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Grow On!
Now's the Time to get Planting (& Planning!)
April, 2011 - Issue #78
Every parent has a "my kid did the funniest thing" moment. For Eric and me, ours usually begin with the phrase, "We were in the garden and..." There is the time that Olive, 2, couldn't detach a not-yet-ripe strawberry from the vine - so she bent down, stuck her head in the raised bed and gnawed it off at the stem. William, 4, and Kati, 11, once turned giant zucchini into makeshift swords. (We knew something was up when we heard Will yell out, "On guard!")

The garden is filled with entertainment, and not just in the form of silly children. On warm spring days, polite little ladybugs do double duty - eating aphids and babysitting my kids. Sure, I'm only a few feet away - relaxing under a patio cover, feet up on an outdoor ottoman, magazine in my hand and glass of iced tea by my side. But it's the red-and-black "buggies" that do the heavy lifting, keeping the children amused and me semi-immersed in the newest issue of Organic Gardening.

It wasn't always this way, and, in fact, it isn't anymore. A move to bigger digs has my family starting fresh. Our new yard is full of two things: weeds and potential. But, thanks to some pleasant chats with local experts, I'm filled with two things, too: happiness and excitement. Let's get growing!

Plant Fruit & Veggies Now
"Now is the perfect time to plant fruit trees," says Howard Collom of Green Thumb Garden Center (259-1072). "E-Z Pick lower-growing plums, nectarines, apples and peaches make picking fruit and caring for your trees easy."

With a little effort now, your shopping cart can become a whole lot lighter this summer and well into the fall. Blueberry bushes are attractive plants that end up to be about four feet tall. Plant them in an acid soil mix, advises Collom, where they get some protection from hot afternoon sun. You'll be enjoying the fruits of your labor this summer. "It's also time to plant strawberries," says the garden pro. "They're easy to grow in the ground or in containers. The berries will be ready now through early summer."

You can plant tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, corn and melons now, too. "Be prepared to protect your garden from a late frost using an old sheet, or you can purchase a light-weight Insulate sheet from the nursery," reminds Collom. He also recommends using Green All Soil Booster for Flowers and Vegetables. "It's great for planting, even in raised beds. Add a handful of E. B. Stone organic Sure Start when you plant and you'll be on your way."

Plan for Proper Water Management
Over the last handful of months, Santa Clarita has often felt more like Seattle. A few heavy rains, however, don't equal a water surplus. In fact, we're still in a drought. "We're not out of the woods yet," says Mark Berrol of MHB Landscape Construction (297-5169). "Santa Clarita, as a whole, tends to overwater lawns and plants. Not only is this bad for your wallet and the environment, but it's also not helping your plants. We can avoid forced water rationing and have healthier, better-looking lawns, by practicing deep, infrequent watering," he says.

Proper watering is especially essential for new plants. "Most of us have heavy clay soil, which isn't very absorbent. When we water too often, the water just sits there - leading to root rot," says Berrol.

What's a lawn-lover to do? MHB Landscape regularly installs state-of-the-art weather-based timers that take the guess work out of watering. These miracle workers can determine when to water, and how much. "You'll also be well served by having your sprinkler leaks repaired," informs Berrol. You'll cut back on wasted resources and will prevent superfluous water from damaging your landscape.

Get Comfortable
There's little point to all this effort if you don't have somewhere to sit and take in the (properly-watered) scenery. On my wish list: an open-air room. "Expanding your home's living area with an open-air room costs only a fraction of a traditional remodel - and you get the same benefits," says Jeff Brown of NV Landscape, Inc. (286-8888). These designated outdoor spaces are ideal for entertainment, dining and relaxation.

As simple as a covered patio or as impressive as a fully-functioning outdoor living room (complete with kitchen and barbecue!), these spaces add to your home's functioning square footage - and your quality of life.

With al fresco dining only a phone call away, you should consider adding edibles to your landscape - a growing trend, according to Brown. I am already eager to borrow an idea that my father put into practice. He wrapped the support beams of his patio with grape vines. During relaxing summer nights chatting next to a cozy fire pit, we nibbled on several varieties. I recall the flavors being divine - and the conversation being even better. My siblings and I shared stories of childhood silliness while Olive played underfoot. And she did the funniest thing...

OW Lee's Ashbury set available at Oasis Garden & Patio
Few outdoor investments will see as much use and enjoyment as a quality set of patio furniture. Unfortunately, most homeowners believe that their only option is to choose from a very limited generic selection of five-piece "assemble on your own" collections. But choices abound! At Oasis Garden & Patio, you can choose a set from their extensive floor collection - or browse their catalog list and pick your favorite frame color, fabric and pieces that work best for your budget, lifestyle and space. The locally-owned company will even assemble and deliver your selection for free if you live in the SCV; 255-9909

Saturday, March 26
Green Thumb Garden Center Hosts 41st-anniversary Spring Opening
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. enjoy refreshments, hourly drawings, exciting vendor demonstrations, seminars by garden design consultants (10 a.m. to 12 p.m.), hand-tool sharpening by Accurate Edge (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), a fun winter garden harvest competition (with categories like "Most Colorful Lettuce Bouquet," "Most Colossal Cabbage/Broccoli/Cauliflower" and many more!) and a kids corner, including a pumpkin-growing kickoff (free pumpkin seeds for kids 12 and under!). Attendance is free; 259-1072 www.greenthumb.com
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