To-Do List: Northern California

R. L. Rhodes
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With the rainy season now behind us, making sure that the garden gets enough water becomes a primary concern this month. While there’s still time to plant, you must also ensure that established plants are protected and thriving.

  • Water smart and pile on the mulch. The best time of day to water is in the early morning, which allows time for roots to take in the moisture before the day warms up. A two-inch layer of mulch keeps water from evaporating before it can get to the roots and also discourages water-robbing weeds from taking hold.
  • Trade in thirsty annuals for drought-tolerant container plants. Rather than relying on the usual annuals that need constant watering, fill containers with interesting and colorful succulents and perennials that can get by on less. Sedums, aeoniums and aloes look just as colorful and interesting as pansies and petunias but without as much fuss.
  • Be on guard against fruit thieves. Birds, squirrels and other wildlife are happy to share your crops. To limit what they can take, cover fruiting trees and shrubs with bird netting or floating row covers. Make sure they are securely attached to keep them from blowing off.
  • Keep powdery mildew in check. If you notice a white powdery substance on leaves, powdery mildew, a fungal disease, has come to your garden. Some plants, such as roses, zucchini, cucumbers and strawberries, are particularly susceptible to it. Treat it by spraying with neem or jojoba oil. To minimize the spread of powdery mildew, avoid watering plants late in the day and from overhead, which allows moisture to linger on the leaves. Since this disease flourishes in damp, crowded conditions, you may also need to prune some plants as they grow, to ensure good air circulation. Destroy any infected plant parts that you remove, and don’t compost them.
  • Plant herbs. Although some herbs, such as cilantro, germinate quickly from seed, you may want to plant transplants of thyme, oregano and sage now to get the most summer growth. Pinch out flowers as they develop to keep the plants bushy and full.

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