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February 5, 2015 Newsletter

1105 W. Mission Avenue
Escondido CA 92025





featured quote


"Every spring is the only spring--a perpetual astonishment. "
~Ellis Peters

start your gardens
Growing Plants in Containers

Some gardeners shy away from growing plants in containers because of endless "failure" stories buzzing in their heads. Container plantings are not difficult, but you do need to keep a few things in mind--including selection of container, type of planting mix, feeding and watering needs. These are the variables differentiating growing plants in the ground from growing them in containers.

First of all, different types of containers will lead to different types of watering needs. For example, terracotta pots are probably the most porous of the clay pots. This porosity allows the soil to dry out more quickly. Glazed pots are next in line. The glaze on the outside of the pot actually helps to keep moisture in more than a non-glazed clay pot would. Thick cement containers probably fall in line together with the glazed pots. Finally, there are plastic and some of the new composite material containers. These containers will hold the moisture far longer than the other pots.

The soil mix itself should breathe and should be light and airy. We recommend using an all organic potting soil for most plants. But be sure to use the right type of potting soil for your plant. Most plants do fine in normal potting soil, but the reason you'll see things like "cactus mix" on the shelves is that some plants have special needs.

Because plants in containers have a limited amount of soil area, they will need to be fed more often than plants in the ground. We recommend feeding most plants every two weeks with a liquid or water-soluble plant food or every two months with a dry fertilizer. Again, some plants have different needs, so adjust as necessary for your own container garden.

Plants in containers can often suffer from dehydration, especially in the summer months of the year. Water those that need moist soil frequently, especially if your container is made of a more porous material. Drought-tolerant plants will like a pot that dries out quickly, but a water-needy plant will want to have consistently moist (but not wet) conditions.

If you let your potting soil dry out too much, the root ball will shrink and the water will run straight down the sides and out of the bottom of your container. If this happens, you will need to leave the water dripping into your container for a long enough time to rehydrate the potting soil. If the container is small enough, dunk it into a big bucket of water and let it sit there for a few minutes until the root ball expands again and properly fills the pot.

Container gardening is a wonderful way to add splashes of plants and color in all areas of your outdoor rooms, and for those with only small patios, container gardening is the only way to go. Just remember not to treat container plants exactly like in-ground plantings, and you'll be fine.

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Easter Lilies

If you are lucky enough to have a potted Easter lily, you may wish to extend your enjoyment of its lovely blooms.

As the flowers mature, remove the yellow anthers before the pollen starts to shed. This gives longer flower life and prevents the pollen from staining the white flowers. When a mature flower starts to wither after its prime, cut it off to make the plant more attractive while you still enjoy the fresher, newly-opened blooms.

The lily will thrive near a window in bright, indirect natural daylight, but avoid glaring, direct sunlight.

Easter lilies prefer moderately moist, well-drained soil. Water the plant thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry to a light touch, but avoid over-watering. If the pot is wrapped in decorative foil, be careful not to let the plant sit in trapped, standing water. For best results, remove the plant from decorative pots or covers, take it over the sink and water thoroughly until water seeps out of the pot's drain holes to completely saturate the soil. Allow the plant to air for a few minutes and discard the excess water before replacing it in its decorative pot cover.

If you'd like to plant your Easter lilies outside, prepare a well-drained garden bed in a sunny location with rich, organic matter.

Plant Easter lily bulbs 3 inches below ground level, and mound up an additional 3 inches of topsoil over the bulb. This creates a slightly raised bed (with soil a few inches higher than the level around it) that will help with drainage and soil aeration. Plant at least 12 to 18 inches apart in a hole sufficiently wide so that the bulbs can be placed in it with the roots spread out and down, as they naturally grow. Spread the roots and work the prepared soil in around the bulbs and the roots, leaving no air pockets. Water in immediately and thoroughly after planting. Try not to allow the soil to heave or shift after planting.

As the original plants begin to die back, cut the stems back to the soil surface. New growth will soon emerge. Easter lilies, forced to bloom under controlled greenhouse conditions in March, bloom naturally in the summer. You may be rewarded with a second bloom later this summer, but most likely you will have to wait until next June or July to see them bloom again.

Another planting tip to consider is that lilies like their roots in shade and their heads in the sun. Mulching helps conserve moisture in between waterings, keeps the soil cool and loose, and provides a fluffy, nutritious medium for the stem roots. For a more attractive alternative, plant a "living mulch," or a low ground cover of shallow-rooted, complementary annuals or perennials. The stately Easter lilies rising above lacy violas or primulas are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also sound gardening.

Easter lily bulbs are surprisingly hardy even in cold climates. Just be sure to provide winter protection by mulching the ground with a thick, generous layer of straw, pine needles, leaves, ground corncob, pieces of boxes or bags. Carefully remove the mulch in the spring to allow new shoots to come up, and your Easter lilies will keep on providing you beauty, grace, and fragrance in years to come.

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earth day

Earth Day is one of two different observances, both held annually during spring in the northern hemisphere, and autumn in the southern hemisphere. These are intended to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the Earth's environment.

Earth Day was founded in 1970 by U.S. politician Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, and is celebrated in many countries each year on April 22. Senator Nelson first proposed the nationwide environmental protest to thrust the environment onto the national agenda.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Each year, the April 22 Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days ever, with an estimated billion people participating in activities in more than 140 countries.

April Garden Tasks

Bedding plants/annuals are now available to replace any cool-season annuals that are just about done. Zinnia, ageratum, coleus, dahlia, marigold, nicotiana, phlox, petunia, salvia are in season. Also, try some taller annuals such as cosmos, cleome, sunflowers, and foxgloves to add height and interest to the garden beds.

