by Charlene Burgi
The itch to “play in the dirt” while the sun shines is a temptress for gardeners. The weatherman predicted temperatures in the mid to high 70s in Marin this week. The instinct for most gardeners, including yours truly, is to load up on frost-tender summer annuals and veggies, not realizing we could still face some serious weather conditions that are not conducive to these heat-seeking plants.
What can we do that will satisfy the desire to get our hands dirty while still considering the health of the garden? Here are a few ideas:
- The reality is the soil temperatures are still a bit too cool for some seeds to germinate, but the ground may be friable enough for double digging to prepare for the seedlings started indoors.
- If you haven’t started planting seed starts, now is the time! Keep the seedlings in cold frames or indoors for a few more weeks while the soil warms up.
- Bare root season is coming to a close, and it is not too late to plant asparagus, onion sets, garlic, potatoes, shallots, strawberries, berries and fruit trees. The selection may be very limited at the nurseries now, but it is worth checking their inventory. These plants can go directly into the ground now.
- Sheet mulch areas of the garden where you notice weeds cropping up.
- Begin preparing for irrigation season by running each station of your irrigation system to make certain everything is functioning properly and that you are watering the roots of your plants, not the street and sidewalk.
After my blog post about pruning fruit trees several weeks ago, readers asked how to prune citrus. We agreed to put this chore off for a later date due to potential frost damage that could occur with these evergreen trees. We are approaching March and I still waffle that there could be a hard freeze this close to spring. My crystal ball continues to fail me, but I will proceed with caution.
Citrus trees typically require little pruning. They are not dependent on fruiting spurs, last year’s growth, or new wood to bear fruit as are other types of fruit trees. They do require good sunlight, fast draining soil and protection from frost and wind.
Their pruning requirements are relatively simple. Open up the center of the tree to allow sunlight to filter in. This task consists of first removing branches that are dead, weak or broken. Check for any branches that are crossing each other and remove the smaller branch or the branch impeding a walkway.
Remove any suckers or new shoots that might be growing below the graft line of your tree. Usually this graft is located closer to the ground on citrus and looks like a ridged area around the trunk.
Tools should include sharp pruning shears for small branches and loppers or hand saws for larger branches. Also wear leather gloves to protect yourself from large thorns found on many types of citrus trees.
After cleaning up the pruning debris, refresh the mulch around the tree. Citrus respond very well to mulch and will reward you with an abundant crop of great fruit!
Hold the Dates: Sustainable Landscape Workshops March 10 & April 14
Mark your calendar! We have two more FREE workshops coming up in our Sustainable Landscape series, co-sponsored by The Urban Farmer Store. Join us Saturday, March 10, for “From the Ground Up” to learn all about building healthy soil. Then come back Saturday, April 14, for “Irrigation Essentials” for tips on managing your irrigation system to get the most from every drop. Both workshops will be 10:00 a.m. – noon at the Mill Valley Community Center, 180 Camino Alto. Register for either one or both. Call 945-1521 to reserve your spot.