Category Archives: The Monthly Gardner

Help Save Water and Save Money

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While I have written about the importance of saving water, “Southern California’s Most Pressing Problem”“Water – Water – Everywhere … So Where Did It Go?”, the reality is that this very serious problem threatens Southern California’s very existence and it isn’t going away! In fact, it’s getting worse. And as we are already in “fire season” (“Firewise Your Landscape“) I thought I would bring to your attention some of the money and water-saving programs and approaches currently available.

Water Conservation in Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles recently implemented Phase II of its Water Conservation Ordnance, which requires the following:

Summer Fun

  • Outdoor watering with sprinklers is restricted to three days a week with different watering days assigned to odd-numbered and even-numbered street addresses.
  • Customers with odd-numbered street addresses – ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9 – are allowed to use their sprinkler systems on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Customers with even-numbered street addresses – ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8 – are allowed to use their sprinkler systems on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
  • Watering with sprinklers is limited to one eight-minute cycle per watering day for non-conserving nozzle sprinkler systems (typical residential system), or two 15-minute cycles per watering day for conserving nozzle sprinkler systems.
  • All outdoor watering is restricted to hours before 9:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m., regardless of the watering day.

To continue reading … Eva’s Notes & News

March Madness – Fruit Trees Are Where It’s At!

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March is the ideal time to plant most fruit trees in Southern California—it’s not to hot—it’s not to cold, it is, as they say, just right! A March planting allows the tree to grow though out the summer and fall.

imagesIf you’re going to plant this month, planting a bare-root tree makes a great deal of sense. It is often less expensive, there is usually a greater selection available and they establish well. However, if you purchase a bare root tree and can’t plant it immediately, it’s best to cover the roots with soil until you can. Here is an excellent video on how to go about planting bare root fruit trees.

If March doesn’t work for you, then I suggested if you plant toward the end of spring, such as late May or June, a potted tree would be the better choice.

Make sure you know how much space each tree will need when it’s fully grown, what’s needed to prepare the soil and how deep to plant the tree. And remember, it’s important to plant in an area where the soil is well drained.

Here is a list of trees that do well in our environment. For more information about growing fruit trees in Southern California please check out eHow.com, Types of Fruit Trees Grown in Southern California, which is the source of this material or simply Google, “fruit trees Southern California”.

lemmonCitrus: Oranges, Limes and Lemons

Citrus fruits include the various types of oranges, tangerines, limes, grapefruits and lemons. According to the University of California’s IPM program, citrus trees do well in areas with warm summers; if they’re planted in a location that’s too cool, “the fruit quality will be poor with little sugar production in the fruit.”

Washington navel, Robertson navel and Valencia oranges—all “peel and eat” fruits—are some of the more popular varieties of orange trees in Southern California, while Eureka and Meyer lemons and Mexican and Bearss limes are very popular

Stone Fruits: Peaches, Plums, Nectarines and Apricots

Like all stone fruits, peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots have large stones or pits in the center. The trees drop their leaves in the winter and produce white and pink blossoms during the spring. Stone fruit varieties that require fewer hours in temperatures less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit—such as Babcock peaches, Santa Rosa plums, rose nectarines and goldkist apricots—are best suited to Southern California.

pomegranatePome Fruits: Apples and Pomegranates

The pome fruit family–whose name is “derived from the botanical name of the fruit produced” by its trees, according to researchers at Cornell University–includes apples and pomegranates. Pome fruits are generally found in cooler temperate zones; however, there are certain “low chill” varieties that can grow in warmer climates, such as gala and Beverly Hills apples and ruby red and wonderful pomegranates.

Persimmons

Persimmon trees, of which there are about 200 species, are evergreen and produce two- to three-inch orange or brown fruits that can be seedless. The trees bloom in late fall, and they don’t require many hours in temperatures less than 45 degrees, making them very suitable for Southern California.

figsFigs

Fig trees are easy to cultivate and require warmer temperatures to grow, according to the University of California Backyard Orchard program. Several varieties produce two crops: the “breba,” or first, crop, which “matures in mid-summer,” and the second crop, which “matures in late summer or fall,” according to the program.

