Thursday, March 31, 2011

Photo - California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken in Tierrasanta Canyon.
This beauty is the state flower of California.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Photo - Hot Lips Sage (Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips')

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at author's garden.

Plant Review - Hot Lips Sage (Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips')

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.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Photo - Flagstone with Pebbles

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at a client's house in Encinitas.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gardening Tip - Watering Roses and Using a Soil Probe

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.

Photo - Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)


Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at a client's garden in Poway.
This plant is growing beautifully on a 50 degree slope.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Photo - Floribunda Rose 'Sexy Rexy'

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at a client's garden in Pt. Loma.
This floribunda rose is a fantastic cut flower.  The tight petal
formation holds up for a long time in a vast.  Good disease
resistance also.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Photo - Jute Netting on a Slope

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at a client's garden in Carmel Valley.

Gardening Tip - How to Plant a Slope

      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.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Video - A Brave Little Sparrow


This brave little sparrow is trying to impress a female
sparrow in the garden.  This is my office window and
this sparrow does this for 4-8 hours (yes hours) everyday.

List of Plants for a Slope, Part 2

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 Name                    Common Name              #Type of Slope
#Mimulus hybridus             Monkey Flower                      Bunny
Myoporum parvifolium       Creeping Myoporum             Both
Myrtus communis                Variegated Myrtle                 Bunny
   'Variegata'
Pelargonium peltatum         Ivy Geranium                         Bunny
Pennisetum setaceum          Fireworks Fountain Grass    Bunny
   'Fireworks'
Perovskia atriplicifolia         Russian Sage                           Bunny
Phormium tenax                  New Zealand Flax                  Bunny
    'Maori Chief''
Photinia x fraseri                  Fraser’s Photinia                   Bunny
Pittospoum tobira                Varigated Mock Orange       Bunny
  'Variegata'
*Platanus racemosa             Caifornia Sycamore               Bunny
Plumbago auriculata            Cape Plumbage                      Both
Rhus lancea                           African Sumac                       Both
Rosmarinus officinalis          Prostrate Rosemary             Bunny
   'Prostrata'
*Salvia clevelandii                 Cleveland Sage                      Both
Senecio mandraliscae           Blue Chalk Sticks                  Both
Teucrium fruiticans              Bush Germander                  Bunny
Tristana conferta                  Brisbane Box                         Bunny
Vitex agnus-caste                 Chaste Tree                           Bunny
  
*California Native

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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

List of Plants for a Slope, Part 1

      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 Name                     Common Name         Type of Slope ^
Agave americana                   Century Plant                        Both
Aloe striata                             Coral Aloe                               Bunny
Arbutus unedo                       Strawberry Tree                   Bunny
*Arctostaphylos sp.               Emerald Manzanita              Both
      ‘Emerald Carpet’ 
*Baccharis pilularis                Pigeon Point Coyote Bush    Both
      ‘Pigeon Point’
Bougainvillea sp.                    Bougainvillea                          Bunny
Calindrinia grandiflora          Rock Purslane                        Bunny
*Ceanothus sp.                       California creeper                  Both
   ‘Yankee Point’
*Cercis occidentalis               Western Redbud                    Bunny
Cistus x purpureus                Orchid Rockrose                    Bunny
*Cotoneaster dammeri         Coral Cotoneaster                  Both
     ‘Coral Beauty’ 
Dodonaea viscosa                   Hopseed Bush                        Both
*Epilobium canum                 California Fuschia                  Bunny
Eremophila maculate             Emu Bush                               Bunny
*Erigeron karvinskianus       Santa Barbara Daisy             Bunny
Gazania hybrida                     Gazania                                   Bunny
Grevillea lanigera                   Wooly Grevillea                     Bunny
Juniperus chinensis                Gold Chinese Juniper           Bunny
     ‘Old Gold’  
Lagerstroemia sp.                   Crape Myrtle                         Bunny
    ‘Muskogee   
Lantana hybrida                      New Gold Lantana               Bunny
     ‘New Gold’  

*California Native

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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gardening Tip - Dealing with Slopes

      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!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photo - Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at a client's house in Ramona.

What does this have to do with gardening?  Not much.  
I saw this little guy scampering across my client's front yard
this weekend and was happy just to get the photo.
Did you know that the roadrunner is a member of the cuckoo bird family?
The latin name stands for "Californian Earth Cuckoo".

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Photo - Costco garden supplies

For more information, here is their web page.
Photos by Doug Kalal,
taken at the Mission Valley Costco in San Diego.


Garden Resources - Costco

          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.
For more information, here is their web page.

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at Mission Valley Costco.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lecture Schedule For March & April

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Photo - Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at author's garden.
Behold! The plant that almost killed James Bond in Casino Royale!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gardening Tip - Fixing Clay Soil with Gro-Power

      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.
Photo by Doug Kalal


Photo - Clay Soil vs. Good Soil

Clay soil, notice the gray color and chunky consistency.

Good soil, notice the fine texture and darker color.

Photos by Doug Kalal, taken at a client's garden in Tierrasanta.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Photo - Tropical Water Feature

Photo by Doug Kalal, taken at a client's garden in El Cajon.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gardening Tip - Fixing Clay Soil with Gypsum

       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.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gardening Tip - Identifying Clay Soil

       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.