This is the second in a series of articles about Sustainable Food Gardening. Learn how you can have a delicious and productive food garden by watering wisely and employing a variety of sustainable practices: know when to water and how to calculate how much is needed, and discover methods to direct water to where it is needed and in a manner that promotes water retention, plant health and productivity. Click here to learn how to conserve water and have a thriving vegetable garden.
In the Garden
Easy to Grow Vegetables
Food Garden Tips
June Tasks and Tips
For what to grow this month, click here.
- Summer officially arrives on June 20. This month’s full moon is called a Strawberry Moon as it signaled the Algonquin tribes that it was time t gather wild strawberries
- Weed and weed some more. Add more mulch (to 3-4” deep), as necessary, to suppress weeds and to retain moisture. Keep mulch away from plant stems.
- As the weather warms up, the evapotranspiration (ET) rate increases – which affects the amount of moisture your food garden needs. ON AVERAGE, during the summer – your garden needs 1 inch of water per square foot per week. How much is 1 inch of water in a square foot? About 2/3 gallon (0.623 gallon to be more exact). Here is some advice on using water efficiently (despite following a wet winter, we can’t afford to waste water with our hot, dry summers):
- Rely on compost to feed your soil. That and mulch will retain soil moisture.
- Water daily if possible – adjust the weekly water needs to a daily figure if not watering daily. In general, vegetables perform better when there is even moisture in the soil in the Sonoma County hot, dry summer.
- Water only the active root zone. For most veggies, this is 6- to 12-inches deep; in deep soil in an open field or in double-dug beds, this may be 18-inches deep; for many fruit trees, this is 2- to 3-feet deep.
- Use a drip system, which is the most efficient application of water. Keep it in good repair. This requires regularly checking for leaks and plugged-up emitters.
- In a system with multiple dripper runs, consider installing an on/off valve at the head of each long dripper line; this allows you to easily cut off water to plants like tomatoes once they start producing, or to alliums when they get close to harvest.
- Irrigate in the early morning or the cool of the evening – not mid-day when evaporation rates are at their highest.
- Water only when needed – if the ET rate drops below average, you can decrease irrigation. Check the moisture in your soil regularly, monitor your plants’ appearance, and adjust your irrigation accordingly. Actual watering schedules will depend on soil type, container vs. in-ground, plant age (leaf/plant size), mulch, exposure and, especially, temperature.
- Stake tomatoes (and use soft ties), or use cages if it was not done at the time of planting. Don’t handle tomato plants in the morning when they are wet from dew – disease can spread and you can bruise the plant. The stems will bend more easily in the afternoon.
- As you finish your transition from a spring to summer garden, choose early vegetable varieties with shorter “days to maturity,” that have high yields, and/or that are “drought-tolerant” or “drought-resistant” to efficiently use water. Note that “heat-resistant” refers to air temperature and does not mean that the variety performs well with less water.
- When apple, pear, peach and nectarine trees have formed small fruit, thin them to about 4 to 6 inches apart – about the space between your thumb and pinky finger. Less fruit requires less water, and the fruit will grow bigger.
- During the spring bloom period, fertilize citrus. Typically, mature trees use up to 3 lbs of urea or 20-30 lbs of animal manure per year (reduce for smaller trees); split the application into three parts, applied during April, June and August.
- Remember to look at your planting calendar, annotated with days to maturity, so that you harvest your crops at their peak of flavor.
- Fight critters with critters – build a bat or owl house. Bats eat moths – like the ones that lay eggs on vegetables, eggs that turn into hungry caterpillars. Voles are a tasty treat for owls
- Know what pest you are fighting so that you can select effective pest management strategies. Check out University of California’s natural enemies gallery.
- Inspect crops regularly for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. Use yellow sticky tape to control whiteflies or apply insecticidal soap to the undersides of leaves. Larger pests such as hornworms and squash bugs can be handpicked and dropped into a container of soapy water or cut worms in half with garden shears. Control ants to help control damaging insects that produce honeydew, such as aphids and scale. Ants are protecting these harmful insects from their natural predators.