May 242012
June in the Northern California Garden

Water, feed and stake up your plants before they fall over.

by Avis Licht

With the warm sun on our backs we can heave a sigh of relief that the winter is over. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and we can expect some spectacular days ahead of us.

Your plants will be growing fast now. Irrigation coupled with warm weather can produce excess growth that is attractive to unwanted critters, like snails and slugs.



In many places early summer is the time to start some serious watering in the garden. If you’re lucky to have summer rains, be sure to check the soil for moisture.  Windy days and hot sun can really take the moisture out of the plants and the soil.

I still recommend checking your soil with a trowel to be sure it is neither too dry nor too wet. Just looking at the surface, does NOT tell you what ‘s going on underneath.

For those of you who would like to learn more about putting in an excellent irrigation system I recommend Robert Kourik’s book, Drip Irrigation for Every Landscape and All Climates. You can find this book and others he has written on his website:


Snails and slugs are in abundance due to all the moisture and spring growth. Controlling these guys organically can be tricky. They come out at night when it’s cool and moist. You can go out with a flashlight and see exactly who’s doing what to whom. At this point you can hand pick them off the plants. (This is not the most frequently chosen method around these parts.) You can also collect your eggshells in a can, and then crumble them around your plants. The snails don’t like the sharp edges of the shells and won’t crawl over them. You can also use Slug Magic, a product found in nurseries that has the main ingredient of Iron Phosphate which kills them. This is considered a safe and organic method of getting rid of snails and slugs. You can find this from Gardener’s Supply.

gopher trap

Effective and safe for handling. It will kill your gopher quickly

Another pesky critter is the gopher. You will notice their presence by raised mounds of soil. Gophers tunnel underground and push the soil up. They can and will eat roots and stems, killing your plants quickly and easily. I’ve had entire broccoli plants pulled under into the tunnels. Traps, either metal or wood can be set into the tunnels. It means digging into the soil and putting a trap facing in both directions of the tunnel. Only those not afraid of pulling out a dead gopher should try this. this trap is called a Victor Box trap.  You can get it through Amazon.

A preventive measure is to put mesh wire, called hardware clothe, in the soil. It can go under a bed of vegetables or in the hole where you are putting a bush or shrub. This is an initial investment of time and money, but lasts for years and protects your plants.

Of course, there are many more pesky critters, but to keep this post short and readable, I’ll save them for another day. Stay tuned for how to cope with aphids, deer, raccoons and more.

A wilting plant may be just that, not because the soil dry but because a mole or gopher may have tunneled near the roots and exposed them to the air, which dries the plant. Check for these critters and fill the holes around the roots.

Be sure to add fresh mulch to the garden. This will preserve moisture and help the soil. It will help keep your plants happy and healthy.

Edible Patio

The edible landscape is ready for summer entertaining




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