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Blog

Xeriscape

xeriscape
When xeriscape is mentioned, many people think of cactus and sand--or rock gardens. Mind you, both cactus gardens and rock gardens can be quite attractive. But that is not all xeriscaping allows. You can have a xeriscape landscape that is fully planted, colorful--and water-conserving. Nor do you have to use only drought-tolerant plants. The idea is to reduce overall water use by grouping plants with similar needs together--so you can have one area that uses some extra water and another area where you need no more water than nature provides. If you grow edible plants, the same principle applies. Advantages of xeriscape
  • Water saving: Using native and other drought-tolerant plants can significantly reduce water use.
  • Money saving: Reducing water use can lower your water bill. Xeriscaping can also reduce maintenance costs--while adding to the beauty and value of your property.
  • Time saving: xeriscape landscaping can significantly reduce the time you spend watering, fertilizing and mowing. (Buy a hammock--you'll have more time to use it.)
  • No worries: It's nice to be able to go on vacation for a few weeks and know your plants will still be alive when you return.

The seven principles of xeriscape:

  • Plan and design for water conservation and beauty from the start.
  • Create practical turf areas of manageable size and shape, and appropriate grasses.
  • Select plants with low water requirements and group plants of similar water needs together. Experiment to determine how much and how often to water the plants.
  • Use soil amendments as needed by the site and the type of plants used.
  • Use mulches to reduce evaporation and to keep the soil cool.
  • Irrigate efficiently with properly designed systems--and by applying the right amount of water at the right time.
  • Maintain the landscape properly by mowing, weeding, pruning and fertilizing properly.
If you've just moved in to a new place and want a whole new landscape, consider xeriscape. We'd advise you, in that situation, to hire a professional landscaper to help you design the landscape--and to do the hard work for you. Doing a whole landscape at once is too much for most individuals. But you can use the "bit by bit" approach or a simple substitution approach, and move your landscape gradually to xeriscape. Perhaps you have a problem area where it's difficult to keep your plants growing well, an area that is difficult to irrigate, or a lawn area that's hard to mow or keep green. Look at these areas as candidates for the first moves to xeriscape. One of the major things to look at when xeriscaping is, "Can I get rid of some of that lawn?" Out of all the things we grow in our yards, turf is usually the biggest overall water-user. If you live in an area with a homeowner's association that requires you to have a certain percentage of lawn, at least make your long-term plans to get the lawn down to the minimal acceptable percentage (or get the rule changed). When planning a xeriscaped area, keep in mind that curves are more natural (and easier to mow around) than sharp angles. Also look at the soil type, the amount of sun or shade, elevation, and ease of access. Do you have some plants that already do well in that area, even if neglected? Keep them for xeriscaping in that particular micro-climate in your yard. Remove, or move, plants that are not doing well and amend the soil before planting any new plants. Then mulch. Keep in mind that even xeriscape plants will need extra water when first planted--until established. Once established, however, they will need much less maintenance than other areas. You may find you like xeriscape so much you'll continue till your whole yard (or as much as possible) is xeriscaped. You can then lie in the hammock you bought with the savings on your water bill, sipping a cool drink on a hot summer day, and watching your neighbors sweating over their vast expanses of turf. Have fun!

Worm Castings

Worm Castings  

Worm Castings

also known as vermicompost, vermicast, worm humus, or worm manure, is one of the best things an organic gardener can add to their soil. Worm castings make an excellent fertilizer in your garden because they are full of water-soluble nutrients that are easy for your plants to access.

While many of us have earthworms in our garden beds, worm castings are the byproduct of vermicomposting. Instead of bacteria slowly breaking down organic matter, worms chew their way through, speeding up the process and reducing contaminant levels in the compost. You could go get worm bins and start vermicomposting at home, but Worm-Gro does all the work for you, providing high quality worm castings without the work, the mess, or the smell. We suggest adding a one inch layer of Worm-Gro around your plants every six weeks. Your plants will be healthier and more productive with a steady supply of nutrients. For more great gardening tips, you can read the rest of this month's newsletter here.

