Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

June, 2004
Regional Report

Local Buzz

Summer Watering
Water the garden deeply every week or two, depending on how consistently hot the weather has been and whether plant roots have grown deep into the soil. Tomatoes and other large plants in clay loam soil use about 1 foot of water in three days of hot, dry weather. Some wilting of foliage at the end of a hot, dry day is to be expected, but wilting through to the following morning indicates the immediate need for a deep watering for the roots and a gentle sprinkling of the foliage. Refrain from overhead watering when the evenings remain warm, especially when leaves can't dry off by sunset. Fungal diseases thrive when air temperatures remain between 70 and 90 degrees, and they need only 2 to 4 hours of moist, warm conditions to develop.

Build donut-shaped water basins around trees and plants. Start the inner wall of the basin about 2 inches from the plant stem, or a foot away from a tree trunk. Form the outer wall of the basin just beyond the plant's or tree's dripline. Fill the area between the two walls with irrigation water. The walls allow it to soak in slowly and deeply. Keeping the water away from the stem or trunk prevents rotting from too much moisture at the base. Also, keep mulch the same distance away from the stem or trunk to allow sufficient air circulation for the roots.

Keep adding to mulches throughout the summer to conserve water, keep roots cool, and foil weeds. Remember to water well before applying the mulch, or you'll insulate dry soil rather than moist soil. Pile mulch 2 to 6 inches deep under shrubs, trees, vines, flowers, and vegetable beds. Let grass clippings dry out a bit before piling them (or just spread them thinly), or they'll clump into a mat that's impervious to later watering.

Favorite or New Plant

Summer Roses
What would a summer be without bouquets of roses! No matter what type you grow, they need routine care to look and flower their best. Lightly prune, feed, and water roses on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to encourage them to flower continuously into the late fall. Trim faded blooms down to the first five-part leaf or further to gently shape the plant. New blooms will appear in about three weeks. This gentle pruning to shape the plant also strengthens the lower canes and root system.

Cut roses last longer when cut late in the day, unlike other blooms, which last longer when cut early in the morning. Those cut after 4:30 p.m. will last up to ten hours longer than those cut at approximately 8 a.m. The sugar that the leaves manufacture and store during the day remains in the leaves, nourishing the blooms. In flowers cut early in the morning, those sugars have traveled to the stem and roots during the night, so there's little left in the leaves to feed the blooms.

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