Like every year before, during 2009 several influences combined to shape our local gardens and our gardening activities.
From my perspective, the biggest influences on local gardeners and gardens in the past year were as follows:
Water, particularly the lack thereof, continued to influence almost every decision a gardener would make during 2009 and will certainly continue into the indefinite future. With below average rainfall during five of the past six years, California's water situation reached critical. Almost every community has now created landscape water restrictions, some voluntary, others mandatory.
Water agencies and local municipalities throughout the region were busy during the year drafting new water ordinances by the dozens. In many communities the first phases of these new, tiered regulations have already rolled out, limiting irrigations to specific days, times and durations. In other communities these ordinances are laying momentarily dormant, like a spring flower bulb, ready to be activated on short notice, especially if prodded by our areas two main water providers, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and The Orange County Municipal Water District.
Resource and environmental influences were far reaching and further fueled the growing interest in lawn removal, California native and other Mediterranean plants and even home composting and organic gardening.
The areas shrinking economy, falling home prices, rising unemployment and the market meltdown resulted in a significant reduction in consumer spending, and this was especially obvious in a lack of large landscape projects. For the most part, homeowners put off costly new landscape installations and renovations. Patio projects were on hold, construction plans were cancelled and new gardens were scaled back during 2009.
New pests and diseases
Although many home gardeners might believe they are unaffected, an accelerated influx of exotic new pests and diseases in our region has continued at a torrid pace in 2009. Most significant was an August discovery of five adult Asian Citrus Psyllids on a lemon tree in Santa Ana. This tiny insect poses the most serious threat ever to California's 1.6 billion dollar citrus industry and to the thousands of us who enjoy citrus in our home gardens.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid joined a legion of other threats in the past few years to our gardens. Mostly unfamiliar to gardeners, these exotic pests and diseases are not just nuisances, they are potential game changers: sudden oak death, a threat to many plants, not only oaks; xylella, a bacteria that has been decimating local oleanders, grapes and other plants; red imported fire ants, a threat to many outdoor activities; diaprepes root weevil, pink hibiscus mealybug, olive psyllid, citrus leafminer and more. Introduced pests and diseases have the potential of huge economic impacts to agriculture as well as what we grow in our gardens.
The brightest spot in gardening during 2009, and I believe the biggest story of the year, was the huge new interest in home grown vegetables, herbs, fruits, berries and just about anything that is edible.
Encouragement for edible gardening came from the White House, the State Capital, public school grounds and even community gardens. The effect on local gardens is obvious. Homeowners by the thousands, including many who had not pushed a shovel into the earth in years, were now busily building raised beds, laying out vegetable plots and potting up herbs. Berries and grapes were being planted and fruiting trees were installed. Even those without a plot of soil were busy installing window boxes on patios and balcony pots were being filled with plants ultimately destined for the kitchen.
The enthusiasm for edible plants during 2009 reached a level not seen in decades and introduced many Americans to the pleasures of gardening.
The new gardening year has now begun. What changes lie ahead for us as we dig-in to 2010?
Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar.
Questions from Readers December 26th, 2009
What’s the name of the big blue-grey colored palm trees on the left side of PCH, just before you leave the homes of Corona del Mar and head toward Newport Coast Drive?
Corona del mar
There is a row of about 20 large Blue Hesper Palms (Brahea armata ) that are very noticeable along the inland side of the road, in front of some red bougainvillea.