As we are nearing the last half of the winter season, I find myself beginning to stir with the anxiety and inspiration of going to work in the garden, or, as I call it, “gardinspiration.” I will briefly outline some of the annual tasks that I try to incorporate into my late winter and early spring maintenance program.
This year we have had the blessing of an abundance of rainfall. It has been so long since we have had this much rain that I have almost forgotten the list of tasks that accompany this windfall. In southern California, where I have my nursery, the rains are frequently in tandem with high winds. This combination often introduces an abundance of small to medium sized broken branches and fallen leaves of many varieties to the grounds. I try to remove fallen branches and larger palm fronds as soon as possible, in order to minimize any damage they may have caused to understory plants. Additionally, the much needed moisture from rain benefits the endless variety of weeds that seem to appear as effortlessly as the gentle breezes that help to spread their seeds. Granted staying ahead of the weeds is a year round challenge, but after rains, it seems to be magnified.
One of the many inevitable maintenance chores that heavy rains and winds cause is the need to repair and rebuild the circular earthen basins that many growers create to help concentrate water and fertilizer around the base of cultivated garden plants. These basins are a must in an area where palm and cycad growers often plant their material on mounds or on sloped hillsides. They can be made of the indigenous soil, but often incorporate boulders and a variety of rocks for added structure. These basins are necessary to conserve water the rest of the year by minimizing downhill runoff. The dimensions will vary with the age of the plant, but as a general rule, if you can, for smaller plants, make the basin diameter approximately twice the length of a typical leaf. Larger plants can benefit from basins from a minimum of four to eight times the diameter of the cycad caudex (trunk). This number is variable, because it is somewhat dependent on the size of the root system. Therefore as plants reach maturity, it is not a bad idea to try to gradually enlarge the basins.This garden repair coincides with the time of year that I like to spread mulch and mix into the soil of my basins a variety of fertilizer products. This is so that they can be watered into the soil by late winter or early spring.
Pictures left to right:
- Basin softened by wind, rain and hail
- Using a small rake to bring up the soil both withing the well and outside the well
- Basin defined and reshaped
Like many garden chores, these maintenance tasks mentioned above do not have an immediate payback, but rather pay out their dividends during the growing season. It is like cash in the bank that will be earning interest over the next number of months as the weather gets warmer and heads into spring.
Grow and prosper,