Some of you might remember a book entitled “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” Published in 1982, it was on the best seller list for over a year and sold more than a million copies. I was reminded of that title the other day when contemplating the benefits of watering with a hose as opposed to irrigating through a sprinkler system. “Realgardeners don’t use sprinklers” was my thought.
Gardening is different things to different people. Some just want to grow their own vegetables, others are fanatic about roses, and still others are religiously devoted to planting only succulents or natives. For me, gardening is, first and foremost, a learning experience. I have no prejudices when it comes to plant selection but, rather, have an eagerness to learn from every sort of species, whether tropical, native, edible or fragrant, drought tolerant or somewhat thirsty.
In truth, nearly all perennials and many annuals, too, are reasonably drought tolerant, and will grow just fine, when maximally mulched, with two weekly waterings or less. In fact, I cannot think of any woody plant, including azalea, that would not do fine with two weekly waterings, as long as the surrounding mulch, in the case of azalea and other more water-needy plants, was a good four inches thick.
Which brings us back to watering with a hose. Plants in general, and thirstier plants in particular, that grow with two weekly waterings or less, will be far better off if this water is administered with a hose than through conventional sprinklers. With a hose, water goes exactly where you want it to go, as opposed to sprinklers that just spray water all over the place with much of the spray lost to wind or evaporation before it can percolate down into the soil. There is another bonus of watering with a hose as opposed to irrigation of any kind, including drip irrigation which is second best after hose irrigation since drip emitters, too, can be placed more or less where water is needed. The advantage of hose watering is that it brings you into intimate contact with your plants. Such contact will never be possible with remote control sprinkler systems. As you stand with hose in hand, your gaze cannot help but drift in the direction of the plant being soaked, and you will invariably experience a desire to study the leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit of the subject species. You will not only be privy to the day by day development of the plants in your garden but learn important details such as whether the growth from last year or this year produces flowers and fruit. You will also spot insect pests and diseases before they gain a foothold and whisk them away or rub them off before they can do any major damage.
To soften the water stream coming from your hose, attach a water wand. The wand’s shower head allows water to emerge more gently than when it plunges directly from the hose.
Two species in the daisy family that need more water than your average plant recently grabbed my attention on account of their unusual leaves. Velvet groundsel (Rodalna petasitis) has 8 inch by 8 inch felt textured leaves and tractor seat plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Gigantea’) has leaves up to 15 inches in size that really do resemble tractor seats although, for some strange reason, giant leopard plant is its more commonly encountered name. Tractor seat plant is an excellent addition to the shade garden. It is also hardy down to 0 degrees.
“I grow my roses in pots and was wondering what is the best potting soil for roses.”
— Robert Dugan, North Hills
To answer your question, I turned to Scott Corwin, an experienced grower of potted roses in Glendora.
“I like to get bare root roses going in 5 gallon pots,” Corwin wrote. As they mature, I transfer them larger pots and, if we really like a variety it will go into a 15 gallon plastic nursery container, giving the roots room to grow. I have been using a mixture of three commercial brands to create my own special blend: Dr Earth for Roses, Kellogg’s All Natural Garden Soil for Trees, Shrubs, and Roses, and Miracle Grow Potting or Garden Soil. To make enough mix for two 15-gallon containers, I mix 8-10 scoops (soil scoops are available at nurseries and through on-line vendors) of each of these three soils, each of which contains organic nutrients and fertilizer.
Next I add half of an 8 quart bag of Miracle-Gro Perlite (white, pulverized, light weight volcanic material), mainly for drainage and to keep the soil from getting compacted, and 3-4 scoops of coir (coconut fiber), to help retain water and keep the soil loose. I mix everything together by hand.
Before filling with soil mix, I put ground cover bark over the bottom of the pot. When filling the pot with soil mix, and before I bring in the rose bush, I add a scoop of worm castings and some water saving polyacrylamide crystals, putting them right in contact with the new roots of the plant coming in. When positioning the rose bush, I make sure the graft stands just above the soil line in the pot.
Roses are heavy feeders and require a constant supply of nutrients to thrive, especially when in pots. In addition to the fertilizers in the soil mix, I fertilize with alfalfa pellets hydrated with water, liquid sea weed concentrate, and Superthrive (contains root hormone). These items get added to the top few inches of soil in the pot on a rotating basis, so that each is applied about once every 3-4 weeks. This fertilizer regime also works great for in the ground roses.”
Tip of the Week: If Fred Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) sought gold in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” local seekers of botanical gems make at least one trek during their lifetime to the town of Sierra Madre in the San Gabriel Valley in order to have revealed to them a wisteria vine that, according to Guinness, is the largest blooming vine of any kind in the world. Thanks to Deanne Daivs, I was informed that the annual Wistaria Festival happens tomorrow in downtown Sierra Madre from 9 – 5. Shuttle rides to the vine will be available for around $10. For details, go to sierramadrechamber.com.