The Plant Man: The benefits of “June Gloom”

By Steve Kawaratani

“A touch of gloom, a sprinkle of tranquility.” –Cherryprincessfairy

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Courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

June weather in Laguna is commonly overcast due to a weather pattern known as “June Gloom” or the marine layer. By either name, it is a mass of cool, damp air that lingers over the coastal areas of Southern California.

During the late spring and early summer months, the ocean waters off our coast remain cold (in the low 60s), while inland temperatures are hot (Palm Desert reaching 110 F this week). Cool oceanic air is pulled onshore by the temperature difference, creating a layer of low clouds or fog that can persist throughout the morning or even the entire day.

While the overcast weather can hide the sunshine, it also has its benefits. The marine layer helps to moderate temperatures along the coast, keeping us cooler and providing relief from the heat that can be experienced further inland. It also contributes to the unique microclimate found in coastal regions, creating a nourishing clime for a variety of flora and fauna.

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Courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Black mustard is a bright but invasive visitor to our open spaces

From a gardening perspective, “June Gloom” can have both advantages and challenges. The cooler temperatures are beneficial for many plants, providing relief from excessive heat, mitigating water evaporation and extending the flowering season. However, reduced sunlight during overcast periods may impact the growth and flowering of sun-loving plants and provide an environment for opportunistic diseases.

Norm and I frequently walk the outer edges of Moulton Meadows Park and have observed that Black mustard, Brassica nigra, has acted like a perennial during the past two rainy seasons, which were followed by mild summer temperatures. This invasive, non-native plant can grow up to six feet tall or more in a single season. It produces chemicals that hinder germination of natives and can increase fire frequency in our coastal sage scrub. I guess it’s okay to blame the Spanish missionaries for this one.

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Photo by Catharine Cooper

Sticky monkey flower is blooming well into June due to late spring rains and overcast weather

The Sticky monkey flower, Diplacus aurantiacus, is in full bloom in our open spaces, wilderness parks and along the toll road. Its orange and yellow blooms are said to resemble a monkey’s face; I don’t see it myself. This low-water plant would like a sunny and well-draining location in your garden and will attract hummingbirds and bees.

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Courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

The Cleveland Sage is an important source of nourishment for coastal sage scrub pollinators

The fragrant, gray-green leaves of the Cleveland sage, Salvia clevelandii, are covered with purple flowers. This native to the coastal sage scrub can fill an entire garden with fragrance on a warm, summer afternoon, and attracts butterflies, bees and moths, as well as hummingbirds, which prefer its tubular flowers. Once established this sage rarely requires supplemental watering.

If you find yourself not enamored with overcast weather, consider the cool and refreshing air compared to the desert. June is a perfect time to take leisurely strolls along the shoreline or enjoy the tranquility of a walk in our wilderness parks. Enjoy the breaks in the clouds and allow the accompanying bursts of sunshine to brighten your day! See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani, a regular columnist with Stu News Laguna, has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at plantman2@mac.com or 949.494.5141.


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