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Spring Gardening Tips

March 9th, 2011

Spring is almost here!  The vernal equinox is on March 20 and marks the beginning of spring in the northern  hemisphere.  Here are some gardening tips to get ready for the season from “The Yolo Gardener” Spring 2011 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners, by Master Gardener Linda Parsons. Thank you Linda for these great tips!

Yum!  Can’t wait for peaches this year!  Make sure to get out there and trim and treat your fruit trees before buds swell.  Image from


  • Prune foliage and branches damaged by winter.  If you haven’t yet pruned your roses and fruit trees this is the last month to get them ready for spring bloom.  Don’t put it off any longer!
  • Take care of weeds now before they take over.
  • Remove old growth from perennials and dig and divide crowded plants. 


    • Begin cultivating your perennials – loosening soil once it is dry enough – and add soil amendments such as compost, peat moss and organic fertilizer. 
    • Be sure to use fertilizer recommended for each plant type.  Too much nitrogen will make plants grow too quickly, producing weaker growth.
    • Care for roses and fruit trees by adding rose food and soil amendments, as well as a cup of alfalfa pellets and two tablespoons Epsom salt to each rose plant.  This will help the roses produce more basal breaks (new growth) and chlorophyll.
    • Mulch your garden to a depth of 3 inches to reduce weeds and require less watering.


    • Start your plant selection: 
      • Pansies, violas, Dianthus, Iceland poppies, primroses and plant candytuft are all early blooming annuals.  
      • Bulbs, corns and tubers like cannas, begonias, lilies and dahlias can be planted now.
      • Some good shade plant selections include astilbe, columbine, coral bells, Dicentra, Foxglove, Hostas, Nepeta, Pulmonaria and ferns.
      • Primroses are one of the earliest spring flowers, and are often a common sight at Victorian cottage-style gardens. Image from
      • A good drought tolerant selection can include Russian sage, Muhlenbergia, rabbit’s tail grass, Buddleia, echinacea, rudbeckia and gallardia.
    • Remember to lightly fertilize and mulch after planting!  Plants will do better if they are planted at or slightly above grade.
    Rabbit or bunny’s tail grass is a great drought-tolerant selection, and it’s cute!  Image from


      • Due to above average rainfall, there are going to be more insects and diseases this year, so keep an eye out for early fungal diseases and aphids.
      • March is your last opportunity to spray fruit trees with dormant (lime-sulfur) spray before buds swell to get rid of wintering fungus and spores.
      • Check plants regularly (especially roses) for black spot, rust and mildew.  Also check for slugs, snails and earwigs, as well as aphids, mites thrips and scale with the advent of warmer weather.  Keep these harmful insects in check by planting yarrow, alyssum, feverfew, dill, parsley, coriander, penstemon and asters to attract beneficial insects.
      • Visit if you want to use commercial pesticides.


      • Check your irrigation system to make sure your lawn is getting enough water.  Increase the water amount as the days get longer and warmer.
      • Re-seed thin areas and begin your fertilizing and mowing schedule.  Try applying a light topcoat of compost to improve lawn growth and health.


      • Stake tall growing perennials and vegetables before they start bending over in late spring.
      • Later on in the season thin fruit trees, leaving four to five inches in between each fruit to help remaining fruit mature properly and to keep branches from being over-weighted which can cause splitting.
      • Deadhead spent flowers to ensure a long blooming season.
      • Plant containers with annuals and herbs.

      To read the unabridged version of this article go to their website and download the Spring 2011 newsletter here.  You can also sign up to receive this newsletter by entering your email address at the top of this page.


        New ‘Starts’ for the Garden–PART ONE

        March 10th, 2010

        It’s still officially winter, but at the UC Davis Good Life Garden we are officially getting the garden ready for our spring season! Since the garden debuted about a year and a half ago it’s been so nice to see how our some of our perennial herbs and vegetables are maturing and growing accustomed to their new homes.

        As most gardeners know, growing edibles, or really any plants, is always a learning experience. Some edibles we grow from ‘starts’–young plants grown from seed in a green house and then transplanted to the garden, and others we grow from seed planted right in the garden.

        The seeds are first planted in the flats and grown inside the nursery greenhouse. (See above.) Once the young plants are established they are moved outside to ‘firm’ up before transportation to your nursery or yard. (See photo left.)

        Here is a list of the starts that were grown from Seeds of Change seeds by Kelly’s Color Nursery, Inc., a local nursery wholesaler found right here in Davis.

        • Tango Celery
        • Silverado Chard
        • Bright Lights Chard
        • Rhubarb Chard
        • Dinosaur Kale
        • Tadorna Leeks

        We also picked up a variety of flowers not only to encourage visitation from a variety of beneficial animals and insects to the garden, but to add visual appeal. Those flowers are:

        • Bon Bon Orange Calendula
        • Soprano White Osteospermum
        • Sunny Sheila Improved Osteospermum
        • Autumn Colors Rudbeckia
        • Cherry Brandi Rudbeckia
        • Sonnet Crimson Snap Dragons

        Here Kelly, Owner, Kelly’s Color Nursery; Christina DeMartini Reyes, Landscape Architect / Designer for UC Davis Good Life Garden; and, Ed Nordstrom, Supervisor for UC Davis Good Life Garden review the new order.


        Garden update: spring is springing!

        February 17th, 2010

        I went out to the garden this afternoon and I have to say it looks really lovely right now! Things are beginning to bloom – namely the white nectarine tree (left), the snap peas (below right) and the pluot (bottom), though the daffodils are also springing up, as are the snapdragons.

        Everything else is looking lush and vibrant as well! The artichokes have taken off, and the rich burgundy leaves of the bull’s blood beets provides beautiful contrast against the bright green of the fennel, daylily, marjoram and various lettuces.

        If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the garden you should head out there soon as the winter vegetables will be harvested next week, and the produce will be given to the food bank!

        Luckily we have a great selection of veggies that will be planted for the spring. Thanks to Seeds of Change we will have yellowstone, scarlet nantes and dragon carrots, silverado and rhubarb chard, ruby orlach heirloom mountain spinach, D’Avignon and hailstone radishes, and nasturtium. A very exciting variety!

        And if you haven’t yet, make sure to check out our new flickr page to see all of our photos. It’s hard to believe the garden made its debut almost a year and a half ago! There you can see the progression of the garden as we have photos chronicling its growth from the very beginning! View our flickr page here. You can also see the rest of the photos that I took today.