March/April 2011

SPRING IS COMING officially on March 20th. The temperatures are on the rise from the rather cold winter we have had — with some nice almost spring-like weath- er interspersed. By April spring has usually come for sure. The warmer temperatures encourage the production of new foliage on plants that have been resting throughout the winter months. This is the time to encourage all that fresh new growth with some fertilizer. An All Purpose Fertilizer such as 16-16-16 can be used on all deciduous trees, all fruit and nut trees and most shrubs and ground covers, etc. Some of the principal exceptions are:

Fertilizing Roses – Do it every 4-6 weeks with fertilizer labeled for roses. It can be straight rose fertilizer or a product such as Bayer Advanced Garden 2-in-1 and Flower Care which includes a systemic insecticide for insect control.
Fertilizing Citrus – Do it every month, except in the coldest part of the winter. Don’t encourage new tender growth that would be damaged badly, even killed, by freezing temperatures. Be sure it is a fertilizer labeled for citrus.
Fertilizer Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias – Do it for three applica- tions at 30, 60, and 90 days following the end of the bloom cycle with a formula labeled RAC. Use the same RAC formula on gardenias, but do it monthly. RAC fertilizer is an acid based fertilizer and can be used on other acid loving plants such as hydrangeas and Lily of the Valley shrub. Just an added note — break off the flower trusses on rhododendron when they are finished blooming. They may spend enough energy producing seed to keep them from setting buds the follow- ing year.
Preparing for Vegetable Garden – Prior to the last pass of the rototiller, scatter a starter fertilizer, or Super Phosphate, 0-45-0, or other source of phosphorous such as bone meal or bat guano to promote root growth. If you have experienced blossom end rot in tomatoes, melons, squash, peppers, cucumbers, etc., till in some ground oyster shell (100% calcium) to prevent this. Follow up later when the plants have been in the ground 4-6 weeks with some vegetable food. Early to mid April is usually about the right time to start planting summer gardens. The soil should have warmed to 50 degrees F before planting.
CITRUS TREES – Citrus trees should be available now, if not, they will be very soon. We hope that all freezing weather is now past and there won’t be a need to protect them. We will have a good selection. We carry many more dwarf citrus than we do standard sized trees. The reason being, that most of our customers live in areas in which citrus need winter protection. A dwarf citrus can survive well in a large container such as a half barrel which will allow it to grow to about 4’ X 4’, and it will still provide a good supply of fruit. Planted in the ground they will usually grow to a maximum height and width of approximately 8’. Either of those sizes are reasonably easy to protect. A standard tree will generally achieve a size of about 20’ X 20’ not easily protected, nor is the fruit as easily harvested. See inside this flyer for prices and the varieties we offer.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT for slugs and snails. As the weather warms, the slugs and snails become more active, hiding in dark damp laces during he day and doing their busy work during the night. There are some simple traps that work well. Since the cool, damp spots are preferred, place a clay pot among the shrubs upside down with a rock to prop it up enough to allow them to crawl in, and then dispose of them during he daylight hours. They also like to crawl into hollowed out grapefruit or cantaloupe rinds and then dispose of the whole thing. They seem to like beer, and a container buried to ground level and filled with beer will attract them, they fall in and drown. There are very effective baits available. One very effective product looks much like wheat bran which is the medium to carry metaldehyde which is the pesticide for control, but not safe around pets. A more organic and safe product is iron phosphate which is used in the product called ‘Sluggo’. It is safe for pets or in a vegetable garden and it degrades to a fertilizer. There is also ‘Sluggo Plus’ – the same, with Spinosad added Spinosad is an organic insecticide, so helps to eradicate the insects that like the same cool, shady, moist areas that attract the snails, such as earwigs and sow bugs.
IT MAY NOT BE CURL LEAF – Plums, apples and cherries are all subject to aphids. They are most often on the underside of the leaves and as they suck the juice from the leaves, the leaves will curl giving the appearance of Curl Leaf. They should be sprayed with insecticide, trying to get the under-side of the leaves well, It is also a good idea to spray the trunk and around the base of the tree to get rid of ants that farm aphids. Check for aphids if you see ants crawling on a tree or shrub because there may be an infestation of aphids as well.
CHLOROSIS is the yellowing of leaves from an inadequate supply of iron. The laves will be yellow and all the veins in the leaf will still be green. The iron supply in the soil can be depleted with heavy winter rains or frequent watering in the summer washing it away. Citrus and gardenias are frequently affected. Apply chelated iron either around the base of the plant or as a foliar spray on the leaves. It usually works rather quickly, but more than one application may be required to correct the condi- tion. We have available a granulated form — Ironite, 10# for $12.19 which would be spread around the plant and watered in well. Grow More Iron Chelate is a powdered form, 8 ounces for $5.40. It is concentrated and a little goes a long way. It is best used mixed with water and applied as a foliar spray or poured at the base of the plant. Fol- low package directions.
HYDRANGEA COLOR can be altered by applying Hydrangea Blue (aluminum sulfate) to intensify the blue pigment. It should be applied in late winter or early spring, every 4-6 weeks until the flowers have formed. For more intense pink use phosphorous similarly.
TRUNKS OF YOUNG TREES can be protected from damage sunburn by paint- ing them with Tree Trunk Paint. Sunburn can cause the thin bark to crack and that in turn can allow insects, such as borers, to invade the wounded bark and become a difficult problem to correct. Paint the trunk up to the first set of limbs, or to the point at which the tree is shading its trunk.
REMOVE SPENT FLOWERS from the fading spring bulbs. Do not cut back nor tie into a bundle the leaf foliage. It should be fertilized and watered until it dries naturally in order to recharge the bulbs forming for the bloom next year. When it yel- lows and dries it can be pulled up or trimmed.
SUMMER blooming bulbs should be planted now to add more color to your sum- mer garden. As summer approaches, and lawn mowing becomes a frequent job, it is probably time to make sure your mower is in good repair. The mower blade should be raised to 2” height if it was lowered during the cooler weather. The higher setting will allow the grass to shade the ground resulting in a less frequent need for irrigating.
SPECIAL DAYS IN MARCH AND APRIL – Arbor Day is celebrated in California on the horticulturist Luther Burbank’s birthday on march 7th. He introduced the popular Santa Rosa Plum. March 13th we start Daylight Saving Time – set your clock ahead one hour. March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day – wear green. March 20th is the first day of spring. Easter Sunday is on April 24th. Celebrate spring!