Here are some tips from the UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County to elevate your garden for Open
Garden Day and ensure you have bounty to share with the block during the Crop Exchange.
- Water. Adjust sprinkler settings and monitor them regularly. The amount of water applied in
April through June could be double to triple what was needed to keep plants happy in January.
Calculators such as https://www.bewaterwise.com/calculator.html can help determine what
your garden needs. If you see run off, opt for shorter duration, more frequent watering
intervals or something needs repair.
- Mulch. A fresh layer of mulch is the equivalent of vacuuming the house before guests come
over. It also suppresses weeds, keeps the soil cooler, and improves the efficiency of your
sprinkler system. You may want to use several different types of mulch based on your
objectives. Mature compost can be a good option to use as a mulch for annual vegetables
because it will not rob the plants of nitrogen as it breaks down if it is inadvertently incorporated
into the soil during routine digging the way a bark mulch could. Straw is often suggested as a
good barrier to keep fruiting crops like strawberries and melons from becoming damaged from
contact with the ground. Inorganic mulch such as gravel may make more sense close to
buildings to decrease the risk of fire damage.
- Fertilize. As plants come out of dormancy and begin to grow, apply fertilizer. To encourage
leafy growth (such as in grass or vegetable greens), opt for a fertilizer with a high first number in
its Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium ratio. To encourage flower blooms and fruit or vegetable
set, opt for a fertilizer with a high potassium third number in its N-P-K ratio. Over application of
fertilizers, particularly synthetic ones, can cause burn injuries to plants, so always follow the
- Pests. Pests can be more difficult to manage if their population grows unchecked. You can set
traps and physically remove slugs or snails or set bait for them. Aphids and scale pests can be
dislodged with a high-pressure spray from the hose or be wiped off with fingers. Bt can address
caterpillar challenges, but be careful where it is applied, because it could also hurt desirable
butterflies such as monarchs visiting your garden. If you are unsure of the pest you are dealing
with, take pictures of the damage and consult the IPM website, email the Master Gardener Hotline at [email protected], or ask for advice at a local nursery.
- Plant and repot. Now is the time to wrap up planting cool season vegetables and move onto
warmer season crops. Few families can use the entire yield from a 6 pack of jalapenos or
zucchini, so consider sharing your seed starts with neighbors. This is also a great time to
research and consider purchasing perennials, shrubs and vines such as roses, azaleas, and
wisteria at the nursery because you will be able to see exactly what you are getting when they
are in bloom. There are a lot of very affordable potted flowers, so if you need to be sure you
will have a pop of color during Open Garden Day, you have our permission to splurge on new
potted plants if the old ones are languishing.
Feeling overwhelmed? The Master Gardener radio/podcast can help step you through your monthly to-
do’s at mgorange.ucanr.edu.