El Nino – Friend or Foe?

Moorhead, MN, April, 1997--This homeowner built a dyke of sandbags in front of his Moorhead, MN home. Photo by: DAVID SAVILLE/FEMA News Photo Mandatory credit (No charge for image use)

El Nino’s effects on the weather changes can be felt around the world. With or without an El Nino, we have to come to terms with the future that some experts say will be our new reality. NASA experts are calling this a ”Godzilla El Nino” that will do as much harm as help to the California drought, and will have little impact on the depleted aquifers that farmers have been over pumping during the drought. This “Godzilla” is expected to be the largest on record.

The upcoming weather patterns will be as unpredictable as they will be challenging. We can expect droughts (and sometimes even too much water at once), along with extreme temperature changes. In San Diego we went from 105 degrees with drought conditions and water restrictions to mid 30’s and 40’s with flood conditions in just a month. I guess we do have seasons.

So what are we to do? One thing is for certain–we are not likely to be able to use unlimited potable (drinkable) water to make our gardens grow as in the past.

Think about some big changes, and maybe even a few costly changes.

Start by making water a daily topic of conversation. How much are we using?  How can we be more efficient? The burden is on your local water district, so get involved–go to a meeting and make recommendations. Let officials know they should be increasing storage and investing in recycled water facilities. Every voice counts. I attend our two local water board district meetings and often I am the only one there! Considering how much everyone is talking about water, this always surprises me.

As for the garden, careful plant selection and placement is critical when dealing with changing weather patterns. Pay close attention to the drought temperature tolerance.  Look at planting guidelines for high success rates, like planting on a mound or slightly tilted so that water can run out of your plants.

You surely know all the common things to start with such as good irrigation systems, leak detections, drainage, mulching, rain capture and recycling. But what about your own garden, specifically?  Do you have a patio or canopy that can protect plants that need it? Maybe moving some plants is all you need.

El Nino isn’t likely to change the new water realities here in southern California. So for now, take the rain and use it as best as you can and plan to make more changes so that you can keep your personal paradise a place to relax and enjoy nature.

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