Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is it safe to plant & water California Natives Plants in Summer ?

Suddenly all the traditional Taboos jump out all at once
Photo credit:

Ceanothus Celestial Blue 
This Bert Wilson photo above of Ceanothus comes from an article written about the challenges of Summer Watering Native California Plants. Interestingly Bert Wilson's recommendation for ideal planting of natives was anywhere from the end of November thru February or March. The above article was posted on the California Native Plant Society Facebook page for discussion. But as one regular commenter to those pages admitted:
Roger Klemm: "I find this article frustratingly vague, to the point of being at best just plain useless. I mean, in one paragraph they say that new native plants will need water for the first couple of summers, and in the next one they say, without qualification, that "Summer watering kills most natives". Make up your minds, people!"

Of course Roger is correct. The article was vague, very prone to giving only those glittering generalities for nothing more than entertainment value, not at all specific about the serious challenges gardeners face in the real world with Natives and I found it very uninformative as to giving the reader the real intelligent reasons why such a practice could be harmful. Now to be truthful here, I do plant many natives during the heat of summer, but you have to know which ones will let you get away with it. Most California Natives are engineered and adapted to a wet rainy season followed by the longer dry season. In fact unless you live in SoCal's high mountain with hit and miss summer Monsoon Rains, you most likely on average will not have rain for 227 consecutive days on average. Natives are quite well adapted to that with their deeper root systems. But like I said, the exception of course to that rule are those higher elevation plant ecosystems which may get the hit and miss of the Monsoonal Thunderstorms in July/August. I have always found Manzanitas and Ceanothus to be the biggest challenges because they are so sensitive to watering at the wrong time. More so than others. Many other delicate natives can be planted during summertime, but need some sort of shade anyway.
One of the worst things people can do is attempt to grow and maintain natives the way they do those exotic non-natives they've purchased over the years at the local conventional retail Nurseries. I must say however, that many exotics don't even do well in that regard with conventional or traditional landscape care. Believe it or not many of the techniques you will learn with maintaining and growing the Natives, can also be incorporated and practiced with the exotics whether they have similar requirements or not. Drip irrigation while appearing seemingly simple and logical, doesn't always work with native or exotics. Some plants yes, but for me most are a no. I hate the maintenance part where you have to check the emitters regularly because the lousy mineral laden water you receive from the local water authority or even backcountry well will regularly create calcium or iron buildup which clogs the tiny pore openings. Also, such a system makes the plants dependent and hinders their maturity for establishing a foundation to take care of themselves when you as the parent/guardian aren't around. Yes, I often make comparison with landscaping & good or bad parental care. Some gardeners have this parental nurturing syndrome, even when they know better. The dripline above is at my mother's place, but the emitters haven't worked in ages. They are there because of other already existing conventional features around the perimeter like Rose Bushes, for which only a couple now remain. Of course you'll notice I am attempting to establish a newly planted Mama Bear Manzanita which I purchased on my last trip to Las Pilitas Nursery in Escondido. 'Mama Bear' is a hybrid manzanita between Arctostaphylos stanfordiana bakeri 'Louis Edmunds'(now Arctostaphylos bakeri ssp. bakeri) and Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Sentinel'. So it's an experiment of sorts for me, just like my successful 5 foot Island Manzanita shrub on the opposite side of the driveway in the photo above. 
So what is it exactly that happens if you do water in Summer ? 
This is the part that no one gets, understands or are ever really told the reasons why you need to be careful with summertime watering. And you deserve an explanation. The tendency and motive behind summer watering is rescuing and helping the plant, when in fact it can be quite the opposite. Ceanothus and Manzanita are the most susceptible to the problems and issues that come from over watering and water at the wrong time. For example, I made a mistake at my Mum's place on my last visit. Temps were already like middle of the summer time temps which were 100+. She hadn't watered in Winter deeply to compensate for the lousy rainy season which really hadn't shown up this year. There was no spring growth because lack of winter rains did not trigger it this year. I deeply watered slowly however, hoping to provide that deep underground moisture which most chaparral live on the rest of the dry year. Unfortunately my well meaning thorough deep soaking three weeks later triggered new flush of growth on all outer stems. The result another three weeks after this bud break was an attack from some sort of pathogen on the new delicate foliage. Maaannn, I knew better too, but what can you do. Now I realize nobody will believe this, but generally it's the same thing that happens to many plants [not just natives] in all Southern California gardens and landscapes, where people have been trained to fertilizer and over water causing these continual spurts of newer growth throughout the year which is attacked from various directions by many different unrelated enemies. What happens underground is a given, soil pathogens. For natives, the soil pathogens which attack roots are mostly dormant in winter, but very much alive and active during the warmer hotter times of year. That's also why germination & seedling success is much better during the cooler wetter months of the year, not just because of the abundance of water availability, but because enemies are sleeping. But when you water during the hotter months, these pathogens are stimulated to do what pathogens do. But mostly it's the above ground foliage conditions I worry about. Gardeners [who are humans with emotions] can feel sorry for plants and feel the need to rescue or help them along. They believe it a kindness to water during extreme temperature days. Why ? Because that's what you'd want if you were suffering. The nature of Humans to respond to what appears to be a stress situation for helping plants in hot weather is usually an emotional one. Not that this is bad, but sometimes emotions get in the way of reason and logic. For example let me illustrate it this way. Advertisers understand the power of manipulating emotions to make a sale and get you to purchase their product. Take the Pet food industry. They market a canned Pet food not based on nutrition, flavour etc that your pet would like, but on something you would like to eat because it has eye appeal, not for your pet, but you. Pets mostly go by smell and don't necessarily care about the looks of the meal. [seriously people, you've seen some of the crap your pet drug home and has eaten in the past] But if it looks like hamburger or steak, then the advertiser has you hooked and you'll buy it. If they based the commercial on what a pet would actually eat, you'd never buy it. Hence we tend to do things to and for our plants because we tend to see and imagine them suffering in 100+ (40C) heat. But now stop here and ponder for a moment something else stupid that I did once! Once upon a time on my property in Anza California, I cared so much for a small Parry Pinyon seedling I discovered under a Redshank Chaparral, that I decided to rescue and help it along. It was hot out and I wanted the tree to grow taller and succeed as a tree. So I watered it & deeply. A couple days later the little once healthy pine seedling was brown, bent over and dead. 😱 Pathogens were stimulated by the water, coupled with the heat and took charge. Had I left it in it's drought dormancy maintenance mode, it would probably be 5 or 6 foot high to this day. Now let's get to above ground foliage and what happens there and look at a few things which create soft delicate succulent foliage in summer and why that's a bad thing. 

