It’s Getting Hot Out There!
When in need, prepare for the heat! • By Model Gardener Kelly Emberg
During July and August, you can say adios to all your hard work and precious plants if something happens to their water supply! For a healthy, thriving garden, no matter what you are growing, the most important thing to do in the hot summer months, is to keep an eye on your irrigation system. Check sprinklers often, water potted plants daily, mulch and irrigate deeply & efficiently!
How many times have you seen a stream running down the street or water blowing away in the wind? Well that’s a sign that you need to pay attention and fix something!
• If nozzles are spraying too far, sometimes installing a pressure valve works or you could swap them out for a more efficient kind.
• Monitoring your irrigation system weekly will save your plants and your water bill. Check to see if something is broken and fix it right away.
• Change out your sprinkler heads. Hunter is a great manufacturer of high-efficiency Nozzles that will spray short or long distances and are compatible with most conventional spray head bodies or shrub adapters. Hunters MP Rotator Series will save you money and water. Many municipalities and local water districts provide incentives for using water-efficient products.
• For maximum absorption and to reduce evaporation, set sprinklers to come on early in the morning, around 4 AM when the wind is still. Apply water slowly so it’s absorbed by the soil rather than running off.
• Many bacterial and fungal diseases rely on wet foliage for reproduction and to spread. If you water at night, foliage remains wet for that perfect environment so avoid watering after the sun goes down.
• Moist soil also creates a perfect environment for snails to multiply as well as a slippery path to lead them to your veggie garden. Watering early mornings will allow the soil to dry by nightfall and will cut down the damage caused by diseases, slugs and snails.
• Irrigate your garden long enough for water to reach the roots 6 to 12 inches deep. You can actually dig a hole beside the plant and see how deep the water penetrated. After deep watering make sure the soil dries out, an inch or two down, a little before you water again. Overwatering can encourage root rot and disease.
• Watering deep and infrequent as you can, will encourage roots to grow deep where it is cool and stays moist.
• Install a drip system. It is best to apply water directly to the soil around plants, especially in your veggie garden. Less water is lost to evaporation and most plants don’t want water on their leaves anyway. Foliage stays dry, minimizing disease problems.
• Sometimes an overhead shower is called for. During dry, windy weather a fine layer of dust can build up on leaves, reducing the plants’ ability to photosynthesize efficiently.
• Aphids & spider mites can be kept in check by simply hosing down the infected plant.
When temperatures surge, so does your water bill. The objective is to use the least amount of water you can without compromising the plant. Mulching is a long established horticultural practice that can save time and money. Mulch is a protective ground cover that reduces evaporation of soil moisture loss up to 70%. It helps to maintain uniform soil temperatures, reduces soil erosion, control weeds, enrich soil, and makes your garden look good too!
• There are different types of organic mulches such as straw, compost, leaves, pine needles, grass clippings and barks.
• For vegetable gardens pick a mulch that will allow the water to penetrate through the mulch or put the drip hose underneath.
• Keep mulch at least one inch away from the plant stem to avoid rot and fungus problems.
• If you use grass clippings make sure they are sun-dried for a day or so. Don’t use clippings from lawns treated with herbicides or toxic pest controls.
• Use only leaves that have been aged at least nine months. This allows the growth-inhibiting phenols to be leached out.
• It is always good to apply a nitrogen-based, organic fertilizer under your mulch because your mulch can rob the soil of nitrogen as it is decomposing.
Wilting is a sign that the leaves aren’t getting enough moisture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your soil is dry. The first plan of action is to identify the cause!
• Some plants simply can’t take up water fast enough on really hot days, so they temporarily wilt. If the soil is moist, wait until it cools off and see if your plants perk up. It could take all night for it to consume enough moisture.
• Sometimes wilted, heat-stressed plants with moist roots can benefit from a cooling shower.
• Overly saturated soil can make it harder for plant roots to absorb water causing them to wilt, because they do not have the oxygen they need for absorption.
• Excess water near a plant’s root collar can also cause diseases, such as root rot. Root rot and other fungal diseases encouraged by a wet environment can also cause wilting.
We forget that our potted plants solely depend on us to survive the summer heat!
• It is a good practice to water twice a day when it’s really hot. Let the water run out of the bottom of the pot to keep harmful salts from accumulating.
• Frequent irrigation will flush out nutrients, so when it’s hot make sure you fertilize often to encourage growth.
• Don’t forget your potted plants when you go on that summer vacation! Make sure someone waters them. Put them in the shade preventing them from drying out too fast.
WATERING YOUR TOMATOES
By now you should be enjoying juicy, ripe tomatoes, but if you haven’t started yet, it isn’t too late! Don’t start from seed if you are planting them now or you will miss out on the harvest. It takes around six to eight weeks to grow tomatoes from seed to seedlings. Instead, buy a plant from your local nursery. Watering changes the flavor, appearance and the health of your tomato plant so make sure you understand its needs!
• Don’t over water tomatoes. Too much brings on excessive growth and little fruit.
• Tomato plants like to be watered deeply, a foot or more into the ground, and less frequent encouraging the roots to grow deep.
• Overwatering a tomato plant too often can cause disease and root rot.
• Once a tomato is ripe, the outside is pretty much done growing, but the inside is still going to take in some of that water. Overwatering can cause the skin to give way and crack.
• If you want to put a tomato plant in a container, make sure your container is really large. Choose a determinant variety because they don’t get as large and make sure you stake it appropriately. Your plant will need to be fed often and watered daily since they are such aggressive feeders and water hounds.
Summer is a time where you can’t fall asleep at the switch in the garden. If you do, you won’t be able to reap the bounty and you’ll be cursing yourself when you get your water bill!
…so when in need, don’t forget to prepare for the heat!
Enjoy your harvest! My best,
Kelly Emberg, your model gardener
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