Do you grow plants that are always the same color?A yellow Kangaroo Paw that is always yellow?BORING!A red rose that is always red?BORING!How about a plant that does this for flower color;
February – Red
March – Red
April – Red & White
May – Red & White
June – Red & White
July – White
August – White
September – Red & White
October – Red & White
November – Red
Sound confusing?Welcome to the world of Hot Lips Sage.Like all Salvias, this one is a great hummingbird plant.Like all salvias, this one has a very nice fragrance to its foliage.But unlike any other salvia, this one does not know what color it is supposed to be and that makes it one of my favorites.
Hot Lips Sage gets about 4’ wide by 2’ tall and is a full sun, drought tolerant plant.Give this plant a hard haircut (about 30 %) with a hedge trimmer in September and January to keep it fresh.Feed it with some Gro-Power (see post below) and Hot Lips Sage will be a winner in your garden.
The most important part of watering is to insure that you are getting the soil wet to a depth of at least 12 inches (18 inches is better).The best way to do that is to get a soil probe (Hydroscape has some nice ones). This is a tool that is shaped like a “T”, is usually stainless steel & hollow and comes in a variety of lengths.
Give your roses what you think is a good soaking, wait about 30 minutes, then push the soil probe (with a twisting motion) into the soil about 1 foot way from the center of your hybrid tea rose.After you pull the probe out, look at the soil sample, the entire sample should be moist.Repeat this process in a couple of areas around our garden to check of good distribution.If the soil samples are not moist, then you need to get more water into the root zone.
Do this test in April and it will give you a good idea of how much your roses need in average weather.When summer comes, increase the amount of water and recheck your soil.Finally, never overhead water the roses in the afternoon, this can lead to mildew and other diseases.
In the previous posts, I talked about the different types of slopes that we have here in San Diego and what types of plants to use.Now it’s time to plant the slope.The following steps apply for both bunny slopes and cowabunga slopes.If you do not know what those types of slopes are then read the previous article.
After you have cleared the slope of the old plant material, the next step is to upgrade the irrigation system.Drip irrigation is a good method for irrigating a slope that will have a few amount of plants (1 per 20 sq ft).The drawback to drip irrigation is that, in some rural areas, the local critters (gophers, squirrels, raccoons) love to chew up the lines in search of water.So I actually prefer using rotors for irrigating a slope.MP Rotators by Hunter are an outstanding product for controlling water on a slope.This product can be found at both Ewing Irrigation and Hydroscapes here in San Diego.
Following the irrigation tune-up (or overhaul if needed), you next need to amend the soil.Gro-Power and composted top soil are usually the best materials to use for fixing up the soil (although every slope is different).See the earlier article in March about fixing soils.
After you have put down your soil amendment, you need to lay jute netting up and down the slope (see photo).Jute netting is a bio-degradable material (sometime referred to as erosion cloth) that serves 3 purposes and is critical to the success of slope planting.Jute netting not only holds the soil amendments in place but after planting it holds the mulch in place around the new plants.Finally jute netting helps to keep water from just running wildly down the slope.One large roll usually measures 4’ x 225’ (900 sq ft).Always lay the netting up and down the slope, never side to side and use the pins to secure it in place.
Once the netting is in place, it’s time to plant the plants.On each plant it is important to build a little berm on the downhill side of the plant.This helps to hold the water in place around the new plant’s root ball.Also when you place the plant in the ground don’t forget the Best-Pak (the slow release fertilizer I have mentioned in earlier articles).Place the Best-Pak on the uphill side of the root ball then soak each plant with a hose.
Next add some mulch and a pre-emergent herbicide like Preen to the slope to control the weeds.Spread at least 2 inches of mulch over the entire slope (the depth of your thumb).1 cubic yard of mulch will cover 150 sq ft feet to the depth of your thumb.
Finally, carefully water the new plants again in order to wash the mulch and Preen off of the foliage.Continue to soak each new plant over the next few weeks to help them get established.The exact watering schedule depends on the plants and the time of year you have planted your slope.
Photo of the yours truly, taken by one of my clients.
Placing planting flags on a slope, note the golf shoes.
Here are the plants I like to use when designing a slope.Some of these plants work best in combination with other similar plants (like California Natives).
