.

Homegrown Produce: Summer's Challenge in Thirsty Altadena

How some local backyard gardeners keep fruit trees and vegetables thriving through the hot months ahead.

Just because we’re heading, inevitably, towards the triple-digits any week now, that doesn’t mean we can take a break from gardening and rest on our laurels -- or basil or tomatoes.

Sure, if we did a reasonable amount of homework this past spring, then we might be gazing at some respectable, perhaps even impressive, results from the usual fruit and vegetable suspects, but they still have to survive the dog days of August and beyond.

I asked Gail Murphy, founder of the Altadena backyard produce exchange RIPE, for a few tips on nursing edible plants through summer’s heat. She was kind enough to call a virtual RIPE round table of dedicated gardeners to help with the answers.

As you’ll see, each gardener has his or her own method. But if you’re having difficulty keeping a sufficient level of moisture in the soil (and why be cagey, I’m having great difficulty with that, and it’s not even hot yet), here are some techniques to try.

  • I water in the early morning, usually with a bubble attachment, and move it to the next root system every 20 minutes.  I do this one to two times a week.
  • Watering is stepped up from every four days to every three, my wife hand waters a lot more (takes up too much of her time). Mulching has helped, especially with newer trees. 
  • I water for about six minutes in the morning and just before sunset with a spray nozzle.  I have two plots. One is 5 x 20' and the other is 3 x 10'.  I use the French Biodynamic method of laying out the plants, digging, and fertilizing.
  • I use shade cloth -- orchard cloth or a simple beach umbrella; then early morning watering daily and sometimes evening too.
  • During hot weather periods, I water: mature fruit tree about every two weeks; 0-3 year old fruit trees about once a week; vegetables, about twice a week.
  • All of our vegetable beds are on automatic sprinklers (multiple zones) and are watered in the early morning.  We vary the schedule depending on the heat level and plant.  Everything is heavily mulched.  We do not use shade cloth, however, I do plant some crops in part shade (greens, carrots, some herbs) which allows them to last a bit longer in the heat.
  • I hand water in the evening and have a really thick layer of mulch everywhere.

And the following suggestions are from Altadena’s amateur botanist, backyard farmer, heirloom seed-saver, Christina Wenger. When she shows up for the RIPE produce swaps, it's generally with a little red wagon full of produce in tow. We’ll visit her fruit and vegetable gardens tomorrow and Wenger will share some simple and not-so-simple ideas for increasing backyard yields.

  • I water in morning or evening--veggie beds two times a week on a soaker hose with some hand watering in between for the thirsty plants. I have mulched and I have not mulched. This year, I'm not mulching because last year, my thick mulch--which did hold water well--led to an infestation of some nasty bugs. I don't use shade cloth except when I'm transplanting. All but one of my veggie beds are sunken, not raised, to hold water better, and they are lined with hardware cloth to keep the gophers out. My youngish (two-three years old) get water on a drip once or twice a week, depending on the weather. My few mature fruit trees live off water they glean from the veggie beds. I don't consciously water them.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »