Magazine article Sunset

Sunset's Garden Guide

Magazine article Sunset

Sunset's Garden Guide

Article excerpt

A SURE SIGN OF SPRING, BRILLIANTLY HUED TULIPS HIGHLIGHT THE scene at San Francisco's Pier 39 during Tulipmania (for details of this year's show, see Garden Calendar on page 82). Visit and make notes of your favorite varieties to plant next fall in containers and in the garden. March brings opportunities: in mildest climates, it's time to plant frost-tender vegetables and flowers outdoors, and time to take advantage of the last of cool weather and spring rains to establish trees and shrubs, particularly natives.

Jute netting holds soil

If you plant wildflower seeds now (and if there's enough rain), they'll sprout and grow quickly, and keep spring rains from washing soil from barren slopes. For best results, rake or loosen the surface of the soil before seeding. Scatter seeds according to package directions.

On steeper slopes, cover the area with jute erosion-control netting to keep soil from washing away. Be sure to stake the netting every 3 to 4 feet. The wildflowers will sprout and grow right through the loose netting. After a few years, the netting breaks down and disappears.

To find the netting, check well-stocked nurseries or order by mail. One mail-order source is Harmony Farm Supply and Nursery, Box 460, Graton, Calif. 95444; (707) 823-9125. The netting costs 60 cents per linear foot (4 feet wide) or $70 a roll (4 feet by 225 feet).

Shamrocks for the border, or indoors

Shamrocks are popular indoor plants, especially easy to find in nurseries this month because of Saint Patrick's Day. The three-part leaves of the ones pictured at right--Oxalis regnellii--are emerald green or deep purple; white flowers appear intermittently throughout the year.

Keep plants in bright light, and water when soil surface is barely moist to touch. If they get leggy, they probably need to be moved to a brighter spot. Cut back sprawling foliage, then feed the plant; new leaves will unfurl quickly.

In mild climates, shamrocks can be grown outdoors as perennials. They make an interesting addition as a ground cover or accent in a partly shady border. Give them well-drained soil high in organic matter. Plants can tolerate dry summer weather. A shamrock in a 4-inch pot costs $3 to $5.

Feeding citrus through the leaves can help

According to research at the University of California at Riverside, citrus is one plant that responds well to sprays of nitrogen on the foliage. Although not meant to replace fertilizers worked into the soil, foliar feeding works well as a supplement. If your citrus plants are pale green and not fruiting as productively as they should, spraying the leaves will help. Timing is important, especially with oranges and grapefruit, which benefit the most if sprayed before bloom or after petal fall. Lemons can be sprayed at any time to boost their growth.

When spraying, choose a water-soluble plant food and follow label directions for foliar feeding. Look for fertilizers whose formulation uses urea as the nitrogen source; this type of nitrogen is absorbed most readily through the leaf.

The best time to spray is early in the morning or late in the day. The worst time to spray is on a hot, dry afternoon when the plant may be under temporary water stress.

Best disinfectants for pruning tools

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of fireblight on susceptible plants such as pears, apples, hawthorn, pyracantha, and photinia is to prune out infected parts. Often seemingly healthy wood is already infected, so disinfecting the pruning tools between cuts is very important. …

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