» Archive for February, 2009

Planning the Vegetable Garden

Saturday, February 28th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Spring vegetables can be planted now. Start your garden with broccoli, cabbage, lettuce spinach and chard. It pays to grow your own!
    • Flowering dogwoods, Japanese maples and tulip magnolias can be planted now during the dormant season from balled & burlapped specimens.
    • Clean out bird houses. Remove old nesting material and scrub the inside with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.
    • Blueberries make delicious fruit on attractive plants that you can use in the orchard or the landscape. Choose varieties now.
    • Cut branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood and bring them indoors to force them into bloom.

Time for a Little Planning

If you’ve been thinking about planting a vegetable or herb garden, but haven’t taken the plunge yet, this is your year. With food prices on the rise and other uncertainties, this is a great time to get started.

Start with a plan, whether a simple one or a complex diagram, so that you’ll be ready to begin planting when the weather permits. You need to decide what you are going to plant and when you are going to plant it.

Vegetables can be divided into warm season crops and cool season crops. Cool season crops include broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, peas, carrots, onions and beets. Some warm season crops are tomatoes and peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, corn and beans.

Cool season vegetables can be planted directly into the garden in March. These hardy plants can stand the frosts that will continue through March and April.
Warm season vegetables can be planted in the garden beginning in May. The average date of the last frost in Willits is May 12th, and sometimes there are killing frosts through the month of May. So you need to be prepared to protect young transplants and seedlings until summer arrives.

You can also plant some of the cool season vegetables for a fall crop, but these must be set out in August in order to fruit before the very cold weather arrives in mid-November. Part of your garden plan should leave room for these fall vegetables. In our climate, if you wait until the summer crops come out to plant fall crops, you will be too late.

First decide which vegetables your family eats and have some idea of how much. Do you eat one head of lettuce a week or three? Then determine how much produce you want to can, freeze, dry, or store. Successive plantings of certain crops, such as beans, will give a longer harvest period and increase your yield.

Try not to plant vegetables from the same family (peas and beans or squash and pumpkin) in exactly the same location in the garden more often than once in three years. Rotation prevents the buildup of insects and disease. Use your previous years’ plans as guides for rotating crops.

A good vegetable garden must have at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Eight to 10 hours a day is ideal. No amount of fertilizer, water, or care can replace needed sunshine.

An area that gets less sun can successfully grow beets, chard, carrots, radishes, cabbage, spinach and lettuce.

Once you have a plan laid out, visit your local nursery to choose seeds from the seed racks and you will be ready to plant. You will also find transplants there in season and plenty of help for new gardeners. Happy gardening!

Sweet Fragrance of Daphne

Friday, February 20th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Potatoes can be planted any time now. Choose from red, white, yellow and purple varieties.
    • Cut back suckers on lilac bushes. Wait until they bloom to prune them, then you can bring the fragrant branches indoors.
    • Bare root fruit trees, grape and berry vines, and ornamental trees and shrubs are still available.
    • Plant seeds of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other spring vegetables now.
    • Start peas and sweet pea seeds indoors now. You’ll be able to plant the sprouted seeds on the next warm day.

Fragrant Winter Daphne

The sweet fragrance of Daphne is one of the pleasures of springtime. The small, evergreen and deciduous shrubs which make up the Daphnes, all have handsome foliage and numerous white, rose or lilac flowers that bloom in the spring. One stem will scent an entire room.

Of the 50 species of daphne, Daphne odora, winter daphne, is the most familiar. It is an evergreen shrub growing to about four feet tall in this area, and at least as wide. In early spring, clusters of one-inch flowers appear at the tips of the stems. The pink buds open to white or pale pink flowers that are intensely fragrant, with a citrus-like odor. The leaves of winter daphne can be solid green, or bordered with a pale yellow edge. It makes a very neat, handsome, evergreen shrub year-round. Plant it in a spot where it gets protection from the hot mid-day sun.

Less common is the Garland daphne, Daphne cneorum. It makes a choice rock garden plant, staying low, about a foot tall, and spreading to three feet wide. Its trailing branches are covered with small, narrow, dark green leaves. In April and May, masses of fragrant, rose-colored flowers open in clusters at the tips of the branches. It is probably the showiest of all the Daphnes, and has a sweet, intense fragrance.

