Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
August, 2007
Regional Report

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Lush tomato plants with lots of fruit need an inch of water a day.

Tired of Summer Yet?

Even though we've been blessed with temperatures mostly below 90 degrees, with only a few scorchers above 95 so far this summer, I'm getting really tired of having to endure the heat between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., and avoiding going outside except for short errands. On the other hand, I relish the excuse that I can't do anything in the garden till the sun goes over the hill to the southeast of us. This leaves me a good two hours in the evening when I can play in the garden in some comfort.

A couple of times a week, I must water the tomatoes and beets and squash, filling their basins and accompanying buried 5-gallon nursery containers to assure constant soil moisture. With full-sized tomato plants loaded with maturing fruits sucking up to an inch of water each day, it's imperative for me to be ever vigilant in providing sufficient water. This attentiveness gets old, especially during uncomfortably hot and humid evenings.

Replacing Soaker Hoses
A month ago I found that my soaker hoses, even though buried a good 2 inches deep to protect them from sun that bakes the rubber and makes them brittle, had sprouted leaks that kept the water from continuing down the whole length. Consequently, I've had to hand water all summer long, since the plants were already too well-established for me to dig around and replace the hoses. Not fun! This winter's task will require replacements instead of repairs. But I've gotten five to ten years out of some of those hoses, even with periodic repairs, so it's been an economic as well as watering boon.

Next Year's Tomato Plan
Because I have so many 5-gallon nursery containers, my idea for next year's tomato crop is to cut out the bottoms completely, bury the containers half deep in newly amended soil, and plant each tomato inside its own container. The new soaker hoses running beneath the center bottom of the container and down each side of the plants will provide slow, deep watering that will encourage roots to grow downward in search of moisture. And when the really hot weather comes, and the big plants wilt due to evaporation, the 4 to 6 inches of exposed nursery container sides will serve as a holding tank for additional water to go straight down to replenish the roots.

Each year's garden certainly does provide new challenges to solve for the next time around!

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