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Bloomin’ spring

Wet weather aside, it’s time to get in the yard and plant for spring season

Posted: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Petunias are $2.47 per six-pack at Green Thumb International in Newhall.

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It’s mid-March, and the calendar and the warm days we had recently may be making you think it’s time to do your spring planting.

Well, it is, but you still have to be careful. As evidence of this, if you are reading this on St. Patrick’s Day morning, it is probably cold and wet outside.

According to Sandy Cudmore, an advanced, certified nursery professional at Green Thumb International nursery in Newhall, “Saturday night (tonight) will get really cold. And last year we had two freezing nights in April. Whenever you hear cold is coming, you need to cover your young plants,” she warned.

But don’t let the brief inclement weather put you off your spring gardening. In fact, don’t let it keep you away from the free seminar Green Thumb International is having today at 10 a.m., titled “Our Edible Garden.”

Teaching

As evidenced by the seminar, Green Thumb is making an all-out effort to educate the public about gardening and plant care. As part of this, Dan Garbe maintains a “Teaching Garden” on the premises.

“It’s so people can see what garden plants look like (when grown), and how much space they will take,” Cudmore said. “They can see how we are watering them.”

She noted that this is the second season for the Teaching Garden, and at this time you can see how full-grown celery looks (the stalks are underground), as well as recently harvested broccoli and a whole lot more. The spring veggies will be planted soon.

Additionally, young fruit trees have been planted along the back walls at the nursery, “So customers can see the spacing,” Cudmore said.

Spring is coming

Officially, spring starts this coming Tuesday and, despite whatever weather we may be experiencing in the SCV, it’s time to get your green on.

“I like to walk my yard every morning, and again when I get home from work,” Cudmore said. “One, because I love being out there, and, also because it’s good to walk around your plants, noticing problems such as pests or watering issues before the damage has gone too far.

“In spring, I enjoy taking a close look to see plants breaking their winter dormancy with buds and flowers,” she said. It’s a good time to trim brittle stems, cut back pale “wintery” looking plants and fertilize plants that have leafed out.

The season delivered

“Probably the most exciting thing for me (a real plant lover) is when the growers’ trucks are really rolling in at nurseries,” Cudmore said. “There are all kinds of annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables arriving daily.” She said the summer annuals, such as petunias and marigolds (for sun) and begonias and impatiens (for morning sun with afternoon shade) are here. And they should be able to withstand a few cold nights and give you blooms through the summer.

“Coleus and vincas are a little more sensitive to cold,” she said, “so hold off a little longer on planting those, unless you are prepared to protect them from a cold night.”

Some of my favorites are in now, she said, such as true geraniums and salvias. “Salvia greggii, or autumn sage, is a real hummingbird favorite that blooms nearly all year. Salvia chiapensis is beautiful in containers or the ground. It also blooms most of the year,” she said. Another favorite, and drought tolerant like the salvias, is verbena lilacina. “The variety de la mina has purple blooms nearly year-round,” she added.

“Scabiosa is a wonderful plant with and awful name,” she said. “It blooms nearly all year and is drought-tolerant.”

Citrus

“March and April are the best months for planting citrus,” Cudmore said. “My favorites are the mandarins. Satsuma ripens at Christmas, then tango and Yosemite gold are ripe now, until summer. All three are seedless and tasty. It’s a perfect time to plant all the fruit trees.”

She said that all kinds of berries can be planted now, and strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries all grow successfully in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Now is the best time to plant azaleas and camellias,” she said. “Plant them where they get a.m. sun, but not afternoon sun.” She said these plants prefer a soil mix with humus and peat.

Get prepared

“Start watering your plants more thoroughly, but less often, so they will develop good roots and become stronger before summer heat arrives,” Cudmore said.

She noted that it’s time to make sure your gardening tools are in good repair — clean and sharp — and ready for the season.

In fact, she said a mobile tool sharpening company will be at Green Thumb during the Our Edible Garden seminar.

“It’s also a good time to rejuvenate lawns,” she said. “Check your watering systems to make sure they are working properly. Put natural mulches around your plants to help suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Remember to keep mulches a few inches away from the crowns of plants.”

Cudmore said you should also keep an eye out for pests. New growth on plants attracts aphids and leaf miners. “Choose more earth-friendly products when possible,” she said. “We all need to be protecting bees.”

“And try using more organic fertilizers and adding more beneficial soil microbes for a healthier garden,” she added.

You can purchase earthworms at Green Thumb (they’re out of them at the moment) to help condition your soil, and you can also purchase natural predators such as ladybugs ($6.99 for 1,500) and praying mantis eggs ($8.79 for two egg sacks, with approximately 500 eggs in each).

Get to it

“Most of all, it’s time to get out there and enjoy,” Cudmore said. And, if you need help, the staff at Green Thumb is happy to advise. Along with that, you can turn to “Sunset Western Garden.”

“The new edition of ‘Sunset Western Garden’ is available now,” Cudmore said. “It is greatly improved over the last issue and can answer almost any gardening questions you have. And they went back to an index of scientific and common names, which is very helpful.”

She said the book features more than 2,000 photos and pointed out how colorful and detailed those photos are, using one of a lavender trumpet vine as an example. “You can see the veins in the flowers,” she said excitedly.

Green Thumb International is open seven days a week and located at 23734 Newhall Ave., Newhall, CA 91321. Call 661-259-1072.

jwalker@the-signal.com

661-287-5524

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