There's still time to plant roses. They are full of buds and blooms right now--and they are simply gorgeous.

If you are a beneficial insect lover, flat-topped flowers like Shasta daisies, scabiosa, strawflowers, and yarrow are perfect additions to your garden for feeding them. Beneficial insects such as the almost microscopic parasitic wasps, ladybugs, etc. keep other insect pests away from your vegetable gardens by eating aphids, scale, and other annoying intruders. You can use beautiful flowers to tempt these garden friends into your garden. Try putting some of these flowers near to your rose garden for aphid control!

Time to plant dahlias, begonias--and get in the gladiolus bulbs. Add some bone meal to the planting hole.

The narcissus and daffodils are blooming, as well as other spring blooming bulbs. As soon as the blooms are spent, you can deadhead--but don't remove the foliage! The bulb needs that green foliage to add nutrients back to the bulb for next year's flowers. Hide the clippers for a little while longer. Try an old-fashioned technique of braiding the leaves. If you must cut, leave at least half of the leaf length for the bulb. It will thank you with next year's bloom!

It's time to start warm season crops. Coastal areas can continue planting cool season crops like the leaf lettuces, radishes, and spinach for a while. Inland zones (not the high desert, though) can start the warm season vegetables such as beans, corn, squashes, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. We have them all and more.

Continue with fertilizing those areas of the garden you haven't gotten to yet. Once your azaleas and camellias have stopped blooming their hearts out, they will thank you if you feed them. This is a good time to prune back these two spring bloomers. Once the flowering has ended and before the new growth begins, prune and shape to your desired shape and size.

You may see some chlorosis on your acid-loving plants like the azalea or camellia, and possibly on your citrus. This yellowing of the leaves between the veins is a sign of iron deficiency for the plant. Feed with a good iron supplement.

Especially near the coast, this is the time we begin to see powdery mildew on our rose foliage (and other plants too). There are several different foliar fungicidal sprays to that can help.

Aphids will be back. Remember that you can first wash them off with water. Really, it does help. For more severe infestations, ask us to recommend something suitable for your particular plants.

Continue to replenish your mulch and maintain a 2-4" blanket over your soil.

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Test Your Soil

Many people garden successfully without ever testing their soil, but they are probably fortunate in gardening on ground that is not deficient in nutrients, is neither too acidic nor too alkaline, and receives plenty of nutrients anyway as part of normal cultivation. If things don't seem to be growing well, a soil test is the best starting point for putting things right, and dedicated gardeners test their soil routinely once a year.

Professional soil testing is the most accurate for nutrients, but you can get a reasonable idea of the major nutrients in your soil with simple indicator kits. Testing for pH is quick and effective. (Bear in mind that kits vary from one manufacturer to another, so always follow the manufacturer's instructions.)

The term pH is a scientific way of stating how acidic or alkaline something is. Soils vary in their degree of acidity or alkalinity. The scale goes from 0 (more acidic) to 14 (more alkaline), with 7 as neutral. Soils never reach the extremes, and horticulturally, 6.5 can be considered neutral in that it is the pH at which most plants will grow happily. Acid-loving plants, such as rhododendrons, camellias, peonies and heathers, need a lower pH and may develop chlorosis (a yellowing of the leaves) if grown in chalky soil. Chalk-loving plants like dianthus and lilacs prefer a pH of 7 or above.

These differences may sound small, but on the pH scale 1 point represents a ten-fold increase in acidity or alkalinity.

Testing the pH: Collect your samples and mix with water as described for nutrient testing, but for the pH test you don't have to wait for the mixture to settle, and only the test chamber is filled with the solution. Clean tap water is used for the reference chamber. Add the indicator chemical provided with the kit, then put the top on and shake vigorously. Compare the color with the shade panel on the container for the nearest pH value.

Adding Lime to the Soil: Never add lime unless you have tested your soil first and know that it is necessary. Too much lime applied regularly can be harmful for your plants. Always check that you are applying the right sort of lime at the appropriate application rate. Your testing kit should contain advice about how much lime (which will vary with type) to apply to your soil to adjust the pH.

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Rickey's Heart Healthy Spanish Rice Side Dish

Try this as a side dish to virtually any main course: Chicken, beef, fish, etc. This is very easy, delicious, and good for you, too!

What You'll Need:

  • 2 cups uncooked instant rice
  • 1 can drained whole-kernel corn (reserve liquid)
  • 1 can drained diced tomatoes (reserve liquid)
  • 1 can drained and rinsed black beans
  • Hot sauce and/or hot pepper flakes to taste
  • Pinch black pepper
  • Grated low fat/low sodium cheese (optional)
  • Water (see instructions below for amount)

Step by Step:

  • In a microwavable bowl, place the instant rice.
  • Measure the amount of reserved liquid from the corn and tomatoes; to that add enough water to make 2 cups.
  • Add liquid to rice.
  • Microwave on high, covered, for 5 minutes.
  • When done, uncover and let stand for 10 minutes (or until all liquid is absorbed).
  • In a microwaveable casserole dish, place the rice on the bottom, top that off with rinsed and drained black beans; followed by the drained whole kernel corn.
  • Top off with diced tomatoes. Sprinkle hot pepper flakes and/or hot sauce and black pepper on top and top it off with grated cheese (if desired).
  • Place in microwave for 4 minutes on high, covered.
  • Remove, let stand for 5 minutes and serve!