November is a great time to plant natives in Santa Barbara. Getting the plants in the ground at the beginning of the rainy season allows for nature to help their establishment for the longest amount of time, at the time of year they are used to receiving the most water. Even planting through the middle of the rainy season can provide a positive start for natives and other plants that are indigenous to other Mediterranean climates.
But is that it? Is that all that we need to do to create beautiful gardens, be water wise and help bring about resilience to drought and climate change?
- What if we could plant one more element that could provide the main source of irrigation for our climate appropriate plants after the first three years of establishment?
- What if we could plant something that could exponentially help create a biologically rich soil sponge that infiltrates water up to 90% more than dead dirt?
- What if, before we plant plants, we plant the rain?
In an effort to do the right thing, many of us have planted native gardens or other climate appropriate landscapes. We cut back drastically on our water use, encourage pollinators, and benefit the local ecosystem. We have tapped into a gorgeous selection of flowers, fruits, leaves, and seedpods of many colors, shapes, heights, and smells- plants that enhance our sense of place as well as our sense of beauty.
But- it’s best if we plant the rain first. Downspouts can be redirected into our landscapes, via swales (channels) and mulch basins, to slow, spread, and sink the water. Basins, depressions in the soil that are filled or partially filled with mulch, create a focal point for water to percolate into the soil. Rainwater harvesting can be done on any landscape-on residential, business, and community property.
Rainwater harvesting, building a healthy soil sponge and carbon sequestration are all strategies that work together and are part of the Sweetwater model. These practices help to build resilience to fires and other climate disruptions in our local community. Rainwater harvesting earthworks can also reduce flooding.
Earthworks (rain gardens) are a simple, cost effective, and efficient way to utilize rainwater in the landscape and a step to recharging groundwater.
Plants near or in rain gardens could receive double or triple the water they would have gotten without rainwater harvesting.
So pick your pretty plants- the ones that will bring bees, birds and butterflies into your yard, the ones that delight your eye, that draw you in. Then plant the rain and surround your earthworks/ rain gardens with those plants, and wait for the magic to begin.