Vertical Gardening

Gardeners are not limited to the ground underneath their feet. Vertical garden-ing is becoming widespread as gardeners take their creativity to new heights. Vertical edible gardening has many advantages: Saves space Makes harvesting easier Can be constructed wherever you have sun Can provide privacy Easy to maintain Vining plants grown vertically take up much less space so a vertical container allows you to grow more in smaller areas like a patio or deck. Vertical gardens also allow for use of non-traditional spaces like walls and fences. Vertical spaces make maintaining your garden easier since problems like weeds, ground-dwelling pests and soil-borne diseases basi-cally become non-existent. While edible gardens are wonderful, many of us just want the beauty of flowers. Things as simple as turning birdhous-es, teacups and old mailboxes into miniature garden spaces, repurposing old furniture and bathtubs, allows for the gardener to transform gardens into works of art. http://getbusygardening.com …

IT’S IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Those of us who love to garden also love to stroll through those gardens to enjoy the colors and scents and feel the ambience. Many of us also enjoy watching the birds that come. We even en- courage   their   presence   with   bird   feeders   and   bird   baths.   Did you ever stop to think that the way we see in our gardens is not what the birds see? In the early 1970’s researchers accidentally discovered that birds can see in the ultraviolet spectrum. In fact, they are more sensitive to UV than to what we call visible light. Our eyes detect color because our retinas have three kinds of cone cells, which are the receptors used for color vision. Birds, at least those who are active during the day, have four, in- cluding one that is specifically sensitive to UV wavelengths. Each of their cone cells also contains a tiny drop …

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE

Water is more and more expensive. Dry years are more and more numerous in our area. However, there is no denying that we all enjoy the splash of color flowers add to our gardens. So let’s get the most bang for our buck. When choosing your posies, opt for ones that are edible or whose pretty flowers turn into veggies for our meals. Let me suggest a few possibilities and how to use them. Scatter petals of calendula, [C. officialis] for color or nasturtium [Tropaeolum magus] for a bit of zing in a bean or lettuce salad. Calendula petals can also be used as a substitute for saffron to color rice and brighten cheese and egg dishes. Pansies [Viola wittrock-iana], violas [Viola odorata], and Johnny-Jump-Ups [Viola tricolor] are pretty as toppings in salads. They can be used to decorate cakes and soft cheeses or sprinkled on soups, pasta or rice …

It’s Winter in San Diego County!

What does my vegetable garden need now that the weather is cooler, the winds are blowing and the rain (might) be coming? If you planted some of your winter greens in November, they are probably loving this cooler weather, but the winds can cause the soil to dry out much faster. Make sure to run your irrigation or hand water the day before a Santa Ana wind event is to happen. Set your irrigation system on a reduced watering schedule for the winter and be sure to turn it off when it rains. Your winter vegetables only need infrequent watering. Only water when you stick your finger into the soil and it’s dry to the second knuckle. If you live in a microclimate that does get frost, be ready with some type of protection for your precious plants. Cover sensitive plants with cloth, not plastic, and don’t forget to remove it each …

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. …