A garden can be a good source of vegetables, fruit and fresh flowers, but it can often be difficult to maintain when water conservation is required. To reap the most from a garden, even with little rain, plan ahead, say experts at Agromin, an Oxnard-based manufacturer of earth-friendly compost products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California cities.
» Plant your vegetables early: Plant cool weather, short season vegetables in March. That way, crops will be ready to pick before the summer heat when vegetables require more water. Cool weather vegetables include beets, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, garlic, leeks, onions, peas and turnips. You can also plant carrots and radishes, which do well year-round.
» Plant vegetables that need less water: If summer vegetables are still desired, plant vegetables that do not require a lot of water. These include corn, mustard greens, spinach, certain types of tomatoes, some zucchini, chard, arugula, jalapenos, pole and snap beans and eggplant.
» Prepare your soil: Soil is the key to a garden’s success. Mix compost into garden soil so the soil retains moisture better. Make sure the compost is designed for garden planting and for soil type (sandy or clay). Add a layer of mulch to the top of the soil to keep water from evaporating.
» Place plants close together: When possible, place plants close together so you are watering less square footage. The plants can then better “share” water.
» Water thoroughly, less often: Water only as needed in spring. There is still a chance of rain before summer. When rain is no longer in the forecast, however, give plants a good soak early in the morning no more than twice a week. This watering schedule forces plant roots to look for water deeper in the soil, which helps keep plants hydrated longer.
» Replace hard-to-water areas with ground cover: Some yards contain areas that are awkward to water, so often, water sprays onto patios, fences and walls. To avoid wasting water, replace these hard to water areas with drought-tolerant plants, rocks or wood mulch.
» Fertilize trees and shrubs: Feed trees and shrubs with nitrogen fertilizer. Plants usually need to be fertilized twice a year--once in March at the beginning of the spring growing period and again in September. Feed avocado, citrus trees, fruit trees and roses with a well-balanced fertilizer. For fruit trees and roses, wait until the first sign of new leaves before fertilizing.
— Diane Rumbaugh is a publicist representing Agromin.