Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

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

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"Planting" a plastic bucket along with transplants will enable deep watering all summer long.

Teach Plants to Drink Deeply

Teaching plant roots to grow deeply for water will lessen their irrigation needs during hot weather. Make sure that irrigation drip lines, soaker hoses, sprinklers, and trenches are in place before root systems get too large. That means now, before you get too many new transplants settled in.

The weather and the texture of your soil will determine how much water your garden needs. Heavy clay soils require less irrigation than sandy loam soils. During periods of long, hot weather, plants need more frequent and longer irrigation than during periods with more moderate temperatures. Irrigation that keeps the soil soggy will increase root rot problems.

No matter what kind of weather and soil Mother Nature hands you, using mulch -- especially organic matter such as leaves or grass clippings -- will temper the drying and heating effect of the sun. Your irrigation will be more efficient since less of the water will be lost to evaporation.

Handy Watering Aids
Here are three ways to use recycled items to help your plants drink deeply.

Plastic gallon jugs: With their bottoms cut out, these jugs can be buried neck-down into the soil, just up to their rims. They'll become funnels for irrigation and liquid fertilization. With a shovelful of manure or compost, they'll feed every time you fill them with water. The opening at the bottom will release the water a foot deep, keeping roots happy all summer long.

Two-liter plastic soda bottles: Punch two small holes into the metal screw-on cap. Remove the hard plastic base, cut off the rounded bottom of the bottle, and replace the base as a cap. Sink the bottle upside down into the soil, and firm it around the bottle to hold it in place. Remove the base (now the top) to fill the bottle with water or fertilizer solution, and replace it to retard evaporation.

Gallon- or larger-sized containers: Punch holes in the lower halves and bottoms. Sink them to their rims between plants or seedlings. Irrigation and fertilizer solutions can be poured into these containers to gently seep into the soil a foot or more deep. Plant roots will grow down in search of this nutrition and consistent moisture, and these deep roots will support the plant well during longer periods of hot weather that may kill plants with more shallow root systems.

The 5-gallon and larger sizes can be used in the holes dug for hills of melons, squash, etc., since the container prevents the hole from filling up with soil with each watering.

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