Watering for Warmer Weather

The time has come to remind ourselves how to properly water our container and landscape plants.

With warmer weather already upon us, plants will become stressed for water much more quickly.

Pay particular attention to plants in smaller containers and those containers planted with a combination of several plants—these will dry out the fastest, and thus will need the most care through the spring and summer months.

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Apply water to the soil until the water runs from the drainage holes to ensure the entire root ball has been moistened.

Unfortunately, if water runs quickly through the drainage holes, this may indicate that the soil has been too dry for too long.

When this occurs, the water bypasses the root ball without wetting it, so additional, slow watering will be necessary to sufficiently water these stressed plants.

Attention here is key: Note how quickly the water runs through the soil, and note whether or not the soil mass has been sufficiently moistened.

After all, this could mean the difference between healthy, long-lasting plants and those that will die quickly in this weather.

Salvaging Potted Easter Lilies

Interested in finding a use for your fading Easter Lilies?

As soon as the flowers fade, trim them off, but DO NOT remove any of the green foliage.

Transplant the lilies into a well-drained, prepared spot in the garden that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.Apr2014-2-2

The bulbs will go dormant in mid- to late summer, and at that time the yellow foliage can be removed.

I suggest marking where the lily bulbs are located in your garden because, although they will not put on a show all year, they will perform seasonally for many years after proper planting and watering.

Each year the lilies will begin growth sometime in October or November, then grow very little throughout the winter.

They will put on a burst of growth in the springtime, then bloom again in late April or early May.

Do not fret if you do not see growth within the first year!

They may skip the first year but should eventually begin to bloom again.

 

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Make Your Lawn a Healthy Place Before Planting

 

Many new homes are built on a raised platform of compacted fill dirt brought in by construction companies. Alternatively, areas of frequent use, either by people or our pets, are also at risk of compacted, nutrient-poor soils. Such compacted soils don’t provide a healthy environment for plant roots and may limit healthy growth if the plant roots are unable to adequately penetrate through the soil. Before you begin incorporating your warm-season plants, save yourself time as the weather gets hotter by identifying areas with compaction in your yard sooner rather than later. Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8″ and incorporate generous amounts of organic matter, such as compost or partially decayed plant materials, before installing the plants.

Soft Soil also helps with drainage as it is more permeable. This helps in replenishing groundwater and reducing run off.

How can I soft my soil?

There are several things to be done. Resist the urge to routinely roto-till or cultivate the garden.

Over-tilling breaks up the small soil aggregates into single particles. The soil should have little clumps of particles that are bound together in small, pea-sized lumps. When tilling an area multiple times, those little aggregates are broken down. When the soil later gets wet, it does not allow the water to pass through. A mini-pond is created and when the soil finally dries, it resembles an alligator’s skin. This linear pattern of cracked soil does not let air or water in.

Instead, consider adding organic matter by using mulch or compost over the top of a flower bed or simply hand-spade it into the top 3 to 6 inches of soil. For a vegetable garden, put 2 inches of compost on the soil surface and till in and repeat for a total of 4 inches in a season. A goal of 5 to 15 percent of organic matter would be advantageous.

 

Carolina Yellow Jessamine

Carolina yellow jessamine (or jasmine) is the state flower of South Carolina. This plant is a twining vine that is native to the Southeast US, so it is well-adapted to our LA climate. Carolina yellow jessamine can grow up to 3-6 meters high when given suitable climbing support. The leaves are evergreen and a beautiful dark green. The trumpet-shaped yellow flowers arise in clusters and sometimes have an orange center. The flowers are strongly scented and produce nectar that attracts a range of pollinators.

Historically, this plant was used as a topical to treat the symptoms of measles, tonsillitis, and headaches. However, all parts of this plant exude chemicals that are toxic to people and animals, so should not be consumed. The nectar is also toxic to honeybees, which may cause brood death when the nectar is gathered by the bees and brought back to their hive. Despite the potential hazards, this is a popular garden plant in the south and is frequently trained to cover walls.

Being a native plant it tends to be hardy and well-adapted in the residential or commercial landscape. Established native plants can grow with little to no fertilizer and pesticides, and may require little to no irrigation. In this way, native plants generally help protect water resources, allowing gardeners to reduce fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation practices which otherwise can contribute to stormwater runoff pollution and degradation of downstream water quality.

Can’t Go Wrong with Salvia Cultivars

There are about 900 species of annuals, perennials and soft-wooded evergreen shrubs in the genus Salvia, including many species used for culinary and medicinal herbs and as ornamental plants.

These attractive subshrubs (freezing to the ground in winter and sprouting back in spring) are hardy throughout Louisiana and thus can be grown as perennials or as container plants.

Most varieties begin to bloom in mid-to-late summer and continue to produce flowers until mid-winter.

The blooms will attract bees and some birds, pollinators which will keep your garden healthy all season long.

Salvia ‘Argentina Skies’ and Salvia ‘Lady in Red’ are my particular favorites; the green stem of Argentina Skies uniquely contrasts the light blue flowers, and the plant itself reproduces asexually via large underground tubers, so splitting plants to get more for your money is easy!

Lady in Red produces large, deep red blooms that are equally strikingly beautiful, but what puts this plant on my list of favorite Salvia cultivars is that it is a wildflower native to the southern United States (so it’s quite heat-resistant); furthermore, whether it’s planted in a garden or in a container, this variety’s red clusters are huge hummingbird magnets.

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What’s more is that the majority of Salvia cultivars are free of plant diseases or major insect problems, so you can’t go wrong!!

Greenman Dan can help you update your garden.