I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the Sun is going to set slightly earlier and the heat index is climbing steadily here in San Diego. As of the date of this publishing, California isn’t currently in a drought, but that doesn’t mean that conserving water, especially in our garden landscaping isn’t important. Saving water in all contexts is important. Vegetable gardens require a fair amount of water to ensure that the plants grow up healthy and happy. Here are some of our favorite tips for how to protect and water your vegetable garden for summer heat.
This one is kind of a no-brainer but if you can get the water on the ground earlier, it has more time to absorb and takes longer to evaporate. Not to mention the plants can absorb more water if there is more water available. You want nice big juicy vegetables coming off your plants, so set an early alarm or a water timer and set it for early in the morning, preferably before dawn. If you’re using Native Soil, and I hope you are, you can use less water in general as Native Soil features high water soluble nutrient density. This means less water gives the plants more nutrients than comparable fertilizers.
Canary in the Coal Mine
The big leafy plants are usually the first to show signs of dehydration and other forms of distress from the heat. The broad leaves use a lot of water and more moisture is sucked out of the larger surface area. Keep a close eye on your squashes, your lettuces, and your cucumbers to find the plants that are really feeling the stress. Water your vegetable garden for summer heat the minute you see those big leaves start to wilt. That will help you dial in the proper schedule and time of day to deploy your watering.
Water Your Vegetable Garden for Summer Heat Less Frequently
This point is more about conservation so you’ll have to play around a bit to find the most useful frequency to water your vegetable garden in the heat. In most parts of San Diego, even in the summer, a heat wave doesn’t last too long and the coastal microclimates are still pretty mild. In this case, watering twice a week may be sufficient if you’re watering at the right time of day. On the other hand, if you’re in the inland valley areas of the east county, the summer heat can be both consistent and brutal. Even if you have all of your other tips and tricks employed, you may find yourself needing to water four times during the week.
Use Raised Garden Beds
Using raised garden beds aren’t just for areas with limited space and one of the great balcony garden ideas. They are also easier to saturate with water as the volume is finite. You’re not going to find random grasses, weeds, and trees leeching that precious water from your heat stressed garden. Here’s a pro-tip, combine the use of hay bails with a cheap raised garden bed. Straw is extremely water absorbent. In fact, farmers have to worry about their hay bail stacks getting wet as the chemical reaction is sufficient to heat the hay to the point of combustion. You’re not going to have it packed in that tightly, but we highly recommend growing in straw. Check out our article on building cheap raised garden beds to restructure your garden to be as resistant as possible.
At Upcycle we hope you’re able to find the right way to water your vegetable garden for summer heat. It’s a bit of a tricky learning curve, so err on too much water to start and keep an eye on those big leafy plants. There’s nothing like a backyard barbecue featuring your own home grown produce. Find your soil mate.