Photo Mine: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

As I stated before, I worry more about creating conditions in my urban landscape which will cause a flush of succulent delicate growth at the branch tips [tree or shrub] and that's a bad thing in the summertime. Why ? Because every active sucking insect in the world during the hot summer months finds such plants to be like candy. Besides insects, Fungus, Mildews and any number of other blight love to zero in and take full advantage of such conditions on the plants as well. So now do you understand why natives at that time of year are hardened off foliage-wise and in nothing more than maintenance mode ? Nothing wrong with that and if you understand how to maintain that type of landscape, your trimming, clipping and pruning chores will be less as well. I've seen SDG&E [Utility Co in San Diego] hire Davey Tree or Asplund to come clear out their telephone/electrical lines of tree foliage and unfortunately these guys are generally hack jobbers. Their workmanship and artistry is pathetic, as the photo of the Monterey Cypress above illustrates. In fact, this pathetic tree treatment can be seen all over California. We had Davey Tree tear up so much foliage off a giant Shamel Ash we had at one of our properties I maintained, that tree which had a massive trunk and impressive root infrastructure was triggered into responding with a flush of rapid growth and lots of it. The reason was this tree's giant root system which was tapped into the water table just 10 foot below the soil surface was going to provide it with all the water and nutrients it could handle to repair the damage done by Davey Tree. As a result powdery mildew and aphids came out of the woodwork during this hot summertime of the year. But you need to know, it works that way with everything, not just natives. It's just another reason to understand why summer watering can be dangerous to your Native Plant's health if you over do it on a regular basis. 

