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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Sep 22

Autumn

Posted on September 22, 2017 at 12:20 PM by Emma Detwiler

There is no doubt about it - autumn is in the air. Today we celebrate fall equinox - the crossing of time when our days will become shorter and our evenings longer. It seems our nights are already cooler. Nurseries and flower shops now display assorted varieties of Chrysanthemums instead of colorful spring and summer annuals. The vegetable gardens are slowing down and in some cases have completed their cycle of bearing fruits and vegetables.

While the time seems to indicate putting the garden to rest, the reality is quite the opposite. Now is the time to plant spring bulbs, or a cover crop to add nutrients to the spent soil in the vegetable garden. Fresh thick layers of mulch will keep the roots protected from impending cold temperatures and prevent weed seeds from germinating. It's a time to get your soil tested and add lacking nutrients for amazing results in spring planting.

Don't forget about adjusting shorter run times on irrigation controllers (if you do not have a smart controller), or cleaning, sharpening and oiling gardening tools to extend their lifespan. Look about for container plants to move into protected areas if they are subject to frost damage. Check your supply of sprays that offer plant protection from frost. And keep tarps and stakes at hand for make-shift tents around citrus and other tender plants. Planters filled with spring and summer color can now sport winter color such as violas, calendulas and flowering kale to brighten up the area during gray winter skies.

Now is also a time to visit local nurseries to add those missed colors in our own gardens. In Marin, we can lack the extraordinary display of leaf color found in the east coast, but that is not to say we can't create our own. Some of my favorite plants to achieve this show include trees such as Chinese pistache, sumac, and many varieties of maples and liquidamber. Remember that shrubs also display brilliant colors. Many are found in the old fashion viburnum or witch hazel families. The pink fringe flower and nine bark provide year-round interest as does nandina. Don't forget to add bark interest seen in red twig dogwood, or the beautiful coral bark found in some Japanese maples.
Blueberries in fall                              Colorful autumn Trident Maples
Fall is the ideal time to collect seeds from your garden and share with friends and family. Seek out garden clubs that also delight in sharing the bounty found in their gardens.

Besides the work of preparing for winter, autumn is a time to enjoy the beauty of nature surrounding us as leaves turn various shades of brilliant reds, yellows and oranges. Take a hike through the walking trails in the watersheds found on Mt. Tamalpais, or around the lakes of MMWD. You might notice wildlife preparing for winter as you traverse the many natural trails around.

The list of chores to prepare your garden for winter is long. Don’t forget to take a break and enjoy the changing of the seasons. At the end of a long day toiling in the autumn gardens, prepare a cup of pumpkin spice tea and relish in the sweetness of autumn in the air. 

Have a great weekend.

Sep 15

A New Acquaintance

Posted on September 15, 2017 at 7:58 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Caryopteris clandonensis
Caryopteris clandonensis
Once in a while a plant will cross my path that I am not familiar with. It's what I best love about gardening—we can never know it all. As I perused a garden website a few months ago, a picture of a plant known as Caryopteris clandonensis caught my attention. As I read, it sounded like a good fit for a few newly developed backyard planting areas, with the bonus of blooming when most other plants fade during the late summer/early autumn. 

The misguided common name for this plant is blue spirea—misguided in the respect it is not a true spirea (Spiraea). Besides its late blooming season, it has other amazing properties. Deer don't like it, and rabbits don't either. It is fragrant, makes for a good cut flower, grows in the sun, will thrive in lime soil, and attracts bees and butterflies. It grows to a compact 3-4 feet in height and width, plus it is a fast grower with a minimal amount of water needed to sustain it. These features might make it a good choice if you’re looking for a pretty screen.

Does this plant have a down side? Yes: It doesn't like wet feet, so establishing it in clay soil would be a challenge unless the soil is well amended and provides great drainage. It also doesn't have a long life as one would expect from some plant material. However, that shorter life span isn’t a significant issue as it is very easy to propagate. Each spring it needs to be pruned back about six inches. To propagate, simply take the new wood cuttings from your pruning efforts, add a bit of root stimulator and place the stems in damp sand. Keep the cuttings shaded and moist until the roots establish. As tough as this little plant is, it is reasonable to expect beautiful blue flowers in the early fall. 

Pairing this plant with orange poppies would knock this combination out of the park. For a dynamic container display, try placing this plant in an urn with white alyssum or white lobelia trailing underneath. I created a mecca for beneficial insects in one large area by planting a mixture of peonies and ornamental strawberries for spring and Caryopteris with large Agastache for late summer and fall. The bees and butterflies throng to this planting area. Now to add a slurry of water to provide a place for these insects to drink.

Can I challenge you to try a new plant you may not be familiar with? There are many wonderful garden possibilities that go by unnoticed. Upon closer inspection you might find them captivating—a plant to behold!
Sep 12

Free Water Education Programs for Schools

Posted on September 12, 2017 at 1:49 PM by Ann Vallee

MMWD watershed field tripIt’s back-to-school time, and we’re excited to once again offer free water education programs for schools in our service area.

Through our diverse lineup of programs, students have opportunities to learn about water conservation and supply, restore habitat on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, search for water leaks at home, sing along with musical watershed assemblies, and much more. Every year, more than 5,000 K-12 students from public and private schools throughout the district take part.

To continue promoting water awareness for Marin students, this year we’ve added a new Water Scholars Program. The program invites high school seniors to share their best and most creative ideas about clean water, water conservation and watershed preservation through an original essay, with the opportunity to earn a $1,000 scholarship.

Learn more about all our school programs at: marinwater.org/schools