Ann Wright: Garden tips for summer’s sizzle |

Ann Wright: Garden tips for summer’s sizzle

Ann Wright

As our Mediterranean climate launches into summer with hot, dry conditions, garden plants are more likely to become heat stressed. 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 5 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 boon to home 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, 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.

Observe the garden for pests, whether chewing leaves or taking down entire plants. Management of pests includes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which involves identifying the suspects, determining the degree of interference with desirable plants, and how to manage the pest. Following identification of the pest, ongoing assessment and prevention of future invasions are also essential to the process. To better help identify pests, observe what is happening with the plants in a given area. Are there visible insects chewing on leaves, or is there goo arising out of the bark of a tree? Observations will help target research as to what the pest is. Take a flashlight and look at night to see what lurks in the darkness! Online resources for pest management can be found on the UC Davis IPM website at:

Another garden task for summer is to deadhead annual and perennial plants. Deadheading is simply the practice of cutting dry or dead blooms off plants. Flowers should be removed when they fade, before they form seeds. There are a number of reasons to deadhead, most importantly, to enable plants to flower throughout the summer. Deadheading may also promote more attractive growth habits, and prevent reseeding where you don’t want reseeding to take place.

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The Nevada County Master Gardeners are still here to answer your home gardening questions – the formats are a bit restricted, but there are avenues to contact us. We are still live on Saturdays. The “Master Gardeners and Friends” radio show is active and open for call-in or text questions during the radio broadcast. The radio show is aired on KNCO 830 (am dial) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Our website has a “Got Questions” link through which you can email your question, and/or a photograph for Master Gardeners to answer. The website for more information is Check the website for other opportunities for gardening education. We hope to be open and seeing you all in person very soon!

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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