June Garden Planner
Ghost Aloe (Aloe Stratia Hybrid)
Creating a tapestry landscape with succulents calls for more than sculptural plants and gravel mulch. Tom Jesch, general manager of Waterwise Botanicals in Escondido, suggests using low-growing succulent shrubs in garden designs as replacements for problematic iceplant, red apple and other groundcover. The spreading succulents listed below add year-round foliage color and seasonal flowers. Learn more about them at Waterwise Botanicals’ third annual Succulent Celebration, June 5-6. Details are at waterwisebotanicals.com.
Tricolor Elephant’s Bush (Portulacaria afra variegata) — Small green and cream leaves and red stems on this 10-inch-tall spreader resemble manzanita as they grow up to 3 feet wide. Plant in full sun to part shade, and bear in mind that it is frost tender.
Cotyledon ‘Long Fingers’ — Powdery white leaves up to 18 inches long accent this tough mounding plant that covers 4 to 6 feet in a couple of years. Showy pastel orange, bell-shaped flowers rise on tall stems in winter. It’s a good choice for dry shade, as well as full sun, and is cold tolerant.
Green Carpet Jade (Crassula multicava) —
Deep green leaves and a low profile to 12 inches high make this jade look like a forest-floor plant. From December to spring, dainty flowers form a pink haze above the foliage. It spreads 3 to 4 feet annually and is another good candidate for dry shade.
Plush Plant (Echeveria harmsii) — This sun lover glows with silvery, rusty red-tipped foliage that is fuzzy to the touch. Orange flowers bloom on and off year-round. The cultivar ‘Ruby Slippers,’ exclusive to Waterwise Botanicals, has crimson flowers. It grows 18 inches tall and up to 30 inches wide.
Coral Groundcover Aloe (Aloe saponarnia) — Ground-hugging rosettes to 6 inches tall have flat leaves splashed with white, a vivid contrast with winter’s pink-coral flowers on tall stems. It spreads 2 to 3 feet wide by underground stolons. Plant in full sun to part shade.
Ghost Aloe (Aloe striata hybrid) — Though a diminutive 8 inches tall, this aloe is a garden standout with lavender-aqua-tinged, triangular leaves and showy, orange flower spikes. It forms a 3-foot-wide spiral in about two years. Plant in full sun to dry shade.
Display gardens at the San Diego County Fair (June 5-July 5) are bound to spark questions about what’s growing there. Plenty of answers and free gardening advice are available from many horticultural groups that staff booths. Start with the volunteer experts available daily in front of the San Diego Horticultural Society’s garden, a water-wise design in the spirit of this year’s theme celebrating the Panama-California Exposition centennial. Inside the adjacent O’Brien Building, members of the San Diego County Master Gardener Association answer questions and hand out free pest-control information. California Rare Fruit Growers will be fielding questions about everything from bananas to ugli fruit. During your day at the fair, also make time to enjoy talks by San Diego gardening experts on the Flower Show Stage. For a complete schedule, visit sdfair.com.
San Diego gardeners are the envy of many when they pluck oranges off backyard trees. While this citrus thrives here, gardeners still have to contend with often befuddling problems. Here’s the lowdown on a few.
• Oranges split open. Temperature and humidity are suspected culprits. Reduce damage by avoiding dramatic differences in soil moisture.
• The rind has turned orange, but the fruit is sour. Rind color doesn’t necessarily indicate the fruit is ripe. Citrus ripens on the tree, so test one first. If it is not sweet, leave the rest to develop.
• Oranges turn brown or black. A tiny mite is the problem. Damage is generally cosmetic; you can still eat the flesh inside.
• The fruit is being eaten on the tree. Marauding rats are the likely thieves. Remove any fallen fruit from the ground and set traps.
“June drop,” when fruit trees seem to shed too many marble-sized apples or peaches, causes many home orchardists to despair. No need to worry though; this natural self-pruning eliminates excess fruit and focuses the tree’s energy on the remaining crop. Experienced gardeners often help this process along, further reducing the crop to leave only one fruit per spur or every 4 to 6 inches along a branch. As a result, when harvest rolls around, mature fruit likely will be larger and more flavorful. Other trees that benefit from fruit thinning are plums, persimmons and apricots.
Here a Cluck, There a Cluck
Are you tempted to raise chickens in your back yard? Before building a coop and ordering baby chicks, learn the basics of selecting and caring for your flock. Among available resources — especially for backyard egg producers — is a new website from the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Visit ucanr.edu/sites/poultry/type/backyard for expert advice on every-thing from chick selection to coop design and avian diseases. Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies, co-authored by San Diego’s Bonnie Jo Manion, includes information on chicken-friendly plants and protecting flocks from predators. Find it at area bookstores and online retailers. Also, check with your city or the county to be sure you don’t run afoul of local ordinances.
For 13 years, the California Master Gardener Handbook has been the go-to reference for gardeners in the state and around the west. Now there’s an updated edition authored by Dennis Pittenger with in-depth information on basics like soil, plant propagation and pest control and on current topics like home edibles gardening, fire-scaping and invasive plants. Order the 756-page book at anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu or at amazon.com.
If you’re still tending turf, remember that care for warm- and cool-season grasses changes this month. To help blue grass, fescue and other cool-season lawns endure the heat, allow them to grow taller by setting mower blades at 3 to 4 inches and provide regular water. Warm-season grasses like Bermuda or St. Augustine should be cut 1 inch or less to help reduce thatch buildup. Water deeply but less often to keep growth in check. To avoid lawn maintenance and high water bills, consider tossing turf for an easy-care, water-wise landscape. For inspiration and how-tos, see turfreplacement.watersmartsd.org.
A New ‘Monarchy’
A new exhibit opening this month at the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon helps homeowners create sustainable garden landscapes attractive to Monarch butterflies. The 4,000-square-foot Habitat Garden surrounds the garden’s Butterfly Pavilion, which opened last year to house a dozen species of native butterflies, including Monarchs. This new exhibit, one of 20 at the 6-acre garden, showcases native plant habitats ideal for the endangered butterflies, as well as for birds and other wildlife. Infographics and an amphitheater highlight the waterwise design and prac-tices that reduce water use and pollution. After the official opening on June 13, the garden can be visited from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is free. Details are at thegarden.org.
And don’t forget to:
• Create a defensible space around your home in advance of wildfire season. Remove dead brush, cut weeds, trim off low tree branches and plan an escape route.
• Keep root balls of bougainvillea undisturbed when transplanting them from nursery containers into the ground.
• Divide bearded iris and bulbs like watsonia and narcissus if the clumps are crowded and blooms seem diminished.
• Join the San Diego Horticultural Society during its Night at the County Fair when it honors 2015 Horticulturist of the Year Kathy Puplava, retired Balboa Park horticulturist and co-author of Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park. Details are at sdhort.org.
• Deadhead spent flowers regularly to keep plants blooming all summer.
• Grow kid-favorite edibles, like cherry tomatoes and strawberries, to encourage youngsters to garden and enjoy fresh vegetables and fruits.
• Paint trunks of newly planted citrus and avocado trees with white, flat, interior latex paint — diluted with an equal amount of water — to protect them from sunburn until their leaf canopies provide adequate shade.
• Monitor tomato plants for plump, striped tomato hornworms that munch
on leaves. Handpick or spray with Bacillus thuringiensis.
• Pinch flowers off basil and cilantro to keep them producing new, flavorful leaves.