In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2003
Regional Report

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Shredded paper makes an effective mulch for strawberries and other plants in the garden.


Maintain a good mulch of organic matter covering garden soil throughout the summer. This prevents crusting and cracking of the soil surface, holds in moisture, encourages earthworms, moderates soil temperatures for optimum root growth, improves the soil as it decomposes, and prevents weeds from germinating. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch decreases evaporation from the soil by 70 percent or more, allowing you to water less often (but still deeply). Keep mulch several inches away from tree trunks and plant stems, however, for good air circulation.

Watering patterns you begin now will help or hinder your plants' abilities to thrive -- not just survive -- during the extended heat of summer. When seedlings are transplanted, change to a less-frequent and deeper watering pattern to encourage roots to grow deeply into the soil for moisture rather than spread just below the soil surface. During hot, dry spells, these deeper roots will have access to moisture for continued strong growth, but the shallow roots won't. This watering pattern also will save you time and irrigation water, since the water will sink deeper and evaporate less. Build soil basins around large plants and trees to prevent runoff until it's absorbed.

When transplanting seedlings or larger plants, apply a mild solution of a balanced fertilizer, such as 16-16-16, or one that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous and potassium, such as 5-10-10. This gives the plant a complete supply of the nutrients it needs for sturdy growth. A heavy application of nitrogen, such as 16-5-5, at planting time will encourage too much green growth too soon and result in lower yields later. Feed plants again six weeks after transplanting, and again when the first fruit and vegetable blossoms open, to encourage continued strong growth and plentiful fruit set.

While some manure is good for your garden, a lot is not necessarily better, especially if it's chicken manure and the weather is hot. Excessive levels of salt and ammonia in the manure may burn seedlings and reduce yields, if not kill the plants. The salt remaining in the soil may limit your choices for future crops.

Continue pulling weeds before they form flowerheads or scatter their seeds, and you'll have fewer weed problems later. Watering the day before weeding will ease the chore, and weeds' entire root systems will come out more readily. If you leave pulled weeds in garden pathways for dry mulch, be sure to leave them with their roots up so they don't reroot. But don't leave weeds that have already developed their seedheads -- some seeds may mature and germinate next year. You don't want your weeds to recycle themselves!

Attracting Pollinators
Encourage bees to visit your garden for better pollination. They'll come more readily if you provide them with their favorite plants, which include basil, borage, calendulas, catnip, hyssop, lemon balm, mint, summer savory, thyme, and plants with blue flowers.

To attract butterflies to your garden, plant asters, lantanas, buddleias (butterfly bush), marigolds, sweet Williams, tithonias (Mexican sunflowers), zinnias, and other daisy-like flowers.

If you like to provide birds with nesting materials, the Aububon Society recommends staying away from fabric, yarn, and similar materials that hold moisture and can increase the danger of respiratory diseases among baby birds. Instead, provide straw, hair, and other non-absorbent materials.

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