Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs August 2003


August is the month during which the real gardener displays "tragic optimism" - that is, in spite of being surrounded by a host of plants that are giving up the ghost or look like they are about to, he still looks forward to planting new and different ones when it cools down!  Our record hot and dry July has provided us with a steady stream of distressed people with even more distressed leaves.  "Help! My plants look horrible!  They're all yellow and the leaves are burned.  Are they dying?  Can I put something on them?"  Answers to these pleas are not easy or cut and dried.  Generally, though, after weeks of extreme heat, dryness and relentless sun, certain plants will show signs of stress.  Soil temperatures are so high that the roots of some plants don't function too well.  Salt burn is common at this time of year, especially on Fruit Trees and deciduous shade trees like Ash and Mulberry.  What is it?  Why does it happen?  It's the result of various chemical salts building up to toxic levels in the plant's root zone, injuring the roots or making it difficult for them to absorb water.  You see the results as yellowing leaves with dried edges.  Salts are naturally present in our water and soils and with constant shallow watering (as with some irrigation systems) they build up in the root zone.  Several deep hose waterings or good soaking rains will help this problem.  Chlorosis (yellow leaves with greener veins) is another common problem now, particularly with  Citrus, Hibiscus, Ficus, Gardenias, Eucalyptus etc.  This occurs because iron is often unavailable to plants in alkaline soils.  Alleviate this problem with light, frequent applications of iron-containing  or acidifying fertilizer.  In general, when and if it begins to cool down and plants are watered less often, they will green up and look better.


Among the plants that look great now are Mesquites.  These desert adapted trees grow like gang busters with high heat.  The most common ones you see in landscaped areas and along freeways are called Chilean Mesquites, a catchall name for any array of types from South America.  These trees are extremely variable in growth habit, leaf form and especially thornyness.  Some have practically no thorns, others have small, fairly tame ones, while others have gigantic, murderous ones.  Of course, most people want the thornless trees.  However, the thorny ones are usually more robust and faster growing.  If you are tired of seeing the neighbors or have a big area where you want a green, shady, summer forest, the thorny Chilean Mesquite is the plant for you.  If you don't prune them up the branches will often weep down to the ground to make a nice dense thicket.  With this in mind we've got some dandy 5 gallon size plants, well on their way to becoming your lush forest, for just $10.  Get them planted while it's still hot!  Incidentally, keep in mind that all Mesquites drop vast numbers of seed pods.  These make a delightful feast for your ravenous rabbits.  Unfortunately, ravenous rabbits also adore the trunks and branches of newly planted trees.  You'd be amazed at how quickly a small Mesquite can disappear into the jaws of a hungry bunny, so be sure to surround your new plants with chicken wire.  Also, keep any wood or branches you might prune off to add to your barbecue.


Ambitious veggie gardeners can sow seeds of Corn, Melon, Pumpkin, Black-Eyed Peas, Squash, Armenian Cucumbers.  Herb lovers remember that there are lots of different varieties of Basil out there and that they are one of the few herbs that don't mind the hot weather.


The Cardoon in front of Shady Way Gardens is blooming.  It has beautiful blue thistle-like flowers that are like miniature artichokes and are edible when young.  The big Artichoke is "resting" for the summer but has actually begun to regrow from the base already.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004