Gardening Resolutions for 2016

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool season crops indoors for planting outside in March.

    • Fill your winter garden with color from primroses and pansies.
    • Roses should be pruned in February near the end of the dormant season. You can clean them up now, however, by removing all the old leaves on and around the plants.
    • Control peach leaf curl by spraying during the next dry spell with copper spray to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees this spring.
    • Blueberries are a delicious fruit that can be planted now from young plants. Give them a rich, acid bed prepared with lots of peat moss.

Gardening Resolutions for 2016

Rainy winter days make gardeners anxious for the warmer weather that will allow us once again to get our hands in the dirt and watch new life grow. As you look out at the garden, maybe with garden diary in hand, it always feels good to set some goals, to make some resolutions for the season ahead.

This is a good year to build a compost bin to turn kitchen scraps, leaves or yard waste into rich humus. Or vow to change to a more organic style of gardening for truly nutritious produce. Maybe this is your year to double-dig the garden. If so, pick up a copy of John Jeavons’ How to Grow More Vegetables and learn how to do it right.

Grow more food! Rotate your crops from where you planted them last year and practice succession planting with things like peas, lettuce, beets, greens mix, basil and cilantro. Choose at least one new vegetable to plant. Variety adds different nutrients to our diet and is good for the soil. Make a trip to the nursery to shop for seeds so you’ll be ready when the time is right.

Plant more flowers for color, cutting, and fragrance – and also to attract beneficial insects and butterflies. Plant them in flower beds, pots and even the vegetable garden. They are food for the soul.

This is a good year to replace that tired lawn with drought-tolerant shrubs, perennials or even vegetables. Get some help to create a new water-wise plant design for at least part of your yard, and perhaps an irrigation system to go with it. Choose natives and Mediterranean plants that will need little water once established.

Create a relaxing oasis somewhere on your property. Find a place for a bench, surround it with your favorite plants and add a small fountain to enjoy the sound of running water. A recirculating fountain uses very little water and is a place where birds can enjoy a drink of water.

Plant a fruit tree this year. If you haven’t started an orchard, there’s no better time than the present. If you have a tree that isn’t thriving, pull it out and plant a new vigorous one. There are few things so rewarding as harvesting a tree full of fresh, ripe fruit. And there are few taste pleasures as satisfying.

Keep a garden diary. Each of us seems to live in a different micro-climate where temperatures, precipitation, sunlight and winds can drastically vary within a few miles. It’s hard to remember what happened from year to year, and after a few years, you may be able to anticipate the first frost or when the rose weevils arrive.

If you’re not a gardener, become one. You don’t even have to have a yard. Many flowers, herbs and small vegetables can be grown in pots. And the exercise and stress reduction make gardening a healthful pastime.

Share your love of plants and gardening whenever possible. Grow, celebrate, discover and enjoy your garden this year!

In a Word: Mulch!

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Spray fruit trees with a dormant oil spray. Spray from the bottom up, including the undersides of limbs and the ground around the tree, to prevent early spring insect infestations.
    • Onion plants can be set out now for early summer harvest.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Many fine varieties of flowering dogwoods, tulip magnolias, Japanese maples and other specimen plants are now available at nurseries for winter planting.

In a Word: Mulch!

We’re all starting to get a little bit worried about the lack of water coming from the skies. Many questions are arising: is it good to prune my trees? my rosebushes? will my plants survive the drought? what can be done to help them?

In the coming weeks I will try to address these and other questions to help you keep your trees and shrubs, fruit trees and vegetable plants alive and healthy. Let’s start with mulch.

The best way to protect ornamental plants during periods of drought is by applying mulch. Spreading mulch around your plants is, in most situations, simply good gardening. But with the need for water conservation, mulching is a necessity.

Mulches have three primary benefits:
• They reduce evaporation of water from the soil.
• They reduce weeds, which compete with your plants for water, by shading out weed seedlings and inhibiting weed seed germination.
• They insulate soil from extreme temperature changes, keeping the soil cooler during the day and warmer at night.

A good mulch can even encourage worms, which aerate and enrich the soil. You can begin now to mulch around your plants while there is still moisture in the soil.

There are several different choices in mulching materials. Organic mulches are any of the many commonly available materials derived from decaying plant material. They decompose in time and enrich and improve the soil. They include aged sawdust, peat moss, bark, wood chips, composted sludge products, pine needles, leaves and straw. Organic mulches will require periodic additions as the mulch decays.

