Sun Protection

Like people, some plants worship the sun while others get scorched. The heat of the past few summers has led to drought and changed the way we garden here on the West Coast. Greenhouses can be too hot for even heat-lovers like tomatoes and peppers, which will do better out in the open. Salad greens and brassicas are best in a shadier spot. If you don’t have one, hang up an old sheet to provide shade during the hottest part of the day. You can also do this to protect seedlings, as their immature leaves are still sun sensitive. Don’t forget to protect yourself with a hat, long-sleeve shirt, and some sunscreen while you’re at it.

Watering

In an ideal world, we all have the perfect drip irrigation systems on a timer, so neither a drop will be wasted nor a plant forgotten. In reality, we may be dragging broken hoses and watering cans around. Still, you can conserve by watering deeply and infrequently (doing certain crops or a sections on a rotation can ease the time spent in a single day) and in the early part of the morning to ensure less evaporation during hot days. Every plant, soil type, and location is different, so check near the base of a plant for moisture below the surface. If your plant looks sad, it’s probably thirsty.

Mulching

Mulching is a must to protect microbes in the soil and to keep water in and weeds down—it looks good, too! If you hoarded a pile of deciduous leaves or left a bail of straw out in the rain all winter to rot away the seeds, you can pat yourself on the back. If not, you can buy leaf mulch (quickly, because landscape suppliers do run out in the summer) or a bail of seedless straw (though they usually still have some seeds and you may have to weed out bits of grass) and apply generously.

Seeding Winter Crops

After the spring push, summer can seem like the time to finally relax and let the garden do it’s thing. But there is so much food to be had all winter if you stay on your game. Winter brassicas, fall harvest onions and leaks, carrots and beets that can stay in the ground all winter, salad greens (some for fall harvest and some cold-lovers can be protected from frost all winter) and more, need to be started while it’s warm enough for them to get a head start on growth.

— Trina McDonald

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