Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2011
Regional Report

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Tomato cages get winter duty as sweet pea trellises

Summer Success For Edibles

For greater success in the edible garden during the hot weather to come, employ these three techniques: grow up into the air, water more effectively, and enable the soil to better support plant growth.

Use Trellises
Trellises provide support for greater fruit production per square foot of soil and for longer periods. Growth is encouraged to go up rather than sprawl on the ground, exposing more leaf area to sunlight for more photosynthesis, and more air circulation for less fruit rot or attack from soil-borne diseases or insects. Trellised vines can provide shade for a porch, patio, or wall. Crops grown on a trellis are easier to pick and stay cleaner. Some vines need more guidance and anchoring onto the trellis than others. Netting, rags, or old nylon pantyhose can help, especially with heavy fruits like melons or winter squash. If left unsupported, their weight will drag the vines down from the trellis.

Water Deeply But Less Frequently
After seedlings are transplanted, a less frequent and deeper watering pattern will 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 will also save you time and irrigation water since the water will sink deeper and evaporate less. Build soil basins around large plants and trees to hold water in place until it's absorbed. And keep a 4-inch layer of mulch on top so less water evaporates.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch!
Maintain a thick mulch of organic matter covering garden soil throughout the summer. This prevents crusting and cracking of the soil surface, holds in moisture, encourages earthworms, moderates soil temperatures for optimum root growth, improves the soil as it decomposes, deters weeds from germinating, and enables easy picking of weeds that do get a start. A 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch decreases evaporation from the soil by 70 percent or more, allowing you to water less often (but still deeply). Keep mulch several inches away from tree trunks and plant stems, however, for good air circulation.

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