Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs October 2004


Itís here already!   Itís October and the cool nights are finally assuaging our heat stressed plants as well as our own minds and bodies. If it doesnít get unreasonably hot like last year (which is still in the realm of possibility), many of the worn out, yellowed, scorched looking plants will again enter the land of the living.  Hibiscus, Cape Honeysuckle, Citrus, Ficus etc will begin to green up on their own. Be sure to cut back on watering if soil starts remaining wet. Itís not a good idea to fertilize Citrus or trees and shrubs that will lose their leaves in winter.


If you are into wildflowers and thinking about that colorful spring ahead now is the time to do some seeding (see newsletter October 2001).  Those with the spirit of adventure might try casting out seeds of some of the flowers you usually plant from pots.  Try some Calendulas, Alyssum, Violas, Lobelia, Stocks or even Petunias. Last year we had some old seeds, and since it never seems right to put seeds in the garbage, we threw them outside, back to nature. Well, in spring some strange seedlings appeared outside the door where the soil stays moist. We hadnít a clue what they were and of course had forgotten about throwing out the seeds. It turns out they were Stocks.  They flowered and even lived through the summer and are still there. No self-respecting  Stock planted from a pot would ever last through the heat. It seems that any plant that has grown from seed directly in the ground develops a vast root system to support the top growth and evade temperature extremes at the soil surface.


Strawberries in the desert??   You betcha!  And theyíre quite luscious too, as long as you observe a few things.  Plant now to get good plant establishment for spring bloom.  They need rich, well drained soil which is kinda hard to get here on the desert, so planting in a large container is probably your best bet. The larger the better. Itís probably also easiest to use a commercial potting mix.  Keep evenly moist and give regular, light applications of all-purpose plant food through the year even in winter. Fruits are produced in spring and on into early summer. Runners occur in June and may be stuck down in the soil then, or in the fall removed and replanted. To make it through our summer Strawberries must have shade and deep watering to avoid salt buildup. When planting make sure the crowns are not covered by soil as rotting may result.  Sequoia is the best variety.  And they really are delicious!


For years we noticed a weedy but fairly attractive looking plant along some of the lesser maintained ( and definitely more interesting !) roadways. Itís a smallish, tight round bush with intricate branches and lots of small yellow flowers. When covered with fluffy seed heads the whole plant has a sort of misty look. Itís called Sweet Bebbia (Bebbia juncea). We did wonder  about the name (could it be an oxymoron?) until one day we noticed an intoxicating fragrance. Where could it be coming from  on the pretty much uncolorful desert?  Well there it was, an unassuming Bebbia, its small yellow flowers wafting out fragrance and pulsating with bees.  This is definitely a plant for the person who wants a natural landscape.  Once established it is best left to its own devices and is quite capable of surviving with little or no supplemental water.


A vine that always attracts attention during the late summer and fall is the brightly colored Queenís Wreath (Antigonon leptopus).  This is an old-timey vine found rambling over fences and into trees in the well established sections of town.  Originally you saw mostly pink flowered forms, but now available is a beautiful dark rose form known as Baja Red. White flowered forms exist also.  Queen,s Wreath  is a hot weather grower and has tendrils so does not need to be tied.  It will lose leaves in cold weather and freeze back to the ground during a hard frost. If you plant one now make sure you cover it if a freeze is expected and donít expect too much growth until hot weather sets in.


Feeling in an experimental mode and want  to try something different in the vegetable line? Now is the time to plant Fava or Broad Bean seed (see newsletter November 2002)

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Web Comments October 04, 2004 © Shady Way Nursery 2004