Soon we will have warm evenings and hotter days. But we’re going through the worst drought in 1,200 years, so don’t overwater the garden. It helps to grow plants that “drink responsibly.”
Enjoy the flowers!
What blooms in June? Take a walk around your neighborhood and photograph everything that is blooming. Start a digital notebook so you can bring these fall beauties to your garden for blooming next June.
This is blooming in my neighborhood:
- kangaroo paw
- Texas olive tree
- walking iris
- Mexican bird of paradise bush
- cape chestnut trees
- Matilija poppies
- California horse chestnut
- Climbing Penstemon
- desert pasture
- Peruvian Lily
And much more!
All of these plants grow with little or no summer water once established. Plant in autumn or winter and water well for the first year. Then water vigorously, but only occasionally until late spring, then stop watering all year round.
What to do about weed
Grass is the thirstiest plant in our gardens. With diminishing water resources, we cannot continue to support lawns. But don’t just turn off the water – there are plenty of alternatives.
• Native grasses form beautiful green fields. Replace your lawn with buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides)blue gramma grass (Bouteloua gracilis) or purple three-awn grass (Aristida purpurea).
• Plant a meadow. yarrow (Achillea millefolium) forms a fern-like, soft-looking meadow with stalks of pink, white, yellow or reddish flowers in spring and summer. Clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis) looks like a flowing, soft grass and can even be mowed to make a great lawn alternative.
• Kurapia, the trade name for Lippia nodiflora, grows to a flat green surface with tiny white flowers. It needs to be bordered by concrete or other strong edges to keep it away from the surrounding flower beds.
• Do not substitute artificial turf or synthetic grass for turf. These surfaces get very hot in the summer, require regular washing, fill up landfills and are a concern as a source of microplastics in the environment. Live plants are simply a better choice than artificial grass.
• If you’re looking to replace your lawn, now is the time to start planning. July is the best time of year to solarize your lawn. It is the simplest method and very effective. Find out how by watching the episode of A Growing Passion bitly.ws/s4UW.
Support little creatures
Insects and other tiny garden creatures can be nerve wracking but are rarely a problem. A few garden pests will keep their natural enemies close by. Their goal is to support the natural cycle to keep your garden in balance.
• Caterpillars and worms nibble on leaves but rarely kill plants. Although a few aren’t a problem if they really deplete your plants, pick them off and leave them in an open area where hungry birds and lizards can find them.
• What to do about aphids? Crush them with your fingers or hose them down with a strong jet of water. The soft bodies of the aphids neither withstand the impact of the spray nor survive the fall to the ground.
• Fungus gnats are annoying but do not harm the plants. The adults lay their eggs in moist potting soil. These eggs hatch and the larvae nibble on plant roots but do not destroy them. To keep fungus gnats at bay, water less and cover your pots with an inch or two of round gravel. Block their access to potting soil and they will soon be gone.
• Carefully remove limescale from the plant stems with a soft toothbrush. Look for tiny, pale colored juveniles in the crevices between the trunk and branches.
• Mealybugs succumb to isopropyl alcohol. Dedicate a bottle of 70 percent isopropyl to pest control. Dip a cotton swab in the alcohol, then blot the mealybugs. Or dilute the alcohol to 10 to 25 percent and screw on a spray attachment. Test the spray on a single leaf and if there is no damage after a few hours, spray the stems or leaves or anywhere you see mealybugs every week until they are gone.
• Before resorting to any treatments, put your houseplants outside in a shady spot. Natural insectivores often find the plants and clean them up within a few weeks.
• Resist overplanting your vegetable garden. Overcrowded crops grow into a jungle that reduces production and makes crops vulnerable to insects and diseases.
• If you have space, start another round with tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, basil and so on. The plants you start now – from seeds or seedlings – will continue producing well into the fall.
• Prevent powdery mildew (white powder on leaves) by providing good air circulation around the plant’s leaves. Selectively remove branches to open up the plant. Rinse the leaves with water early in the day to wash off the spores. Make sure the leaves are dry by late afternoon.
• Remove the lowest tomato branches to prevent soil fungi from splashing onto the leaves.
• Mulch vegetable crops with a thick layer (three or more inches) of straw – Not hay, bark or wood.
• Fertilize vegetable plants with an organic plant fertilizer. Pull back the mulch, sprinkle fertilizer over the soil, water, and then replace the mulch.
• Skeletonized tomato leaves and small green balls are evidence of tomato hawk moths. Look for the green, white, and black striped caterpillars on stems and leaf undersides. Peel off the worms and place them in an open area where birds and lizards can find them.
• Skeletonized sunflower and pumpkin leaves could be attributed to tiny birds called goldfinches. The birds also eat aphids, so welcome them to the garden.
• Avoid tomato and squash blossom end rot by keeping the soil moist (not wet) at all times. Blossom end rot is caused by uneven watering in our climate and soil.
• Use a cucumber trellis to keep the vines off the ground. It also makes finding the fruit easier.
• Plant cilantro in the shade of cucumber trellis. They produce more leaves longer in some shade.
• Give the pumpkin plants plenty of space. The vines of a single plant can easily cover a space 20 feet long and 20 feet wide. Watermelon plants do the same.
• Fertilize fruit trees with organic fertilizer according to label directions. Water regularly and deeply during the fruiting and growing season.
• Feed citrus fruits and avocados with granular organic citrus and avocado feed. Follow label directions.
• Water citrus fruits deeply about once a week. Pomegranates, figs, and pineapple guava are best watered every two to three weeks, depending on the heat and location of your garden.
• Practice good garden hygiene to avoid attracting hungry birds, green fig beetles, squirrels, rats, etc. Harvest fruit as it ripens before it rots. Also clean up fallen fruit.
• Drought tolerant shrubs require little maintenance at this time of year. Remove dead flowers and wilted leaves. Keep them mulched and watered deeply every few weeks.
• Container plants need more attention in summer. Fertilize non-succulent potted plants with an all-purpose organic fertilizer (indoor liquid, outdoor liquid, or granular), following label directions.
• Potting soil dries out much faster than soil. When it’s time to water, do so slowly to saturate the entire pot, soil, and everything else. Wait for the water to drain and repeat the process. Place lighter pots in a basin of water and allow the water to siphon upwards.
• Feel free to move sun-shy potted plants fuchsia and orchid cactus (epiphyllum) in the shade of a deciduous tree or an east-facing eaves.
Nan Sterman is a garden designer and the author and host of “A Growing Passion” on KPBS-TV in San Diego. Discover more California gardening, horticulture, agriculture and native plants by watching Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. or anytime online at athroatingpassion.com. ◆