The Monthly Gardner – February 2013

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pruneing-rose
Where to prune a rose.

This has been an unusually cold and wet winter, which means that while January is the ideal time to prune, February is still a good time to get those shears out and prune what you probably did not do last month. But don’t wait till March, particularly if the weather turns hot and dry. And keep up with the harvest of cool-season crops, such as peas, lettuces, and spinach. It will encourage more production.

Pruning

Roses can still be pruned. Take out all crossing canes, dead canes, or any that look diseased. If any canes have grown below the graft union or bud union, get rid of them. And prune mature bushes to around 18 to 20 inches in height.

Cut back woody and overgrown perennials. If in doubt, look at the base of the plant. If it is sending up fresh growth there, you can safely cut off the dead or old plant material now. Cut back old foliage from ornamental grasses, liriope (monkey grass) and mondo grass to just a few inches high. And evergreens may still be pruned, but avoid pruning them later on this spring and summer.

 Bare-root Planting

Now is the perfect time for bare-root planting (plants without a root ball) There’s a whole host of bare-root plants available through mail order, but if you’re buying locally, roses, berry bushes, artichokes and ornamental trees should be available. For information on how to go about planting bare-root stock, also know as dry-root, check out my January 17, 2012 blog on the subject.

 Fertilizers

Fertilize roses and perennials at the end of the month and keep them watered. You can use chemical fertilizers (follow package directions on amount and frequency) or organic fertilizers, such as compost, fish emulsion, and others.

In the low desert and other hot areas, feed citrus, avocado, and deciduous trees now, but wait till next month in cooler coastal or higher zones.

Weed Killer

To greatly reduce weeds, apply a pre-emergent weed killer to beds and borders. It works by preventing seeds from germinating, so don’t apply anywhere you’re planting seeds.

And for more information, check out February 2012,  Monthly Gardner.

The Monthly Gardener – September– Clean Up and Get Ready!

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While this has been an unusually hot September, this month’s heat does not eliminate the need to begin cleaning up the garden and getting ready for what’s just around the corner – October – Southern California’s best month for planting.

So get rid of fading flowers, spent annuals and vegetables that are no longer performing and hit the nurseries now to get the best selection of spring-flowering bulbs, some of which can be planted now, while others will be stored for future planting.

You also need to be on guard for our Santa Ana winds that can come roaring off the desert and down through the canyons, acting like a blowtorch on tress and shrubs. To help large perennials survive the stress caused by the winds, make sure that they are well watered in advance of the wind’s arrival.

Fall Tree Planting

This is the perfect time of year to plant a tree – the roots will get well established before they go dormant, ready for the spring surge of both foliage and root growth. But before you head for the tree farm, decide what you want from a tree – where it will be planted and for what purpose.

If you want summer shade for the house, a deciduous tree planted on the south side would be appropriate. If you prefer a pleasant window view, a grouping of silver birches might be nice.

Once you’ve made a preliminary choice, consider the mature size of the tree – does the area allow the tree sufficient space when it’s mature? Have you planned for the different needs of the shaded and moist soil underneath its widespread limbs? When all these considerations seem to fit, purchase it and plant it.

Bulb Planting

Store the bulbs you bought and didn’t plant in a cool, well-ventilated area until you’re ready to plant them. Chill crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, narcissus, and tulip bulbs in a paper bag on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator–at about 40 degrees–for at least six weeks. Wrap them in paper–not plastic–bag, since the bulbs are alive and must breathe.

Enrich the soil where the bulbs are to be planted with com-post, bone meal, and granite dust or wood ashes (but not from charcoal briquettes used in the barbecue, which contain harmful chemicals). Also, add some nitrogen, as it is easily washed from the soil by winter rains, and bulbs need a small but continuous supply all winter long for strong foliage and the bloom stalk growth.

For a long-lasting spring display, plant some early, mid-season, and late-blooming bulbs every other week from October through mid-December, and again beginning in late January.

