Gardens are in full swing now, after the recent summer solstice. The calendar is telling us its time to focus on watering, deadheading, fertilizing and new plantings.
A plants water needs depend on many factors including how deeply rooted the plant is, plant species, soil type and age of the plant. There are three general categories of water recommendations based on plant type suggested in the UCANR Master Gardener Handbook.
Leafy vegetable and bedding plants need 6 to 12 inches of water to be successful.
Small shrubs, cool-season turfgrass, corn and tomatoes need 12 to 24 inches of water.
Large shrubs, trees and warm season turfgrass need 1.5 to 5 feet of water, again depending on the specific species.
How often you water will depend on the amount of moisture your plants lose through transpiration and evaporation form the soil. You can test the soil with a moisture meter or just dig into the soil half an inch to see if the soil is damp before watering. And remember, its always best to water during the early morning hours. Watering at the end of the day encourages pests and the development of fungal disease.
More irrigation tips are available on the UCCE of San Luis Obispo website: http://cesanluisobispo.ucanr.edu/Drought_Information/Vegetable_Gardens.
Maintaining good sanitation in the garden is very important.
Deadheading (removing spent flowers) encourages new production on both your flowers and vegetables.
Be diligent in removing any dropped fruit. Unfortunately, dropped fruit will not transform itself into usable compost. Instead, it will provide insect and vertebrate pests (such as squirrels, gophers, etc.) with a tasty food source.
Additionally, any leaves or flowers from plants with disease or pest problems should be bagged and removed from the garden to prevent the spread of that pest or disease. Clean leaf litter works as an effective and inexpensive mulch.
Just like watering, fertilizer should be applied according to the specific plants needs to avoid waste and unnecessary leaching. Take a little time to familiarize yourself with the basics of fertilizer. Answers to some common questions can be found on the UC California Garden website: http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/Vegetables/?uid=26&ds=462
Many plants may be started in July, so consider switching out the old and replace bolted lettuce with plants such as artichoke, cauliflower, squash, celery, watermelon, pumpkins, cantaloupes and parsnip. Then, after the day cools down, sit outside and enjoy our lovely evenings along the Central Coast.
GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?
Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email email@example.com .