In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2006
Regional Report

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Tire Art holds mulch and keeps tomatoes well watered all summer long.

Summer Watering

In our climate summer watering is crucial, and we can make the job easier by maximizing the benefit of the water we apply. Here are some strategies that can keep your plants thriving in the heat.

Deep Watering
To get the roots growing deeply into the soil where they can find moisture even when the soil surface is dry, deep watering is essential. 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, corn, 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 if plants are still wilted the following morning, that's an indication that the roots need deep watering and the foliage needs a gentle sprinkling to staunch the escape of moisture through evaporation.

Limit Overhead Watering
When evenings remain warm, refrain from overhead watering, 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 two to four hours of moist, warm conditions to develop.

Catch Basins
To collect water, build donut-shaped water basins around trees and other 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 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 rot 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.

Conserving Water in Soil
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 vegetables. 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.


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