAN: Stick your finger do you down to about the second knuckle, and if it feels moist it's okay. And if it's really try, it's okay but if you're going to water, make sure that you have mulch on top of the soil, and your water entering the mulch, because you want to make sure that the water goes into the soil and not to the mulch, but that mulch will hold the moisture in an been insulating blankets of the water does not have a break from the earth right away, a lot of people think they will get to the mulching, do it now. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Even considering the conditions that we're in now, you still recommend people should be planting as long as they are doing some you're getting? STERMAN: Yes it's interesting, I talked with county water authority this week to say what they are thinking. They told me that we have done such a good job conserving as the public, that we're okay for the moment and they will not start restricting and peered restricting creation. But that does not mean it won't happen and that we shouldn't suddenly feel like we have all the water, because we don't. You still need to be conserving water and you still need to be paying attention to it and there is something to use when I'm hunting larger plants called Dri-water, it's like a gel and that the cellulose gel and it comes in a two I like to use those next to the bigger plants, plant because it releases water very slowly into the soil as the microbes do just that gel, so for planting big three's big things I would use that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What if someone wanted to hold off on planting they are normally do this time of year until maybe next month to see whether or not we continuing fall? STERMAN: There's no reason not to put you can surely do that. You're making we run into as we get later into the air gets hot. Depending on where you are, along the coast you can find them at any time. In the dollars you want to be done planting by April, and on and on. You can hold off. The year that my son was born in 1991, as I recall we did not get any rain and the morning I went into labor with him it was pouring and they called it the March miracle and for me it was a miracle for more than one reason. The skies opened up and we had a downpour. I cannot predict that will happen, but it has happened before. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the other aspects of the unusual weather that we are having is that things are still blooming. STERMAN: They're blooming early, and the funny thing about that is that usually all of the leaves die, and then they bloom and get leaves. They have not lost their leaves and they're blooming without losing their leaves. They are blooming with ratty old leaves. Some are coming up and opening up and I did not expect that for another couple of months, it's combination of the heat and the lack of humidity that is driving these plants that normally would be still in their sleepy stages. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What about deadheading your flowers, and that it reduces the stress of the plants if they are growing when they shouldn't, or something along those lines? STERMAN: That is an interesting concept, deadheading means you call for fires and reason you do that is because the first take the most energy out of the plant In other words the plants life if you could be more specific, the plants goal life is to make babies and with flowers. All of the energy gets shifted to the flowers when you get production. If you cut the fires off you will not stop the plan for making more flowers, you'll do that it can and again until the season is over or until you decide when you let them far. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What kind of rain you think it would take to get us back on track? STERMAN: Downpour that started today and didn't end. It's not just rainfall but it's there is no snowpack and so much of our water comes from the right of from the snowpack, and even if it snowed right now, what is happened in the hat passes that soil is so dry in the mountains, that when it snows as snow starts to melt and sit of running off a gets in knowledge into the soil and we still get that. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And so the overall and voice at this point is that since we do not look like were going to head into an extreme water conservation scenario, you can still water and plant, just watch it. STERMAN: I would say be conservative and if you can hold off, hold off. If you are thinking you can do it this year or next year, do it next year and see what happens. Don't go crazy with the huge new project if you don't have to. If you have to do it, this is the time to do it because even so it is better now than to do it in summer. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you are about to embark to in tonight's premiere of the second season of A Growing Passion on KPBS, tell everybody where you are taking this. STERMAN: Okay today we're all about vineyards and wineries, the biggest to the smallest. Including some of the youngest people turning the wine industry over on its head. We're going to be exploring the chaparral which is the shovel and that is all over San Diego and it is California's greatest habitat, it's the desert everywhere. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Before you tell us more, we have a little clip from one of the shows on this season of A Growing passion, let me play that right now. [ [ AUDIO FILE PLAYING ] ] STERMAN: Today most of San Diego's forty or so wineries buy their fruit out the county, but growing numbers of them are growing their own vineyards. In this episode we will meet some of those farmers and explore San Diego's wine industry, we will visit boutique operations down to the backyard hobbyists. [ [ END AUDIO FILE ] ] MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This will be on the show tonight with your tour of the wineries and the great growers in San Diego, do you gear these programs towards people who garden or for people who would like to learn how to garden? STERMAN: All of the above, budget gardening, farming and nurseries, yet it's a comparable pensive look at however the gross around us, it's all about. That is a great thing about doing this in the assembly wonderful stories in San Diego about how things grow. We explore hydroponics. One of my favorite stories this season we have an episode that we call growing dreams and making memories. We go to a place in Poway that is a facility for people who love also was in dementia and they have seven or eight special gardens and have a whole horticulture program and grow vegetables on-site, this is a place that the residents get involved and because many of them grow up farming and gardening and this part of who they have been since children, they bring in children from neighboring schools and homeschooled children and this is an intergenerational gardening program, six and eight and ten and four-year-olds gardening with elderly people and to watch that interaction and see what they are learning from each other, and the fact that their abilities are in many cases not that different, it's just that the knowledge base is different and it's so touching. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the program that you talk about chaparral is going to be so important to go to this year with increased fire danger because a lot of people look at that chaparral is nothing but potential tinder. STERMAN: No, it's so much more and people call it brush and I hate that term. This not brush, it is a very important habitat. That is our watershed, if we do not have that when it does rain all the water causes massive erosion and that is a huge issue and it is also an iconic habitat for California, and supports our words, mammals and reptiles, it's so important. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have so much to learn this season. I have been speaking with Nan Sterman, thank you so much. [ [ END SEGMENT ] ]

Now that Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency, state and local officials are gearing up for the consequences of almost zero rainfall so far this winter. They're planning for water conservation measures, cut-backs to agriculture and increased fire danger.

Nan Sterman, host, co-producer, and co-writer of A GROWING PASSION, a television series that celebrates all the ways that San Diego “grows,” from farms and nurseries to backyards and schoolyards, to native habitats and more.
Courtesy of AGP Productions, LLC
Nan Sterman, host, co-producer, and co-writer of A GROWING PASSION, a television series that celebrates all the ways that San Diego “grows,” from farms and nurseries to backyards and schoolyards, to native habitats and more.

But on a smaller scale, San Diego gardeners are trying to figure out what to do when the rainy season, isn't.

Our garden expert Nan Sterman, and host of KPBS show A Growing Passion, has been working through this dilemma.

"It's January and I still have my irrigation system on, things are blooming that aren't supposed to be blooming for months," she said.

January typically is one of San Diego's rainiest months but so far it's brought no rain in 2014. The National Weather Service said the last time San Diego didn't get any rain in January was in 1976.

Sterman is offering some advice for gardening in drought conditions just as a new season of A Growing Passion gets underway.

“We visited so many amazing places and told so many wonderful stories last season,” Sterman said. “In this second season, we take it up a notch. Viewers will be awed by the beautiful farms and gardens and natural places we visit and the people who nurture and are nurtured by these places.”

A Growing Passion, a lifestyle and gardening series that explores all the ways San Diego grows, kicks off its second season Thursday, Jan. 23 at 8:30 p.m.

It's part of KPBS Explore San Diego night of local programming that also features the debut of a new season of Savor San Diego and new episodes of Ken Kramer’s About San Diego and Crossing South.

You can also catch "A Growing Passion" on Saturday at 1 p.m. followed by the season-debut of "Growing a Greener World."