This daphne also likes partial shade. Mulch underneath the plant with peat moss or potting soil to encourage stem rooting and the development of a larger clump. It also makes a good container plant. The variety ‘Ruby Glow’ has larger, more deeply colored flowers and often re-blooms in late summer.

The wonderfully fragrant ‘Carol Mackey’ Daphne is not easy to find but it is a real garden gem. From pink buds, it’s fragrant white flowers open in the month of May. This daphne is similar in growth habit to Daphne odora, but has smaller, variegated leaves.

Daphnes need air around their roots, so they must be planted in light, well-drained soil. Put a little dolomite lime in the hole at planting time. If you don’t have fast-draining soil, you can grow them in containers for many years.

Plant daphne where it will get at least three hours of shade a day. Be sure it is set so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Daphnes will tolerate acid soil but do not require it. Fertilize right after bloom with a complete fertilizer, but not acid plant food.

During the summer, water as infrequently as the plant will allow. Light watering in summer increases flowering next spring and helps prevent sudden death from water mold fungi.

Prune daphne just after it finishes flowering to shape the plants. All parts of daphne plants are poisonous, and deer seem to leave them alone.

Daphnes are slow to take off but once they do they are generous in flower and fragrance. Enjoy the sweet fragrance of daphne in your garden, or make a gift of one to a friend.

The Fragrance of Roses

Friday, February 13th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other cool season vegetables can be started now from seed. There are many wonderful varieties available on seed racks.
    • Roses should be pruned if you haven’t done so already. Remove all old leaves on and around the bushes and spray with a combination of lime-sulfur and dormant oil to prevent early pest and disease problems.
    • Clematis that bloomed last summer can be pruned now. Cut them back to about waist height, to encourage bushiness, more flowers and a nicer looking vine. Wait on spring-blooming varieties until after they bloom.
    • Rose of Sharon is a summer-blooming shrub with large, hibiscus-like flowers. They are available now as bare root plants in patio tree form.
    • Pansies, with their bright faces, are impervious to cold weather. They even bloom under the snow. So plant some now for spring color.

Enjoying the Color and Fragrance of Roses

Roses have long been revered for both their stunning colors and their memorable fragrances. It is usually the color of a rose that first catches one’s attention but as soon as you get close to one, you want to smell it.

The palette of roses now includes an amazing array of colors. Flowers may be solid-colored, striped, bi-colored (different colors on the insides and the outsides of the petals), or blends (two or more colors intermingled on each petal).

To create a warm color scheme, choose a combination of red, orange, gold and yellow roses. These will draw the eye into the garden and make it look smaller than it is. A cooler color scheme, composed of violet, mauve, purple, pink and white, is soothing and refreshing. It is the best choice for a quiet garden meant for relaxing. It also makes a small garden look larger.

When it comes to fragrance, there are many fragrant modern roses as well as old garden roses.

Many red roses have a strong fragrance. ‘Mister Lincoln’ is an standard among red roses, and a new dusky red rose named ‘Lasting Love’ has a rich pure rose fragrance.

‘Double Delight’ has creamy-white flowers brushed with crimson that carry a spicy perfume. ‘Scentimental’ has red blossoms splashed with white and a strong sweet spicy fragrance. ‘Rock & Roll™’ is also variegated red, pink and white with a strong rose and fruit fragrance.

‘Perfume Delight’ has rich pink flowers with a strong rose fragrance and the deep, velvety ‘Don Juan’ is the best of the fragrant dark red climbers.

Purple roses tend to be very fragrant. ‘Fragrant Plum’ has a delicious scent and
‘Outta the Blue’ carries a strong clove and rose fragrance.

‘Sunsprite’ is one of the best yellow roses and it has a strong, sweet licorice aroma. And ‘Strike It Rich®’ is a soft gold rose with a spicy perfume.

Remember that one fragrant rose in a mixed bouquet will perfume the room and give you the colors you want at the same time.

Color and fragrance are related and have to do with a rose’s heritage. The classic “rose” fragrance comes from the damask rose and is found mainly in the red and pink roses. It is a heavy fragrance that needs heat before the rich odor is released. White and yellow roses have a lighter fragrance that is best sniffed on a warm summer morning.

Few flowers bloom for as long and abundantly in this climate as do roses. The best selection is available now.