Gardening During Spring

Although the winter has been mild this year, there’s nothing like spring (which officially begins March 20), to kick off the planting season.

Keep Weeds in Check: Just about everything grows in spring-including weeds. You might already see weeds starting to invade your garden, especially after a rain. To avoid the drudgery of plucking weeds from your yard throughout spring and summer, take the time now to remove weeds while they are still small. Once removed, cover the weed-free area with a two-to-three-inch layer of mulch. Mulch is a natural weed suppressant. No chemicals needed.

Prepare Garden Soil: After winter, soil often needs to be revitalized with the proper nutritional mix. Add soil amendments based on the soil type. There are products available to loosen heavy clay soil so that water can more easily reach a plant’s root system. Other products give sandy soil structure to reduce erosion.

Spruce Up Your Lawn: Your lawn may have been damaged by winter frost and have become naturally compacted. Revitalize your lawn by first lightly raking the lawn to remove fallen leaves, Then, aerate (aerators are available for purchase or rent at most garden centers) to loosen the soil and allow water and air to reach deep. Finally, add a lawn top dressing containing nutrients that will work their way into the grass root system.

Add Summer Flowers: Spring is when gardens come alive with color. Plants with vibrant flowers include alstoemeria, armeria, bearded iris, columbine, geraniums, nicotiana and veronica. Other varieties include agapanthus, coreopsis, daylily, penstemon, Shasta daisies, tulbaghia and yarrow. Don’t forget California wildflowers-just sprinkle their seeds throughout your flower garden.

Plant Vegetables And Herbs: After the last chance of frost (around mid-month) and the soil warms, head to the nursery to pick up vegetable plants or seeds. About every type of vegetable does well if planted during early spring. They include tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, onion, potatoes, spinach, turnips and corn. Plant herbs from seed such as basil, mint, oregano, parsley and rosemary.

Give Citrus Trees a Boost of Nitrogen: Consider having your soil around avocado and citrus trees analyzed at your local nursery to see if it is deficient in nutrients.Typically, these trees need a boost of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous in spring so the plants are healthy and ready to bear fruit. Now is also a good time of the year to plant avocado and citrus trees-giving them plenty of time to establish themselves before cooler winter weather.

Leave Frost Damage Alone: It may be tempting to remove leaves damaged by winter frost. Keep the leaves on the trees and let nature take over. As the weather warms, the trees will shed dead leaves naturally and new growth will emerge.

 

Take Care Your Young Trees

If you have planted new trees on your property and you plan to grow them over the coming years, you need to invest in the right care for them. That is the only way to ensure that a tree survey doesn’t reveal unpleasant signs later on.

The first 3-5 years are crucial for the health of the tree. With the proper tree care, you can up the chance of growing a healthy specimen. This in turn means reduced maintenance costs and minimises the potential issues that may develop. Make sure you follow the instructions below:

Watering – one of the most important aspects to looking after young trees is proper watering. Young trees can do with regular watering in order to fight off diseases. It is important to deep water them frequently in order to prevent surface roots. You can use the indication of soil moisture on how often to water. When the soil 4-6 inches below the surface of a tree feels moist (not wet), you should water. Be alert for drought symptoms, such as wilted, yellow/brown leaf edges. Mulch can greatly help with moisture retention in the soil. A 3-5 inch thick layer of mulch does wonders in that regard. Don’t rely on lawn irrigation, since light sprinkling for 5-10 minutes a day is only enough to moisten a few inches of the soil. Here are some practical watering instructions you should keep in mind throughout the life of a tree.

Year 1 – a few days after planting you should be watering every single day by filling the tree basin with 15 gallons of water. Reduce the amount of times you water to once a week within the next 3 weeks. The next 6 months you should fill the basin every other week for the remainder of the first year. At this point, roots require not just water, but also oxygen.

Year 2 – when rain is scarce, you should water every 2-4 weeks with about 15-20 gallons of water. Don’t water on the surface, because that creates water dependency and shallow roots. The goal is to water deeply but infrequently, so as to allow roots to seek moisture underground in order to develop properly.

Years 3-5 – watering once a month with 20-30 gallons of water is ideal. That maximises soaking and conserves water at the same time. Keep in mind prolonged dry periods, because proper watering during such times means the difference between a thriving and a struggling tree.

Weeding – despite the fact that trees usually tower over other plants, that can leave them deprived of nutrients and moisture. It is best to keep the base of the tree free from grass and other plants.

Protection – keep lawn equipment at bay, since it can damage the cambium layer just behind the bark. Don’t use chemicals near young trees and prune them carefully. It might be best to resort to arboricultural consultants for this job.

Proper tree care during the initial years after planting is essential for the health of any tree. Follow the tips outlined above to ensure your trees grow strong and healthy.

 

Understanding Dandelions

History:

Dandelions are herbs and have been around for millions of years. The Chinese mention this herb in the early 7th century and the Arabian doctors did not get around to the Dandelions until the 10th century. The dandelion is classed as an herb and for centuries was part of herb gardens.

