California is experiencing its driest year on record. Compound scant rainfall with persistent, drying Santa Ana winds, and we find our landscapes becoming stressed. We can learn about what our urban gardens will do by looking to nature; if our wild areas are showing signs of drought stress, our cultivated gardens will certainly follow suit.

Most of you who are growing sites as part of the project are probably at the stage where wildflower seedlings have reached a couple inches in height, and you have now cut back on watering. You may notice that your seedlings are not wilting, but they also aren’t showing signs of growth and are just existing and maintaining at that low height.  

Because of this year’s especially dry circumstances, we recommend a good deep watering to the site every 7 to 10 days — at least through this warm and windy spell. Watch the seedlings closely; if you see signs of wilting or discoloration, then apply deeper and more frequent watering until they stabilize.  

The response of seedlings at each of the 50 Wildflowering L.A. sites will vary. Watch your meadow and get to know how the seedlings are responding to this special weather period. In the process, you’ll be brought closer to your garden and to the natural world as it responds to our unique climate.  

If the dry weather continues through spring, your wildflower meadows will boast a much showier and longer bloom if they continue to receive a deep watering every week or so. Regular irrigation will also increase the chances of a healthy seed set, ensuring that the wildflowers come back in good number next year. 

Keep in mind that even if you are watering every 7 to 10 days, you’re still using MUCH less water than a thirsty exotic lawn would require to stay green during this drought!

Posted by Genny Arnold, Theodore Payne Foundation