Jerry Coleby Williams: Sustainable Gardening in our Continually Surprising Climate

What further exacerbates this pest problem in our landscapes & gardens for the natural world is the old traditional way in dealing with these imbalances in the landscape through use of more chemicals to attack and kill the problem. You know, those pest killing chemicals besides the other chemical fertilizers, root stimulators, soil conditioners, etc you use all the time ? People who buy into this horribly flawed science-based educational program as put out there by Industrial Chemical Corporations, whose ongoing propaganda preaches, if something is bad for your plants, kill it with chemicals. Has anyone ever heard Industrial Science ever say, first find the imbalance within your landscape, garden or Farm and only then make the necessary corrections through a holistic approach by just the right community planting for your area, perhaps inserting native flowering plants which attract natural predators to deal with presence of pests in the landscape or garden ? No of course not and this is because such education dooms their obscene profit pursuing business model. Industrial science is at odds with other Nature discovery sciences which deal with more environmental friendly ecologically sound approaches. That is unacceptable to them and they have the political power and money to back up their version of truth. They even have many of the well know Sciency Celebs defending their side and who wouldn't believe them ? 
Planting Native plants in Summertime when it's 104F+ (40C) ??? 😮
Photo Mine (2014)

On the subject of actually planting in 100+ degree heat, I actually have no problem with planting natives in full blown summertime heat even when those awful temps are incredibly high, but I don't necessarily recommend it unless you know exactly what to do. These plants in the photo above were planted in such heat over 8 years ago and actually, I have no irrigation whatsoever established to them. If necessary, I do it by hand once a year when I come to visit. Most people have a hard time believing this when I show them the photos. So at best I slow irrigate deeply with garden hose when I come to visit. Before I leave I give orders to leave them hands off. However, this should really only be done in winter. Again, remember my mistake this year which I related above. The idea is to replicate winter rains [if they are a no show] re-energizing subsoil water stores as they would happen in Nature. The ONLY feeding is done with applying fresh surface mulch for decor as well as nutrients. Shredded redwood is my favourite. Mycorrhizal - MycoApply application is a must. 

I also love to compare raising plants to raising kids when it comes to planting, raising and establishing them. IF you are in any way a responsible parent, then you want your kids to have a good foundation for success later on in their adult life. If you pay their way to every event without ever letting them work for something, they will never learn responsibility on their own & they'll cling to your apron strings for life. Plants will also do that if you over baby and spoil them. Babying them with water through drip irrigation where you've provided reliable water availability all the time does this with natives and shortens their lifespan. It does not encourage natives to go down deep in developing their own structuring of their root system deeply within the earth and that for me is the ultimate goal to strive for. I've already written about what the good healthy science has discovered about a plant's ability to sniff out water, even far away and send roots down or over in that direction.
Water provides a Hydropatterning Blueprint for Rooting Architecture & "Infrastructure"
Manzanita Root off Hwy 74
As I stated previously, it does NOT matter that you understand the technicalities of just how the science of it all works. Just simply knowing that plants will find the water is all you need to know and should influence just how you adjust or develop an irrigation system accordingly. Before laying out your native plant landscape, make sure you design the deep pipe irrigation within the hardscape at the very beginning. Of course in such a system you will be watering in between your plants at about three of four feet deep in the soil by means of the deep pipe system. You can life-support your plants during that first year by periodically watering around the areas planted at the surface, thereafter tapering off until it is unnecessary. All the while, you also should be deep irrigating to get that subsoil damp and developing a good water storage capacity. Water inside the earth itself is the best place to store it and train plants to look for it on their own. After the first year you shouldn't have to surface irrigate at all unless there is a real dire need. Even deep irrigation can be overdone. I love a manual system, but I realize many want things on automatic. One of the other problems I dislike with automatic irrigation is people will have it on a daily timer or every other day regimen. It's way too much and is a waste of water and money. Your goal should be to eventually deep water maybe once a month especially during the drier times of the year or not at all it the system you've developed has worked out perfectly. The photo above is of a Manzanita and Redshank root 20 foot below the surface in an un-natural erosion cut from a diverted stream by CalTrans. The soil is not ideal garden soil, but rather decomposed granite and other fractured stone. This should clearly illustrate the power native shrubs and trees have in punching through impossible grological situations which has allowed for their successful survival for countless centuries.
Importance of understanding what happens with Soil Temperature & the effects heat has on a Plant's Root System
  • At 140 degrees, much soil bacteria & beneficial fungi can die
  • At 130 degrees 100% moisture lost through evaporation and transpiration
  • At 100 degrees, 15% moisture is used for growth, 85% moisture lost through evaporation and transpiration
  • At 70 degrees, 100% moisture is used for growth
Let's Try This Temperature Difference Illustration Below

