I felt a few drops of moisture hit my skin as I was walking the dog this morning. We San Diegans love our long cloudless sunny days, but I'm celebrating the gray skies above us today.
Native plants are happy too -- even without any measurable precipitation, the high humidity, cooler weather, and shorter days provide relief from the drought they go through each summer. Their little stomata can open up and get some of that sweet carbon dioxide without too much precious water rushing out into the atmosphere (aka evapotranspiration, or ET).
We're sure to have hot, dry, days in the next months, but these gray skies are a harbinger of great conditions for native plants ahead of us. Container plants grown with regular watering under shade cloth are always in for a bit of a shock when they're stuck into the ground. You can ease their transition by timing your planting to take advantage of seasonal conditions. Planting into saturated soil followed by careful irrigation will help your plants to establish, but they'll go from surviving to thriving faster if the atmosphere isn't sucking the moisture from their leaves.
Choosing the best time to plant is a balancing act. Over the summer, I've encouraged my clients to hold off until October to plant: even if we can't count on perfectly timed rains like last winter, five months of shorter days sets a limit on how much ET can occur. If this winter's rains follow the pattern of most recent years, it might be better to wait until December or January in hope of having a at least a couple months of good weather working for you.
Although you can't plan for it, the absolutely best time to plant is while it's raining -- a deluge might be miserable, but you can't beat a nice drizzle! In any case, the best time to start planning your new garden is right now.