Botanical NameCommon Name#Type of Slope
#Mimulus hybridusMonkey FlowerBunny
Myoporum parvifoliumCreeping MyoporumBoth
Myrtus communis Variegated MyrtleBunny
Pelargonium peltatumIvy GeraniumBunny
Pennisetum setaceum Fireworks Fountain GrassBunny
Perovskia atriplicifoliaRussian SageBunny
Phormium tenax New Zealand FlaxBunny
Photinia x fraseriFraser’s PhotiniaBunny
Pittospoum tobira Varigated Mock OrangeBunny
*Platanus racemosaCaifornia SycamoreBunny
Plumbago auriculataCape PlumbageBoth
Rhus lanceaAfrican SumacBoth
Rosmarinus officinalis Prostrate RosemaryBunny
*Salvia clevelandiiCleveland SageBoth
Senecio mandraliscaeBlue Chalk SticksBoth
Teucrium fruiticansBush GermanderBunny
Tristana confertaBrisbane BoxBunny
Vitex agnus-casteChaste TreeBunny
If you are not sure which plant combinations work best, then send me an email (my address is listed at the top of the page).
#Bunny slopes are those easy slopes that you skied on when you were a kid.Bunny slopes are 5 to 20 degree slopes that you can walk up and down without having to hold onto anything. Both refers to Bunny or Cowabunga slopes.Cowabunga slopes are those steeper inclines that teenagers go snowboarding down yelling “COWABUNGA!!!!!” as they rip and shred everything in their path.Cowabunga slopes are in the 25-60 degree range and require some type of aid (railing, fence, etc.) for you to hold onto in order to go up and down the hill.
Here are the plants I like to use when designing a slope.Some of these plants work best in combination with other similar plants (like California Natives). Part 2 of the list comes on Sunday.
Botanical NameCommon NameType of Slope ^
Agave americanaCentury PlantBoth
Aloe striata Coral AloeBunny
Arbutus unedoStrawberry TreeBunny
*Arctostaphylos sp.Emerald ManzanitaBoth
*Baccharis pilularis Pigeon Point Coyote BushBoth
Calindrinia grandifloraRock PurslaneBunny
*Ceanothus sp. California creeperBoth
*Cercis occidentalisWestern RedbudBunny
Cistus x purpureusOrchid RockroseBunny
*Cotoneaster dammeri Coral CotoneasterBoth
Dodonaea viscosaHopseed BushBoth
*Epilobium canumCalifornia FuschiaBunny
Eremophila maculateEmu BushBunny
*Erigeron karvinskianusSanta Barbara DaisyBunny
Grevillea lanigeraWooly GrevilleaBunny
Juniperus chinensis Gold Chinese JuniperBunny
Lagerstroemia sp. Crape MyrtleBunny
Lantana hybrida New Gold LantanaBunny
If you are not sure which plant combinations work best, then send me an email (my address is listed at the top of the page).
^Bunny slopes are those easy slopes that you skied on when you were a kid.Bunny slopes are 5 to 20 degree slopes that you can walk up and down without having to hold onto anything. Both refers to Bunny or Cowabunga slopes.Cowabunga slopes are those steeper inclines that teenagers go snowboarding down yelling “COWABUNGA!!!!!” as they rip and shred everything in their path.Cowabunga slopes are in the 25-60 degree range and require some type of aid (railing, fence, etc.) for you to hold onto in order to go up and down the hill. This weekend’s article will focus on how to properly plant the slope.
Ah, life is good here in San Diego.The sun, the sand, the great weather, but unless you live in Coronado or another beach town, there is another constant that tens of thousands of San Diego gardeners have to deal with; slopes. Back yard slopes, front yard slopes, big slopes, little slopes, endless rolling slopes all over the county.
In San Diego there are 3 types of slopes.The first type is called a bunny slope.Bunny slopes are those easy slopes that you skied on when you were a kid.Bunny slopes are 5 to 20 degree slopes that you can walk up and down without having to hold onto anything.
The second type of slope is called a cowabunga slope.Cowabunga slopes are those steeper inclines that teenagers go snowboarding down yelling “COWABUNGA!!!!!” as they rip and shred everything in their path.Cowabunga slopes are in the 25-60 degree range and require some type of aid (railing, fence, etc.) for you to hold onto in order to go up and down the hill.
The last type of slope in San Diego is called a Geronimo slope.Geronimo slopes are so steep (65-90 degrees) that all you can do is strap on a parachute, jump off and yell “GERONIMO!!”Those types of slopes require an engineer to build a really good wall.
In the next 3 articles I will talk about what plants are great for slopes and how to plant them.So stay tuned!
Yes, the store that brings you cases of 891 cookies and 56 chicken drumsticks actually is a garden resource at this time of the year.During the month of March, Costco has a wonderful bulk landscape material selection.The 2 products that Costco carries right now that you should run and buy are weed block and Preen.
Commercial grade weed block (see photo) is an important material that is laid on bare soil to control weeds.You then cut holes in the fabric, dig a hole and plant the plant.Weed block can only be used on flat areas.The gray weed block that Costco has right now, sells for about $35 for an 880 sq ft roll.That is about half the price of Home Depot's heavy duty weed block.
