» Archive for April, 2016

Crop Rotation

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Begin spraying roses now for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a good product for a less toxic solution.
    • The average date of the last frost in Willits is May 12. So protect young flowers and vegetables on clear, cold nights.
    • Petunias can be planted now. Their bright flowers will bloom all summer in hot, sunny locations and they will take a light frost.
    • When you plant your tomatoes, put a handful of bone meal in the bottom of the hole to help prevent blossom end rot on the fruit later on.
    • Enjoy the bright yellow colors of goldfinches outside your window by putting up thistle feeders for them.

Rotate Your Vegetable Crops

Deciding what to plant and sketching a layout for this year’s vegetable garden are among the joys of gardening. When planning your vegetable garden, remember the importance of crop rotation.

To keep your vegetable garden happy and healthy year after year, it is important to rotate your crops. You do this by shifting the locations of crops within the garden each season so the same crop does not grow in the same place year after year. This practice cuts down on pest and disease problems and balances the soil nutrients.

Another reason to rotate crops is that different crops have different nutrient requirements, and they affect the soil balance differently. Growing the same crop in the same spot can deplete the soil of those nutrients.

Some plants, like corn and tomatoes, are heavy feeders that quickly deplete the nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil. Root vegetables and herbs are light feeders, and peas and beans add nitrogen to the soil but need lots of phosphorus.

To rotate crops, divide your vegetables into root crops (carrots, beets, onions), legumes that feed the soil (peas and beans), leaf crops (including broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other greens), and fruiting crops (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, cucumbers and corn). Plant each group of vegetables in a separate bed or two and then establish a rotation order. Where you plant peas and beans one year, plant leaf crops the next year and fruiting crops the year after that. Follow these heavy feeders by light-feeding root crops the next season. Then start the rotation over again.

Since legumes add nitrogen to the soil, they are followed by nitrogen-loving leaf crops, which reduces the need for fertilizer. Root crops break up the soil, so they are followed by legumes that like the loose soil texture.

Try not to plant crops from the same family in the same bed two years in a row. This will discourage the build-up of diseases and pests that prefer one group of vegetables. When plants change from year to year, the disease organisms don’t have a chance to build up large populations. Leave at least two and preferably three or more years between the times that you plant members of the same family in an area of your garden.

Potatoes are a little tricky to work into the rotation. They can be planted with the root crops, but be sure they’re planted in a section of the bed that has not recently held tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant, which are in the same family. Instead, plant them where the squash and cucumbers were the year before.

The concept is simple, and keeping a notebook of your crops from year to year is a great way to keep your crop rotation in line!

Beautiful Buddleias

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Attract birds to your yard with bird feeders. Delightful gold finches will be happy to visit your thistle feeders, and rufous-sided tohees will visit seed feeders.
    • Turn in cover crops now and you will be ready to plant your summer garden in two or three weeks.
    • Plant summer-flowering bulbs now. Glads, dahlias, callas, cannas and lilies will bloom this summer if planted soon.
    • Fertilize established roses now and begin spraying them for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a very effective, natural spray that works against both insects and diseases.
    • Tomatoes and peppers can be set out now, but be ready to cover them if cold weather returns.

Bring butterflies to your garden with Buddleias

Buddleias, commonly known as butterfly bushes, are fine shrubs for the garden. They can be used in the flower border or as the focal point for a large area. They are hardy and easy to grow. During their long flowering period, buddleias bear large, dense panicles of delicately fragrant flowers in stunning colors.

These eye-catching plants really do attract butterflies. When the blossoms are open, you can be sure that butterflies will be abundant. Monarchs, swallowtails, fritillaries and many other nectar drinkers are attracted to the fragrant flower clusters. Hummingbirds also visit buddleias, so plant them where you can enjoy them up close.

Buddleias can be used in many different ways. Dwarf types, growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, are perfect for patio containers and small planting areas. Compact varieties, growing to 6 feet tall, are nice in the perennial or mixed border, for small gardens or for large containers. Larger types, which grow 8 to 12 feet tall, do best in the background or as part of a tall shrub border. Also called summer lilac, the larger shrubs can be used for a colorful hedge.

These are very forgiving plants. They take almost any well-drained soil, and can stand considerable drought. Although they flower best in full sun, they will also bloom in light or filtered shade.

