Summer Garden Watering Advice
As the summer progresses, there is less moisture to replenish the soil. Our west coast summers are typically dry with only occasional rain that just sprinkles the surface and doesn’t penetrate to the plant roots. It is best to start the season with a fresh layer of composted mulch spread on top of your planting beds to help regulate the moisture in the soil. It is also best to mulch before the soil is too dry so that the mulch is holding in water and not repelling it.
Watering is most critical for plants that grow for a season like most of your vegetables and any plants that have been in the ground for less than 2 years (including “drought tolerant” plants). Resist babying your plants, and instead raise them to be strong by watering deeply and infrequently so that the roots travel deeper into the soil. Essentially you are training them to “water themselves” or at least have access to a water source stored a foot or more below the surface when summer water availability is tight.
Training your plants begins with allowing the top couple inches of the soil to dry out between watering. Get to know your soil and dig down and feel for moisture. When it feels dry then you will know when to water. If it gets above 85 degrees, you will want to water more frequently while still letting the soil dry in between.
Watering in the morning will discourage disease and keep plants plump and happy throughout the day. If watering in the morning is a challenge and if you want to save water, then consider using soaker hoses on a timer. And there are also some very simple drip irrigation systems that can also be valuable in keeping container plants happy. Containers need regular and frequent watering unlike plants in the ground. Adding a layer of absorbent mulch around the plants provides extra insurance for holding in water.