. . .it never really disappeared this year with the winter weather remaining so temperate. Spring is the best time of year for planting or transplanting anything in your garden. Day (and night) time temperatures rise optimizing new growth on existing plant material. Watering frequency gradually increases. It is simply the best time of year to plant just about anything in our Desert.
We would like to focus on some of the many problems and questions our customers bring us.
Watering Correctly and Effeciently
As always, we want to start by talking about watering your garden. Our favorite question? “How much do you water your garden?” Our favorite answer? “The water comes on twice a day so the plants are getting plenty of water!” Not necessarily. Water is measured in gallons, not time. Be sure the water is on long enough to soak the roots of your shrubs thoroughly. The plant should then have enough time to dry out thoroughly before receiving water again. Water requirements increase as daily temperatures rise–but not everywhere in the garden. If you have a very shady area or a planter with heavier soil you may only need to water twice a week. The rest of the garden should be watered about three times a week this time of year. This is where the different stations of your time clock come in. Do not cheat by watering everything more often for less time. Water enough to fully saturate the plant roots and then allow them to dry out. Run your time clock for an extra cycle a week if needed. You can always add water but you can’t get it back.
More Water Issues
Drip irrigation is great, but not if the emitter is located too far away from the plant it is meant to water. Newly planted material requires the water source to be located directly on top of the root ball. If the emitter is too far from the plant material, the roots can’t benefit from the water. The plant dries up and dies. The same problem occurs with traditional irrigation (spray heads and bubblers). Your sprinklers may be on every day but the lawn is spotty and dying. (Note: we do not recommend your sprinklers come on every day this time of year.) Dry spots in the lawn may be the result of improper coverage. This VERY COMMON problem is often masked by overwatering. The coffee cup test will work well here. If you suspect water coverage might not be adequate, place an empty coffee cup in the dry space and run the sprinklers. Is there enough water in the coffee cup to fully saturate the roots of the plant? If not, you have a problem. The answer is not always to run the water for a longer period of time. Be certain the sprinkler is reaching the area it needs to reach, THEN CHECK that the water is running for a long enough period of time to saturate the root ball. ‘Sprinkler Science’ has come a long way. Correct irrigation choices in the beginning will prevent extra work on down the road. It is important to have the right equipment for the job.
We have many different fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides at Moller’s; they do a lot of different jobs. Garden chemicals are not a one size fits all answer to gardening. It is important to properly identify the issue you are having and then use the correct material to adequately resolve the problem. Frizzy top on a Queen Palm requires manganese spikes–citrus fertilizer will not do the trick. Worms on vegetables need to be treated with an insecticide that has no residual effects on the food product to be consumed. You do not want to enjoy unsafe insecticides with your home grown tomatoes.
At Moller’s Garden Center, we like to recommend everything in the garden be fertilized monthly during the growing season. (September – November and February – June) Product packaging may suggest application every 6-8 weeks. Keep in mind this direction is a ‘one size fits all’ suggestion for consumers throughout the entire country. What goes for us in the Desert does not necessarily work in Iowa. We tend to water a little more often in our warmer climate, flushing necessary nutrients through the soil more rapidly than in other parts of the world. Our warmer weather allows for a more prolific growing season. Proper fertilizing is crucial to promoting healthy growth for your plants. This in turn allows plants to sustain themselves through the cold and hot months of the year.
Last month’s newsletter dealt with this issue but it is worthy of additional mention. Material pruned at the wrong time of the year can suffer severe sun burn causing permanent scarring or death to the plant. Unnaturally pruned material remains unsightly throughout the season–it can take up to two years for a plant to grow out of a bad haircut. Communication with maintenance personnel is critical here; they are not mind readers. One client may like the garden heavily groomed and another may like the wild, overgrown look. Take a little time to make certain your gardener knows how you would like your yard to look.
What, Where, When and Why?
One of the biggest problems we see is plant material planted in the wrong location for its size and exposure requirements. Someone comes into the Nursery, falls in love with a bougainvillea bush–plants it in a morning shade area and wonders why there are just a few blooms. (Bougainvillea require full sun.) A winter resident plants a camellia in a shaded location, leaves for the summer and returns to a crispy camellia in the fall. (Camellias MUST be planted in full shade) Winter shade can turn to full summer sun as the sun changes position throughout the year. This is where experience and knowledge of our sales associates come in. Most of the plant material in the Nursery comes from out of the Valley. Growth and exposure instructions found on many of the labels do not always apply to our Desert. Labels may be one size fits all but maintaining a beautiful garden in the Desert is not! Rules that apply in San Diego or Orange County do not pan out here. Please remember Moller’s is happy to assist.
Does My Cactus Look Good With My Azaleas??
Your garden should look exactly like you want it to look. If you like a mixture of overgrown shrubs and vines, you should have it. If a rock garden is your thing, go for it. The only real rule to follow is to plant material with similar water and exposure needs. We suggest you carry one theme throughout a space in your garden–have a tropical theme in the front yard, a desert oasis in the back and roses in the side yard. Cactus planted right next to an azalea will generally have trouble coexisting due to sun and water needs. Plant selection and space have a direct bearing on how your garden looks. A mixture of several different plants will make the area appear smaller than it is. Linear plantings of one or two items will result in more spacious surroundings.
Some plant material can have very tender root balls. Mishandling a bougainvillea may cause the root ball to fall apart and the plant to fail. Plants may be planted with the root ball too deep or too high. The soil level of the material to be planted should be the same level as the ground around it. Too high and the roots do not get the water they need. Too low and the plant is choked out by surrounding soil. It is ALWAYS a great idea to create a water well around transplanted and newly planted shrubs to ensure they receive enough water to get the roots started and the plant growing.
The Right Plant for Desert Gardening
We live in the Coachella Valley; there are literally thousands of plant options for your garden. However, there are some things that just will not survive here. Leave your hydrangea and bristlecone pine trees at home. You can enjoy just about every kind of garden design in the desert: cottage gardens, Mediterranean landscape, rock gardens, desert landscapes and tropical gardens, the trick is to choose the right plant for the area and be certain it receives the correct care.