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Gail's Gardens - February 2015


Gail's Gardens - February 2015

by Gail Fanning

Looking for lawn alternatives?  I know I am!  I get so tired of mowing and raking my lawn that is only occasionally used for actual sports (the use for which lawn is really excellent). While browsing the excellent website for High Country Gardens, I happened across their Alternative Lawn Wildflower Seed Mix.  A beautiful combination of low growing annuals and perennials, it includes chamomile, English Daisy, creeping thyme, clover, and several California native flowers, as well as various fescue grasses.  I love a lawn with flowers in it, so maybe I’ll give this a try!  They have many other interesting seed mixes designed for drought tolerance: check it out at

February is the month for planting onions and chives. You can start with seeds, transplants, or sets. Check at your favorite nursery or catalog for varieties to start now: look for long day or intermediate day varieties to plant in early spring for summer harvest (short day varieties are for fall planting). ‘Stockton Early Red’ and ‘Walla Walla Sweet’ are two popular onions that produce large, juicy, mild bulbs. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Petaluma offers 24 different varieties with names that make you want to travel the world seeking onions: ‘Yellow of Parma’, ‘Tokyo Long White’,’ Red Creole’, and ‘Australian Brown’ are just a few of the luscious looking choices in their catalog.

Onions need well-drained soil with consistent moisture (yes, be prepared to water!) for good growth.  Soil must be free of stones, pebbles, and well tilled to allow the bulbs to develop easily.  Onions are hardy, so don’t worry if we have some frost: they will not be damaged.  Your onions will be ready to harvest in about 5 months, or you can pull green onions as soon as the stems are ¼ inch thick and 6 inches tall: their flavor becomes stronger as they age and get bigger.

So you’ve finished pruning all your roses; right?  If not, get to work: because now it’s time to plant your new bare root roses! You should try to plant your bare roots on the day you purchase them.   If you are unable to do this, you must “heel them in”: lay the plant on its side in a shady spot and heap loose, damp soil over the roots.  You must keep it moist and shaded until planting. 

Remember when choosing a spot for your rose, that they need at least 6 hours of sun daily for good flower production, and a well drained soil (although they enjoy the nutrients in clay soil or adobe if it is broken up and amended with organic matter).

When you are ready to plant your bare root, cut back any broken canes or blackened roots until you see healthy tissue. Then plunge your rose into a tub of water for 24 hours!  This rehydrates the plant, and increases its chances of success.  Dig a hole at least 2 times as wide and deep as the roots; if you live in West County, place gopher wire in the hole with the wire extending above the soil line; and amend the soil with good compost.  With the amended soil, form a mound of firm dirt in the hole and spread the roots out on top of the mound.  Firm the rest of the soil over the roots, being sure that the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stems) remains visible above the soil line.  Water well, but don’t drown it!  A circular berm 2 or 3 inches high around the plant will help with watering; then mulch with your favorite organic material. I recommend placing a plant tag on each of your new roses; it’s so easy to forget their names. I like the copper tags, they never die!

Have questions about your garden?  Send me an e-mail at