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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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Jun 22

Celebration Time!

Posted on June 22, 2018 at 9:13 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

bee and yarrow
 Bee on yarrow
No, it isn’t a parade commemorating our country’s 242nd birthday—at least not for a few weeks. It is, however, a week of quieter celebration within our gardens and with nature. This week, June 18-24, is National Pollinator Week. And yesterday, June 21, we celebrated summer solstice—the longest day of the year.

This double celebration can and does have an impact on our gardens. The evapotranspiration rate (ET) is reaching its peak when plant water needs are at their maximum. Surprisingly, it isn’t only the ambient temperature but the hours of sunlight our plants are exposed to that determines their water needs. Thus plant water needs typically peak around summer solstice, when the days are longest. You may have noted an increase in the irrigation times posted on MMWD’s Weekly Watering Schedule during these past few weeks. If you continue to track those numbers, you’ll find they typically form a bell-shape curve with the apex occurring around the end of June and beginning of July. As we push further into the summer months, that bell shape starts to curve back down, and our plant water needs will decrease.

Salvia 'May Night' with bumblebees
 Bumblebees in Salvia 'May Night'
In contrast to a diminishing watering schedule, our pollinators increase their jobs to gather pollens and spread that golden dust throughout our gardens contributing to greater fruit, veggie and flower production. Gardens thrive and depend on pollination, which in turn helps sustain us—that is worth the celebration!

Have you ever sat in the garden just to listen to the thrum of bumble, honey and mason bees flitting from flower to flower? Or from tomato to squash plant? Have you watched a hummingbird reach into the depths of the lily in bloom to sip the sweetness within? Or a butterfly resting atop the flat blossoms to capture the dew-containing pollens, only to carry those pollens on to the next stop? You can celebrate these beneficials by planting Agastache, lavender, rosemary, creeping thyme or other plants known to attract these insects. 

Focusing on attracting beneficials can also help control insects that are harmful to the garden. For example, parasitic wasps lay their eggs in or on harmful insects such as caterpillars. In time the larva of the implanted egg grows and destroys the plant-eating caterpillar without the gardener resorting to insecticides. In addition to managing harmful insects, the parasitic wasp continues to pollinate our gardens as the adult wasps gain their sustenance from the nectar found in the garden. 

It is officially summer. Celebrate by taking a walk in the garden and just listen to nature at work. I promise the experience will be rewarding.

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