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Summer 2022

Drier Doesn’t Have to Be Dire

by Lori D. Palmquist

 As summer approaches, our beloved flora and fauna delight us in their resplendence and their antics. While the sapphire-studded Ceanothuses in our neighborhood take my breath away, the towhee birds do their double-footed, mulch-hurling hop in search of hidden insects. And the squirrels chase each other round and round the trunks of trees, sometimes doing flips to impress each other.

Isn’t the natural world glorious? Life just feels so remarkably precious … and fragile.

As our magnificent hills and open spaces turn from green to golden brown, the grasses seem to be waving goodbye to spring. And it feels like we need to fortify ourselves to face the coming summer. Ever-present drought and the threat of wildfire are calling us to action as spring slips away.

Both EBMUD and Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) announced their Stage Two Water Shortage Contingency Plans on April 21. EBMUD is calling for a mandatory 10% reduction in water use, and CCWD a voluntary 15% water reduction. They’re both using 2020 water use as a baseline for this. And EBMUD is also restricting outdoor watering to three times a week.

We need to be mindful of not only using water efficiently but using it responsibly. We can look to the websites of our local water districts where a treasure trove of vital information, resources, and rebates are provided. We can use those sites to inform ourselves and up our game, in taking the first steps toward drought-proofing our landscapes.

© Copyright JudeParkinson-Morgan
© Copyright JudeParkinson-Morgan
I’ll be giving an online webinar on June 21 in which I’ll give you resources, actionable steps, and a checklist to optimize your water use and use less water in your landscape. The webinar is called "Water in Your Garden – Taking Control". See the description and link to register here.

In addition, it seems that now, more than ever, the onus is on us to not only step up our dry game and protect our precious water supply, but to increase our consciousness around the threat of wildfire. We need to educate ourselves to be advocates for protecting life and property. Be a role model for your neighbors and take the steps to harden off your house and property. Check out this great UC resource that directs us in how to set up our properties to protect them from wildfires: Reducing the Vulnerability of Buildings to Wildfire: Vegetation and Landscaping.

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Some of our county’s UC Master Gardeners are diligently studying the latest cautionary information and trends in fire safety, so that they may assist in developing public awareness and preparedness. Steve Danziger and Hedwig Van Den Broeck presented a couple of webinars on Firescaping, and they also give in-person talks. Check out their latest webinar on our YouTube channel. Also see the article “Living with Wildfire” in this issue by Marilyn Saarni.

As we draw closer to the driest time of year, I urge you to remember how you can be an agent of positive change by embodying the concepts of water conservation, wildfire preparedness, and sustainability. Consciousness is the main event. What we focus on creating, with passionate intent and expectation, we make so. I love the word “proactive.” Rather than being leaves blown around by the wind, when we’re proactive, we ARE the wind. Can we direct our actions to demonstrate and to teach how to live safely and thrive in a dry, fire-prone California? Of course we can. We just have to believe it.

Lori D. Palmquist, UC Master Gardener of Contra Costa County