| In warmer micro-climates; get started planting first crop of tomatoes. Early Girl and such varieties are good first plantings to get home grown early. Later part of March to mid-April, plant different varieties to harvest later and also late May, early June third planting goes in for even later pickings.
Peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini are okay to plant early. It is smart to plant some later to see what works better in your yard, comparing early plantings with later plantings.
Be generous with compost around plants, just don’t bury the plants. Worm castings is one of the best fertilizers for veggies and herbs.
Remember optimum pH for growing most veggies is 6.5. Soils in southern California tend to be slightly alkaline due to ‘hard’ tap water and low rainfall so apply pH adjuster as needed to ensure availability of nutrients.
Premature fruit drop, poor fruit ‘set’, and blossom end rot can be prevented by making sure calcium is available during the growing season.
Tomato hornworms can be kept to a minimum by planting French marigolds near your tomato plants.
We sell beneficial nematodes (used to control white grubs, cutworms, and other soil pests). Apply early in the season for best results. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that kill soil pests, but do not harm earthworms. They are safe to use in vegetable gardens.
Wood planter boxes can be custom ordered. You tell us the height, length, and width. I personally prefer 4’ long, 3’ wide, and 2’ tall. Raised planters give perfect drainage, easy reach, and makes it a little harder for critters to reach your veggies. Chicken wire cage top might be necessary to control squirrels or rats.
| Down To Earth brand fertilizers offer a variety of pre-mixed blends and single ingredient products. During the spring we all enjoy the blooming and early stages of fruit production, including our favorite acid loving fruits like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and boysenberries. For this fruiting season I am trying an all organic, or as organic as one can get, regimen of fertilizers. This includes a mixture of liquid fertilizers in the form of compost tea, and various other added ingredients to be utilized immediately (more on that in a later article.)
The basis of this seasons’ fertilization, the long term- slower to break down and released, is the DTE Acid Mix 4-3-6. The Acid Mix comes in a small particulate form, to be applied by mixing in within the first few centimeters of dirt for established, or planted/potted plants. Specific directions for new plants and in ground are supplied on the box.
The first time I applied this fertilizer was around mid-February, and within two weeks new growth had appeared and seemed quite content. Since then, the new shoots and growth have climbed my string trellis for my boysenberries, and the blueberries have gone absolutely mad. I think I found the magic combination, using liquid fertilizers and dry fertilizers, for immediate and long term sustenance. This is the most vigorous growth I have seen in my berry plants since I have had them! Can’t wait for the fruits, they’re just starting to grow out, I have a feeling this season is going to be a solid yield.
Deciding which groundcover looks the most attractive for the area you need to cover is the easy part. Determining if that one is best suited for the soil type, exposure, and microclimate you have should also have bearing on which groundcover you choose. Consulting with one of our experienced nursery team members can make the process of choosing the most suitable groundcover for our needs less painstaking than it needs to be.
A visit to Plant Depot with a few photos and measurements of the area you are planning to put groundcover will help but is not completely necessary if you know well the exposure and measurements.
The following are just some of the questions we should be asking before or as we walk over to the groundcover selection:
1. Approximately size of the area?
2. Is it a slope, flat, or a little of both?
3. All day sun or partial because of trees, shrubs, fences, etc…
4. Will there be foot traffic over the area?
5. Is there adequate (or better) irrigation system?
6. Any new hardscape within the last few years?
7. Are there roots filling soil from existing established trees and shrubs or roots in soil left behind from plants removed within the last year or two?
8. Is there a history of gopher, mole, or vole issues?
9. Are there noxious weeds in the area (noxious weeds are those known to be very difficult to control)?
10. Is there a concern about bees, allergies, or squeamishness?
You may arrive with the answers to those questions ready when you begin the conversation with a Plant Depot team member or a little investigation and a return visit may be in order.
Before we move on here, one question I left out of the above list needs comment: Soil type.
Slightly alkaline and predominantly clay is the soil profile of most areas in south orange county. Absolutely there are exceptions, a few areas with more sandy soil or where someone has been amending for years structurally improving the texture as well as the soil flora and fauna population. For the most part, clay soil that is slightly alkaline is what we have to work with.
Since we are on the topic, there are some groundcovers that grow fairly well or are tolerant of clay slightly alkaline soils.
Here is the short list:
These groundcovers can do well with a fair degree of soil preparation.
Moving on, depending on your answers to the initial questions, the look you are after and how much of a hurry you want the area filled, selecting a groundcover need not be a struggle or difficult process.
Here we would like to offer specific groundcovers for specific situations:
Around and under fruit trees:
White or Pink Clover, Creeping Thyme, Trailing Rosemary, a low-spreading Salvia, Sweet Alyssum
In between stepping stones:
Dymondia magaretae, Scotch or Irish Moss, Baby Tears (shade), Dwarf Mondo Grass, Sedum spurium or other low profile Sedum, Potentilla
In moist and shady areas:
Baby Tears, Vinca minor or major, Pachysandra, Lamiastrum, Bergenia cordifolia.
Under established trees where root filled soil makes it difficult for most plants to last long: Glechoma hederacea, Hedera helix (English Ivy or other tight small leaf type).
Where you want to attract butterflies:
White or Pink Clover, Chamomile, Yarrow, Trailing Lantana
Where you have full sun and want maximum flowering most of the year:
Trailing Lantana, Gazania, African Daisy, Sweet Alyssum, Santa Barbara Daisy
We hope these suggestions will be helpful towards your success in having the garden you will be proud of.
| Rose Slugs, which are the larval stages of a flying insect known as the sawfly, can cause serious damage to rose leaves during the growing season. The rose slug, which isn’t a slug at all, feeds on the surface of the leaf, causing the leaf to look lacey, or skeletonized. If damage is light and sparse, the health of the rose is not in jeopardy. However, if damage gets severe and begins to cover a large portion of the plant, it may be necessary to apply a spray.
Sprays containing horticultural oils, including neem oil, can be effective against the insect. Spinosad (Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew) is another product that has been used effectively. Just remember to follow label directions accordingly. If damage is light, it is wise to prune off the effective areas. In my own yard, I have pruned my roses back when damage gets severe, just to watch my plants grow back beautifully a few weeks later.
Whichever method you use to control the rose slug, identifying and catching it early in the growing season can limit your need to spray, limiting damage to beneficial insects.