Hot, Hot Heat

Keeping Alive Your Summer Garden

by Virginia Hayes

The summer equinox has just passed, but the sun is still high in
the sky. That means long days filled with light and heat to
stimulate maximum growth in plants. The third limiting element is
water, and nature is not providing any of that (with the exception
of those foggy mornings), so it is up to us to make sure the garden
has what it needs to thrive. Here are some tips on watering to

Deep-rooted plants (such as trees), drought-tolerant natives,
and other Mediterranean varieties need a deep soak once a month
through the summer. Use soaker hoses covering the area of the drip
zone, sprinklers, or drip irrigation that deliver a small amount of
water during a longer period. The idea is to let the water travel
down to the deep regions of the soil before it starts to puddle at
the surface. Micro-sprinklers can run under fruit trees overnight,
for example.

Other shrubs and perennials will need water once or twice a
week. This includes turfgrass, too. Sometimes, however, especially
if the soil in your lawn is particularly compacted, you may need to
break the watering schedule up into two or three segments of
shorter duration. This will allow the water to soak in gradually
instead of running off as soon as the surface is wetted.

If you’ve just planted seeds or seedlings, water them lightly
whenever the surface of the soil seems dry. After two weeks they
should have established better root systems and you can switch to a
regular schedule to foster deeper root growth. If the weather turns
very hot or windy just after you sow, you can protect young plants
with row covers or shade them with temporary hats of folded

Container plants may need daily checking, especially small
porous ceramic ones. Larger pots can last several days between
waterings, but keep your eye on them, too. If you cluster several
pots together, they will partially shade each other and retain
their soil moisture longer. The one good rule to judge your
garden’s watering needs is to monitor soil moisture carefully no
matter what is planted and what the soil type may be.

July Tips

• Harvest vegetables and pick ornamental flowers regularly to
promote more flowering and fruiting.

• Watch for caterpillars: tomato hornworm, geranium budworm, and
cabbage worm are the most common. Pick off or dust plants with
non-toxic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Be aware that Bt is deadly
to all moths and butterflies.

• Maintain mulch layers at 4-6 inches through the warm, dry
summer months.

• Divide bearded iris now. Cut tops back by one half and replant
immediately. Daylilies and agapanthus may also be divided now.

Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer
your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent,
122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to


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