Creating Edible Gardens and Pruning Roses
A good family friendly activity is to garden together to start the new year. An edible garden is a great way to start because you—literally–get to eat the fruits of your labor. All you need is an area that gets sunlight at least eight hours per day. You may need to trim back some trees or expand into an area that has been annual flowers. You can also do some gardening in containers. Radishes, lettuce and carrots are winter crops that grow well in containers. Summer crops that can be planted in containers include tomatoes and peppers. Many of our clients are taking out some of their lawn area to include space for a vegetable garden. If you have a lot of space available, consider fruit trees–especially citrus–or peaches, apricots, pears, pomegranates, desert apples are among those that also grow great. Some of these fruit trees are available in dwarf varieties.
Good soil preparation is a fundamental first step for all gardening, particularly in the southwest. Annual vegetable gardens should be prepared by mulching soil, acidifying and adding a fertilizer that provides the three major nutrients plants need to grow. If your soil just sits there after you have amended it and plants don’t grow, the soil may be microbially deficient as well. The solution is to inoculate your soil with an organic microbe mix. Following these steps will help produce big, tasty vegetables.
We teach two methods of soil preparation: organic and (for lack of a better term) inorganic. If you are an organic gardener, amend the vegetable garden with a one-inch layer of acidified, nitrolized mulch (this distinction is important because as mulch decomposes into the soil it uses nitrogen in the decomposition process; a nitrolized mulch won’t rob nitrogen from the soil), and one pound each per 100 square feet of acidifier, blood meal, and bone meal, as well as a microbe mix treatment per recommendations on label. Then, spade to a depth of about eight inches. For the inorganic gardener, a less costly, faster and more effective approach is to use a one-inch layer of mulch, one pound each per 100 square feet of acidifier and 14-14-14 Flower Power fertilizer as well as a microbe mix treatment per label. Then spade to a depth of eight inches as before.
To get started growing, you can use vegetable starts in four-inch pots, six-packs or grow them from seed. If starting with pots or six-packs, dig holes big enough for the plant’s root ball. Carefully remove the plant from the container and gently loosen the roots. Place the plant in a hole, being careful not to bury the stem any deeper than it was in the pot and firmly pack the soil around the root ball. Spacing between holes depends on what is being planted. Leave room for the plants to mature. Then, water the plants thoroughly.
Watering vegetables should be a touchy-feely process. By that I mean there is not one prescription for watering. Soil types vary and you will need to keep an eye on your plants as well as feel the soil for dampness – that last thing you want is soggy soil. For watering of vegetables I prefer to use a product called T-tape. This is a fantastic water-saving product that consists of a flat plastic tube that connects together in varying configurations and has pinholes every six to 12 inches. Just run the T-tape down the middle of the vegetable bed right along the line of plants. In general, water pre-started vegetables once a week (twice a week if it’s warm) for two to three hours or as needed depending on your soil type. Germination blankets, also sold as frost blankets, are a great help if growing from seed. Germination blankets will hold the heat in accelerating germination and growth and also protect new seedlings both from frost and birds. Keep seeds moist until sprouted, watering once a week if using T-tape and a germination blanket or, if hose watering, water every day to keep moist on top until germinated and then once established cut back the watering frequency to one to two times per week as needed. As you can see, using T-tape will cut your water usage in half, so I highly recommend it. It is also positive placement of water only on the area of the plants. This cuts down on weeds because water is not placed in areas not planted. T-tape is also quite durable and can be reused year after year. Other less-efficient watering methods like furrow irrigation and bubbler heads are also fine, but once the plants are established, avoid methods that overhead water, i.e. spray water onto the leaves and flowers. This method can affect bloom set and therefore vegetable production.
There are so many vegetables that we are able to grow in winter, that there’s not enough space in this article. To see a list online, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.gardenpro.net” www.gardenpro.net and check the vegetable and herb information sheets.
Pruning Roses and Trees
Pruning starts with assessing your landscape and plants needs. The best way to accomplish this is to step back so that you can see the whole picture while you inventory your various plants. You will be looking for too-thin or too-dense plant structure as well as plants that are too large for their space. Additionally, you should be looking for dead wood and cross branching, as these need removal. If your trees are over 10-feet. tall, the safest thing to do is to have them professionally pruned.
Finally, are your plants deciduous or evergreen? Fruit-bearing or frost sensitive? Each requires different approaches for peak performance. Once your plant-type and needs have been determined, you’ll be able to utilize the proper tools. Check to see if they may need sharpening or even replaced. The tools you’ll need will depend on the type of job.
When and What to Prune?
Primarily you’ll be pruning deciduous trees, shrubs and roses through the month of January as these plants require dormancy for healthy pruning. Start by pruning out dead, cross-branched and diseased wood. You also may need to prune for control or to increase fruit production.
Frost sensitive plants, such as bougainvillea, hibiscus, carissa, and lantana, to name a few, require pruning in March after the danger of frost has past. Pruning early will encourage new growth that is particularly sensitive to damage. Also, if these plants do suffer frost damage, the inclination is to prune away the damaged wood at once … DON’T! Pruning these plants while there is still danger of frost exposes the older wood to damage, encouraging new growth and removes insulation that the dead wood provides. It may be unsightly, but the plant will benefit from your patience. Once the danger of frost has passed, prune vines, shrubs and ground cover as indicated by their appearance and desired outcome. Some of the types of plants that can be pruned in January include: roses, deciduous fruit trees, grapes and non-native deciduous shade trees.