January Garden Planner
It’s refreshing to be back in the garden. Finish any planting, especially of natives and other Mediterranean-climate plants, so that they benefit from winter rains. When wet weather is forecast, scatter seeds to enjoy colorful displays of golden poppies, lupines and other California wildflowers. For a burst of fresh color now, plant cool-season annuals, ranging from fragrant stocks to stately snapdragons.
Sweet strawberries have become a popular addition to edibles gardens, large and small. “Tuck them into hanging, moss-lined baskets or a window box,” suggests David Ross of Walter Andersen Nursery. “Or let them spill over the edges of raised beds for easy picking by kids.” Now is a good time to plant when Andersen’s and other area nurseries are stocked with bundled bare-root plants or starter plants in six-packs. June-bearing varieties deliver one crop, ideal for jam makers, while everbearers produce two or three times per season. ‘Sequoia’ and ‘Chandler’ are perennial favorites for sweet fruit in June. Popular everbearing varieties include ‘Seascape’ that thrives in coastal areas, dessert-sweet ‘Albion’ and compact ‘Temptation’ (ideal for containers). Alpine strawberries, with intensely flavored, tiny fruit, also thrive here. To learn more about strawberry growing, watch for classes at Walter Andersen Nursery in Poway and Point Loma.
Long and Lovely
Cymbidium orchids grow outside and bloom from winter into spring. Purchase them now to get your preferred flower color. Choices include pastel and deep yellows and pinks, green and orange. Grow them in a fast-draining orchid mix in a container placed in full sun during winter. In spring, move them to bright shade. Keep the soil moist but not wet and feed them with fertilizer monthly. Stake the arching bloom spikes to show off the long-lasting flowers. Learn more at the San Diego Orchid Society’s winter (Jan. 24-25) and spring (March 11-13) shows and sales. Visit sdorchids.com for details.
Say Aloe to the Unknown
Jeff Moore readily admits aloes are his favorite succulents. “They have a cool look, almost alien or reptilian, and their flowers are unbelievable,” the owner of Solana Succulents says. “We can grow any of them in San Diego.” Here are six out-of-the-ordinary aloes he believes are worth the extra effort they may take to find.
Aloe cameronii — This starfish-shaped, clumping aloe glows deep purple-red in summer. Don’t overwater or it reverts to green. Striking orange-red flower spikes rise in winter. It grows 2 feet tall and wide.
Aloe vanbalenii — Single rosettes of this red aloe resemble an octopus, Jeff says. Its arching leaves up to 3 feet long turn orange-red when stressed. It is slow growing to 4 feet tall and wide. Flower spikes in late winter are warm yellow-orange.
Aloe plicatilis — Jeff likes the exotic bonsai feel of this small, multibranching tree aloe with fanlike, 12-inch-long leaf clusters and 2-foot-long orange flower spikes. Avoid overwatering this heat lover, which is slow growing to 4 feet tall.
Aloe striata — Smooth, red-lined edges; pale gray-green leaves sometimes blushed pink; and broad candelabras of coral flowers make this a collector’s favorite. Showy in ground or containers, it grows to 2 feet tall and wide.
Aloe tomentosa — This upright, 3-by-3-foot aloe is notable for its summer bloom time and tall candelabras of green-tinged, white flowers carpeted with wooly hairs. Provide this plant with good drainage and limited water.
Aloe tongaensis — This sculptural, dwarf-tree aloe rises slowly to 10 to 12 feet tall. Branches end in spidery, pale green rosettes that hoist candelabras of pale orange flowers in early winter. It likes heat and tolerates watering.
Learn more about these and other aloes in Jeff’s latest book, Aloes and Agaves in Cultivation, available late this month.
