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Edition 15.04 H&H Gardening Newsletter January 22, 2015

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January

Snails and slugs:
It's easy during the cold months to let snails and slugs get the upper hand. Make a big dent in your monopod population by baiting for them.



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Lakewood, CA 90712

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Featured Quotation:

"Knowledge consists of knowing that a tomato is a fruit, and wisdom consists of not putting it in a fruit salad."
~ Miles Kington

 
Seminar - Tom Spellman Feb 1, 10-noon - call to reserve
 
2015 Rose Catalog
 
2015 Fruit tree list
 
Gardner & Bloome Eden Valley Potting Soil
 

Fantabulous Forsythias

One of the plants that we always look forward to after a long winter is the forsythia. This early blooming plant is a focal point of early spring, heralding the warming months with a brilliant display of golden yellow blooms. Forsythias bloom before they leaf out, and during full bloom the bare stems are completely covered from base to tips. In early spring, they become the focal point of the landscape, then blend in well with other plants when the rich green foliage emerges after blooming.

These deciduous shrubs are native to eastern Asia, where they have been used in Chinese medicine for their antiseptic effect in treating wounds. They are fast growing, with dwarf varieties reaching 4-5 ft high and almost as wide, while taller growing varieties can reach 8-10 ft high and half as wide. The plants have great structure with an upright arching growth habit that has a somewhat fountain-like effect.

Forsythias not only look great in the landscape, but their branches also are perfect for flower arrangements, thanks to the uniformity of blooms on the branches. They are frost-hardy and easy to grow in well-drained fertile soil. They grow best in a full sun location, so are often used as a living privacy fence after they have fully leafed out. The taller varieties make great individual specimens in the landscape, and can also be used for erosion control on slopes.

Most people prefer the somewhat wild natural look of forsythias, but they can be shaped with regular pruning. This is best done after they have finished blooming, because they flower on the prior year's growth (pruning either too late or too early interrupts the growth/blooming cycle). But no matter how you shape this hardy plant, it will reward you with years and years of spectacular color every spring!

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Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats can become a nuisance indoors when adults emerge in large numbers from potted plants containing consistently damp or wet soil. While the adults are harmless to humans and animals, the eggs they lay become larvae or maggots, and can damage plants.

African violets, carnations, cyclamens, geraniums, poinsettias and indoor foliage plants can be susceptible and show symptoms of sudden wilting, loss of vigor, poor growth, or leaf yellowing and foliage loss. The larvae feed not only on fungi and decaying organic matter, but on living plant tissue, particularly root hairs and small feeder roots.

Overwatering is the usual cause of fungus gnats, so it is important to focus attention there. It's best to allow the soil to dry as much as possible, without injury to the plants, as an effective natural way of controlling them. Another natural solution is to cover the soil with a one-inch layer of decorative rock, gravel, or sand.

An initial infestation can easily be controlled with an application of a pyrethrin spray. It helps to do at least one follow-up application 7-10 days later to break the breeding cycle.

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Secrets for an Extended Fruit Tree Harvest

One of the true pleasures home gardeners can experience is growing their own fruit. And with a little planning, it's possible to have an extended harvest season. Even gardens that are short on space can have an extended harvest if the proper planting techniques are used.

The key to an extended or year-round harvest is understanding the ripening times of fruit and citrus trees. Most citrus start to ripen in winter, with mandarins coming first and then followed by lemons, limes and oranges through March and April. But most lemons produce a steady crop of fruit year-round. Thanks to some new Australian and New Zealand citrus cultivars that get confused by the hemispheres, you can have citrus in late summer and fall. Then you can always count on kumquats for a November-to-January harvest.

With deciduous fruit trees you can start with early varieties of apricots that ripen as early as mid-May, followed by a crop of cherries in June. The summer months bring in nectarines, peaches, plums and pluots from mid-June through August. After that, apples, pears and persimmons ripen in September and October. Figs will bear fruit from early summer to late fall.

If you are short on space, consider planting more than one variety in the same hole. Just make sure to plant trees with similar growing habits. Apples, cherries and pears tend to be the fastest and highest growers. Since citrus require more sun to ripen than deciduous fruit trees, make sure they get the sunniest locations. Most deciduous fruit trees will produce a great tasting crop of fruit as long as they receive at least 5-6 hours of sunlight during the growing season. Citrus prefer 6-8 hours of sunlight.

The final secret to getting great tasting fruit is to wait until the fruit has ripened completely on the tree. This allows the sugar content to be at its highest level. The problem with most store-bought fruit is that it is harvested long before it is ripe in order to stand up to the rigors of shipping. The fruit never develops the same intense flavor on a shelf as it does on the tree.

Now is a great time to buy fruit trees. We have a good selection of citrus and deciduous fruit trees. If you have any questions, our staff of fruit tree experts will be happy to help you plan your year-round fruit tree garden!

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Sensational Strawberries

If you are a berry lover, you can't possibly have a garden without dedicating a space to grow delicious homegrown strawberries. Some people even go as far as saying they are the best of all the berries. What is unique about the strawberry (actually a member of the rose family) is that it is the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than the inside.