Depth of planting also affects when the bulbs will bloom: shallower plantings will bloom sooner, and deeper plantings will bloom later. If you want everything to bloom for one spectacular display, plant the bulbs at the same time and at the same depth.

More Information

If you want to know more about what to do in the garden in September, check out Pat Welsh’s “Southern California Gardening – A Month-by-Month Guide, or Google, “Southern California Gardening September.”

The Monthly Gardener – August – Living Is Easy

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While August may be the “dog days of summer” to some, to me, it’s the time to enjoy your garden to its fullest and if you’ve planted vegetables, a lot of delicious produce.

Other than maintenance and watering, which I have written about extensively over the last couple of months and guarding and spraying against insects, there’s not a lot that you have to do. So sit by the pool, have a barbeque or enjoy our cool summer evenings with friends, family, a pitcher of lemonade or, my preference, a frosty gin and tonic.

However, if you must busy yourself in the garden, do it in the early morning or early evening so that you and your plants aren’t stressed out by the sun and the heat of the day.

Can’t Stop Gardening?

If there are beds that still need to be tended or areas that cry out for help, and if you live in a costal zone, it’s still possible to plant:

and to fertilize:

  • roses, fuchsias, tuberous begonias, tropicals, ferns, water lilies, cymbidiums, warm-season lawns and succulents growing in containers

Pests & Diseases

Scale, spider mites, and thrips may attack during summer months. Mist plants frequently to increase humidity and reduce stress. Treat plant infestations with insecticidal soap, following label instructions or with a neem oil product if the infestation persists.

More Information

If you want to know more about what to do in the garden in August, check out Pat Welsh’s “Southern California Gardening – A Month-by-Month Guide, or Google, “Southern California Gardening August.”

The Monthly Gardener – July – Sit Back & Enjoy

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While Spring and Fall are the ideal times for planting, July is the perfect month to enjoy all the work you did in landscaping your garden. So why not fire up the grill and have a barbeque, or a pool party or just sit back and enjoy the cool of California’s glorious summer evenings with a few friends, a few cocktails and some good conversation.

However, if you still feel the urge to garden, there are some plants that can tolerate being planted in the heat of the summer, such as cacti, succulents, tropicals, hibiscus and summer annuals. Just do your planting in the early morning or late afternoon and make sure that everything is thoroughly and deeply watered. But your main focus this month should be on maintenance and watering.

I’m only going to touch on watering in this blog post because July’s newsletter will be all about watering and how to save both it and your money and how your environmentally smart watering choices can positively impact our environment. If you’d like to know about saving water, you can also check a previous post of mine, “5 Ways To Save Water.”

So … what’s up for July?

  • Watering: sprinklers should be set to run between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m to deep water lawns (approximately 20 minutes every three day) – use drip irrigation or soaker hoses for flowers and vegetable gardens – mature tress should be watered deeply but infrequently;
  • Fertilize:  roses, fuchsias, tuberous begonias, water lilies, corn, cymbidiums, camellias, azaleas, impatiens, ferns, warm and cool-season lawns, tropicals, cacti and euphorbias growing in the ground
  • Trim. Deadhead & Prune: chrysanthemums, roses, flowers, impatiens, hydrangeas, hibiscus, English primroses, succulents daylilies, Martha Washington geraniums
  • Pests & Diseases: as new growth and buds appear, so do an assortment of pests and diseases. You need to be diligent in checking all of your plants – both sides of the leaves – for white fly and thrips and check to see if slugs or snails are present. If a plant is infected, I suggest looking up the plant on the Internet to see what the infection might be and how to handle it.  There are any number of remedies on the market but the choice all depends on the plant, the infection and your particular needs.

If you’d like to learn more about what to do in the garden in July, check out Pat Welsh’s “Southern California Gardening – A Month-by-Month Guide, or Google, “Southern California Gardening June.”

