5 things to do in the garden this week – Orange County Register

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Five things to do in the garden this week:

1. I am always pleasantly surprised by my daffodils at this time of year. You see, I do absolutely nothing to them from one year to the next, but they always bloom at this time, even as their clumps gradually expand. Although generally planted in the fall, you can find pre-chilled daffodils on the Internet readily enough so that if you plant them now, you may still see blooms this spring. Daffodils are differentiated from other flowers that grow from bulbs by their toxicity. Deer and rabbits leave them alone. The alkaloid toxins in daffodils, seeping out of their stems, are so strong that they will cause other flowers to wilt when placed together in a vase. Next time you visit a florist, note that daffodils are isolated from other flowers in a bucket of their own. They must be soaked for six hours until toxins are fully removed at which point they can be placed in vase arrangements without causing the early demise of other blooms.

2. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path ground cover or fence adornment, consider snail vine (Vigna caracalla). It grows up to 25 feet tall but will also trail along the ground. This is a vine that grows rapidly and its highly fragrant, snail-shaped mauve-colored blooms are produced from March until October. It is not at all thirsty and is hardy down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, since snail vine is a legume, it does not require fertilization.

3. The method for sprouting an avocado pit in a glass or jar of water is not a secret. Remove the brown papery skin that covers the pit. Then stick three toothpicks, evenly spaced, into the fat, lower end of the pit. Your pit-with-toothpicks creation will resemble a three-pronged satellite. Fill a glass almost to the top with water so that the bottom of the pit is submerged when it is balanced by the toothpicks on the rim of the glass. Keep the water level up and roots should begin to grow within two weeks. There are now specially designed avocado seed-starter vases where you simply fit your pit into a cradle at the top of the vase so no toothpicks are needed to sprout roots. Keep in mind that an avocado tree grown from a seed may produce fruit of interior quality although there is always the chance that it will grow fruit that is superior to anything yet grown. Fruit on trees grown from seed are like children; you never know what you might get. Be prepared to wait up to ten years for your seed-grown tree to bear fruit.

4. Petunias are classic spring and fall annuals but they succumb to too much water and fertilization. Hot summer sun, moreover, in our part of the world, is really not to their liking. Pansies, petunias and annual vinca are all susceptible to the same fungus diseases so avoid planting them in succession in the same flower bed. When planting petunias, provide them with a well-composted soil into which slow-release fertilizer has been mixed. If you are planting the classic hybrid petunias with the big flowers, space them 18 inches apart. This will allow them to grow to full size without impeding each other’s growth. Trailing petunias, with smaller flowers, can be separated by two feet or more and still cover the ground in a flower bed within three weeks. Even with good spacing, petunias may grow into each other. When this happens, trim them back by one-third and they will reflower soon enough.

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