Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2010
Regional Report

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A glorious peach in full bloom promises delicious fruiting- if not fed too much nitrogen

Time for Tree Planting

Where would we be without trees? Each day, the average person uses 35 pounds of oxygen--all of it coming from plants. Trees and other plants are especially important as nature's filtering system. They literally clean the air by collecting air-borne dust and pollutants before they reach our lungs. They make our lives more peaceful by providing a sound barrier, filtering out noise. Trees mask unattractive sights, as well.

Trees cool homes in summer--one tree can have the same cooling effect as ten room-size air conditioners. In the winter, deciduous trees let the sun shine through bare branches to warm our homes. Trees provide wood to burn for heat, lumber to build houses, and paper for books and newspapers. Tree roots lessen water runoff, and branches slow down wind. Commercial fruit and nut trees provide 26 million tons of food each year. Plant a tree!

Citrus and avocado trees do best when they're planted from late this month through May, as the weather warms up. Choose a southwest exposure that is protected from the wind for the best protection from cold weather and frost. Plant them on a mound or in a raised bed so water drains away from the roots. Rub suckers off trunks as they appear. Tape together or remove broken branches. Paint trunks and large limbs with a matte-finish, off-white, interior latex paint mixed half and half with water to prevent sunscald.

Don't try to rush growth of nectarines, peaches, or plums by providing too much nitrogen. This contributes to generally poor fruit quality--poor color development, delayed maturity, softness and reduced storability. Too much vegetative growth from excessive nitrogen can also result in poor fruit set for the following year. If the trees have good growth with dark green leaves in the spring, they have sufficient nitrogen.

Many ornamental trees do best when transplanted in the spring when warm soil and air speed healthy root growth, including Nootka cypress, golden-rain tree, hornbeam, magnolia, English, red and white oak, poplar, tulip tree, tupelo and zelkova.

Newly planted trees may need support for a year while they develop strong root systems and trunks. First, remove the stake that came from the nursery. Drive two sturdy one- or two-inch wide stakes about 16 inches deep into the ground on either side of the trunk and one foot out from it. About two-thirds the way up the trunk, tie loops from each stake around the trunk. Use "soft" material like stockings or rags or old garden hose pieces. Tie the loops loosely so the trunk can sway gently in the wind - this strengthens the trunk and stimulates strong root growth. Remove the stakes after a year.

Tree roots can extend almost four times the distance from the trunk to the dripline. The longest ones--the "feeder" roots--are near the soil surface. When planting the tree, dig the planting hole twice the width of the rootball, and turn over soil a foot deep for that distance again further out. Incorporate some compost and other organic matter to help keep soil uncompacted. Then new roots can easily reach out into this native soil and become well-established. In addition, keep walkways, decks, and other heavy traffic and construction at least five feet away from the trunk, so feeder roots won't be harmed.

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