The Monthly Gardener – June – Gloom & Bloom

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Garden Of Eva Landscape Design Group - English Garden EntranceVisitors to Los Angeles in June are often taken aback by the overcast “gloom” of our mornings. Last week I was working on commercial property when a couple walked by, stopped, and asked me, “What’s the story with your weather?” “What story?” I said, as I struggled to adjust a concrete planter. “All this gray?” the man responded. “Oh … that’s May gray – it comes every year. But if you’re here next week, it’ll be June gloom.” The couple looked at each other and I, not wanting to sound too pessimistic, added, “But it usually clears up by one.”

But whether it’s gray or gloom, June is a relatively sane month as far as gardening is concerned, since most of what you wanted to plant should be planted by now.

So … what’s up for June?

If you’re still in the mood or haven’t managed to get to it, here is a list of tropical and sub-tropicals as well as vines that can still be planted this month along with what plants need to be fertilized:

  • Tropicals & subtropicals: bougainvillea, gardenia, ginger, hibiscus, palms, tree ferns, cassias, coral tree, floss silk tree, golden trumpet tree and orchid tree
  • Flowering Vines: bower vine, mandevilla, violet trumpet vine, blood-red trumpet vine, royal trumpet vine and vanilla trumpet vine
  • Fertilize:  citrus and avocado trees, roses, fuchsias, tuberous begonias, bamboo, water lilies, corn, cymbidiums, camellias, ferns, warm and cool-season lawns, tropicals, perennials and succulents growing in containers

Pests & Diseases

As new growth and buds appear, so do an assortment of pests and diseases. You need to be diligent in checking all of your plants – both sides of the leaves – for white fly and thrips and check to see if slugs or snails are present. If a plant is infected, I suggest looking up the plant on the internet and seeing what the infection might be and how to handle it.  There are any number of remedies on the market but the choice all depends on the plant, the infection and your particular needs.

If you want to know more about what to do in the garden in June, check out Pat Welsh’s “Southern California Gardening – A Month-by-Month Guide, or Google, “Southern California Gardening June.”

The Monthly Gardner – May – Growing Your Own Vegetables

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May is the month to finish up your spring planting by focusing on those heat-loving vegetables. While many of Southern California’s native plants are beginning to shut down for the dry summer months, if you plant your vegetables now and keep them well mulched and watered, they should flourish throughout the summer and provide a bountiful return come fall.

As I wrote in March and April’s blogs, “Creating Your Own Victory Garden” and “Recession Proves Fertile Ground For Fruits & Vegetables,” more and more people are recognizing that the smart thing to do is to take a portion of their beautifully manicured landscape, dig it up and turn it into a vegetable garden – following in the footsteps of Michelle Obama’s famous White House vegetable garden. This isn’t just about saving money at the grocery store, it’s about growing your own and eating you own delicious, natural (even organic) produce.

Planting Vegetables

You can either sow the seeds directly in the soil, or germinate them indoors in individual containers (see Planting Vegetable from Seed) that can be planted directly into the soil. Here is a list of vegetable that should be planted this month:

lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Here are some additional tips for intelligent planting:

  • Interplant cucumbers and beans to repel cucumber beetles and prevent the wilt diseases they carry
  • Plant potatoes to repel squash bugs
  • Plant corn in blocks of at least four rows in each direction to assure good pollination and continue planting only through the end of June, as later planting suffer from severe smut when maturing in September
  • Corn stalks make convenient pole bean supports if the beans are planted after the corn is six inches tall, so that the beans don’t outgrow the corn

Using Trellises

A trellis provides support for greater vegetable and fruit production per square foot of soil and for longer periods because more leaf area is exposed to sunlight and more air circulates. Vines grown on a trellis provide shade for a porch, patio or wall. Crops grown on a trellis are easier to pick and cleaner, not available to snails and slugs and not prone to ground rot.

Some vines need more guidance and anchoring onto the trellis than others, but all will grow well with proper fertilization and irrigation.

Mulching

Maintain a good mulch of organic matter covering garden soil throughout the summer. This prevents the cracking of the soil surface, holds in moisture, encourages earthworms, moderates soil temperatures for optimum root growth, improves the soil as it decomposes and prevents weeds from germinating.