Studies have shown that two inches of bark covering the soil will reduce moisture loss in summer by 20% and reduce soil temperature in summer, in the upper four inches of soil, by 10°F.

Inorganic mulching materials include black plastic, landscape fabrics and gravel. Landscape fabrics, also known as geo-textiles or weed barriers, comprise a variety of products. They can be used in combination with organic mulch material to maximize the retention of moisture in the soil.

Apply mulch around trees and shrubs 3-4 inches deep to maintain soil moisture. Keep mulch 4-5 inches away from the trunks of trees. Let fallen leaves and pine needles remain under trees to act as a natural mulch.

Also apply mulch around annuals, perennials, vegetable plants, and even in containers. Mulching your pathways helps control weeds and conserves moisture in the soil. Black plastic may be used, or you can utilize grass clippings, straw, wood chips, or garden debris.

Another way of reducing evaporation is by covering plants with shade cloth. Sensitive plants like rhododendrons and azaleas can be covered with 50% shade cloth while more heat tolerant plants may benefit from 30% shade cloth. Position it to block sunlight while not reducing air circulation. In the vegetable garden, cover salad greens with 50% shade cloth and crops like squash and beans with 30% shade.

Mulch trees and shrubs now while the soil is still moist to preserve soil moisture for the plants to use when they begin their spring growth.

Gardening with Kids

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant summer-flowering bulbs now. Glads, dahlias, callas, cannas and lilies will bloom this summer if planted soon.
    • Attract birds to your feeders to enjoy. Delightful gold finches will be happy to visit your thistle feeders, and rufous-sided tohees will visit seed feeders.
    • Fertilize established roses now and begin spraying them for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a very effective, less toxic spray that works against both insects and diseases.
    • Begonias bulbs can be started indoors now and set out after danger of frost. You’ll enjoy their beautiful flowers this summer.
    • Last chance to plant asparagus roots this year. This delicious vegetable will keep producing for up to 20 years.

Gardening with Kids

There are many fun ways to interest children in gardening. Whether you’re a parent or a grandparent, having children enjoy their time with you in the garden can be an experience they will remember all their lives.

One successful way to pique a child’s gardening interest is to have a few unusual or fascinating plants around the garden. Snapdragons are an old favorite, and many of us still remember pinching the blossoms to make them “snap”. Bleeding heart has an intriguing flower as do fuchsias and balloon flowers before they open up.

Children love the papery “silver dollar” seed heads of Honesty, a dried flower used in arrangements. And who doesn’t love to “pet” the furry leaves of Lamb’s ears?

Tall plants hold a particular fascinating for children, especially fast growing ones. Sunflowers are fun to grow because they get taller every day. Large marigolds, zinnias and cosmos and “dinnerplate” dahlias, tall gladioli and lilies will capture their interest.

Planting potatoes is a good activity to do with children. Plant a sprouting potato and check every few days to see if the green shoots are emerging. The real magic comes at harvest time, when large round potatoes are dug up out of the earth. Digging for potatoes is like digging for buried treasure, and potatoes come in some amazing colors and shapes too.

Plants that children can eat are a good way to interest them in the garden. Sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries are probably the favorites. Searching through the dark green leaves looking for a bright red, ripe berry is almost like hide-and-seek. This delicious fruit is its own reward. Strawberries planted now will bear fruit this summer.

Kids enjoy garden structures like a bean teepee or a sunflower house, where they can have a secret hideaway. Other plants that are good for tall garden structures are scarlet runner beans, morning glories (in red, blue and purple) and white moonflowers.

Don’t forget to plant some fragrant flowers for them to pick and enjoy. Sweet peas make the perfect bouquet and honeysuckle flowers can be enjoyed for their sweet nectar as well. Oriental lilies have a lovely scent as do lavenders, which are fun to make into sachets or lavender wands.

When kids are a little older, they will enjoy having a garden space of their own. Let him plant what he wants in his own way. If she plants an entire seed packet in one square foot, she will see the results and may decide to spread the seeds out better next time. Encourage the planting of flower bulbs. It’s wonderful to see what grows out of a hard, dry bulb.

If you love to garden, chances are that your children will grow to enjoy being outdoors and may develop an interest in gardening if you help them discover the joys of the plant world.