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Summer Garden Tips for Southern California
Your summer garden should be giving you more produce than you can eat, but growing in the summer can be challenging. The weather in summer gardens in some areas of Southern California can be unforgiving with heat and hot, dry winds. With global temperatures rising, we must focus on the things we can do to minimize water waste and keep our plants healthy, happy, and producing throughout the summer.
Pro Tips for Your Summer Garden
Our number one recommendation for new gardeners growing a summer garden is to add mulch or compost to retain moisture in the soil. Healthy, well-balanced soil will hold more moisture than soil that lacks organic matter. Throughout the winter, your goal should be to add as much organic matter (compost) to the garden so that it can break down and work like a sponge in the garden during the summer. If you slacked on that this past winter, don’t worry, there are other things you can do. You can add straw (not hay) to your garden to work as mulch. Straw can be pulled back and moved to the compost pile in the winter. Mulch or compost will keep the soil moist and cool during our hot days in the summer garden.
Knowing How Often to Water Your Summer Garden
Knowing how often to water your garden is something that takes time and observation to figure out. The watering rates in your garden can vary vastly from our garden, depending on soil structure, shade, and other factors. Here are some summer garden tips on how to water correctly:
- Water deeply, infrequently, and early in the morning. Watering in a manner that allows the moisture to go deep in the soil will prevent it from drying out too quickly. What this means is watering by drip irrigation or letting your hose saturate the veggie garden.
- To do this, place the hose on the soil in the garden and let it slowly drip into the ground. Watering in this manner also prevents water runoff and waste. By watering in the morning, you will avoid excessive evaporation from the sun’s harsh rays.
Keep Your Garden Cool
There are many ways to reduce the temperature in your garden by a few degrees and significantly help your plants. One way is to pull back on pruning so that the plant’s leaves can shade the ground and protect fruits from sunscald.
Pro-Tip: whenever you are pruning tomatoes or any plant, use sharp, clean pruners for the best results. Dull blades will damage plants. Tired of dull blades on your pruners? Get high-quality pruners with blades you can sharpen like our Corona 1″ Pruners.
Allow for a bit more foliage growth on your tomatoes. If you follow any of our advice, you know we advise that growers prune tomatoes for maximum efficiency. As the days get hotter, you can begin to pull back on your pruning, allowing the plant to shade itself and its fruit from sunscald.
Use Shade Cloth
Invest in shade cloth. Shade cloth is an excellent investment in your garden. Shade cloth extends your growing season and keeps soil cooler. You can shade your tender transplants or give delicate crops a break from the harsh sun. Keep in mind shade cloth comes in a range of UV protection, and 40-50% is ideal for vegetable production.
Fertilizing your Summer Garden
On our farm, at every season change, we add a bit of fertilizer to put back what we took out during the growing season. If you did not add any nutrients to your garden this spring, consider using the following products.
Great Big Tomatoes Compost Tea does so much more than add nutrients to your soil. This product adds essential microbiology to containers, raised beds, and in-ground gardens for happy plants. It helps grow the fungal and bacterial links in soil that are naturally missing, particularly when using bagged soil products. We loved the results from this compost tea so much that we now use it whenever we grow tomatoes, whether in the ground or a container! It works great for peppers too! The idea is simple. Great Big Tomatoes Compost Tea works in the same way that we use probiotics for healthy digestive microbiology. It helps soil thrive with all the organisms we can’t see while making nutrients bioavailable to plants.
Fish Emulsion, a somewhat stinky but oh-so-effective fertilizer, is our go-to in the garden for a host of reasons. We like that it derives from a natural byproduct of the fish industry and helps to use commercial bi-products that would otherwise be wasted. This product is not mined or taken from environmentally fragile areas. Additionally, fish emulsion is very mild, will not burn your plant, and is absorbed by the leaves and roots. This means you can be a bit willy-nilly with applying the fertilizer without concern for burning your plants.
Organic granular fertilizer is essential for adding nutrients back into the soil stripped from gardening over time. We like to use organic fertilizer because it breaks down slowly, will not burn plants, and is less likely to be washed away. We apply granular fertilizers between growing seasons on our farm to replenish what we have taken out.