Very important link for the using of mulches within an urban landscape in hot climates for cooling the ground conditions as the Native Plants would have them in Nature
So recapping, cool soil around the rootsystem is imperative. Does matter what the surrounding air temperature is, bare soil will heat up with an intensity above what the weather records as temp in the shade. I discovered which back in the 1980s when outplanting in the wild areas of my acreage in the San Jacinto Mountains that the pines that were planted in open bare soil struggled and pull all energy reserves and moisture into just surviving, even when watered regularly. However pines with generous mulch kept soil moist and very kool even where temps above ground were 100F+ or 40C+. The plants with cool roots exhibited long central leader and future branch bud growths, some like my Torrey Pines put on a foot of central leader growth and with no watering. Bare ground with periodic watering had nothing. So my wild planted trees, initially inoculated at time of planting with mycorrhizae and mulched heavily 3 foot around plants outperformed forestry planted seedlings same size in Garner Valley 500 foot higher in elevation, no mycorrhizal inoculation, no mulch applied, and with weekly watering during summer with small tractor pulling water trailer were stunted by comparison to mine with no supplemental watering other than a monsoon thunderstorm. Experiences like this get burned into your memory and you'll never forget.

Back to training kids. The photo at right here is a 'Pozo Blue' Sage I purchased this past June 2014 at Las Pilitas Nursery in Escondido. Many Nursery grown plants can be a couple of years old and therefore may be on a time clock to produce flowers and seed. In other words I view this as having sex resulting in kids. I don't want my kids having sex and babies in their youth. They are neither old nor mature enough to handle this responsibility and will end up in life loosing if they don't know how to support themselves, let alone having kids. They need to learn to take responsibility and care for themselves by learning to work at making a successful living with no dependency on others. Plants are the same way. I don't allow my new plants to flower or produce seed that first year. I know this goes against all conventional emotion & desire, but what else it new ? By nature everyone wants that instant colour in their landscape. But please, resist the mothering temptation, use tough love. Keep in mind that over doing it on the mothering side isn't true love either. I want my plants to concentrate their productive powers and energies into structuring a healthy root system for their later adult life self support. I have no intention of babying and/or allowing them to stay on parental welfare program for the rest of their life or mine. It doesn't work in real life for human beings so why would you think it's okay for your garden or landscape ? Hence, keep cutting off the flowers and seeds pods or berries. I know, it seems so unkind, but your plants will thank you much later in life for showing them tough love this way by their producing a lush healthy beautiful flowering display in your landscape for the rest of your life.
Planting tips in extreme heat & the Gallery below
Photo Mine

Island Man
zanita 'Canyon Sparkles' (Arctostaphylos insularis)
I planted one of these before I left over 8 years ago. I have written about this previously from last year when I photographed this Manzanita next to the 'Pozo Blue' Sage I also planted at the same time. Both doing very well and also planted when it was 100+ degrees fahrenheit. These newer plants above and below were also planted at 100+ degrees which is what the temps where when I came back for a visit out here from Sweden. These plants in the gallery here would be to the right of the larger ones in my photo above and from the article I wrote last year 2013. All mum's roses and other conventional exotics are dying or dead along that south wall/fence and these Natives will replace them thus adding a beautiful living green screen to the fence line to the south. Below is last years article:
"Canyon Sparkles" Manzanita (Arctostaphylos insularis) 
Photo Mine

California Coffeeberry 'San Bruno'

The California Coffeeberry is one of my favourites. The variety I purchase at native plant nurseries is of the type and variety I wrote about with Palo Colorado Canyon in Big Sur which I visited and wrote about a month ago. The natives up and around Anza where I lived for over 20+ years are of a gray olive green by comparison. The Coffeeberry I planted at my mother's place during the 100+ degree heat is a dwarf type variety which will not get as big as the other common ones I planted up in Anza. In fact the one here to the right is a 'San Bruno' Coffeeberry which I planted in 1987. After the late 1980s, we never ever watered it other than winter rains and hit and miss summer monsoons. This photograph was taken in 2011 when my wife and I visited and was still healthy and vigorous when I saw it a couple months ago. It was planted next to the Jeffrey Pine at around the same time. Above both the Jeffrey & San Bruno I had plant to two Ceanothus 'Concha' which is a beautiful hybrid. Decades later they declined as they were overwhelmed by the Torrey Pines which towered above them and were taken out. Even they were never ever watered beyond the first year. Still, San Bruno is an excellent choice. Notice the size after all these years has not gone beyond it's purposed location ? Proper upbringing and no free watering helps.

