By Kit Smith
UCCE Master Gardener of El Dorado County
By far the majority of questions asked of Master Gardeners at farmers market booths around the county concern our drought and limited irrigation.
Here are a few of the suggestions we make:
Consider having lawn only where desired, for entertainment or play. Drip irrigation is one way to get water deep down to the roots of plants where water is needed. Make sure the system is functioning, not weatherworn or damaged by animals. Water an appropriate amount — infrequent, deep and in compliance with water authority guidelines. Water away from tree trunks and monitor amounts of irrigation. A slower pace of irrigation will allow the water to soak in and not run off the top of the soil. Deeper watering allows thirsty roots to become more drought tolerant. Water early in the day to cut down on water waste from evaporation.
With limited available water, prioritize what to water in the garden. That big tree may need water to keep shading what is thriving underneath or the adult oaks and pines which have had insufficient water the past three winters could use some help to keep them stress- and infestation-free. The priorities may include removing some plants. To give the chosen plants and trees better chances, pull the weeds that compete for moisture.
Place mulch around plants to cool the roots and decrease water evaporation. Make sure the mulch does not touch the trunk of any tree.
Yellowing leaves and premature leaf drop are symptoms of drought stress. Water stress also shows by under-sized leaves, evergreen needle browning and increased insect infestation. Sunburned leaves and tree bark are the result of excess light and heat and inadequate water. Sunscald-damaged bark is cracked and sunken and is susceptible to attack by wood-boring insects and rot fungi. Damaged trunks and limbs can develop cankers, become girdled and die. Avoid any pruning or removing foliage or other trees that would expose tree trunks to more sunlight now. Wash trunks with a white, interior water-based paint to protect them against sunburn.
There may be more spiders and other insects in your garden than in past summers. The mild winter enabled them not to go dormant and so they laid more eggs. More spiders are catching more insects in their plentiful webs.
Master Gardeners are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling (530) 621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome. The office is located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville. Additionally, Master Gardeners will be at the El Dorado Hills Town Center Farmers Markets Sunday mornings, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21, and Wednesday, Aug. 27, in Cameron Park at Burke’s Junction at Coach Lane and Cameron Park Drive.
When asking question, bring in a sample of your plant or insect so the Master Gardeners can look at all the evidence. It is wise not to treat a problem before a determination is made. Also, Master Gardeners are seeking your opinion on where, when, and what subjects should be taught at their free public education gardening classes. Help them understand how to best serve our community by filling out a brief online survey at http://bit.ly/1qCsRId. Surveys are also available at the Master Gardener office.
For more information about our free public education classes and activities, go to our Master Gardener website at cecentralsierra.ucanr.org/Master_Gardeners/. Sign up to receive our online notices and e-newsletter at ucanr.edu/mgenews/. You can also find us on Facebook.