Monsoon Gardening Tips
I strongly recommend getting a rain gauge. You need to know how much water is falling from the sky. A general rule of thumb; if you don’t get AT LEAST ½″ of rain, most soils will only be wet 3 to 4″ deep, leaving the roots dry beneath. If you get several ½″ rains in a row the soil moisture will be pushed deeper. Otherwise, you’ll need to irrigate.
Be sure that all your trees and shrubs are well mulched with a two-inch-thick layer of wood chips, bark chips, crushed pecan shells, or pine needles placed in a wide circle around their base. This will keep the soil cooler and moister. Perennial beds need a one-inch layer of mulch materials.
For new transplants, even xeric (water-thrifty plants) regular watering during the first growing season is essential to growing a strong, deep root system. Don’t water stress new plantings! BY WATERING DEEPLY AND FREQUENTLY AT THE START OF THE SUMMER HEAT, you’ll save water in the long run as the plants will establish more quickly.
New transplants require mulching. Place mulch materials (coarse compost, pine needles, or finely shredded bark) to a depth of one inch directly under the plants as well as cover any bare soil around them. Mulching reduces transplanting stress by keeping the soil more evenly cool and moist.
Be sure the plants have a nice, wide, one-inch-deep saucer-shaped depression around their base to hold water. I also filled the depression with mulch to keep the soil cool and damp. (Yes, I fill the saucer-shaped depression with mulch to help it hold its shape after repeated waterings.) WATER TWICE; fill the saucer to near overflowing, let it percolate into the soil and fill the saucer again.
The monsoon rains are off to a decent start this summer, and some of the localized showers have produced some 1/2" plugs rains. And the weeds are off to a running start. Be on the lookout for very noxious like bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) and goathead (Acanthospermum hispidum) that will pop up quickly. They need to be cut off at ground level to kill them or keep them from spreading. Others like purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and kochia (Bassia scoparia when kept mowed) can be used as beneficial groundcovers. These weeds will help to suppress other weeds and will not come back the following year. In general, it's better to cut weeds at the base of the stem with a sharp shovel or weed eater, rather than pulling them. Pulling weeds disturbs the soil surface and effectively plants dormant weed seeds that will come up quickly again with continued rains.
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