About a week ago I turned the keys to the school garden into the front office staff so a couple of our more ardent school gardeners could come in over the summer and continue their work. While I’m on vacation from school gardening, I still can’t resist a good workshop on drip irrigation and native California plants. That’s where I was this Saturday morning, learning tips that I can take back to school in August.
Green Acres Nursery and Supply sent a couple experts to the Elk Grove Community Garden and brought plant samples, products, and lots of informational handouts to educate the 20 or so people who attended. The workshop was done in partnership with the Florin Resources Conservation District. The two-hour presentation contained more information than my brain could handle, but the Green Acres employees invited us all back to the store for free consultations.
Two more workshops are scheduled at the Elk Grove Community Garden: organic pest control on March 10 and rain gardens on March 24. The Community Garden is located at 10025 Hampton Oak Drive in Elk Grove.
Here are some of the tips I jotted down from the Green Acres’ workshop:
- To save water, stay away from drip bubblers that mushroom out water onto individual plants. Go with tubing that’s perforated throughout for areas heavily planted or use products called micro sprays that cover an area. I’ve always used the bubblers and, in fact, have them in my own backyard now so this was news to me.
- Covering your drip tubing with soil makes it last 20 years. Uncovered tubing lasts less than 10 years.
- Drip systems exist that don’t require glue. They are held together by a series of barbs. A pressure reducer is necessary with these glue-less systems because they can handle a maximum of 45 pounds of water pressure where, in many areas, the norm from the water source is 65 pounds of pressure.
- Most plants want a drying out period between watering, especially in areas where the soil is heavily clay. Even if you dig out the area and add soil amendment, the surrounding clay soil will act like a clay bowl and hold the water inside. If you’re growing camellias, Sacramento’s city flower, they will suffocate.
- Deep water trees once every one or two weeks for two hours at a time, especially trees like sequoias. Keep them on a different watering system from your other plants and keep plants away from the trunk of your tree. One tip given to avoid overwatering was to dig the hole for a new tree a few days before the actual planting. Fill it with water and watch how many days it takes for that water to seep into the ground. That’s how many days it will take for the water to drain when you plant the tree.
- Keep sage leaves (picked from your native California sage plants) around your bags of soil to keep insects out.
- Oil from lavender plants growing in your garden can be used on your body as a natural insect repellent while working in the garden.
- Cover the garden with some type of mulch to keep water from evaporating.
- Read product labels for best success. Each product is made for specific types of plants, e.g., blueberries need a more acidic soil while other plants do not.
- Earthworm castings, available at your garden supply store if you don’t have your own worm bins, are a great boost to the garden.
- Fertilizer bags have three numbers on them. One is the nitrogen content, which makes plants green. Another is the phosphate content, which helps plants bloom so they produce more food and gets roots going. The third is potash, which makes a stronger plant.
- During the summer, plant in the evening and water in the early morning.
- Flat, cushiony flowers attract monarch butterflies. Tubed flowers attract hummingbirds. A yellow, flowering plant called “sun drops” blossom from spring through fall and are great pollinator attractions.