Finally a Monsoon Rainstorm to Fill My Water Harvesting System!
by David Salman
To date, the Santa Fe area has had about 3-4" of total precipitation (rain and snow) since this past January--a very dry year! We usually average about 12" annually. Well, after this last week with daytime highs in the upper 90's, our gardens were wilting and the native grass prairie all around us was going brown (dormant) from drought.
New Mexico gets about 60% of its annual precipitation from the July and August "monsoons." Moisture is pulled up from the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean around the Baja when low pressure stations itself across Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas. This moist air is heated by warm daytime temperatures and forms huge thunderclouds that provide brief but torrential summer rains.
Tonight, the skies darkened, and we got our first hard rain since early June, just over two inches here at my house! One storm has provided my landscape with the equivalent of 50% of the year's moisture to date. Yes, it's feast or famine in the Southwest when it comes to water from the sky.
I have a passive water harvesting system in my front yard, which efficiently moved the water off the roof of the house into some stone covered catchment basins. From there, the water moves under ground system through perforated 4" plastic pipes buried in trenches filled with absorbent red lava gravel. The soil is eagerly soaking up the water, which is nearly 1400 gallons from just one rain! I can practically see the plants, whose roots are reaching down into the newly moistened soil, "smiling" with the renewed moisture.
Hardy Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is one of the most versatile groundcovers for cold climates growing in both sun and shade and most soil types. Plumbago blooms in late summer with deep blue flowers followed by the foliage that turns burgundy red in fall.
Nepeta 'Select Blue' (Select Blue Catmint) is a fantastic xeric perennial with dramatic lavender-blue flowers and handsome gray-green foliage. A recurrent bloomer, the first flush of flowers comes in late spring, and again later in summer. A long-lived, easily grown perennial, this is an excellent plant for beginners.
1" tall x 18" wide. Pink Chintz Thyme (Thymus Pink Chintz) is a tight, low growing creeping thyme with thick stems of woolly green foliage that blooms in mid-spring with a profusion of salmon-pink flowers.
Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spires (Blue Spires Russian Sage) is the best large growing Russian Sage selection blooming with dark blue flower spikes appearing in mid-summer. Thought to be a hybrid of two species, this plant has amazing vigor and blooms for many months.