February 22, 2008
From the Producer 2/9
First of all, I must tell you that when I visited Scooter’s car mechanic, I saw a truly vintage milk can, rusted artistically, on the side of the garage. Daniel told me that they put old metal there for anyone who wanted it. I pointed out that he could make real money on this one, but he let me have it anyway. This is scavenged luck at its best! When I find the perfect garden spot for it, I’ll take him a picture.
Next, if you feel a little overwhelmed and impatient right now, that’s okay, because I sure am. This is a most exciting season for gardeners, but it’s sort of like cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd. You’ve got your plan, but you’ve got to time it to the final minutes of execution. For gardeners, the next eight weeks are like the last 30 minutes of a holiday dinner. Then we sit back and digest our efforts!
Pruning is at the top of our minds. As this week’s guests point out, we don’t want to jump the gun too early and deny our winter friends their buffet or hideout. Then there’s always the caution about weather, because the balmy (okay, downright hot) days are a fool’s paradise ready to knock us off our feet.
Still, in the next two to six weeks, we can have at it, depending on the plant, its age, and where you live. This is where we watch our plants and I’d say, “the weather,” but as you know, that can change in an instant. I’d definitely hold off on any that are cold tender. The plants will let you know when they’re ready. I’ve been out every day looking at bud breaks, timing the countdown. I will say that cutting the primrose jasmine to the ground prematurely was an experiment that worked. Every day, they shoot out more new leaves, and should cover the fence by tomorrow, if not by late March.
I gave the rosemary plants their haircut, since now is a good time for them. In two weeks, I’ll do the ornamental grasses, the last of the lantanas, and the roses. The pavonias and bay laurel after that; the Barbados cherries in mid-March.
And I say this every year, but I’ll say it again, “If something hasn’t come up yet, don’t be impatient and dig it out.” I can’t tell you how many times I thought something was gone for good, only to see it pop up overnight when the time was right. Plants have survival skills they didn’t get by checking out the weather online. At the same time, young ones can be impatient and impetuous, so they need extra care until they figure it out, or at least until their roots—rather than their heads—achieve maturity.
The ones that are really impatient are the weeds, “growing like weeds,” to hurry up their goal: spreading their progeny all over your garden. Dig now or forever reap the rewards, especially if you have pets. I’m convinced that nature gave us pets to carry seeds when all else fails.
Chemicals, never recommended by CTG, won’t help you now, and will do more harm than good. Tom and I have a philosophy: Tackle one small area at a time. Give yourself a realistic goal and you’ll make definite headway. If the weeds are in the grass, get out the mower.
In the next few weeks, we can also put down a slow-release fertilizer (but not on the grass, you know!). I like to mulch after that, while plants are still cut back, and the sweat factor is lower. At the same time, I won’t be mulching the areas where I have future digging to do: moving the plumbagos, the cycad, and agaves, or new installations of plants that may not be cold hardy in their first few weeks. Patience, patience, even as I itch to move them. But from a viewer’s question this week, if you need to move a rose or a woody shrub, as I did last weekend, do it now, or wait until November.
We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and tax day, but every moment is memorable as—dare I say it—we “spring into action.”
Until next week,