Hot weather, scare rain challenge gardens

We have been cruising along in full summer conditions the last couple of weeks repeating the 96° high, 74º low pattern almost daily. Most plants will still do well as long as they have access to the right amount of moisture. Many sunny area plants may wilt some even with moist soil in the middle of the day but will often perk up as temperatures cool in the evening and remain turgid into our pleasant mornings.

Most established plants need the equivalent of 1 to 2 inches of rainfall per week so it is good to soak them 2 or 3 times per week to deliver this needed moisture evenly. Mulching with natural bark or hull mulches will be of great benefit as it reduces the soil temperature, moderates moisture levels in the soil, reduces evaporation loss and cuts watering. Drip watering with emitters is the most efficient watering technique or you can use soaker hoses, sprinklers or water by hand to get water to your lawn, trees, shrubs and flowers.

The hot dry weather has many insects and pests at their peak and attacking our gardens. Bagworms seem to be everywhere this year and can literally destroy junipers, arbor vitae, cedars and other shrubs. You can control them using the pick, stomp and trash method or spray with a product containing permethrin, acephate, spinosad, bacillus thuringensis or cyfluthrin.

This is the time to attack white grubs if you see them in your lawn. They are the larval stage of beetles. If you have a lot of gophers or moles, they are probably there to feed on grubs, one of their favorite delicacies.

You can control them by spreading granules of carbaryl or thrichlorfon applied right about now which is 30 to 40 days after the flight of the beetles and should be after their eggs have hatched and produced very young grubs. You have a bigger control window if you apply and spread granules of a systemic insecticide with residual action like imidacloprid or halofenozide. You should irrigate or water in these products after application to activate the product and to move it into the “grub zone”.

We are also seeing lots of red spider mites, webworms and voracious grasshoppers this summer. Consult with your local nurseryman for help in solving these or other pest and disease problems.

Many new gardeners have been asking how and when to pick melons. Muskmelons are the easiest. As the melon ripens, a group of cells around the stem softens so the melons literally slip free of the stem with just a very little hand pressure when ripe. This leaves a clean dish shaped scar at the melon and the melon gives off a pleasant, musky aroma at room temperature.

Watermelons are trickier and folks use many techniques before using a knife to cut the melons from the vine.  Listen for a hollow sound when thumping the melon, look for “sugar bumps”, a surface roughness on the melon near the base of the fruit. Observe a yellow coloration on the “ground spot” where the melon has laid on the ground or look for the tendril or stem to the melon to dry and turn brown then enjoy fresh melons after cooling.

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