Photo Mine:

Sunset Manzanita (Arctostaphylos)
I've never planted a Sunset Manzanita before, so I thought I'd take a chance here along the south wall & driveway.
Photo Mine:

Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens)
When I first planted this tiny Screwbean Mesquite, it was below the top of the decorative concrete watering well. This is one month later just before I left. It was watered deeply when originally planted and there after once a week. I also heavily inoculated it with a mycorrhizal blended mix from MycoApply. BTW, the decorative border is temporary, it will be removed later when I return. The temperature outside and that whole week when I planted this was over 100+ Fahrenheit. No problem for a heat loving plant, but also a killer if none done right. I never broke up the root ball, which wasn't very extensive anyway. And as always purchase ONLY one gallon plants, they will surpass anything larger and more expensive you purchase. The Engelmann Oak I planted to the left and out of the above photo has grown over a meter in height from it's original 7 inches at time of planting. More on that in another post on artificial staking which replicates what chaparral does in the wild. Again, Engelmann Oak + no irrigation = one meter height.
Further Tip which is Imperative
Okay okay, I know, what gives, it can't be that simple. You're correct, time of day is important. Everything that gets planted in any landscape is on life-support. So the time of day during a heat wave [which admittedly should be avoided] should be late late afternoon or early evening after the Sun goes down over the horizon. I do this because it allows the plants a measure of several hours possible root shock & foliage recovery over night. Below here is my brother and I doing this after the Sun went down up in Ranchita California. We planted four Pozo Blue Sages and four California Holly shrubs. ALL were 1 gallon plants. Trust me on this, you will get instant mature landscape the following year. 

