Contact Form

    News Details

    Gardening: Building a compost pile, planting roses and fertilizing ferns
    • May 31, 2024

    Five things to do in the garden this week:

    1. Build a compost pile as you would craft a lasagna. Construct the pile by alternating 2-inch layers of brown (dead leaves, wood chips, straw) and green (leafy trimmings, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable peels) material, moistening each layer before adding the next. When the pile is 3 feet tall, cover it with a thin layer of soil. Soil contains the aerobic bacteria that will accelerate the decomposition process. Soil will also help the pile hold moisture, keep down odors and slow decomposition of the vegetation, making the pile easier to manage. Keep the pile moist and turned over every now and then to supply the water and oxygen for the proliferation of the aerobic bacteria that transform the pile into that soft, crumbly, sweet-smelling substance known as compost. Before starting, loosen the earth where the pile will stand to a 1-foot depth. The base of the pile should be a square 3-5 feet per side. 

    2. Cut a sweet potato in half and place the two pieces in a pot of moist soil, cut side down, leaving the pointed ends uncovered. Keep soil moist and you will soon see slips (shoots) reach six inches in length, a good size for planting. When detached from the tuber, some slips may have roots and some not. Those with roots attached may be planted in the garden while those without roots can be rooted in a glass with two inches of water at the bottom prior to planting. Plant slips 12-18 inches apart in full sun and you will have large tubers in the ground sometime in the fall. There are two types of sweet potatoes: firm when cooked (white to yellow flesh) and soft when cooked (orange flesh), the latter often mistakenly referred to as yams. You may want to purchase organic sweet potatoes for this process since others may be sprayed with a chemical that inhibits sprouting.

    3. If you are thinking about planting roses, consider two cultivars hybridized by the late Jack Christensen, who authored the 5 things to do in the garden this week feature for 25 years. Among the more than 80 hybrids to his credit is ‘Voodoo,’ whose six-inch blooms sport 35 petals. Flowers emerge orange and pink, transitioning to scarlet and foliage is a rich, glossy green. Voodoo has an outstanding fragrance, is disease-resistant, and is long-lasting in vase arrangements. ‘Gold Medal,’ a grandiflora rose of Christensen’s creation, has golden yellow petals with tawny edges. As if their color wasn’t enough, flower are notably fragrant, too. Find nurseries in your area that stock these roses at When you get there, click “Where to Buy” at the top of the home page.

    4. You can ensure a robust yield of blooms on your azaleas and camellias next year by cutting branches back now. This will ensure more side branches and a greater abundance of flower buds next winter and spring . Also make sure to remove all withered flowers, whether they are still on the plant or have fallen to the ground, as these can harbor fungus diseases. As for fertilization, camellias should receive their first dose now, another dose in six weeks, and another dose six weeks after that for maximum bloom next year. Azaleas should be fertilized now and in later September. Any fertilizer recommended for acid-loving plants will do. Never cultivate around camellias or azaleas due to their shallow roots. Instead, keep a layer of mulch around them at all times.

    5. Fertilize ferns once a month with mild products such as fish emulsion or cottonseed meal. You can also use a more concentrated liquid fertilizer as long as the percentages of available nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are equal. Make sure the soil is well soaked before fertilizer application since ferns are more susceptible to fertilizer burn than most plants and a wet soil weakens the strength of the applied minerals.

    Your questions, comments, gardening problems and tips are always welcome. Email [email protected]

    Related Articles

    Home + Garden |

    Gardeners can utilize plant hardiness guides to create thriving gardens

    Home + Garden |

    What to know about Southern California’s iconic palm trees

    Home + Garden |

    What you need to know about buying and planting California native plants

    Home + Garden |

    What to plant, prune and protect in the garden this week

    Home + Garden |

    Lavender plants are a fresh, fragrant addition to your garden

    ​ Orange County Register