With Spring Upon Us, Time To Make Garden and Landscaping Plans

Spring officially begins March 20 but there is no need to wait to start planning and planting your spring garden and landscape projects.

Evaluate Your Soil: With the heavy rains over the past few months, important nutrients from the soil may have leached out. Add soil amendments with the proper pH balance to encourage strong plant growth. Cultivate the soil down one foot. Add appropriate organic soil amendments before any new planting.

Start Your Spring Garden: Plenty of vegetables and herbs can be planted in the ground in March. Vegetables include beets, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, endive, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, radishes, strawberries, squash and tomatoes. Herbs to plant now are basil, chives, cilantro, dill and parsley. These vegetables and herbs can be planted from seed or as seedlings.

Plant Blooming Flowers: For an instant spring flower garden, plant blooming flowers such as azaleas, petunias, marigolds, bearded iris and geraniums. These and more are available at nurseries this month.

Add Fragrant Shrubs: A garden should smell nice as well as look nice. Add star jasmine, lilac or gardenia to your garden. Their scent will enhance the beauty of your landscape. Don't forget sweet smelling herbs too such as sage and thyme.

Plant Avocado Trees: Now is the time to plant avocado trees. Patience is key, as the trees may not produce fruit for three to four years (longer if planted from seed). New trees need deep watering (especially during summer). Trees need full sun and plenty of room to grow (they can grow as high as 35 feet). Avocado trees are also available in dwarf size.

Practice Weed Control: If you haven't kept up on weed control, by now, weeds could easily account for much of the greenery in your garden. Spend an afternoon or two weeding your yard and then add a layer of mulch. Mulch not only invigorates plants, but also suppresses weeds before they start. Add at least a two to three inch layer around trees, shrubs, flowers and plants.

Maximize Fruit Production: Apple, apricot, peach, and plum trees routinely set more fruit than the trees can ripen. As fruit begins to appear, twist off extra fruit when they reach about marble-size. Leave two of the largest and healthiest young fruits on each 12 inches of stem.

Fertilize Citrus Trees: Add a well-balanced citrus fertilizer early in March. Nitrogen is the primary nutrient that needs to be replaced (once in spring and again in fall). If leaves are yellow, the tree may be experiencing an iron deficiency. Follow the directions on the fertilizer package to determine quantity. Don't apply the fertilizer directly to the base of the tree. Instead, place at the drip line.

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Shorter Days in November Mean Less Time in the Garden in Southern California

Fewer daylight hours in November means less time to garden. Pick one or two outdoor projects to focus on this month.

Add Last Minute Fall Color: There is no reason why your flower garden can't look beautiful in fall and winter. Buy flowering plants from the nursery and plant now. Fall annuals include pansies, violas, primrose and calendula. Perennials that bloom in fall should be considered also. They include nemesia, Russian sage, chrysanthemums, aster and oriental lily.

Cut Back On Watering: Unless we get a late blast of Santa Ana winds, water plants and trees less frequently. Newly planted varieties, however, should be routinely watered until established. Dormant trees do not need watering.

Last Time To Water Outdoor Cacti And Succulents: Water outdoor succulents before they go dormant in winter. If the plants are indoors, they'll need to be watered year round when the soil becomes dry. Give the plants a good soak once a week and let the water drain.

Plant Trees: Fall's cool nights, mild days and occasional rain are ideal conditions for tree planting. Planting now gives young trees time to establish a healthy root system before growing season in spring. Select a location for your tree before shopping. Do you want an evergreen or deciduous? Is the location near walkways? Roots can lift up sidewalks. Will the tree need to be in the shade or get plenty of sun? Amend the soil if necessary, dig a hole that's at least twice the size of the root ball and plant. Trees grow slowly the first few years so be patient.

Prevent Peach Leaf Curl: A common fungal organism in peach and nectarine orchards results in peach leaf curl. If your tree leaves become deformed, now is the time to get rid of the bug by spraying the tree with an organic lime sulfur. Wait until most of the leaves have fallen before spraying.

Mulch Plants: Add a layer of mulch around the garden. When rain comes, mulch will stop rain-producing mud from splashing onto plants and prevent runoff.

Winterize Lawns: Mow lawns very short, sow grass seed, scatter a light covering of soil amendment and water to produce a green winter lawn. Rake falling leaves from lawns as leaves could impede lawn growth. If a lawn is looking "tired," sow in seeds to cover brown spots and to introduce new growth. After seeding, scatter a light covering of soil amendment and water thoroughly. To avoid the "dead" look of winter Bermuda lawns, overseed the lawn with annual rye to cover up brown.

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