Photo Mine
After the Sun goes down, planting time starts. My brother lives out in the sticks of Ranchita so to speak, so any elaborate irrigation system is un-necessary, although the former owners did put some up on this hill above his house. The pool above is basically pond water, no chlorine. He doesn't use it much anyway. So while visiting I took five gallon buckets of water from this pool up to the hill for watering some plants.
Photo Mine
All your preparation can be done during the heat of day with sun shining. Planning the layout and positioning of where each plant will go. Actually digging each hole and deep soaking them with water long before actual planting takes place which goes quickly. Notice that seemingly sterile mineral appearance of this decomposed granite ? Perfect! Mycorrhizae will help fix that along with other mechanism from the surrounding wildscape.
Photo Mine
Aside from final planting hole size modifications and plant placement in the hole, inoculation is a must. Sometimes I'll even poke a couple of holes in the actual root ball and pour a small amount of MycoApply spore powder in the two 3 inch deep holes in the root ball itself for extra measure. And for all the "You don't have to inoculate because microbes are everywhere in the air" folks, nothing is as it seems. I wrote a piece about our adventure when leaving Ranchita the next day via Julian and Inspiration Viewpoint where I found the Pisolithus tinctorius truffles within the chaparral.
What happens to Earth's Mycorrhizal Community when their Hosts fail above ground ? 
image: Symbio
Yes, when the truffle is disturbed or crushed, clouds of mocha chocolate brown spores are released or be set free into the atmosphere. They will then be poofed into the air to fall randomly anywhere, later to be percolated along with water into the soil. Their spores are tiny enough to move with water through & in between soil particles. But unlike many other similar truffle spores, endo-mycorrhizal propagules don't do that, they are to large to move on their own to other physical locations without help. Even if they could poof and blow in the wind, there is no guarantee they'll find a target host plant root. That's why mechanical movement by insects or animals like those evil pocket gophers [who presumably have no other purpose than making gardener's lives miserable] actually can facilitate propagule movement through their feeding and tunnel construction movements. BTW, Etco Micorrhizas also can move around this way. PT Mycorrhizal truffles grow and mature unevenly, with part of the truffle becoming ripe at one end containing the important spore powder, while at the complete other end they are still growing white edible flesh which attracts insects and animals like squirrels. I've actually found some in this half cured condition where SowBugs, Rollie Pollies and even earwigs are feeding on the mix of fresh and dried truffle. Anything, even animals, dining on such a half baked truffle will also mechanically spread spores by means of physical contact. MycoApply has a biodiverse blend of mycorrhizas which is what you want for complete success.
Photo Mine
In my experience it is also imperative to provide a good healthy clean mulch of shredded bark [not chipped, but you can use it] around your newer plantings. I also apply a thin new layer each year thereafter not only for looks and soil moisture retention, but also as the mycorrhizae breaks it down these nutrient will be fed to your landscape. Also imperative with remote plantings, it is important to provide a measure of protection against desperate hungry critters for lush succulent well hydrated plant growth. You can't blame them, and it's especially worse during this time of climate change and drought out there in California. There are no shortages of dead and dying chaparral branches out there in the wildlands. We cut and dragged back several old dead Scrub Oak and Sugarbush branches. We broke them apart into smaller branchlets and place them into the soil around the plantings. Without this, ground squirrels and jack rabbits would have a Smörgåsborg field day. It should also be noted that another danger does exist with summer watering and that's attracting those pocket gophers who are also desperate. The hill above my brother's house has lots of older spring time gopher exploratory mounds in the area so the danger is always present.
 UPDATE: 2016
Foothill Pines (Pinus sabiniana) two year successive growth in remote planting
Here is first season's growth in summer of 2015 which is maybe six inches
Image mine from 2015
Well, here is the following year. Take note of original height which was at the central leader branch buds whorl. The new growth is above this. No real supplemental water other than once a week, then once a month after planting in the summer of 2014. After that winter rains. Take note, this tree did growth another 6 inches this same year after I took this photo, mainly in central leader and branch whorl bude growth.
Here is the 2nd year's growth which seem's to have more than doubled in height. 
Photo mine from 2016
Here is the summer of 2016 almost two years after remote planting and in the heart of California mega-drought. Much much greater growth and branching and again with summer 100F+ (40C+) planting, inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi (Pisolithus tinctorius) & mulched with wood chips. Elevation 4000' in Southern California. Never underestimate the value of mulch. Also take note of the Scrub Oak it was planted next two. This tree became more vigorous after this pine's planting and inoculation with Pisolithus tinctorius. This is the umteenth time I have experienced first hand a old stunted scrub oak explode vigorously in new healthy growth after pine inoculation with spores from this symbiotic truffle.
Photo mine from 2015
This species of truffle does extremely well in very warm or hot climates. It has interconnected the Pinus sabiniana with the Scrub Oak now and will continue to reach out and acquire other preferred hosts greating an extensive interconnected network in which all plants will benefit.
At my mother's place, this is exactly what happened before I left. I chose the most prized perfect looking Engelmann Oak from Las Pilitas Nursery to plant outside of my Mother's kitchen window which is on the south side of the house with no shade. Heat is a major afternoon problem in that kitchen. It was a one gallon, but had beautiful large leaves along with thick healthy central leader and stem, everything I wanted. It was about 8 inches in height and had exploded forth with new healthy vigorous shoots which rapidly put on another 8 inches during my stay. Every care in the world was done to ensure success. Until two days before my flight back to Sweden, a pocket gopher [it was huge too] took the entire tree and sucked it down into it's hole with only the top stem with new leaves poking through the soil surface. I literally almost went crazy. That little mechanical devise to the left here was used successfully to rectify the situation. It didn't bring the tree back, but I sure felt better. Oh I know, how could I possibly feel that way about a poor little critter who was just desperately hungry under such dire drought conditions ? I could your conscience justify doing that ? Easy, I don't like or use science-based chemical poisons, so I opt for the artificial Rattlesnake approach. Rattlesnake ? Yes, look closely at those two artificial fangs, they work perfectly and replicate exactly what happens in Nature. There is not much more to say or advise, except always replicate Nature. Learning this doesn't happen over night. Learn to develop intuitive skills of observation in what a plant looks like under stress and proceed carefully. That doesn't happen over night either. Below are some websites of interest. The first one is simple and from Washington State University which gives a simply easily to follow and understand  illustrated picture show of how the underground soil microbes work and function. It doesn't have much intellect speak which usually makes such reading boring, but enough science terms to make it interesting. The second site is a page from someone's Flickr account for plant pest damage identification. It's interesting:
Further important reading of interest
Hidden Half controls SUSTAINABLE Plant PRODUCTIVITY and Ecosystem Resilience in the Face of Climate Change
Flickr photos: Plant Pests and Diseases Group
Photo is Mine, but it's Bert Wilson inspired
Anyone who knows Bert Wilson of Las Pilitas California Native Plant Nursery knows that Pozo Blue Sage and the Hummingbirds just go together perfectly in Nature photography. This Sage is a magnet for Hummingbirds and unfortunately my niece's cat also knows that as well. This is the same sage in the photo midway down my post here next to the Island Manzanita with Pepper Drive Elementary School in the background.


