February 2016 Edition
A Good Gardener is a Patient Gardener!
This is usually our coldest month and still considered winter even though there are many beautiful blooms to enjoy in the garden. It is best to wait until March for spring planting when the weather safely warms up a bit. A good gardener is a patient gardener!
Pruning woody perennials
Around the middle of this month the basal growth, which is fresh new growth near the roots of the plants, should be making a dramatic comeback in the garden. This is the time to cut back all of the old woody and overgrown stems on your perennials. The fall and late summer bloomers, such as Gaura, Penstemon and Verbena can all be cut back now. This will freshen up the garden, keep the plants compact and promote more blooms later.
Spring bloomers, such as Lavandula (Lavender), should not be cut back now or you will miss out on the lovely flowers. These types of shrubs and perennials should only be cut back after the bloom cycle is finished. They can then be cut back by up to one-half or even two-thirds.
This is a great time to dig in the garden! Adding manure, compost and other organic amendment material to the soil will eventually break down and become humus. Humus is the organic portion of the soil made up of aged or decomposed animal and vegetable matter. It improves the structure of the soil and creates an environment that provides slow release nutrients and beneficial organisms to the plants. Healthy soil promotes healthy plants which can resist pests and diseases better. Mulch is material placed on top of the soil to help conserve moisture, reduce soil erosion, control weeds and keep maintenance to a minimum. Composted mulches not only look good in the garden but will also break down to feed the plants, add organic material, beneficial nutrients and micro-organisms.
Encourage beneficial insects
Ants are the worst! They move the little sucking insects like aphids, mealy bugs, woolly whitefly, and scale. The ants protect these pests from their natural predators, carry them from plant to plant and milk the honeydew from them. If you get rid of ants you get rid of pest problems as well. Sprinkle cornmeal around the base of your house, along ant trails and nests and anywhere ants are a problem. This method is a safe and effective way to curb the ants without using poisons. Release ladybugs to control aphids especially on your citrus trees when the fresh new tips are just beginning to grow. Release other beneficial insects, including lacewings in the garden.
A well-kept garden, free from poisonous sprays will encourage the beneficial insects and arachnids (spiders) to control the destructive insect garden pests naturally. Broad spectrum chemical sprays kill the pests but also kill the beneficial insects and bees. Bees are especially important in the pollination process of flowers. No bees means no fruit.
This is the time to check all of your irrigation system components.
Our rainy season has not brought the long soaking rains that are expected at this time of the year. Run your irrigation system on all stations now to saturate the soil deeply if the rain doesn’t do it for you. The plants need these deep water soaks to withstand the long hot, dry summer months ahead.
I am in love with this product. It is just too easy and works so well. I would enjoy setting up my own worm farm (Vermicomposting) but for now I just purchase already bagged worm castings. Add a handful or two into the holes for new plants and spread a layer over the roots of existing plants, water it in and cover with a layer of mulch.
Worm castings act as a good organic soil amendment and mild fertilizer. They help sandy soils retain moisture, and add readily available nutrients, humus and bioorganisms to all soil types. The most amazing benefit of worm castings, however, is the ability to repel garden pests while protecting the beneficial insects and bees.
It is a good idea to wash your plants and trees with soapy water (1-2 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap in a gallon of water) to remove aphids, woolly whiteflies, and mealy bugs. Spread a 1-inch thick layer of worm castings under plants and renew the layer every year about this time before the pests begin their destructive activities in April. This will control ants and many other garden pests all year without using poisons that harm the beneficial insects and bees.
contact Marilyn’s Garden Design.