5 things to do in the garden this week – Press Enterprise

1. If you are starting a new garden this spring or evaluating an existing one for its water needs, consider drip irrigation options. You can now purchase underground drip lines for about 50 cents a foot. Emitters are embedded in the tubing at 12 or 18 inch spacing. With such a system, water loss through evaporation is offset and the water savings are significant. Such an application is particularly relevant for parkway strips, where if you wanted to go anywhere with drops, above-ground pipes would be exposed to foot traffic and could pose a tripping hazard. However, on the bottom third of a slope, increase the drip line spacing by 25% to avoid puddle formation and make that area a separate irrigation zone. With traditional drip tubing, you can purchase rolls with embedded emitters (25 cents a foot) or smooth tubing (10 cents a foot) that you drill holes in and insert the drip lines yourself based on where your plants are placed. From my experience, embedded emitters make more sense since most gardens are crowded enough with plants to support even emitter spacing. Leakage can also be an issue when punching holes and inserting emitters yourself.

2. Now plant Hellebore for something else in partial shade. The flowers are white or muted yellow, pink, purple, or burgundy, all fading to green, while the foliage is blue-green. In the words of Barry Glick, the world’s leading hybridizer and breeder of Hellebore: “Even if you think you’re cursed with a ‘black thumb’, Hellebore will make you thrive. They are that simple. Not only will they decorate your table with beautiful cut flowers, they will thrive planting you in the ground.” Go to sunfarm.com to choose your Hellebore and choose from a wide variety of other unusual garden choices.

3. Now is a good time to start your own pineapple project. Here are instructions from Joseph Ortega, who gardens in San Pedro. “Cut the clump of green leaves on a pineapple and remove as much of the flesh as possible. Remove the lower leaves and you will see small white nodules with roots growing from them. Allow the cut surface callus (to dry and harden) a few days before planting. Make a soil mix that is half orchid bark and half potting soil. Or you can use cactus mix. Place in a 6-inch pot with soil covering the area where the roots will emerge. Keep slightly moist, spray often and roots will appear in 2-3 weeks. Since they feed through their foliage, a 15-30-15 fertilizer like Grow More Super Bloomer dissolved in water for a foliar spray works well. Ensure full sun, south facing. It takes 2-3 years for a pineapple to flower, bear fruit and mature. Our first one was as tasty as the ones in Hawaii.”

Pineapples, named for their resemblance to giant pine cones, are native to the Brazilian rainforest. They were brought to Europe and North America by seafarers in the 15th and 16th centuries and grown in heated greenhouses called “pines”. George Washington was among those who grew them this way. Pineapples were brought to Hawaii in the early 1800s. A hundred years later, 22-year-old James Dole arrived and developed the first successful pineapple canning company. By 1960, Hawaii grew 80% of the world’s pineapples, but today less than 1%, with Costa Rica, Brazil and the Philippines being the top three pineapple growers.

4. Fertilize azaleas and camellias after they bloom, but only when they need it. I’ve seen mature azaleas and camellias that never produce yellow leaves, the telltale sign of mineral deficiencies. Consistent mulching of each plant will reduce if not eliminate the need for fertilization. If necessary, you can find fertilizers specifically for azaleas and camellias at the nursery. Azaleas are sometimes dismissed as a garden choice because of their reputation for being water demanding. Planted in peat moss, properly placed and well mulched, however, azaleas are fully capable of surviving with no more than two weekly soaks and living for well over a hundred years. As for camellias, I have seen mature plants facing north where water was not supplied more than once a month. G. Brickner sent a photo of an Azalea var. Antoinette Martin, an impressive variety with white flowers marked with a thick pinkish-red stripe bisecting each petal. A wide range of azaleas and camellias can be found at Nuccio’s Nurseries in Altadena (nucciosnurseries.com).

5. Borage (Borago officinalis) is one of the most charming choices for spring planting. Easily grown from seed, she develops into a whimsical plant up to a meter tall with a cluster of hairy, reddish flower stalks and buds that open into nodding blue, star-shaped flowers. It is a superior pollinator plant, attracting honey bees, bumblebees, and native bees. Borage leaves are edible and taste like cucumber. Make sure you only eat the very young leaves raw; Older leaves are somewhat prickly and will get stuck in your throat unless cooked before consumption.

When your wildflowers bloom, you are encouraged to email photos along with their story to the email address below.

Please send questions, comments and photos to joshua@perfectplants.com.


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