Ann Wright: Gardening tips for a sizzling summer |

Ann Wright: Gardening tips for a sizzling summer

Ann Wright
Master Gardener Ann Wright suggests planting Dahlias for some summer color in your garden.
Photo by Ann Wright

As June rounds into July our Mediterranean climate launches into full-on summer with hot, dry conditions. Garden plants are more likely to become heat stressed, so this is a good time to check to see if irrigation sources are delivering adequate water to plants.

Newly planted trees, shrubs and ornamentals can take a while to adapt to new locations and may need extra watering as roots grow — water when the top three to four inches of soil is dry. Water until the soil is moist to a depth of eight to 10 inches, which can be checked by inserting a long screw driver or piece of rebar into the soil to about 12 inches. If moist soil is found on the device, water is seeping deep enough to feed roots.

The watering schedule for established trees will depend on the age of the tree. In general, a mature tree will benefit from a low-flow system (such as drip irrigation system with emitters) for 12 to 24 hours every 21 to 30 days, depending on the weather and species of tree. Water just inside the drip line of the tree (the area of the leafy canopy) to about five feet beyond the widest limbs where most of the feeder roots grow. Never let water settle near the trunk of a tree.

Adding mulch is a great benefit to gardens. Mulching is simply the process of covering the soil around plants with organic (straw, wood chips or bark for example) or synthetic material. Mulching helps protect roots from high temperatures, helps reduce loss of soil moisture and suppresses weed growth.

Weeds compete with garden plants and trees for water. Mulches can also help reduce soil compaction and erosion.

One essential rule to using mulch is to pull mulch material away from the base of the tree or stem of the plant. Piling mulch against the base of plants causes moisture to build up which may contribute to root and crown rot.

Additionally, some rodents and insects may hide in mulch cover while they chew on trees and shrubs. Keep mulch at least three inches from the base of the plant.

Other garden tips for sizzling summer:

For late summer and early fall color, plant ageratums, dahlias, marigolds, petunias, zinnias or salvias. But no matter how tempting it is, try to wait to plant perennial trees and shrubs until fall when rains are predicted to start.

If irresistible plants are purchased in the summer, plant in appropriate established beds and be vigilant in watering them. Or, consider finding a shady spot to keep them in the pot until fall — but check daily and water them as needed.

Small pots may need water daily during hottest spells.

Sow seeds of warm-season annuals between existing blooming plants.

Plant warm season vegetables such as beets, carrots, corn and summer squash for late summer and fall harvest. Broccoli and cauliflower seeds can be started now for planting a fall/winter garden.

Now is a good time to sit in the garden evaluating the plants — what is growing well, and what isn’t? Observe and plan for fall.

Deadhead annuals and perennials to encourage more flowering.

The Nevada County Master Gardeners will be taking a break from workshops in July to prepare for upcoming August activities. In the meantime, Master Gardeners can be found each Saturday at the Grower’s Market at the North Star House in Grass Valley from 8 a.m. to noon, as well as at the office at the Vet’s Hall (255 South Auburn Street in Grass Valley) from 9 a.m. to noon each Tuesday and Thursday.

And, listen to us on the radio, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on KNCO AM 830 for Master Gardener and Friends — call in with home gardening questions.

For more information visit or call the hotline at 530-273-0919.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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