BEYOND ALOE VERA

My fascination with Aloes began during visits to the San Diego Zoo with my grandchildren. Most of you know that both the San Diego Zoo and the Zoo Safari are homes to collections of plants as well as animals. I was drawn to the variety of colors and sizes I saw. I have since learned that the 600 species that exist range in size from a few inches to 20-foot Aloe trees. Their sensitivity to frost limits garden usage to frost-free zones. However, for those of you in locations prone to frost, many can be grown in containers so you can move them to safety when frost is predicted. An option for those grown in the ground is to cover them with a large plastic container that is higher and wider than the aloe or with a sheet or blanket. Entrepreneurs are now even offering ‘plant blankets’. It is important …

Crop Rotation in a Home Vegetable Garden

In a home vegetable garden, crop rotation involves changing the planting location of vegetables within the garden each season. Crop rotation is used to reduce damage from insect pests and to limit the development of vegetable diseases by interrupting pest and disease cycles. Crop rotation also helps manage soil fertility by returning nutrients to the soil without synthetic inputs. Although crop rotation is usually geared toward large conventional farms, the lessons are the same for the home vegetable garden. As many large commercial farms plant the same crop, year after year, more chemical fertilizer, insecticide, fungicide, spectracide, and herbicides are needed. This will happen in the home garden as well. A three-year cycle can be used, but even this can become complicated for those with limited planting areas, so moving your plants even a few feet from where they were last season will be beneficial for the plant’s health. A …

United States Department of Agricultural Investigates Packages

United States Department of Agricultural Investigates Packages of Unsolicited Seeds from China. USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation. USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins. To finish reading the full report from the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/stakeholder-info/sa_by_date/sa-2020/sa-07/seeds-china To report any suspicious seeds …

Beyond Daffodils and Narcissus

We live in an area of the country blessed with a Mediterranean climate (warm, wet winters under prevailing westerly winds and calm, hot, dry summers.) Sooo, why not venture beyond the familiar and try some South African corms in your garden? Corms? Not bulbs? Yep! Bulbs are underground stems that contain an embryonic plant complete with leaves, stems, and flower buds. These are wrapped around with scales (modified leaves) held together at the base. Bulbs will persist for many years, periodically producing new small bulbs. Corms, on the other hand, are underground stems that are solid and do not have the overlapping leaves. Each corm only lasts one year. It shrivels as it uses up its stored energy to grow and bloom. A new corm forms on top. Cormels also grow around the base. Some of the more popular are: Sparaxis, Babiana, Ixia, Freesia, and Watsonia. All can be planted …

Succulents Basics

Soil – All succulents require excellent soil drainage. Water should run through pots fast so the plant’s roots don’t get waterlogged. Water – Succulents are adapted to survive in harsh, dry conditions but this doesn’t mean they don’t like water when they can get it. One major tip is, they don’t like being soggy. If growing in a pot, let the soil dry out between waterings. Water enough to keep the leaves plump. Succulent leaves will often wrinkle if they don’t have enough water, but it’s better to let them get a little dehydrated than to overwater them. Hint: during the rainy season turn the saucers you have under your pots upside-down so they won’t get waterlogged. Light – Succulents evolved in dry climates but shouldn’t be confused with tough desert cactus. Full sun outdoors is okay for Aloes (not all aloes, Aloe vera prefers part shade – at least …

RECYCLE, RECYCLE, RECYCLE

You are in the kitchen preparing breakfast. You remove used coffee grounds and filter from the coffee pot, peel some oranges and bananas, crack some eggs. What do you do with these unwanted parts? Hopefully, you don’t throw them into the trash to go to a landfill where they will produce strong greenhouse gases when you could be using them to make your own compost. What? That is a time and energy consuming task reserved for those dedicated gardeners with labor intensive compost piles. Maybe not. Let’s talk about a couple of relatively simple ways to turn your unwanted  food scraps (as well as garden trimmings) into the compost which will: improve your soil structure, help your soil hold water, suppress some diseases, and make nutrients more readily available to your plants. The Trench Method takes the least amount of effort. Save your kitchen scraps in a small lidded container. …

Container Vegetable Gardening

ADVANTAGES OF CONTAINER VEGETABLE GARDENING Less risk of soil-borne disease Virtually eliminate weed problems Versatile, allowing you to grow on a patio, balcony or courtyard Mobile plants gives more control over moisture, sunlight & temperature Portable gardens are suitable for renters, edible gardens in pots can move with you Makes gardening accessible to those with limited mobility Helps control space invaders, like mint and rosemary CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTAINER FOR GROWING VEGETABLES Any number of things can be used, flower pots, buckets, washtubs, wooden boxes, even plastic bags. No matter what kind of container you use, it should have drainage holes at the base or in the bottom. Vegetable plants will die if left sitting in wet soil. Dark colored containers, outdoors will absorb heat which can damage roots, so try painting them a lighter color or place them accordingly. The size of the container is important. For larger vegetables …

Things to Do In…

MARCH Plant starts of lettuce and cole vegetables, dill, cilantro, parsley. Sow seeds of peas, radishes,carrots, beets. Wait until the soil warms up a bit and the evening temperatures are consistently 50 degrees or above to plant summer vegetables. Time to plant most permanent landscape plants (shrubs, trees, vines.) Wait until April or May to plant tropicals. Act on Nancy Conway’s advice to “…sprinkle gypsum on your garden as you would sprinkle powdered sugar on French toast.” Plant container fruit trees Final opportunity to spray copper sulfate for peach leaf curl and peach leaf blight before the buds open – never once they have opened or fruit could be damaged. Time spent weeding now will reap benefits in the heat of the summer. APRIL Divide crowded clumps of summer-flowering perennials Prune and feed citrus Plant summer blooming bulbs, corms, and tubers. When planting, feed them with 10-10-10 fertilizer incorporated 1” …