Ann Wright: A potpourri of spring gardening tips
Although it has been a very dry spring, it is hard not to enjoy the beauty of the season, warm sunny days and an abundance of wild flowers. Garden planning is in the works and here are some garden ideas to consider as spring leads to summer.
Recently, a friend gave me some mature crowns from her asparagus bed, and my garden plan includes starting some asparagus. From the family of Asparagaceae, asparagus is considered a perennial vegetable – the edible stalks are actually the shoots that will develop fern-like growth in the summer. Asparagus grows from rooted crowns or from seed, although harvesting is possible a year earlier if planted from roots. It takes patience to grow – it’s best not to harvest shoots the first year if starting with one-year old crowns. The second year, harvest lightly for two weeks, then let additional spears develop into foliage. If starting with transplants or seed, do not harvest for two years. Then follow directions for one year-old crowns.
Asparagus can be planted in spring or fall in well-prepared soil in an area with full sun. Work the soil a foot or more deep, incorporating compost or manure, allowing at least 4 to 6 feet between rows to accommodate the wide spread of the roots. Soil can be mixed with a commercial fertilizer, with ratios of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, respectively) of 5-10-10 or 5-10-5, using 15 to 20 pounds per 100 feet of planting area. Crowns can be placed in trenches or holes at least 6 inches deep, about 18 inches apart. The roots should be spread out as crowns are placed facing up. Cover the roots with soil, making sure the crown is not covered.
When the harvest is over, and the fernlike growth appears, a higher nitrogen amendment may be added. When the ferns turn brown in the fall, the plants can be cut back to allow a period of winter dormancy. In the spring, new shoots will appear, starting the cycle again. Well prepared soil and cared for asparagus can provide edible spears for up to 15 years.
The daffodils, tulips and anemone were lovely this year – some still have flowers, but with the warming weather, they are almost done. The question is, what to do with the planted bulbs once the blooms are complete? Remember that by the end of the bloom, the bulb has generally used up its nutrients. Some bulbs that have been forced to bloom in pots might bloom again if planted in the ground, but don’t try to transplant the bulbs until the foliage dies off. Ground-planted bulbs should remain in the soil with at least two sets of leaves in place in order for the plant to build up enough nutrients for the next year’s flowering. It is also essential for the leaves to have as much sunlight as possible, so best not to cut, tie up in knots, or bury the leaves of the flowering bulbs. Allowing the plant to naturally ripen will help ensure robust blooms next year.
Knowing that our rainy season is almost done – and that we are far below what we usually receive during the rainy season, we need to prepare for a drought year. Water is indeed a precious resource to protect. Much of the water consumption used in households is from landscape plants and turf grass. To manage water efficiently, start now to plan a water-efficient landscape. This may include introducing drought-tolerant or “water wise” plants into the landscape. It doesn’t mean that gardens have to look like a dry river bed with a sea of gravel and a couple of scrawny plants. Water efficient gardens can contain lots of lovely, flowering plants – as long as they have low water requirements. Likewise, plants can be placed with water use in mind – consider irrigation zones for plants with similar water requirements. To learn more about water efficient gardening, check out the Master Gardeners recorded workshop video on Water Wise Gardening – found on the website at http://ncmg.ucanr.org/ (look on the left menu under Workshop Recordings).
Utilizing efficient irrigation systems will also help save water. Using proper irrigation practices can lead to a 30-80% reduction in water usage. For flowers and shallow-rooted shrubs, drip irrigation is efficient and reduces pest and disease problems caused by wet foliage.
Designing and building an efficient, properly irrigated horticultural space may be a daunting task for those new to gardening. Please join the Master Gardeners of Nevada County as we present the first of two free public workshops on irrigation systems. These one-hour workshops are designed to help home and property owners understand some of the steps involved in building an efficient irrigation system and discover improved new products. Join Part 1 today at 9 a.m. via zoom – details are on the website at http://ncmg.ucanr.org/. Part 1 focuses on the the irrigation plan, including determining your soil type and hydrozoning requirements; and concepts of water flow, water pressure, determining the length of hoses. Part 2 of the Functional Irrigation Systems workshops will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 24 via zoom. Part 2 of the workshop focuses on specific components needed in the irrigation system including every phase of establishing an irrigation system and information about products and tools used in the building of the physical system. Both workshops will be recorded for later viewing.
Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.
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Since 1983, the UC Master Gardeners of Nevada County mission has been to extend research-based gardening and composting information to the public through various educational outreach methods. Fulfilling our mission this past year has been difficult,…