The second product at Costco that you should buy is Preen.Preen is a pre-emergent herbicide that stops all weed seeds from germinating.It will not kill any existing plants (including weeds that have already sprung up).So it is safe to use around roses, shrubs, perennials and trees.Preen should not be used around fruit trees or vegetable gardens, since the herbicide can slowly work its way into the plant.Preen is a good long term method for controlling weeds.
In addition to those items, Costco has carries useful things like soil, bulb and plants.So run to Costco and save some money on landscape items before March ends.
Do you want to see some of the plants from this blog up close and in person? Well then come on down and meet me and the plants at my lecture series. "30 Great Drought Tolerant Plants" is a free lecture where you can see, touch and smell some wonderful alternatives to grass. This series will be coming to the following locations in March & April;
Saturday, March 19th @ 10:00am Bonita Community Library 4375 Bonita Rd, Bonita
Tuesday, March 22nd @ 6:00pm Tierrasanta Public Library 4985 La Cuenta, San Diego
Tuesday, March 29th @ 6:00pm La Mesa Community Library 8074 Allison Ave, La Mesa
Tuesday, April 5th @ 6:30pm Encinitas Community Library 540 Cornish Dr, Encinitas
Wednesday, April 13th @ 11:00am Rancho Santa Fe Community Library 17040 Avenida de Acacias, RSF
Tuesday, April 19th @ 6:30pm Rancho San Diego Community Library 11555 Via Rancho San Diego, El Cajon
As mentioned in the 2 previous posts, hard clay soils present a series of challenges for growing healthy plants.Gypsum is the best additive for removing salts from a clay soil.Today’s post will talk about Gro-Power.
Gro-Power is a soil conditioner that adds organic material and mico-organisms back into the soil.Without these micro-organisms, the soil cannot process any plant food for the roots of your plants.Basically, trying to feed plants stuck in hard clay soil is like trying to eat pizza with your mouth wired shut.The food just has nowhere to go.With an organic fertilizer like Gro-Power, the plant roots are freed and can actively process the nutrients in the soil.
Gro-Power can be used in both new and existing landscapes.For new landscapes, rototill Gro-Power in at the rate of 150 lbs for every 1,000 sq ft.For existing landscapes, use 1 to 5 cups based on plant size every 6 months (see package for details).
Using gypsum and Gro-Power will help turn that rock hard clay soil into a better environment for your garden.Gro-Power is available at most nurseries and garden centers.
In the previous post I talked about identifying clay soils, now its time to fix the problem.Clay soils have 2 basic problems that are harmful for healthy plant development.The first is that the chemical makeup of clay soil tends to be high in salt and the salt is tightly bound to the soil particles.This chemical composition also holds water tightly to the salt and soil, so that drainage is poor.The second problem is that clay soils tend to be lacking in organic material and the soil micro-organisms that help plants to thrive.Some California natives actually prefer this type of lean soil, but I will save that for another post.
To address the first problem you need to add some gypsum to the soil.Gypsum is another word for calcium sulfate, a chemical that replaces the sodium in the soil with calcium.This chemical action helps to unlock the soil, getting all that salt to flush away from the root zone, which in turn lets the water drain away as well.
You can either use gypsum for a new landscape by mixing it into the soil with a rototiller, or by spreading it on an existing landscape and watering it in.The standard gypsum powder takes awhile to take effect in the soil, so you can also use a liquid form of gypsum to speed up the process. There are various types and strengths of gypsum on the market, so always follow the label when it comes to how much to use.Gypsum is not a fertilizer, so you will still have to feed the plants but it will allow the soil to better process future plant food.Gypsum should only be used on clay soils; it is worthless for sandy soils.
Since we have gone over the 2 minute mark, part 2 will have to wait until Saturday when I talk about Gro-Power.
San Diego is a gardener’s dream.Our moderate temperatures mean that we can grow a dazzling array of plants all year.The downside to San Diego is that in many parts of the county we have poor native soil for growing all those beauties.There are several types of soil in the county.Today’s post will cover heavy clay soil.
How do you know if you have this type of soil?First dig a small shallow hole about 12 inches wide by 6 inches deep.Is the soil hard to dig, even though you are not hitting any rocks?Next fill it with water and let the water drain out of the hole into the soil.Does the water drain quickly while you are standing there or does it just sit there like a really gross bird bath?A really gross bird bath means you have clay soil. Still not sure?Let the water drain completely out and then refill the hole with more water.If the second batch of water drains slower than 1 inch per hour, you have clay soil.
Another test is to scope out a handful of soil from that wet hole.Does the soil feel like playdoh in your hand when you squeeze it or does it slip through your fingers in loose pieces?Wet clay soil will feel like wet clay (thus the name).Because of its dense structure, clay soil really holds onto the water which can drown a lot of great plants that need good drainage to survive.So what can you do to fix this?Tune in Thursday when I will tell you how.