Canto CCCXLIX: The First Watering of Spring


Or: When it Rains, it POURS

April 27, 2024

Gentle cabrones:

How does that song go?

Seems it never rains in southern…California

Albert Hammond. 1970s-pop. Good song.

Somewhat correct. Definitely not correct these past couple of years, as the Golden State has received record rainfall and snowfall. For me, all this moisture has delayed a ritual I do every spring:

The first watering.

Even if it doesn’t rain in Southern California, the winters get cold enough and there’s at least enough moisture so that you don’t really have to water much during that season, if at all. Additionally for me, I never plant crops during the winter because I let the ground rest — there’s usually enough drizzle or mist to keep the soil moist.  

The last time I really pay attention to our garden is November, after the very last summer crops are done and I’ve pulled up everything except some matas de chile that are going for a second life (they inevitably don’t give as good as new plants — we only live once, folks). It’s usually around March that I put my finger in the ground to feel for moisture. To see if it’s time for the first watering.

But you don’t just water wherever there’s a plant, or wherever there’s soil. You have to go around and see what you are about to flood.

You first wack the weeds away, since you most likely didn’t whittle. You then look at the pots to make sure they won’t drain out too fast, and build mini-dams, cajetes (which I never thought of ever translating into English but I guess is the drip line? Certainly not “box” or “tucchus”) and trenches in the ground and planters to ensure the water pools best.

Regardless the scene, you examine the soil to see how it’s doing — is it too hard? Does it need an amendment to make it more loamy (naturally soft and squishy even when dry)? If it’s become too hard, do you need to give it a good talacheada before the regular talacheada?

If you become obsessed with watering like I do, you will have rain barrels ready for you to use. A five-gallon Home Depot bucket goes along way, dontcha know.

Seems I've often heard that kind of talk before…

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Before the inaugural watering, I buy any soils or fertilizers I may need and test out my water guns. It’s opening day for me, and I want a hell of a growing season, so gotta start strong.

The first watering of the spring is planning to plan. You see how the water settles. You think about previous harvests, crops that didn’t give and those that did. You see which volunteers you leave on the ground, which ones you transplant, and which ones have to go.

I bust out a Burpee and put in some seeds. Since we grew tomatoes last time, we’re just gonna try to grow carrots, garlic, beans, corn, and a bunch of chilies this year. But like to put in plants from my local nurseries to get an early harvest going.

I water early in the morning, preferably with the tiniest bit of sun, so I can see what I’m about to do, and I get to see the sun rise. There’s never any worry that first time, despite what might be going on in the world. It’s always hope tempered with reality. You can sprout, you can grow, you can water and fertilize well — and sometimes, it’s still not enough.

Most times, actually. But you do it, because what else is there to do in life except DO IT DO IT DO IT?

How to water? Flood everything the first time — be like the damn Nile. Just that first time, though. Afterward, water at the base of the plants deep, everything else whatever. I should do drip irrigation to be even more water-wise, but I like to examine each and every plant to see how they’re doing whenever I do.

The first watering takes me about two hours — you can’t rush it. After that, an hour — but don’t rush it EVER. It’s a time to think, to reflect, to water. In Southern California, you watch every drop — because you don’t know how long there’ll be water.

After that first watering, I won’t stop watering until November or so. And I water depending on the temperatures. My rule of thumb is once a week if the temperature has regularly been below 75, twice a week if it cracks 83, every other day if it’s over 90, and every day if it’s 100.

Because that’s the thing. When you start watering plants, you need to commit yourself to it. The plants need you — and it’s a sin to let a plant die of thirst.

It pours…man, it pours.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

The no-one-reading-me jabs were expected; the Remierda one? FUUUUUCK…

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Chicken meatballs with a chile de mordida from Burritos La Palma the best Negroni in Southern California at the classic Roma D’Italia, THE busiest spot in Tustin at 5 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Gracias to Nelcyn and Mateo THA GOD for the very late birthday dinner!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “"I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore I died in exile. ” — Pope Gregory VII

LISTENING: Tema de Lara,” Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano. IYKYK.

READING: “The Last All Black Town in the West”: Characters, history, pride, danger — what local journalism should be.

BUY MY NEW CO-BOOK! People’s Guide to Orange County tells an alternative history of OC through the scholarship and reporting of myself, Elaine Lewinnek, and Thuy Vo Dang. There’ll be signings all year — in meanwhile, buy your copy TODAY. And, yes: I’ll autograph it!

Gustavo Events  

May 18, 7 p.m.: The Mark Taper Forum will hold a reading of The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, a legendary play based on the transcript of a federal trial against Catholic activists that saw them jailed for their activism against the Vietnam War (you’re going to have to go to see what they did). I’ve been asked to give a talk after the reading about the play and its times — WHOA… Buy your tickets here.

June 6, 7:30 p.m.: I will be the emcee for the Exposé Awards, the annual gala on behalf of the fine news nonprofit Capital & Main. Tickets ain’t cheap, but don’t be a cheapskate — it’s a damn fundraiser, and you get to see me do my best Billy Crystal impersonation. Buy TODAY.

Gustavo in the News

Uplifting student journalists covering Barnard/Columbia”: A columna of mine gets a shoutout.

Olvera Street’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant Ordered to Pay $242K in Back Rent or Leave”: I don’t know why MSN is rehashing 2023 Eater L.A. articles that mention me, but what are you going to do…

Gustavo Stories 

Grítale a Guti”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all.

Voter ID law sparks legal battle in OC”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” commentary talks about the latest Huntington Beach tomfoolery.

"L.A. Taco”: A GAG gets remixed to HILARIOUS effect.

Starting with his favorite cheesesteak haunt, Kobe Bryant’s spirit is all over Philadelphia”: My latest L.A. Times columna gets a great tour out of my recent Philly trip. KEY QUOTE: “There are no official tours of Bryant spots across the city, but I was able to cobble one together on the flight from John Wayne Airport to Philadelphia.”

You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here by clicking on their logos down below. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! You can’t get me tacos anymore, but you sure as hell can give them — and more — to the O.C. Catholic Worker!

1  I didn’t realize until now that Albert Hammond had a son, and he’s with the Strokes. He’s NOT related to the Hammonds who created the Hammond organ, so Albert Sr. ain’t that cool. Hey, I did a footnote…but it’s not showing up up there. Hmm…