Jan 082013
 

by Avis Licht

Every little hair has frost on it.

Strawberries with frost

In the middle of a cold and wet winter day it’s hard to think about what needs doing in the garden. But there are a few items on the to do list that will give your garden a jump on  the spring rush.

Be sure to take a walk around the garden and check for erosion from rainy day run off. We’ve had some amazingly strong downpours this year that caused some unwanted waterfalls.  Read these posts to correct drainage problems. Sometimes there’s just too much water at once and you have to clean up after the fact. Take a look at my veggie garden: (click to enlarge)

Protect tender garden plants by covering them on frosty nights. You can use row covers, sheets, blankets or plastic.Succulents, citrus, bougainvillea and fuchsias are among the frost-sensitive plants. Use stakes to keep material from touching foliage and remove the coverings when temperatures rise the next day.

Many deciduous trees, shrubs and vines can be pruned now. Do not prune spring-blooming plants until after they bloom. Consult a pruning guide that lists optimum pruning times for different species.


 

 

 

Order seeds for your spring and summer garden. Read these posts I wrote on catalog offerings and seeds choices. Be sure to order my e book : The Spring Garden Made Easy. It will help you get your garden going in Spring.  It’s only $4.99 and you can download it right now!

It’s perfect timing to plant those hardy perennials during this season of rain and plant dormancy. It’s important to get down to your local nurseries to check out their stock of bare root fruit trees, soft fruit, and more. Think asparagus, artichoke, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate and all those great fruit trees. Just don’t work the soil when it is too wet.

It won't be long before the spring garden starts to grow.

It won’t be long before the spring garden starts to grow.

 

 

Feb 082012
 
New plantings in the spring garden


by Avis Licht  –

New plantings in the spring garden

Pots near the kitchen are great for herbs

 

 

Early Spring is the time for gardeners to get ready for their early vegetable garden.Here are a few things to think about to help you get started.

SITE

1. Pick a place near the house for your vegetable garden so that you will see it everyday. Out of site is out mind for most people. Visit your garden for at least 10 minutes a day and you will keep up with the maintenance and see how plants are doing.  You’ll discover if there are any problems before it’s too late.

2. Pick a sunny site that gets at least 6 hours of sun. Most vegetables need this amount to grow well.

3. Make sure there’s water near by for irrigating.

SIZE

Raised bed gardening

Easy to reach, easy to plant, easy harvest, it's a raised bed

1. Keep it Small and Simple, as the saying goes. First time gardeners should start small and be successful.  Graduate to a larger plot next year. A couple of beds, 3 ft x 6 ft, will give plenty of delicious vegetables.

2. Consider growing your herbs in pots near the kitchen where they are easy to harvest.

SOIL

1.Whatever kind of soil you  have, be sure to loosen it and add compost. By aerating your soil and adding humus you will increase oxygen, nutrients and drainage, which will help your plants grow. You can loosen your soil by digging, rototilling or bringing in topsoil and adding it to a raised bed.

2. Check your soil for drainage. If you see standing water on the surface, or if you dig a hole and there is water in the bottom, you need to make some adjustments. Vegetables don’t like to grow in standing water.  There are several ways to improve drainage.  Dig into the hard soil with a digging fork and loosen it. Raised beds provide better drainage. You can also dig a small ditch and direct it away from the growing area. This will help move water away and improve your soil.

3. Create paths for walking in the garden.  Every time you walk on the soil you compact it. This prevents air and water from entering. Just by using paths and not walking on the beds you will increase the health of your soil and your plants.

CHOOSE YOUR VEGETABLES WISELY

Choose your plants wisely

Early spring you can sow and plant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower

1. Choose your favorite foods to grow. Zucchinis are easy to grow, but if you don’t like them, don’t grow them! Peas, carrots, beans and tomatoes taste better when harvested ripe and fresh. They are easy to grow and harvest.

2. Choose what grows best in your climate and your site. If you’re in the cool Northwest  U.S. you might want to pass up on the hot peppers and melons.  Cooler climates are good for broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, chard and kale. If you’re in a hot climate go for the peppers, melons, squash and eggplant.

3. Look for micro climates in your garden to give you more opportunities to grow plants that you might otherwise leave out. A micro climate will be a place that is sunnier ( on the south side of the house), cooler (on the north side), calmer (on the lea side of a fence or windbreak), shadier (under a tree) and so on. Check out your garden for mini climates.

RESOURCES

1.Your local nurseries will be carrying plants appropriate for your climate.  Ask them questions.

2. For the Western United States, consult Sunset Western Gardening Book.  It is amazing in it’s information for so many regions in the West.

3. Seed Catalogs and Online companies. Check out my list in the resource page.

Raised beds

Double dug beds are raised and need no edging

 

Nov 082011
 
Low retaining walls can help prevent erosion

Low stone retaining walls keep soil from falling into the driveway

Erosion of  hillsides can range from minor movement that is easy to repair, to major and dangerous situations.

Caveat! Caveat! Caveat!

If you think you have a major problem, please refer to a professional soil engineer or contractor to help you.  In this post, I am only going to address simple  erosion problems.

 

 

 

 

Building low stone retaining walls can be simple and effective for keeping  hillsides from eroding.

These walls were built without mortar in  a method called drystack.  Only soil was used to hold them in place.  Cutting back into the hillside, laying the stone, back filling with soil and then planting keeps the base of the wall stable.

Loose soil will collect in the beds at the bottom of the hill.

Vegetated swale

The swale is covered with a biodegradable erosion blanket and sowed with clover and wildflower seeds

 

When assessing your slope for erosion problems look for these signs:

  • Channels already formed in the hillside from runoff
  • Bare soil that is exposed to  rain or water runoff
  • Downspouts or other water sources

Ways to minimize water damage include:

  • Create swales that are on the contour of your slope
  • Build retaining walls that have drainage in them
  • Sow seed and plant  fast growing shrubs to cover bare soil
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch

 

Wild strawberry and Mahonia with stone wall

At the top of the stone wall you can see the wild strawberry (click to enlarge)

In the photo above I planted a native strawberry that sends out many runners and roots into the hillside.  It will cover the hill very quickly. Other California native plants that provide excellent cover are creeping Ceanothus, trailing Manzanita and  Sonoma Sage and Coastal Sage Brush.

Planting on steep hills

Creeping ceanothus, trailing manzanita and other natives were used on this steep shady slope

Small stone walls

Small walls at the base of trees keep soil and mulch in place

The most important action for you to take in your garden is OBSERVATION.  Go out in the rain and storms and watch how the water flows.  This is the best way to learn about your garden and the only way to really know what is happening.

 

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