Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

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

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Iris, watsonia, and sweet peas thrive without much fertilizer.

Hot Weather Watering and Fertilizing

Watering and fertilizing patterns you begin now will help or hinder your plants' abilities to thrive -- not just survive -- during the extended heat of summer.

When germinating seeds, water the beds or flats several times a day until the plants are up, and then at least once a day until the second set of true leaves develops. "True" leaves look like miniature versions of mature leaves. No fertilizer is needed because most seed-starting and potting mixes contain a small amount.

Watering Tips
After you transplant your seedlings, 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 water, since the water will sink deeper and less will evaporate.

Avoid overhead irrigation so late in the day that foliage cannot dry completely before sunset. Fungal and bacterial diseases thrive in warm, moist conditions and can develop overnight.

Don't Overdo It
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 phosphorus and potassium, such as 5-10-10. This gives the plants a complete supply of the nutrients they need 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.

When preparing the soil in your growing beds, be aware of the salt content. 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 can burn seedlings and reduce yields, if not kill the plants, and the salt level of the soil may limit your choices for future crops.

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