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Garden Tips January 2015

Garden Tips January 2015

I have found a sport that can be played just outside the garden gate.  It is a sport for young and old and a sport where women are as good as men.  It is not very expensive is easily learned, is simple yet is as complex as chess.  Petanque is a French (originally Roman) game of boules (like bowling) played on the terrain (the land), that can be prepared in your garden using Plug aerators for this. Unlike lawn bowling and bocce ball,  it is not played on turf nor does it require a measured and maintained court. Petanque can be played literally on a path or a piece or nearly bare ground anywhere. Using hollow steel balls ordered by size and weight to fit the player and a small yellow, green , blue or black target ball (called the couchenet or Jack) the goal is to toss or shoot the boule toward and as near as possible to the target ball or knock your opponents balls away from the couchenet.  Simple, until you try it, this is a wonderful spring / summer sport played all over Europe and Southeast Asia and now America.  One of my first games was against a retired gardener in Golden Gate Park and the women playing as our team mates were more skilled than we were. Between games they brought out wine and biscotti and spoke French, Italian, German and English in an excited fun enthusiasm I haven’t experienced in a sport since childhood. I recommend Petanque for all as a true gardeners game.

This months tips are about cleanup, pruning, planting and mulch.  I even have a catalog with an amazing selection of organic seeds, tools and books to order. Here are the tips.

  1. The website www.petanqueamerica .com.  It is the best first place to connect with this sport.  There is an online store, game rules, blog and famous player link to look at and order from to get started.
  2. After the storms there is always debris in the garden.  If it seems daunting, do just one area at a time.  Soon it will all be tidy and you can start pruning.
  3. Prune all deciduous plants.  Deciduous means they lose their leaves in winter.  Dead dying and diseased gets pruned first.  Then crossing, rubbing, straight up and straight down branches.  Remember, no stubs and always cut to a lateral branch and with an angle cut that parallels the lateral.
  4. Remove unhealthy plants, old declining roses, weeds and plants clogging the new planting areas.
  5. Amend new planting areas with compost.  Remember compost is organic matter that is partially or completely broken down.  Not wood chips, fresh prunings, grass clippings, fresh leaves or fresh food trimmings.  It needs to be broken down or it will take nutrients from the soil. Redwood compost can be bought in bags, is weed free and has been fortified with nitrogen to give plants a boost of fertilizer when they go in.  Lyngso garden supply on Seaport boulevard in Redwood City has organic compost.  They are on the east side of Highway 101. Lyngso has mulch as well.  Mulch goes on top of the soil (not dug in) after planting.
  6. Get the “Bountiful Gardens 2015 Catalog”  go to  They have an amazing seed selection.
  7. Order seeds, roses, trees, shrubs, tools and books for the New Year.  Get catalogs online or order through a nursery like Half Moon Bay Nursery.
  8. Stretch, do yoga, visit the spa for a massage, walk with friends and otherwise prepare yourself for gardening when the weather warms up.
  9. Join a garden club, arboretum, plant society or community garden for social support, education and connection.
  10. Plan now for a spring party. Remember, the third week in March is when the Cherry trees bloom.  Bulbs come up even earlier.

Good Gardening

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687650-455-0687 (cell), by email at  Visit his website at

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