Winter vegetables started in late fall may be ready for harvest now. Here’s how to know when to pick them. Cabbage: Cut the heads when they feel rock hard; if they seem springy, they need more time. Broccoli: Cut stalks with a sharp knife when buds are full and firm, but haven’t opened. Cauliflower: Cut heads when the buds are full and close together; if they begin to separate, you’ve waited too long. Radishes: Pull from the ground as soon as they reach full size, as early as three weeks after planting seeds. Left in the ground too long, they turn woody. Peas: Pick shelling pea pods when they swell and peas are still bright green. Carrots: Harvest when these edible roots are finger size.
EFG: Earth-Friendly Gardens
In the three years since the San Diego Master Gardener Association debuted a program to recognize Earth-friendly gardens, dozens of them have been certified around the county. Filled with region-appropriate plants, these gardens nurture the soil, limit green waste, conserve energy and water, manage pests responsibly and protect wildlife. Learn more by watching a YouTube video (tinyurl.com/ns2gabf ) hosted by Master Gardener Renee Tepper. Then see if your garden qualifies by filling out a simple checklist at mastergardenerssandiego.org. Qualifying gardeners may purchase yard signs that could encourage friends and neighbors to follow suit. For more information, call the Master Gardener Hortline at 858-694-2860 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Tools of Tomorrow
Pruners, trowels, loppers and other essential tools work as hard in the garden as you do. Keep them job-ready with an annual tune-up. Sharpen or replace dull blades. Remove dried dirt from shovels, trowels and garden forks; then dip them repeatedly into a bucket of sand mixed with vegetable oil until they are clean. A thin coat of linseed oil protects metal tool heads and wooden handles. When the cleanup is finished, store tools where they are protected from moisture.
Run for the Roses
Rose breeders continue to develop carefree, disease-resistant beauties. Here are some 2016 introductions to consider. From Weeks Roses, a new peony-scented, dark pink floribunda named ‘Pretty Lady Rose’ is the second in a series inspired by Downton Abbey characters. Weeks also is debuting two easy-care groundcover roses: glowing pink-gold ‘Rainbow Happy Trails’ and buttery yellow ‘Sunshine Happy Trials.’ English breeder David Austin brings three new roses to the States that have already charmed gardeners in the United Kingdom. ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ is a baby pink repeat bloomer that Austin praises as “possibly the best rose we’ve ever bred.” Yellow-blooming ‘The Poet’s Wife’ is one of the company’s most fragrant, and ‘The Lady of the Lake,’ a blush pink rambler, is a climber suited for short trellises and obelisks. Look for them all in nurseries, or order David Austin roses at davidaustinroses.com.
To Read – Petals for Dinner
Edible flowers — nasturtiums, calendulas, Johnny jump-ups and more — can brighten more than salads, as Vista author Kitty Morse deliciously demonstrates in Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion, (Chef’s Press, 2015). In this update of her 1995 book, Kitty includes recipes ranging from lavender shortbread and orange blossom preserves to baked salmon with borage riata.
And don’t forget to:
• Learn rose-pruning techniques at the San Diego Rose Society’s free demo at Balboa Park’s Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden on Jan. 9. Details are at sdrosesociety.org.
• Purchase canna roots when they arrive at nurseries later this month, but wait until the end of February or early March to plant them.
• Resist the urge to work in the garden after a rainstorm. Walking on soggy soil compresses it, reducing drainage and oxygen content.
• Start fertilizing hydrangeas with aluminum sulfate now and many pink-flowering varieties will reward you with blue flowers.
• Handpick hungry snails, drop them in a plastic bag and toss them in the trash. If you prefer to scatter bait, pick a pet-safe formula like Sluggo with iron phosphate.
• Add natives and other Mediterranean-climate plants to the garden now so they can benefit from wet weather and cool days and nights.
• Finish pruning dormant deciduous trees and vines before leaf buds appear.
• Apply 3 inches of organic mulch around the garden, covering any bare soil. Rock or stone mulches are best for succulents.
• Purchase spring and summer vegetable and flower seeds to plant in late February and early March.