Keeping your garden and lawn properly hydrated during the dry summer months in Southern California can be a challenge, but simple watering and planting tips will enable your plants to thrive in July and beyond.
Know When to Water: Watering while the sun is up means some water will be lost to evaporation. When using automatic watering programs, set watering for morning--ideally between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. By watering in the morning instead of night, you will reduce the chance of mildew and other diseases from occurring.
Tricks to Conserve Water: Ideally, use drip irrigation, soaker hoses or other water-conserving methods in vegetable and flower gardens. Besides heat levels, low humidity, extra sunny days and wind can cause plants to need more extra water. Soil type also plays a role--clay soil retains moisture while water slips through sandy soil. A layer of mulch around (but not touching) plants keeps the ground cooler and allows it to better retain moisture. Generally, gardens should receive about two to three inches of water a week. When watering, deeply soak each plant. That way, roots will learn to grow deep within the soil. Light watering encourages roots to remain near the surface where one good heat spell could mean disaster for the plant. If plant leaves are sagging in the morning, water immediately. If they sag in the afternoon--don't worry. This is a natural occurrence even for well-watered plants.
Deep Water Your Lawn: A lawn doesn’t need to be watered every day. Instead, deep water your lawn every three days for 20 minutes per day. This should keep the roots moist at a depth of six to eight inches. Consider using a water probe to gauge moisture to help determine the best watering schedule.
Increase Crop Production: To keep vegetable plants producing for the next month or more, don't let vegetables remain on the plant past picking time. Pick them even if you don't plan to use them immediately. Vegetables that remain unpicked past their prime send a signal to the plant that inhibits further blossoming. July is when plants are heavily producing vegetables. You may want to check plants every day for ripened vegetables especially fast-growing beans, cucumbers, eggplants, squashes and tomatoes.
Keep Herbs From Going to Seed: Just like any plant, herbs want to seed in summer. Pinch any sign of flowers immediately from herbs such as basil and cilantro. This will keep leaves soft and prevent a strong or bitter taste.
Stagger Your Garden Flowers: Stop by your local nursery and stock up on annuals such as marigolds, petunias, zinnias, impatiens, cosmos, California poppy, chrysanthemum, flax, snapdragon and sunflowers for a full summer blooming season. Remove dead flowers immediately to ensure constant blooming during summer. Intersperse the garden with summer-to-fall bloomers like African daisies, alyssum, red sage, verbena, vinca and poppies to ensure a full garden into October or later. Check with your nursery to find out what grows best in your area.