Summer Irrigation Can Be a Delicate Dance, 3 Steps to Being a Good Partner
June 2021. By Oscar Ortega: Native gardens are great life partners, full of ever-evolving blooms and varied foliage colors, textures and fragrance. That said, they can run into trouble when their low-maintenance reputation leads their caretaker to “set it and forget it.” Likewise, they really don’t care for cloying coddling. While it may feel like a bit of a balancing act at times, learning their ways and carefully modulating our responses to their state-of-being is worth the investment.
Watering on our hottest days can actually result in steam-bathing roots – not a form of self-care California natives enjoy! Native plants “grew up” in a natural climate cycle of cool rain and dry heat. The more we can mimic this environment, the happier they will be. We do this by watching the forecasts and preemptive watering on the coolest days possible.
While trees may seem to be the most stoic members of our garden family, they are the individuals that most benefit from this kind of attention. Their love languages range from individualized hydrozones to hand watering and deep watering stakes.
While it may try to hold its temper, native foliage will feel fussy and unloved by the time it gets a midday water. Oddly enough, watering at night can also lead to turmoil. Night watering leaves roots sitting in water – spoiling them in this way can lead to root rot and pest problems (mosquitos anyone?). Setting irrigation to run first thing in the morning is ideal. Plants hydrate just in time to bear the heat and, particularly if you’ve hired mulch, the soil will keep its cool throughout the day.
Don’t Overdo It!
For many of us, this is the hardest part! Years with non-native gardens and turf-grass trained us to see foliage turning yellow or brown as a cry for help. We rush in, pampering plants with more water. This will distress native foliage, which can feel overwhelmed by the added attention. Dial back the irrigation and see if your retreat reengages them.
Hope this helps you navigate one of the trickiest points in a relationship with native foliage! For those of you concerned about fire as well as heat, remember hydration is defensive, and native foliage is spectacularly resilient. If you come through the challenge of summer heat together, know you’ll have lush, leafy foliage wrapped around you for years to come. For more summer tips and tasks, check out What to Expect in Summer and follow us as @LAgardens in Instagram.