  1. Hello, THANK YOU for this great explanation. Would love your advice on the following: We are getting ready to plant Ceanothus Centennial to cover a 40X40 foot gentle, east-facing hillside in Arcadia, CA. The hillside formerly was covered by ivy, and has an automatic surface irrigation system installed. The hill has been bare for two years now, trying to make sure the ivy does not come back. (success there!) We are on a budget and don't want to tear out the existing irrigation as it is also linked to plants (azaleas, camelias) closer to the house, but on a different zone for watering. d Our question: Can we plant the Ceanothus on the 40 x 40 foot gently slope and hand water through its early life (i.e. just turning off that zone on the automatic system). Or do you still recommend converting to a deep pipe watering system? Thank you very much for sharing your expertise.

    1. I really cannot visualize your irrigation system, but if it's already pipe in the ground running to various sprinklers, you can utilize that as part of Deep Pipe conversion. Of course if it's simply drip irrigation laying on top of the ground, then that would be impossible. I'd have the deep pipe irrigation tubes up slope a ways from each plant. Water always drains down anyways and the mycorrhizal roots of the ceanothus will detect where the water is a make a bee line for it. I would hand water, but gradually taper off from week to week, then once a month. But also get a thick layer of rugged shredded redwood or cedar mulch if you can find it. I know home Depot has it as I get it for my mum's lace in El Cajon when I go out there. It's about $4:00. I recommend the shredded over bark chips as it will lock in place. The bark chips will slide off the hill DO NOT amend the soil at planting. Natives don't need it. Only organic matter they'll ever need is mulch laid on top of the soil. That will also take care of weeds and eventually a healthy mycorrhizal system along with bacteria will break down the mulch and recycle nutrients back to your Ceanothus and whatever else you decide. After that first year, you should have to hand water anything from the surface. Just once a month deep water if necessary in Summer

    2. Hello again. Appreciate the fast reply. The system is just a mix of pvc and some steel pipes criss-crossing the hill to various sprinklers, with some pipes leading up to the house where the ornamental plants. I am thinking of turning off the sprinklers in this zone, and digging in simple home-made pvc root watering tubes. Please see this link:

      I read in another one of your posts to use MycoApply when planting CA natives. Right now I can only find it in the form of Myco Apply Certified products -- i.e. as an ingredient included in other soil ammendments from brands like EB Stone Organics. Would you still recommend NOT using those amendments, and looking for the "pure" MycoApply product that I have to mix myself? Is it OK to add the MycoApply a week to 10 days after planting?

      Thanks again for you sharing you vast knowledge and experience.

    3. The only time I would maybe amend the soil is on an extremely sterile site like that of my sister's new place where the developer of that new project blasted apart a mountainside to put view lots and the soil was nothing but inorganic decomposed granite and fractured rocks which made up the building pad and lot. Then it was compacted solid. I had to break it up with a lot of physical labor and then add a non-fortified nutrient added amendment to add organic matter for some soil life and water retention qualities. Old mining sites for restoration are another scenario, but mostly it just a waste of money. It won't hurt anything, but it won't necessarily improve things for the better at the beginning either. At best, add composted amendment worked into soil only a few inches down, that's it. Then add shredded mulch all around the surface of the plantings to help keep soil moist and cool. The mycorrhizae will do the rest. Hope that makes sense.


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