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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 05

Reality Check

Posted on June 5, 2015 at 11:47 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

The picture is so clear, so real: A row of red and gold raspberries against the south-facing wall of the house, protected from the birds plucking away at fresh fruit in the wee hours before everyone is up. The dream is followed by an equally vivid picture of mounding bowls of fresh raspberries. The bounty is envisioned going into jams, pies, and fruit compotes.

Being a plant junkie, I find temptation can get me into trouble if I don't think through the process. The temptation for me is to hang pictures on the wall before building a foundation, walls, and roof! Like dreams, the vision tends to fade with the reality of installing or building the project. Luckily, I am married to the landscape contractor who thinks things through. The reality of my dream is we have a problem with gophers, rabbits, and squirrels. Planting raspberries requires more thought than simply digging a hole and backfilling with amended soil.

 25-foot backfilled trench
 25-foot trench for raspberries, wire-lined and backfilled
Preparations require a plan of attack. A wire-lined trench to keep gophers at bay requires digging a ditch about 25 feet long, cutting and molding hardware cloth to fit the trench, and carefully backfilling the trench with enriched soil before the raspberries go into the ground. Structural support for the raspberries requires the design of some type of chicken-wire enclosure to prevent the birds, rabbits, and squirrels from raiding the bounty, while still providing access for harvesting and pruning.

Plans were drawn, lists of needed material were made, and trips to the hardware store and nursery helped move the process toward completion. Drainage and irrigation also needed consideration before the first shovel hit the ground.

Gardening often takes more thought and effort than just giving in to an impulse buy of a pretty posy (or in my case: seven raspberry plants). The current water shortages require even more consideration. How can water be stretched to maintain healthy plants? Graywater cannot be used on edibles in the garden, but is an option for ornamentals. Sheet mulching, amending the soil with rich compost, or topping with organic mulch will help the ground retain water for much longer than when soil is exposed to direct sunlight. (Don't forget MMWD is offering rebates up to $50 for organic mulch.) DriWater or polymers can also help hold water and release it slowly to the root zones of plants.

Please share your garden dreams! How do your plans incorporate water savings? Do you envision succulent-filled containers instead of high-water-using annuals? What steps are you taking to make your dreams come true, or did you need a reality check also?

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