A two-to-four inch layer of mulch decreases evaporation from the soil by 70% or more, allowing you to water less often (but still deeply).

For more May gardening tips, please see May Gardening Tips for Los Angeles County Residents, which is the resource for this blog.

The Monthly Gardner – March

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March and April are the ideal times to get your garden planted. This includes most summer annuals and perennials, warm-season and cool-season lawns, some cool-season and warm-season vegetables, and almost all permanent garden plants, such as trees, shrubs, ground covers and vines. But I would hold off planting tropicals for a couple of months until the weather warms up. So get in gear and get your garden in shape!

And since there is so much that needs to be done, here is list of things you should consider:

Purchase & Plant:

  • Drought-resistant plants
  • Trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers
  • Flowerbeds with warm-season flowers
  • Perennials
  • Tigridias, gladioli, tuberous begonias
  • Cuttings: herbaceous and softwood
  • Citrus, avocado and macadamia trees
  • Fuchsias from cuttings
  • Lawns
  • Summer vegetables plus green beans, potatoes, artichokes, tomatoes, culinary hers and edible flowers

Trim, Prune, Mow, Divide:

  • Prune begonias, cannas, ginger, ivy, pyracantha and Sprenger fern
  • Dethatch warm-season lawns
  • Deadhead annual and perennial flowers
  • Tie into knots the floppy leaves of bulbs until they turn brown
  • Prune camellias, tropical hibiscus and epidendrum
  • Pinch fuchsias to make them bushy
  • Propagate bamboo
  • Mow all grass lawns

Fertilize

  • Citrus trees, avocado trees and macadamia trees
  • Fuchsias
  • Ornamental trees, bushes, lawns and ground covers
  • Container-grown flowers with liquid fertilizer
  • Cool season flowers if growth slows
  • Roses
  • All lawns
  • Treat blue hydrangeas with aluminum sulfate.

Water (when there isn’t sufficient rain)

  • All garden plants according to their needs
  • Fuchsias
  • Roses
  • Spring-flowering bulbs
  • Don’t let azaleas dry out

Control of Pests, Diseases & Weeds

  • Control slugs and snails
  • Check roses for pests and diseases
  • Control cutworms
  • Pull weeds
  • Spray cycads for scale
  • Control giant whitefly

Do Something Special

  • Plant herbs in a window box or garden

If you want to know more about what to do in the garden in March, check out Pat Welsh’s “Southern California Gardening – A Month-by-Month Guide, from which the majority of this information was excerpted, or Google, “Southern California Gardening March.”

The Monthly Gardener – February

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“Buds’re bustin’ out of bushes, And the rompin’ river pushes, Ev’ry little wheel that wheels beside the mill!”

Okay, Spring may not be “bustin’ out all over” as Oscar Hammerstein put it, but there are certainly enough buds beginning to make an appearance and the fact the Trader Joe’s  is selling daffodils does suggest that  Spring may be just around the corner.

So … what’s up for February?

To begin with, February is not a significant planting month – it’s a waiting month and a planning month. So use that rising sap to look over your garden and plan how you want to improve it when Spring does finally arrive. However, if you live within California’s costal zones, this a good time to:

  • Fertilize:  deciduous fruit, citrus and avocado trees, roses, fuchsias, cool-season lawns, perennials and create compost
  • Wash:  fruit and citrus trees with insecticidal soap or a solution of 1-2 tablespoons of dish detergent to 1 gallon of water
  • Prepare: garden by digging it up and putting down manure
  • Plant: camellias and azaleas, deciduous magnolias, clivia, gerberas, gladioli, lilies of the valley, succulents and perennials
  • Prune: kiwi vines, fuchsias, begonias, cannas, ginger, ivy, pyracantha Mexican bush sage and cut back woody and overgrown perennials
  • Lawns: Mow, feed, aerate and spread mulch on cool-season lawns

If you want to know more about what to do in the garden in February, check out Pat Welsh’s “Southern California Gardening – A Month-by-Month Guide, from which the majority of this information was excerpted, or Google, “Southern California Gardening February.”