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    After all the rain, gardeners can expect to pull plenty of weeds
    • March 14, 2024

    Five things to do in the garden this week:

    1. With the heavy rainfall we experienced this winter, weeds are now a major concern. Interestingly enough, in a poll taken regarding the popularity of gardening tasks, weeding came in number 4 (behind planting, watering, and mowing the lawn). There is an obsessive element to the gardener’s personality and perhaps this explains the attractiveness of weeding. Besides, repetitive tasks are a boon to mental health. In any case, weeding presents a wonderful opportunity to get to know your plants up close, which is also an advantage of watering by hand. If you are in the market for a weeding tool, know that a Hori-Hori knife is highly worthy of your consideration. This implement has a wide, seven-inch-long blade that is suitable not only for weeding but for cutting through roots as well as digging planting holes for bulbs and for transplants of seedlings, annuals, and herbs.   

    2. Each foray into the garden is an opportunity to check on the water status of our plants. In this regard, do not be fooled by the soil surface which may appear dry even though there is plenty of moisture in the root zone. As long as you do not cultivate the ground or break the crust on the soil surface, water that is in the soil below may be retained for an extended period of time. A report on San Fernando Valley agriculture in 1917 described 2-3,000 acres of vineyards between Burbank and Sunland that were “usually grown without irrigation. . . table, raisin, and wine varieties are grown, but the wine grapes predominate.” In this same area, apricots and peaches were grown “with and without irrigation.” And the Indigenous peoples of the Southwest would grow corn without any water except what came down from the heavens. It is wise to synchronize automatic irrigation time with garden visits since we can then regularly check for any breaks or leaks in the watering system as we inspect our plants.

    3. Proper harvesting of vegetables, fruits, and herbs is essential to getting the best crops, in both quality and quantity, from these plants. Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ripe since their texture and flavor can deteriorate when harvest is delayed. You will also get more crop by harvesting on a continual basis, whether peas, beans, tomatoes, or peppers are involved. Once orchard fruit is ripe (with the exception of citrus, that becomes sweeter with time), it should also be removed immediately. Leaving fruit on the tree encourages poaching by birds and squirrels and disease and insect pests are more likely to become a problem. Herbs also demand continuous harvesting in order to prevent them from flowering which curbs new growth of their culinary and/or medicinal foliage.

    4. When thinking about what to plant for the spring, container gardening is an option to consider. Certain rampant growers such as mint might make more sense to plant in a container than in the garden. Plants sensitive to temperature extremes can be moved, according to the weather, giving them less sun in scorching heat and, if cold-sensitive, placing them up against a sun-absorbing wall (or even in the garage) when frost is forecast. With the exception of succulents and other slow-growing plants, whose soil may be left alone for years, it is a good idea to annually change the soil in your containers, especially where you are growing fruit trees, vegetables, bulb plants, annuals, or leafy flowering perennials.

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    5. Pineapple guava (Feijoa/Acca sellowiana) is a highly recommended species for growing in a container. It can be cultivated as a shrub or trained into a tree, either as a multi-trunked or as a standard (single-trunked) specimen. Some plant lovers consider it to be the perfect small tree as it grows to 15 feet tall and wide and has ornamental appeal throughout the year. The flowers, which should be blooming soon, have snowy white petals that are sugary sweet and that your kids will love to munch. If you have a self-fertile variety, you will eventually see blue-green fruit shaped like little mice with a perfumed aroma when cut. Fruit sometimes form on Southern California-grown trees, but seldom reach maturity in our hot summer climate. Should you be lucky enough to see fruit, do not pick but wait for it to reach its maximum ripeness, allowing it to fall from the tree, having placed a tarp underneath to prevent bruising. 

    Foliage is green above, silver underneath and, being in the myrtle family, its exfoliating bark is always a pleasure to behold. Pineapple guava lends itself to clipping and shaping. Grow it as a hedge or train it up a trellis or as an espalier. If anyone has a source for a feijoa variety that regularly produces a tasty crop in Southern California, please advise.

    Please send your questions and comments to [email protected].

    ​ Orange County Register