June 2006

Are you ready for our typical summer draught? If you want to have a healthy, pest free garden, take good care to keep your soil moist. How much water you may ask? Depends on your soil type and how hot and windy the weather is.

If you have a sandy soil, this means watering several times a week. Sand allows the water to pass through quickly and can take important plant nutrients with it. If you have a high percentage of clay in your soil, you must not let your soil become excessively dry. The clay in your soil will actually repel water once it gets too dry. So, water clay soil slowly and deeply. The best way to know how much to water is to dig down into your soil and check it. Your soil should be damp just below the surface. Don’t let it dry out more than an inch or two below the surface.

If your soil dries out, your plants will be more susceptible to diseases and pests like aphids, powdery mildew, thrips, etc. I recommend laying down drip hoses now and regularly soaking the root zones of your crops. Drip hoses keep the water at the roots and off the leaves. This conserves water by reducing evaporation. Many plants, such as tomatoes, beans, squash and basil hate water on their leaves. It is okay to allow some water on peas and brassicas (choy, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) but they still do well with soaker hoses.

Another way the keep soil moist is mulching. Mulch is like compost though it may not be fully decomposed into a crumbly, soil like substance. Every summer add 3 or 4 inches of mulch around the base of your plants. There are different kinds of mulches, but I will usually go for the cheapest and most available. Some people use dry grass clippings or decomposed leaves. Usually I mix these two together, water them and let them compost for a couple months before I mulch with them. It is OK to cover your drip irrigation with the mulch, but then be careful you don’t forget about it and chop your hose with a shovel or a hoe. Repairing drip irrigation hoses can be time consuming and really irritating.

Remember to sow lettuce every two weeks for a continuous crop to enjoy your summer salads. Choose a more shaded spot to plant lettuce for the hottest months (July and August). Try the black seeded simpson lettuce or celtice which tolerate hotter weather. New Zealand spinach (not a true spinach)is another lettuce alternative that tolerates hot weather. It is delicious fresh in salads as well as steamed or stir fried as a spinach alternative.

June is a good time to plant your beans, if you haven’t done so already. There are so many types. I enjoy the haricot vert, which are a long, thin, tender bean with a nice crunch. Out favorite way to eat these is by lightly coating them with olive oil and a pinch or two of salt and then roasting them in a hot oven (450 degrees) for 10 minutes. They also make a great bean salad if you blanche them and then marinate in your favorite vinaigrette. All the wonderful produce in our area provides the best summer cuisine. I can’t wait.

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