MONTECITO MICROCLIMATES

Sometimes that persistent post-spring, early summer heavy marine layer we know as “June Gloom” comes and goes. But in other times it stays on like your unemployed brother who promised to stay “only a month.” This year, the gloominess came early enough to earn the moniker “May Gray.” It’s important to know that where you live determines the intensity of June Gloom and what you should plant in your garden.

Within this ideal climate zone, there are peculiarities to each area. Living on the beach, for example, is different than living in Birnam Wood.

We call Zone 1 the area on the beach. Here the Gloom tends to stay around the longest and ocean-facing plants need to be salt-tolerant (saltbush and sea lavender are a couple of ideal choices).

Zone 2 stretches from the mountainside of that beach house to about Highway 101. This is an area where all the shade-loving plants – camellias, impatiens, begonias, hydrangeas and ferns – thrive in full sun. The marine layer creates the shade effect. Look in the shade house of the nursery for most of your plantings.

From the 101 to East Valley Road constitutes Zone 3, the Hedgerow. The closer you are to East Valley the better you will do with roses and other sun-loving plants like lavender and citrus. You can still get away with shade plants but have to pay a little more attention if your garden is facing west.

Above East Valley Road to Mountain Drive (Zone 4), you might say is above it all. The June Gloom melts off earlier and since we are getting into the canyons here, the winds are stronger and the sun is hotter. Roses, stone fruits, citrus, olives, salvia and other Mediterranean plants love Zone 4. Here too are many Oak groves, which can be appreciated au naturel or planted as a woodland garden.

In Zone 5, above Mountain Drive, is the hot spot of Santa Barbara. The marine layer is safely below you, down in the flat land. If you’re up in the chaparral, it is a good idea to get to know the natives and work with them.

Gloom Got You Down?

When the marine layer persists, some plants do suffer. Mildew, mold and fungus abound. Here’s our advice:

1. Though it may be foggy and cool, plants still need an occasional deep watering.

2. Overhead water in the morning will keep leaves clean and can prevent diseases that thrive in the Gloom of June. And yes, you should overhead water your roses as well. You can also add a small amount organic dish soap to help wash down your plants.

3. Be patient. This tends to be our approach; the sun will come out eventually and most plants will come out of it when the sun arrives.

Gerd Jordano said the other day that when she travels and packs for sun it’s cold, and when she packs for cold there’s sun. Could there be a lesson here? We asked Gerd to give away all her summer clothes, to encourage the sun to come out (I’m not sure she will actually do this).

Maybe the same can be said for our plants. Let’s plan our plantings for fog and the sun will come out for sure. If it is sunny when you are reading this, it worked.