Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Grow vegetables with less water and beat the heat, too

Master gardener advice on how to keep your garden thriving this hot, dry summer

Squash plant and moisture meter
The moisture meter shows that this squash plant is in good shape to handle a heat wave. It's drip-watered and is mulched with straw. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Tuesday’s first day of summer likely was a taste of days to come: Hot and dry.

To start this new season, Sacramento will see a string of triple-digit days; that’s normal for August but not June.

In addition, we’re in a three-year drought. Water restrictions may be coming statewide.

Can your vegetable garden be saved?

Yes! Any vegetable can be grown with less water by following some simple water-wise tips, says UCCE Sacramento County master gardener Gail Pothour.

Water-saving methods are on display at the master gardeners’ Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. Pothour is an expert and former project leader in the vegetable garden. These same tips will help your plants thrive in summer heat.

– Switch to drip; it saves water while improving efficiency. “Drip irrigation is highly recommended,” Pothour says. “It puts water where it’s needed – at the roots. Hand watering is OK for new seedlings.”

– Cycle and repeat. When using drip or above-ground irrigation, run a cycle, let it soak in, then run again. “That way, you have a lot less runoff and don’t waste water,” Pothour says.

– Mulch, mulch, mulch! A 3-inch blanket of organic mulch (straw, leaves, wood chips) holds in soil moisture, cuts down on evaporation and keeps plant roots comfortable. It also cuts down on weeds.

– Before planting, build your soil with organic amendments such as compost. The organic material acts like a sponge and retains moisture. The soil is less likely to dry out, even with reduced irrigation.

– Prioritize what you water. “Fruit trees and blueberries are probably the most valuable edible plants you have,” Pothour says. “They’re expensive to replace and take a long time to grow. Make sure they get deep-watered.”

– Cut back on fertilizer. “Adding fertilizer stimulates growth that will need more water,” she explains. “Use low-nitrogen fertilizers.”

– Always check soil before watering. Does it really need it? Use a moisture meter or long screwdriver to test. “Most gardeners over-water,” Pothour says. “Even in our demonstration gardens, we discovered we could cut our water use significantly just by checking the soil and paying attention.”


0 comments have been posted.

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

Contact Us

Send us a gardening question, a post suggestion or information about an upcoming event.