By Susan Taylor
The flatlanders in San Diego had somewhere between 1-2 inches of rain recently and I hear the call of school gardens asking, “Can we plant something?” Of course we can, so let’s get going.
On a recent stroll along the boardwalk towards South Mission Beach, I dipped into the tiny streets between the boardwalk and Mission Blvd and saw so many interesting growing things. One idea I’ve already tried is to take a hanging succulent cutting, let it harden off for a couple of days and here’s what’s next–wrap a handful of soil around the root (to be) end and then add some coir or even a paper towel. Moisten the whole wrap and nest it into the crotch of a tree branch. I used a rubber band to tighten the whole thing. Maybe you’ll have a hanging plant growing thingy before you know it…it looks very sophisticated and like the gardener knows what he/she is doing!
Let’s prepare some soil before planting anything. That means you are feeding the soil not the plants or seeds and all will be well. Try to use non-chemical fertilizers like worm castings or chicken manure that comes in bags from the store. Skip the steer manure, period. If you need to know more about why, ask me. Save the watering until after you plant your plants.
Today I bought some tomato starts in four-inch pots to put into my garden bed. I bought some heirloom varieties like Black Krim, Pineapple, Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine, and Italian Heirloom. To review, tomatoes need full sun and don’t plant them where you had them last year. If your tomato start is, say 8-10 inches tall, carefully remove the bottom several branches (branchettes?) and bury the trunk of the new plant up to the first stem of branches remaining. Didn’t know this? This practices allows the young plant to create a stronger root system off the main stem and provides a healthy start. I know this is hard, people, water, but not too much!
Overwatering tomato plants creates leggier plants and less fruit. If this plant will need support, the time to put it in place is now! Nothing is worse than trying to retro fit a tomato cage around a growing plant.
If you like baby lettuces and greens, now is a wonderful time to plant them as well. I prefer to use seeds but you decide. If you use seeds, plant them about ½ inch deep and then spray them with water from a bottle into dampness. If you just hose them or pour water all over deeply they will sink too far below and either rot, never come up, or surprise you several months later. I learn this the hard way almost every time, but I am getting better.
Consider some beans now too, either from seed or starts. Really, bean seeds are very easy. There are pole and bush varieties and then grow so well here. The more you pick them the more you will have more beans; this is truly the definition of axiomatic! Again, pole beans will require a POLE, which the bush varieties do not. Experiment and have fun. Pick beans early and often! Some varieties are Climbing French, Kentucky Bush and Pole, and Lazy Housewife. No kidding.
Veteran gardeners may plant away, beginning now. Newbies, let’s concentrate on a simple start for now; otherwise the neighbors will see you coming with ten-pound squash well before mid June.
I recently attended a class on fruit trees and how to plant and prune to get more varieties into smaller spaces, since many properties have a smaller lot size. I’d like to write soon about that because fruit trees are so much fun and gratifying. The class speaker recommended knowing the depth or water absorption for every fruit tree. So, late that afternoon, I poured a nice glass of wine and armed with my soil and water probe, I proceeded to stab into the soil around my 49 fruit trees – the neighbors must have thought I was crazy, but I can tell you all my trees are doing just fine.
Way back around 1950, my grandpap came home from his job at the Pittsburgh newspaper and said to all, “There must be SOMEWHERE else where it doesn’t snow forty days and nights!” Soon after, he found a job at the San Diego Tribune as a stenotyper and the family moved to North Park. I owe much of my love of gardening to Grandpap Yost.
By the way, I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Seeds are usually good for at least three years after the expiration date. That said, if something doesn’t come up, get thee to a catalogue or garden store right away.
Planting time! Just think, we’re already here! Be well.