Growing Chilies (Hot Peppers)
In the Garden
Food Gardening with Less Water
Chipped Branch Wood (CBW)
by Master Gardeners Tommie Smith and Bernadette Nouel
Food Garden Tips
- Weeds are easiest to control when they are small. They will grow large rapidly in a garden bed that is irrigated, and it is important not to let them flower and go to seed. Hand pull or hoe weeds. If you haven’t installed drip in your veggie bed – do it! It’s the most efficient delivery of water to your veggies in a drought year AND you won’t be watering weeds inadvertently.
- As the summer heats up and soil moisture evaporates at a higher rate, adjust your irrigation. Ideally, water between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Avoid fluctuations in soil moisture. The soil near the roots should remain evenly moist, not soggy to avoid problems such as fruit cracking and blossom end rot in tomatoes. In a drought year, we don’t have enough water for deep watering. Keep the active root zone (usually 6 to 12 inches) moist through daily watering. How much? The AVERAGE summer evapotranspiration rate requires 1” of water per square foot – about 2/3 gallon per square foot. Divide that into daily applications (or do the best you can if you have watering restrictions).
- If you are container gardening, add a complete slow-release fertilizer but consider adding half of the manufacturer’s recommendation. In a drought, you do not want a flush of green growth requiring more water.
- Follow-up feedings may be required periodically through the growing season for heavy feeders and long-season crops if a controlled-release fertilizer was not applied at planting. Side dressing your plants with 2 inches of compost will do the trick. Fruiting plants benefit especially from phosphorus and potassium; if using an organic fertilizer, use half of the manufacturer’s recommended amount.
- Keep herbs pinched back to control their size, to encourage new tender growth and to discourage them from bolting. Let a few plants flower to attract beneficials but be mindful of free-seeding plants such as cilantro.
- Normally, you would fertilize fruit trees with a half application of nitrogen in July or August if mature fruit trees have not put out sufficient shoot growth and/or good fruit set. HOWEVER, avoid fertilizing trees stressed by drought. If water is unavailable, do not fertilize at all because trees will be unable to absorb the nutrients. Overuse of fertilizer increases growth and water demands. If the tree is developing fruit, this is a critical watering period. Add a three- to four-inch mulch layer to retain moisture, but keep it 12 inches away from the trunk.
- If you haven’t already added flowering herbs or ornamentals in or near your food garden, do so now to attract beneficial insects. But consider low-water options such as Achillea (yarrow), Coreopsis, rosemary, thyme, chives and Salvia (sage).
- Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Is the summer garden infested? An insecticidal soap spray or a horticultural oil will smother many soft-bodied pests including aphids, mites, thrips and whiteflies without harming many beneficial insects and bees. Also, watch for codling moth larvae on pears and apples (tell-tale red-brown droppings), referring to UC IPM for infestation control.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH*
LEEKS, Feb-Jul, C, T, 120-150 days to maturity
SWISS CHARD, Feb-Aug, C, D/T, 60-80 days to maturity
LETTUCE (heat-tolerant varieties this month), Feb-Oct, C, D/T, 50-60 days to maturity
BEETS, Mar-Aug, C, D, 55-70 days to maturity
CARROTS, Mar-Sep, C, D, 70-90 days to maturity
ONION, BUNCHING, Mar-Oct, C, D/T, 70-80 days to maturity
KALE, Mar-Nov, C, D/T, 65-75 days to maturity
CORN, SWEET, Apr-Jul, W, D, 65-110 days to maturity
CUCUMBERS, Apr-Jul, W+, D/T, 50-70 days to maturity
SQUASH, SUMMER, Apr-Jul, W, D/T, 50-60 days to maturity
BEAN, POLE, May-Jul, W, D, 60-70 days to maturity
BEAN, BUSH, May-Sep, W, D, 55-65 days to maturity
ARTICHOKES, May-Sep, C, D/T, 130-190 days to maturity
CARDOON, May-Sep, C, T, 180 days to maturity
CELERY, Jun-Jul, C, T, 120-170 days to maturity
BRUSSELS SPROUTS, Jul-Aug, C, T, 100-150 days to maturity
CABBAGE, Jul-Aug, C, T, 70-100 days to maturity
BROCCOLI, Jul-Sep, C, T, 60-80 days to maturity
CHINESE CABBAGE, Jul-Sep, C, D/T, 70-85 days to maturity
GREENS, ASSORTED, Jul-Oct, C, D, 35-45 days to maturity
SPINACH, Jul-Oct, C, D/T, 40-50 days to maturity
*NOTE: Planting dates are approximate for Sonoma County; weather patterns, microclimate and other growing conditions must be considered when direct seeding and transplanting. This is a brief summary. Refer to the Vegetable Planting Summary and other SCMG website articles for more detailed information. “Days to maturity” is approximate and depends on the vegetable variety and your garden’s specific growing conditions. This information will facilitate planting dates that lead to successful production before the growing season ends.
C = cool season crops that grow best in soil temps of 60-65 degrees and air temps of 65-75 degrees.
W = warm season crops that grow best in soil temps of 65-80 degrees and air temps of 75-90 degrees and little cooling at night
W+ = warm season crops that need extra protection to keep them warm if planted early in season.
D = seed is usually sown directly in the garden
T = crops are usually planted from transplants
D/T = seeds can be planted directly into soil or transplants can be used