Blessing of Rain

Rain fell like a blessing on our town last night, and the night before. Gentle, persistent showers, a sunny day, and then another night of showers. The garden was so happy! Leaves that had been dusty for months were shiny and refreshed, plants that were chronically stressed during our long dry summer were suddenly perky. Our gardening seasons are so dependent on this first rain of the year, that it almost should be declared the New Year whenever it comes. Break out the champagne!

Raindrops on happy geranium leaves.

Raindrops on happy geranium leaves.

The fall rainy season is the very best time to plant new trees and shrubs in our garden. The soil is warm still, and now it’s moist as well. The new plants will have to deal with the shock of being transplanted, but the conditions are perfect for them to get their roots started down into new soil. The days are shorter, but bright and sunny, without the added stress of our bitter, relentless summer winds.

Soon, cooler nights will tease the new plants into resting during December and January, but then when spring arrives, they will have a head start because their roots will already be comfortable in their new location. They will be able to take full advantage of spring to grow and grow.

Experienced gardeners have been waiting for this moment to make some changes in their gardens. Plants that haven’t thrived where they were planted, or that had severe pest problems, or that needed too much in the way of fertilizer and irrigation can be removed now. The space they leave may make the garden more beautiful just by leaving more room for the plants around them.

However, if they are to be replaced, now is the perfect time to make a new selection. GFE is a great place to visit if you are looking for new plant ideas.

Tucking a new plant into the ground before the rains start up again.

Tucking a new plant into the ground before the rains start up again.

GFE is also a great place to fall if you are a raindrop. For twenty eight years, this soil has been gardened organically, mulched, improved with homemade compost, terraced, and fully planted. As a result, our raindrops can easily penetrate the improved, crumbly soil, following the paths kept open by the deep roots of our overstory trees.

Slowed by the terracing, encouraged by our permeable hardscaping, the rain can penetrate deep into the earth and eventually find its way into the water table. When it gets there, it will be free of any contamination from synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

Lucky raindrop! So many of its friends will fall onto a roof or street and rush headlong into the sewer system. Directed through the water treatment plants and out into the bay or ocean, these raindrops will never have a chance to reach the deep fresh water reserves under our city, and won’t have a chance to be reused next summer.

Our city becomes more resilient to climate change, and more resourceful about its beautiful fresh mountain drinking water, when we have a recharged water table to use for watering golf courses and parks, and washing city streets and buses.

As gardeners, we can do something practical to make our city more sustainable. If you have a garden, or work with a school or community garden, you can observe where there may be runoff from your garden, and do your best to slow the water down so it can sink in to the earth instead.

If you aren’t involved with a garden, have a look outside your front door. Does your street have a healthy stand of street trees? Are there sidewalk gardens around the street trees? This is something every environmental activist in town can get started on.

When our urban forest is thriving, and the sidewalk has been removed for street gardens, there are lots more places for rain that falls on our city to penetrate our grey concrete carapace and enter the warm, forgiving soil.

Let’s slow the water down. Let’s have a city where the rain can fall on us like a sponge, not like a brick.

If you want to get started with a community street tree planting, or sidewalk garden installation, get in touch with our friends at Friends of the Urban Forest. They will be glad to help you get going.