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What to do when it’s hot!

Last week’s heat made me think about how and when we water especially when it is hot.  First of all there is not one way to keep the soil moist and plants well watered, every soil and every plant is a bit different.  But we tend to create pretty uniform watering systems since that makes it easier for us. I have everything on drip and on timers and most things get watered the same.  We all need to spend more time digging in the soil before watering, after watering and between watering to get a sense of how the soil is holding water and how deep the water goes.  I recommend taking a shovel and digging between your plants checking out your soil moisture, do it now before the plants get too big.  Also know that plants use more water as they are bigger and that on hot days water evaporates faster so it is always changing.    Soil exposed to the sun and not under mulch or plant leaves also has more water evaporation.

I often am deceived by drip irrigation, the soil can look dry on top as most of the water goes under and spreads through capillary action.  It is really important to dig at least 6 inches down to see how your drip system is working.  Drip may look dry on top but if you have any clay in your soil it will be moist below.

When it is really hot some plants are going to wilt, especially squash leaves.  It is not necessarily a sign of being dry.  Our first response is to want to water them but watering in the heat of a really hot day is not necessarily good for the plant, unless the soil is really bone dry.   If you need to water on a hot day in the middle of the day, try to water the soil not the leaves.  The water can burn the leaves.  Most likely wilted leaves of squash are fine once the day cools a little.

When it is really hot it is worth putting more water on in the morning or evening to help the plants get through the heat wave.  I try to avoid planting new babies when it is hot as they have such a small root system they can get really stressed if the soil dries out.  Many seeds do not like germinating when soil temperatures are really hot and it is hard to keep soil moist for germination so I wait to seed if I see a heat wave coming.

So what else is going on in the garden:  I have been asked many times lately if it is too late to plant summer crops- no of course not!  This is a great time to get in tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, corn and sunflowers.  I also am still planting carrots and beets (now that it is a little cooler again).   On the west side of the county you can still be planting lettuce.     If you did early planting of all of these, then think about doing another succession of them at the end of the month.  Early beans, cucumbers, basil and summer squash do not last into the fall, a second or even a third planting can keep you harvesting them into October.  I also love late sunflowers and plant them into the end of June.

This is the time to start watching your garlic, if it starts to have some brown leaves, you can consider pulling the water off for a week or two and then harvest it.  I usually harvest garlic the first weeks of June but this year it might be earlier.  Remember once you harvest it to keep it out of the sun to dry- either hang it in a warm area or lay it on pallets in the shade.