The delicate but great-tasting heart-shaped berry has always been associated with love, passion, purity, and healing. Legend has it that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will fall in love with each other.

And speaking of legends and folklore, locals in some parts of Bavaria still practice the annual rite--each spring--of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to the elves. They believe that the elves, (who are known to be passionately fond of strawberries--what good taste they have), will help to produce healthy calves and an abundance of milk in return.

Strawberries are also prized for their medicinal purposes and health attributes. Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit and have been associated with lowering cholesterol, easing symptoms of gout and digestion problems and lowering the risk of certain types of cancer.

Strawberries are generally divided into three groups: spring bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral. The fruits of day-neutral plants and everbearers are usually smaller than the fruits of the spring-bearers. Spring bearing strawberries generally produce a crop during a 2-4 week period in the spring. Ever-bearing strawberries produce three periods of flowers and fruit during the spring, summer, and fall--while day neutral strawberries will produce fruit throughout the growing season.

Strawberries prefer the sun but do tolerate some shade. They can be used as an edging plant or a groundcover. Their major requirement is good drainage, so they'll benefit from being planted in mounded soil, terraced beds, barrels or other types of containers. They can be grown indoors, even, in a sunny window or with supplemental lighting, which makes them a great candidate for starting indoors in cold areas.

We invite you to discover the sensational flavor of homegrown strawberries!

Strawberry Planting and Care Instructions
Be sure to plant strawberry starts with their crown just above the soil level. Use a good soil amendment to help them get going well. We recommend spacing outdoor plants 12" apart. Remove all flowers the first two months to help with rooting and then remove runners so that the plant can put its energy into producing fruit.

Placing plastic sheeting underneath the foliage will help keep the soil warm and weed-free. It also deters slugs, snails and other crawling insects from feeding on foliage and berries. Water bedding plants using drip irrigation or by flooding trenches between the mounds or terraces. Water plants in containers under the leaves. Keep them healthy during the fruiting season by feeding with a fertilizer which is low in nitrogen and will promote more bud growth and fruit.

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Garden Primer

How do I know if I have poor drainage?

Answer:

First, your plants won't look happy. (Surprise!) The foliage will look dull and lack the luster and intense color of a healthy plant. If it is a blooming plant, it may produce few blooms or none at all. When the condition becomes severe, the plant will drop its leaves from the interior first, eventually working its way to the leaf tips.

The second sure sign is if you are not watering much but the ground stays continually wet, or even has moss or algae growing on it. The soil may also have an odor. What is important to remember is that every time plants are watered, the soil temperature is lowered by up to twenty degrees. Most plants are stimulated to grow as the soil temperature warms up. If the soil is always wet, the soil temperature will be cooler than the plant desires and it won't grow much.

Poorly draining soil also attracts bad bacteria that can attack the root system, in addition to providing less oxygen for the plant. If you think you have bad drainage, gently lift the plant out of the ground with a shovel--being careful not to damage roots.

If the soil is wet at the bottom of the hole, dig it deeper and back-fill with at least six inches of gravel. Then build a mound that will raise the plant 3-6 inches higher than the surrounding soil level and re-plant so that the top of the root ball is level with the top of the mound. If that doesn't work, you may need to find a different location for the plant.

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Featured Recipe: Wicked Easy Shrimp Skewers

What You'll Need:

  • Eight metal skewers (bamboo also works well)
  • 41-60 count medium-sized precooked frozen shrimp
  • One 8 oz. package of fresh low moisture mozzarella cheese, cubed into one-inch pieces
  • One 8 oz. package of white sharp cheddar cheese, cubed into one-inch pieces
  • One green bell pepper, chopped into medium--sized slices
  • One 16 oz. package of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • Chopped fresh basil to taste

Step by Step:

  • In a bowl ,whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar; set aside.
  • Empty cherry tomatoes into a bowl; add green bell pepper.
  • Drizzle whisked olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes and the green bell pepper, using only half of the mixture.
  • Stir the bell pepper and tomatoes to coat.
  • Thaw the frozen shrimp (quick thawing tip, place the bag of frozen shrimp on a plate in the microwave for 6 minutes on low)
  • Remove the tails on the shrimp, put in a bowl and set aside.
  • Cube the cheese into 1 inch size pieces.
  • Assembly - you will want to do this over a platter to rest the skewers on once they have been assembled:
  • Take a slice of green bell pepper, place on the skewer and slide to the top, followed by two shrimp, followed by a cherry tomato, followed by a piece of white cheddar cheese, another slice of bell pepper, two more shrimp, another cherry tomato, and a piece of mozzarella cheese.
  • Repeat on all skewers and lay them on the platter.
  • Top everything off with fresh basil.
  • Once all skewers are assembled, take remaining whisked olive oil and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over all skewers.
  • Place in the refrigerator uncovered for approximately 1 hour.

Enjoy! For a more festive look, line the platter with lettuce.

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