Be a Smart Summer Gardener
Long hot summer days are perfect for lounging in the garden, but not for working in it. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around general warm weather garden maintenance. But, smart gardeners know how to make garden chores easier, leaving time to relax and enjoy literally the fruits of their labor.
Watering is one of the most important garden chores and is critical to your garden during these hot days. Our current water shortage is also critical, and it’s important to conserve as much water as possible.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to get the most out of your watering is to water early in the morning, preferably before sunrise. This will reduce evaporation and wind interference and will also help prevent fungus and mildew from forming on your plants, by leaving them time to dry out.
Watering in the evening means the plants don’t get a chance to dry out and the water just sits on them, providing an inviting home for these nasty organisms.
Other water conservation tips:
- Water your garden plants more deeply and less frequently, rather than watering shallow and more often.
- Use soaker hoses and other “tricklers” which help release water slowly so it’s absorbed into the soil to keep roots well-supplied.
- Control weeds to make sure they aren’t competing for water, light, and nutrients.
- Fertilize moderately by applying the low end of recommended rates. This will help to avoid excessive growth, which increases the need for water.
- Check your sprinkler system for leaks, over spray, and broken sprinkler heads and making necessary repairs to ensure even distribution and avoid water loss.
Another simple water conservation tip is to mulch. Mulching reduces evaporation. You can save both water and time by watering less. In addition, mulching helps reduce weed growth, moderate soil temperatures, keep the soil evenly moist, and enrich soil nutrition as the mulch decomposes.
Apply a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch around shrubs and trees, and in your garden beds. Make sure the mulch you are using is weed free, such as pine bark, hay, or rice hulls to make sure you really do keep your weeding to a minimum.
Another great time saving tip is to sow your seed for your fall garden. August is a great time to start seeds because hot weather makes them germinate more quickly, giving you a head start on fall planting. You can sow them in peat pots or packs, or even directly in the ground.
Cool season flowers to sow include calendula (winter or pot marigold), coral bells (heuchera), coreopsis (pot of gold), cosmos, gloriosa daisy (rudbeckia, coneflower, black-eyed-susan), dahlias, delphiniums, dianthus (sweet William, pinks), forget-me-nots, gerberas (Transvaal daisy), hollyhocks, impatiens, larkspur, linarias, lobelia, nasturtiums, nemesias, pansies, petunias, phlox, poppies, snapdragons, stock, sweet peas, violas, and zinnias.
Cool season vegetables to sow include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, radish, and spinach.
Until the seeds germinate, make sure to keep seedbeds or flats moist and shaded during the hottest part of the day.
Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.