In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2006
Regional Report

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Water is our most precious commodity. Water wisely and enjoy the summer!

Wise Watering

Golden hills, foggy mornings, and bright afternoons filled with the squawk of scrub jays and the chatter of starlings. It's California at its best -- at least for the moment. It seems that every season is my favorite here in the Bay Area. And when I start getting weary of seeing nothing but brown, dry hills, the rains begin. Let it be known, summer is upon us!

Summer means watering, at least if you are a gardener. Personally, it's one of my favorite chores. I remember standing with a hose, watering the nursery at Sunset Magazine, when a hummingbird came right up to my hand to take advantage of the mist created by the water. He flashed his red head to let me know he was a dangerous adversary, and then continued with his bath, only inches from my hand. I stood motionless, in awe of the event taking place. The plant I had been watering got thoroughly soaked, while the hummer took his own sweet time with his ablutions.

Soften the Flow
Watering is our most precious commodity -- the foundation of life -- yet I see so many people doing it incorrectly. The most common mistake I see people make when watering is not using some kind of a hose-end nozzle. The only time you would ever water without a hose-end nozzle is if you were deep watering a tree or a shrub. In that case you would allow the water to trickle out of the hose onto the ground near the base of the plant.

If the water pressure is too strong, it will wash the soil away from around the rootball. Seeing people watering with those darned gun-type nozzles drives me to drink! The only time you should use one is when you are washing your car. I see people all the time giving their poor plants a jet-blast from a gun nozzle, and then they wonder why their garden is looking ragged. And please, for heaven's sake, sweep your walkways instead of washing them down with the gun nozzle. You'll get more exercise and save water for those of us who won't waste it.

Water Soil, Not Foliage
Splashing water everywhere is another common mistake I see. Plants -- especially natives -- need water at the roots, not on the foliage. Watering overhead may encourage fungus disease, unless you water in the very early morning.

Improper timing is yet another common mistake. Running sprinklers full blast in the heat of the day, or in the afternoon when the wind is blowing, is just a waste of water. Summer watering is best done in the early morning.

I like to use a fan nozzle, or better yet, a watering wand with shower head and a shutoff valve at the handle, especially for potted plants and bedding annuals. Even perennials benefit from having a gentle stream of water delivered directly to the root zone.

Submerge Indoor Containers
If you have indoor plants, submerge them in a deep container filled with tepid water amended with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer. This method works much better than trying to judge how much water to apply before it runs over the top of the saucer.

So, while summer is here, use water judiciously but enjoy the life it brings!


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