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Garden Tips March 2015

Garden Tips March 2015

I have to practice what I preach.  For years now I have been suggesting to people to visit the great gardens here in the bay area.  A week ago I joined the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society .  I was there to see the Magnolia show.  Several are in bloom now and will continue well into spring.  It was a leap for me to spend sixty dollars for a years membership knowing that I will probably only visit the arboretum four or five times during the year.  But there are several other benefits that go along with the membership and it truly is a worthy cause.  Besides that, the Magnolias are spectacular.

Spring is just around the corner, some bulbs are finished already and the native iris are opening here in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  There is plenty to do in our gardens, plenty to try anew and plenty to learn by visiting other gardens as the spring unfolds.  Here are the tips.

  1. Think of a garden project you have been putting off for a few years and get started on that.  I have a cold frame I made years ago and never leveled it.  Once level, I will start seedlings and cuttings.  The feeling of accomplishment is a great start to the seasons work.
  2. Do a tour date of nurseries.  Invite a friend who likes gardening and plan on a nice lunch.  Leave fairly early, visit two nurseries, take notes, talk and enjoy the new inventories.  Then go to lunch, talk some more, compare notes and rest up.  After lunch, visit two more nurseries and note the differences and variety from the first two.  Take more notes and then call it a day.  Write up your notes and start planning for the next time out.  Did I mention, leave your check book at home.  This is just a tour, not a shopping trip.
  3. Visit the great gardens here on the peninsula and across the bay. Here are a few; Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto, FILOLI in Woodside, Central Park Japanese Garden in San Mateo, San Francisco Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park, The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek and the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley.  Most charge a fee to enter and joining supports the garden.  All have websites that are very informative.  Several have guided tours .
  4. I noticed Costco has quite an inventory of trees, flowering plants and bulbs for spring.  The prices are fair and the quality is good.  They also have tools, fertilizers and pots.  Note; they sell pretty fast and once gone, that’s it.
  5. This is still a perfect time to plant bare root fruit trees, roses, vines and other deciduous plants.  Citrus can be planted now and there are plenty in the nurseries.
  6. The biggest mistake I have seen in recent years is planting too deep.  Remember that whenever you dig the soil it will fluff up.  When you plant a new plant make sure it is planted at the same depth as it was in its pot no deeper. Then to make sure the soil doesn’t build up around the trunk; plant it at least two inches above the ground plane (the level of the soil before digging).  This will allow the plant to settle in without soil build up around the trunk which will kill it.
  7. Vegetables are in the nurseries now and the sooner you get them in the ground the better a crop you will have.  Prepare the soil with compost, add fertilizer and after planting mulch.
  8. Plant flowers and cultivate them by dead heading, fertilizing and hand watering.
  9. Make a unique garden sculpture this spring.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want.  Personalize it so you are proud every time you look out at it.  Even a scare crow can have character.
  10. When you are finished, have a garden party.  Make it a potluck, you’ve done enough work.  Provide the drinks and music, share good conversation and enjoy the work you have done to make your garden so beautiful.  If you have a plot in the community garden, I may see you there for the party.

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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