Buddleia davidii and its cultivars are large, wide-spreading, open shrubs. They work best as background shrubs. The flowers come in long clusters at the ends of the branches beginning in June and continuing into the fall. Colors range from the true pink of ‘Pink Delight’ to wine-purple of ‘Royal Red’ and dark purple of ‘Black Knight.’

If these shrubs are too big for your yard, consider the ‘Nanho’ varieties. These versatile buddleias grow to half the height of the species with smaller leaves and flower clusters. Some special varieties have been developed including ‘Lochinch’ which has lavender flowers and silvery gray leaves. It looks nice with pastel flowers such as asters and summer phlox. ‘Empire Blue’ has deep violet-blue blooms on plants that reach 5 feet tall.

The new Buzzâ„¢ hybrids are true dwarfs at only 4 feet tall. They cover themselves with spikes of fragrant flowers in lavender, magenta, purple or white. Feed and water container plants regularly, and deadhead faded flowers to prolong the flowering season.

Buddleias bloom on new growth so they can be pruned to control size and shape without affecting the flowering. They can be pruned down to 12 to18-inch stubs from which they will grow many new arching branches, that will have larger flowers than if they had not been pruned. Deadheading during the flowering season will induce maximum flowering.

Butterfly bushes are a little unruly-looking so they may not have a place in a formal garden. But given sunshine and room to grow, they are a wonderful addition to the yard.

Crisp, crunchy carrots

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Last chance to plant asparagus roots this year. This delicious vegetable will keep producing for up to 20 years.
    • Evergreen candytuft is a hardy perennial with bright white flowers set against dark green foliage. They bloom now and make a fine border plant.
    • Dahlias come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Plant the roots now for flowers this summer.
    • Put up hummingbird feeders this month and enjoy these colorful and entertaining birds.
    • Hang up Codling moth traps now to reduce the number of wormy apples in your harvest this year.

Crisp, crunchy carrots

Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables, loved by young and old alike. And fresh carrots right from the garden are really a treat.

Carrots are easy to grow and every garden should have a good-sized plot of them. A loose, sandy soil that is free from stones is their main requirement. Rocks and hard clods make the roots deformed and cause them to split. Raised beds are ideal for carrots, just make sure the bed is deep enough for the roots.

Prepare the soil with compost but don’t add too much fertilizer. Carrot seeds are tiny and germinate best in damp soil when the soil temperature is between 50 and 60 degrees.

Sprinkle the seeds down a shallow trough and cover with a quarter inch of fine soil. Firm the soil and water gently.

The seeds must be kept constantly moist during the two to three weeks they take to sprout. If you have trouble getting carrot seeds to sprout, cover them with a layer of vermiculite, which will retain moisture, or lay a piece of burlap over the seed bed until the seeds germinate. As soon as they have their true leaves, when they are half an inch tall, it’s time to thin them. For baby carrots, thin plants to 1 inch apart, and for full-sized carrots, 2-3 inches apart.

Carrot varieties range from three inch miniatures to 12-inch tapers that need deep, well-worked soil.

‘Little Finger’ is an extra-early tender, sweet baby gourmet carrot that is nearly coreless. ‘Danvers’ is a popular variety with a strong top and smooth, tapered root that pulls up easily.

‘Chantenay’ is a standard variety that grows 5-8 inches long and does well in all types of soil. ‘Nantes’ and ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots are nearly cylindrical in shape, and are blunt and rounded at both the top and tip. Nantes cultivars are often sweeter than other carrots and have fine flavor that is sweet and full of carotene. They are excellent eating when young and tender, and also make good storage carrots.

‘Juwarot’ is an excellent variety for juicing as it has twice the normal vitamin A content. And fresh from the garden it is crisp, juicy and sweet.

‘Imperator’ carrots are the carrots most commonly sold in supermarkets; their roots are long and tapered. ‘Autumn King’ is one of the best main crop varieties with a deep orange color and tapered roots that grow 10-12 inches long.

You can add color to your carrot patch with these varieties: ‘Purple Dragon’ is a purple skinned carrot with a bright orange interior that is very sweet. ‘Atomic Red’ carrots grow 8-10 inches long. They are dull pink when you dig them up but turn scarlet red when cooked. Or plant a packet of mixed carrots and enjoy your rainbow harvest.

April is a fine month for planting carrots. Keep the soil moist and the bed weeded and in 2-3 months you should have a bed of carrots worth bragging about!