By Susanne von Rosenberg, UC Master Gardener of Napa County
Can you believe it's already almost the end of July? We've very been fortunate this summer that temperatures have largely been moderate.
By now, your summer garden is in its full (drought-conscious) glory. Everything is blooming and your vegetable garden is producing a bounty. It's time to relax and enjoy everything you've accomplished this year, and time for a midsummer garden checkup to make sure that everything will continue to do well.
First on my checkup list is irrigation. I want to make sure that all the emitters are working properly and that no leaks have developed. This review is particularly important for areas that are farther from the house, where you may not be checking as frequently. When it is as dry as it has been this year, it's even possible for critters to chew irrigation lines as they try to find water.
If you are using microsprinklers, check where the spray is landing. If you have automated sprinklers, mark your calendar to adjust the watering frequency or duration as the season progresses. By mid-August, the shorter days mean that you can reduce your watering by 15 to 20 percent compared to the early summer maximum. By mid-September, you can reduce irrigation by 30 percent.
If you are irrigating a lawn or similar wide area, check the amount of water your sprinklers are actually putting out by setting out old tuna cans or other shallow, straight-sided containers and measuring how many inches of water the cans collect during a watering cycle.
I also do a fire-preparedness check. I make sure that dry vegetation is no more than four inches tall, look for tree limbs that may have grown too close to the house, check that my gutters are clear of dry vegetation and trim out dead branches and other dead vegetation.
Next, I take a good look at the annuals in my garden. Are any not thriving? In my vegetable beds, I'm already mentally making room for the first cool-season vegetables, which I'll plant in mid-August, and also looking for opportunities to get in one last crop of fast-growing summer vegetables such as bush beans. Any plants that are not thriving, or whose flavor or color disappointed me, I view as opportunities to plant something new.
Young trees and shrubs (and other juicy plants) may now need protection from deer. As the area's natural vegetation dries out, more deer visit my yard. More than once I've thought of a plant as not being particularly appealing to deer because they've left it alone until now, only to find the telltale branch and leaf damage.
I also inspect my fruit trees. Although I thin the fruit in the spring, I still find that sometimes a tree produces more fruit than a branch can support. In that case, I may remove some ripening fruit to keep a branch from breaking.
Remember to summer-prune your fruit trees after you've harvested the fruit. This practice helps keep your fruit trees at a manageable size. As you prune, focus on air circulation and structural balance. If you're fortunate enough to have more ripe fruit or veggies than you can use, consider donating produce in good condition to Community Action Napa Valley's food bank, or share it with your neighbors.
Birds can also be major pests this time of year. I don't mind sharing, but for the first time ever, I've had to completely cover my blackberries and raspberries with bird netting or the berries will be gone before they're ripe enough for me to eat.
I also like to note where shade is on my property at various times of day. Are there areas where I could plant a tree or vine to increase the shade on hot summer days? Have any of my shrubs or trees grown to the point that they are now shading a sun-loving plant?
Weeds tend to slow down at this time of year, except in irrigated areas, but some keep thriving against all odds. When the ground is too dry to pull or hoe them, you can still reduce their spread by removing any flowers and seed heads that form.
Finally, I plan for the fall. I think about plants I would like to add to my garden, which plants will need fertilizing, and how I can make my garden even more drought tolerant and Bay friendly. I love that gardening gives me the opportunity to keep creating a better place every year.
More from the University of California:
Comprehensive guide to lawn/turf care: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/TOOLS/TURF/
Summer fruit tree pruning: https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8057.pdf
Napa Library Talk: Napa County Master Gardeners will give a talk on “Planning a Moon Garden” on Thursday, August 5, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. via Zoom. Learn about this ancient nocturnal garden theme and pick up some design tips. Register at http://ucanr.edu/2021AugMoonGarden.
Food Growing Forum: Napa County Master Gardeners will present a discussion of “Herbs and Starting Winter Vegetables by Seed” on Sunday, August 8, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., via Zoom. Register to receive the Zoom link: http://ucanr.edu/2021/FoodForumAug
Free Guided Tree Walk: Join Master Gardeners of Napa County for a tree walk in Fuller Park in Napa on Tuesday, August 10, from 10 a.m. to noon. Limited to 12 people per walk. COVID safety protocols will be followed. You will be asked health questions and asked to sign in. Face masks and social distancing are required. Register here.
Got Garden Questions? Contact our Help Desk. The team is working remotely so please submit your questions through our diagnosis form, sending any photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a detailed message at 707- 253-4143. A Master Gardener will get back to you by phone or email.
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