Tucsonans have developed many theories on how to bring forth the monsoon rain. Some claim washing their car will do the trick. Others swear it's deep watering their trees. A Facebook friend urged me to use the last bit of water in my rain tank that I reserved for my veggie garden. (I had already gone through most of the water in four cisterns and two fifty-five gallon rain barrels.) So...despite proclaiming that I don't use any city water for my landscaping on the six o'clock news last spring, I finally broke down and deep watered my jujube trees. It stormed that very afternoon...
Gardening in this extreme weather has been very humbling. I have struggled to balance conserving water during our current water crisis and keeping my poor plants alive in this unrelenting heat.
I've lived in Tucson nearly 30 years and I have never experienced anything like this. (The drought the year before last came the closest.) I try to get up early enough to water my little veggie garden before it reaches 80 degrees (the temperature when evapotranspiration stops on some plants), but most days the temperature never dips below 80 degrees - even at night! Some evenings it has gotten as high as 90 degrees! That's bad news for people and plants. And it's NOT normal. In the old days, Tucsonans slept on the roof after the house got too hot. When we first moved to Tucson it stormed every afternoon during monsoon season.
Nonsoon? I don't know. We finally got a couple of monsoon storms, but by mid-morning the ground is bone dry. My poor plants! Unfortunately, we had to take out our pest-infested eucalyptus tree, so our "desert adapted" heritage fruit trees have no protection from the scorching sun. I finally put a shade contraption over our little fig tree.
You'll be happy to hear we had better luck in our front yard. We've been fortunate to go as long we did without using city water. Our rain basins had sunk in enough water to keep them going.
The jujubes are thriving in their basin. Apparently jujubes are very drought tolerant. Perhaps it's their shiny leaves. I just wanted to make sure they had plenty of water to promote fruit growth.
Sadly, I waited too long to deep water the moringa in our right-of-way basin. They are tropical plants that should take the heat, but without enough moisture they were really suffering. The recent monsoon rain (and some deep-watering) has done wonders. They are coming back with some new sprouts.
Most of our desert plants are hanging in there. I finally had to give a little water to the pricky pear and agave. All of the desert trees (mesquite, sweet acacia, and hackberry) fared well on the high end of the shallow basin. Since the two monsoon storms they are really flourishing. Have I mentioned I #lovemyrainbasin yet?
The mesquite tree acted as a nurse plant protecting the hackberry and saguaro cactus from the sun as well as providing nitrogen to the soil. I went ahead and picked some volunteer mesquites that were sprouting under it.
And after two storms and some sprinkles, life is springing up in the basins! I found tepary beans (from last year) sprouting under the jujube tree. It is odiously tepary bean season, so I went ahead and planted more for ground cover in the garden.
Horse purslane is starting to pop up too - a welcome sign that monsoon season is here. It will act as living mulch and add much needed organic matter to the basin!
We are enjoying the common purslane that I propagated in our yard! (That cage kept the critters out long enough for the purslane to spread and grow).