Friday, January 23, 2009

What To Do In Your Garden in February

February is a tough time for gardeners in Southern California. It’s the dead of winter, with visions of spring just around the corner. We can’t wait for the cold weather to be over so we can plant, plant, plant! If a nice, sunny day comes along, we go nuts and head for the nursery to find and plant whatever we can, forgetting that it’s still the dead of winter. But alas…even though planting is not the greatest idea for flowers and ornamentals, it’s a great time to plant veggies, herbs, bare root roses and some fruit trees.

It’s also a great time to pay a little attention to some garden “housekeeping”. When was the last time you cleaned your garden tools? Or washed your dirty gardening gloves? Have you swept out your gardening shed in the last year or so? February is a perfect time in Southern California to accomplish these things. While you never know from one day to the next what the weather will be like in February, there is plenty to do to get your garden ready for that glorious spring day when your bulbs begin to flower and ornamentals can start going in the ground.

Mulching is a big one. Mulching now will save you a lot of weeding come spring. In Southern Cal, we’ve had a few days of rain and in November, we actually had some pretty decent rain. So in my garden, and most likely in many gardens around So Cal, weeds are popping up like…well…weeds! The best time to pull weeds is when the ground is nice and soft so you get the roots. If you’ve had a nice rain, head out the next day and pull some of those nasty weeds. Once you’ve done that, mulching is the next most important thing to do. Not sure how to mulch? Easy! All you do is clear all the weeds away and rake up all around to get any dead leaves, etc. Spread some pre-emergent weed control (available from The Happy Gardener-see below) all around the beds, following the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help to stop any weeds from growing before they can get started. Top that with single sheets of newspaper, being careful to overlap at the seams so no dirt is showing through. This will help to keep water and air from getting to the ground which would nourish any weeds that might be ready to pop up (and you don’t want that!). Mist the newspaper with a little water, but do not soak. Then put your mulch down…any kind will do; pine needles, bark nuggets, rocks, etc. Make it thick…2 – 3 “ is a good amount. Make sure to mulch around your existing plants and leave a little room around the plant free from mulch. This makes an excellent “bowl” for the water you give your plant.

So if you’re itching to get out in the garden and “play”, here’s your list for Feb:

Clean your garden tools
Clean your garden shed
Buy new containers if needed
Clean old containers
Pull weeds

And finally….don’t forget our fine feathered friends. Keep putting bird food out to keep em coming back!

Organic pre-emergent weed control is available from The Happy Gardener, Please email me if you’d like further information!

Happy Gardening!

Independent Garden Consultant
The Happy Gardener

Friday, January 16, 2009

I've Made a Decision

I have finally made a decision about my backyard garden. Let me explain:

The Mayor of our fine city has told us that our water situation is bleak and we must conserve. We have been under a “water shortage emergency” since July of 2008 and to be honest, I haven’t really seen anyone paying much attention. I still see people watering their lawns; I still see people washing their cars at home; I still see water running down the gutters; I still see pools of water lying in the streets for no apparent reason and I still see lots and lots and lots of green grass around the city. Anyone that was conserving should have at least a hint of brown in their lawn, especially since our temperatures have been in the high 70’s low 80’s for the last week. While green is a lovely color and the sign of a healthy lawn, it does not indicate much conservation going on. I would rather see that water going towards growing food than going towards having aesthetically pleasing lawns. If this city does not do better with water conservation, we will be forced to conserve in ways that could be rather unpleasant. Anyone remember the days when we were asked to flush our toilets once a day to help conserve water? Ugh.

My backyard garden consists of a lawn, a few permanent plantings and lots of plants in containers. Last year, I stopped watering the lawn to help with water conservation. Needless to say, my lawn was awful; brown and absolutely full of stickers and weeds. I was constantly pulling stickers out of my poor dog’s fur last summer. It will be the same this year, so I’m going to try to figure out a way to get rid of my lawn and still have a pleasing yard. I have no clue how I’m going to do that, but I am going to research.
My biggest decision though is about my container plants. I love my container plants. That’s where I grow my flowers and my strawberries and my tropical’s and all sorts of wonderful, beautiful plants. When spring comes, it’s all I can do to wait for the spring flowering plants to arrive in the local nursery so I can plant them in my containers. And as the growing season changes, it is so easy to change the plants I have. Unfortunately….container plants of these types are water hogs.

Did I say I love my container plants?

So I have made the decision to cut way back this year on my container plants. I have several that are well established and I will not be cutting back on them. For these I will be consistently using SeaResults Micronutrient Solution from the Happy Gardener. It helps keep the plants healthy and helps build up a resistance to drought. But I will be limiting the new plantings this year. And that makes me sad. They bring me such joy. But we all have to make sacrifices in these tough times. While it makes me sad to know I will not be puttering in my garden as much this year, I can try to get satisfaction in knowing that I will be doing more to help keep the water flowing where it needs to; to the farmers and to the community.

Now, you are probably saying that that is not much of a contribution and it’s such a small thing it won’t make any difference anyway and that it is pretty stupid to be sad over such a thing. But that’s when I ask…..what are you doing to help?

Did I say I love my container plants?