Soil Type:

Dandelions need sun and light soil to grow well, however they will grow in any type of soil partially recently disturbed soil. So, having deserted the herb garden you will find them everywhere and how they relish it.

How they spread:

After they flower, they produce a seed head that blows on the wind or even a slight breeze. It has been estimated that a seed will travel up to a hundred miles. How they worked that one out, I have no idea. What I do know is that last autumn we had sand on our cars here in Oxford that had blown over from North Africa, so anything is possible. Dandelions are a master of endurance and you may be dismayed of never getting rid of them. However, they are ways of controlling them.

Iron Resolve

Getting rid of Dandelions must be treated as warfare with its goal: total annihilation of the plant. You must approach the task with a harshness and iron will, ferociously obliterating the Dandelion in your garden

How To Control Dandelions:

If they are in your lawn, you may think to your self: I will mow them to death. However, what happens is the dandelion just grow shorter. Keeps it head down, in other words. It was Darwin himself who first noticed this. So mowing is a no goer.

If you are into spraying chemicals, “Roundup” is the best. However, do be aware that “Roundup” will kill any thing that it touches and that includes Oak trees. So when you use it make sure that they is no wind at all.

Pouring boiling water will kill dandelions. You must make sure that you have enough boiling water to soak the plant, root and all. You should see results of this within four hours. The leaves will start to go brown.

Make a mixture of Isopropyl alcohol, that is rubbing alcohol, which can be bought at your local pharmacies. Mix two tablespoons of alcohol with two pints of water: put it in a spray bottle and spray until the Dandelion is dripping wet. The best time of the day to do this is midday on a hot afternoon. The plant will show signs of withering within two hours.

I use a mixture of vinegar and water. The mixture is: two pints of vinegar with a dash of liquid soap and two tablespoons of lemon juice. I put this in a hand help spray bottle and spray dandelions when ever I see them. The plant will die, never to return. However, others will spring up else where in the garden.

Dandelion are very easy to dig out.

The main way of controlling Dandelions is to never let the flowers turn into seed heads.

It Is Not All Bad:

Like every plant, Dandelion does have many uses, none of which I have tried.

Apart from using the leaves in salad one of the more useful ones in my view is extracting rubber from the plant to make tires for motor cars. Yes, you read it right:

Dandelions contain rubber, however before you rush out to your garden you may want to know that British plants do not contain enough to make it worth while. It is the Dandelion grown in Russian that contain the rubber.The milky sap is found in the root of the plant.

Just an Aside:

You may be used to seeing Dandelions six to eight inches high: However Mr Daniels from Bothorpe, Norfolk, UK, grew one in a pot that was just over 7 feet tall… truly a nightmare size plant.

 

Trying Aquaponics Indoor

Do you have an interest in growing organic foods?

Many gardeners who do traditional gardening or who have a desire to garden but do not have enough land have turned to Aquaponic gardening or farming. This method of growing allows production for fruits, vegetables, and fish. Both horizontal and vertical growing can be accomplished.

Beginners often start their first project in the home. Do you have an aquarium in storage or want to do more with your current fish tank? People enjoy the living art and the d├ęcor which this system introduces into living quarters. The beauty of the colorful fish and the greenery adds nature to the indoors while also growing foods. If there is no interest in growing foods many flowering plants may be considered.

Many gardeners enjoy traditional gardening. Some people like to use both methods.

Traditional Versus Aquaponics:

  1. Land vs water
  2. Large space vs small space
  3. Seasonal vs year-round
  4. Gardening tools vs some tools
  5. Seeds or plants are used in both systems
  6. Fertilizers vs organic fish wastes
  7. Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides vs none required for indoors
  8. Hours of maintenance vs one hour a day
  9. Manual labor vs automatic operating equipment
  10. Natural weather conditions vs controlled indoor environment
  11. Eat produce vs eat produce and fish

Growing plants with water and fish is much easier. This is a more pleasant way of obtaining organic vegetables and fresh fish raised on the homeland with minimum of effort and costs.

Fish has become very expensive at grocery stores. If you enjoy eating fish this becomes more affordable than shopping at your local store.

Why are home gardeners and commercial farmers using this method of growing crops or fish or the combination of crops and fish?

  1. Requires less water than traditional farming
  2. No waste water is produced
  3. No soil eroding conditions
  4. No requirements for harsh insecticides
  5. Toxin free fish

This type of farming coupled with fish farming has been done for thousands of years. Home growers have made great strides and the more ambitious gardeners are using abandoned buildings, such as warehouses, to build a commercial business. Once again, a hobby has become an entrepreneurs career.

How is this gardening accomplished?

  1. Select ornamental or edible fish
  2. A floating platform of containers with a plant or seed is placed on top of the water
  3. The roots are attracted to their nutritional needs with fish wastes
  4. The fish are placed below the plants.
  5. Feed your fish as their waste matter is the essential fertilizer for the plants
  6. The roots of the plants keep the fish tank clean

Gold fish are popular in the home because of their beautiful coloring. Edible fish will grow larger and when they reach the size which is just right for the dinner plate; go fishing by removing them from the tank.

There is your complete meal of fresh produce and meat. No license is required for this type of fishing.