Gardening Tips for the Summer

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Walk outside, take a deep breath. Smell that? It’s California…in the summertime we know so well. A mixture of sycamore and redwood trees, foxglove, dry dusty soil, dry grass, the BBQ or any number of key fragrances that tell you it’s summer. California boasts intense heat and bone chilling cold…sometimes in the same day! These conditions are brought on by prevailing winds, which can bring hot air in from the north or fog and cloud cover from the coast. It’s a wonderful assortment of conditions that can thrill or frustrate even the most skilled of gardeners.

By now, those of you who garden have tomatoes and maybe even began to produce those coveted sweet Sungold minis! All of the winter and early spring plants are done and in your compost pile. The peppers, corn, eggplant, tomatillos, squash, melons and basil are jockeying for space in your garden. This didn’t happen overnight. Indeed, this year it has taken an amazing amount of time to come around to the summer conditions we have been patiently waiting for. Cool mornings form the ocean speckled with sudden heat blasts have confused many a gardener and their plant companions. But we are here…summer, finally!

So, you are scurrying around, making mental notes of your garden needs. Water, fertilizer, pruning. When? How much? Suddenly, it feels hectic! Stop! Take a minute and look around you.

Gardening is a combination of art and science. Observation is a key element in both sides of the equation. Be a good looker! Take a relaxed look at your garden, your creation. What are the plants growth habits? What do they look like they need? How does the garden feel? It’s a good place to start and every bit as relevant to the success of your garden. See if there is yellowing going on in the leaves, nutrient deficiency or maybe too much water. Look for stunted growth which could be a clue to genetic issues or soil borne problems. The main thing is to keep looking! Let it stick in your head.

Now, take action! If the plants are crowding each other, mediate. Some judicious pruning will help them get direction. Make sure you learn where and when to prune. If they are climbers, be sure to provide something for them to crawl up before the first tendril goes exploring. At this time you can make decisions about how the garden will look in its glory!

Many people poo-poo the idea of going to Google or YouTube for answers or in-depth guidance about what to do on a particular problem or situation. Not to worry, use it! It’s often difficult to get immediate answers from your county extension team and you may not have the time to listen to old Farmer Jim down the street about how he cures his garden ills. In the investigation, you may stumble on other factors you may never have even thought of. Asking other gardeners is valuable, just be open to trying new techniques. I learned how to prune blackberries on YouTube last fall and voila, tons of blackberries this spring!

For the most part, gardening is a slow burning drama unfolding before your eyes. It’s a beautiful thing. Be observational, be diligent, be loving and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Start planning your fall garden and prepare for the next turn of the season. Here in California, we get to do this three times a year. Yippieee!

Some things to do this summer:

  • Mulch to conserve wate

  • Isolate trouble plants or get rid of them

  • Compost all your trimmings (except those that have problems)

  • Limit watering to early morning, or at night (keeping water off the leaves as much as possible)

  • Protect sensitive plants from sunburn (like basil)

  • Look up crop rotation schedules for the fall planting

  • Shop for your fall seeds

Here’s to hoping you have a fantastic summer gardening experience!

Submitted by: Dave Chappell
SFBFS Garden Coordinator