Plant Summer Vegetables

Plant Summer Vegetables

PLANT SUMMER VEGETABLES

As our weather heats up, there are a few plants in the garden that won't fare so well. Many of the plants that do great in cooler weather just can't take the heat. As these plants bolt, wilt, and die back, they should be pulled out and replaced with ones that can handle the warmer temperatures. Distressed plants are magnets for garden pests, so it's better to pull them before they turn into aphid farms. There are a number of vegetables that will do well through our summers, including summer squashes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, onions, and eggplant. Tomatoes and peppers do better from transplants this late in the season, but the rest can easily be grown from seed. Make sure to give your plants room to grow, especially the squash, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. If you'd like to grow corn, you'll want to grow a bunch of it to ensure that it will be fully pollinated by the wind. If transplanting, water daily for the first week or two to allow the plants to establish themselves. For seeds, keep moist through germination. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant likely will not produce fruit this summer if planted this late, but if you can get through the summer, they will be ready to go when the temperatures cool down again. It also will be helpful to add some flowers to your garden. Sunflowers make great bait for garden pests, as well as providing a distraction for birds and intermittant shade. Marigolds help ward off some garden pests. Planting a flat or two of any type of flower will help attract pollinators to your garden, but planting a few different varieties will add color and help attract different kinds of pollinators. While you are replanting your garden, it might be a good idea to add some slow-release fertilizer or worm castings to enrich your soil. Adding a layer of mulch around your plants will help to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. It is also important to check the moisture levels in your garden regularly and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. It is best to water slowly to let the water soak down to the roots. Watering deeply but infrequently will help prevent root rot and blossom end rot. If you need any garden advice, feel free to ask. Our staff has a wealth of experience, and we'll be glad to answer an of your gardening questions. For more great gardening tips, read the rest of this month's newsletter here.

Pest Alert! Asian Citrus Psyllid

Pest Alert - Asian Citrus Psyllid

Pest Alert! Asian Citrus Psyllid

We're in the middle of a far-ranging infection that is literally affecting the entire planet. The culprit is an aphid-like insect no larger than the head of a pin, known as the Asian Citrus Psyllid; it can be the carrier of a deadly disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as Citrus Greening Disease, or yellow dragon disease. Once a citrus tree is infected, there is no cure. Citrus crops in Asia, Africa, India, South and Central America have been devastated. But the real story is that the psyllid has been found in Mexico, Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and most recently, in California. (more…)

Black-Eyed Susans

blacksusanBlack-eyed Susans delight in shades of yellow, orange and gold colors with a black center, or "eye".  A native plant of Tennessee, they are a popular addition to the water-wise garden.  With flowers that are 2 to 3 inches across, and grow on long stems 2 to 3 feet in height, they make excellent cut flowers for vases and arrangements. Black-eyed Susans are biennial, which means they live for two years.  But in those two years, they attract butterflies and bees that drink the floral nectar, in the process moving pollen from one plant to another, allowing the plant to grow fruits and seeds which travel by wind and re-seed themselves. (more…)

Grow Your Own Blueberries

Grow your own BlueberriesNo doubt about it. Blueberries are hot right now! And rightly so--not only are they delicious, they have many, many health benefits as well:
  • They offer the highest amount of antioxidants of any fresh fruit, which means they are excellent disease-fighters and are a prime player in the anti-aging arena.
  • Recent studies suggest that consuming blueberries helps reduce belly fat, body weight and total fat mass; this is very encouraging news for those concerned with cardiovascular health.
  • Blueberries help promote urinary tract health by helping to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.
  • Consuming blueberries has been shown to prevent or delay certain age-related eye problems such as macular degeneration, cataract, nearsightedness, farsightedness, dry eye and eye infections.
  • Blueberries contribute to brain health by preventing degeneration and death of neurons; some studies even suggest they are particularly helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Their high fiber content, as well as the vitamins and other compounds found in blueberries help improve digestion.
  • Blueberries are an excellent dietary source for preventing cancer, because of their high antioxidant content.
  • Blueberries are considered a great, natural antidepressant--and all without the side effects of prescription drugs!
(more…)

Building Your Own Butterfly Garden

Building Your Own Butterfly Garden While many of us spend much of our time trying to keep insects out of our garden, there are some species that we’d like to attract. Beyond being beautiful, butterflies are an important pollinator for your garden, and attracting them is easy if you have the right plants around. A butterfly garden will provide you with beautiful flowers and butterflies to gaze upon, as well as give the butterflies food and a place to call home. (more…)

Gardening is for the Birds

Gardening is for BirdsThis past month has been a wonderful time to get outside and listen to your garden awaken from its dry-season slumber. For the past week I have heard a sharp increase in the bird songs in my yard. Western kingbirds have been calling from atop my neighbor’s pine tree, while scrub jays and acorn woodpeckers have been raising a ruckus in my oak trees. A pair of morning doves have been billing and cooing under my ceanothus and hummingbirds have been buzzing about and feeding on the blossoms of my manzanitas, white-flowering currant, black sage, and hybrid wooly blue curls. A sharp-shinned hawk went streaking through the backyard a time or two and yellow-rumped warblers (“butter-butts” as we like to call them) have been twittering in the toyon. You may think that we live out in a vast rural area of Valley Center or similar clime, but we live on a small suburban lot in Escondido. Since planting our bird-friendly native habitat garden, we have enjoyed spending many hours of birdwatching in our own little yard. (more…)