In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2002
Regional Report

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Blood oranges sweeten while blossoms signal the next crop.

It's Arbor Day!

Arbor Day is celebrated in California on March 7 in honor of horticulturist Luther Burbank's birthday. Burbank is famous for his work improving varieties of flowers (like Shasta daisy), fruits (Santa Rosa plum), grains, grasses, vegetables (Russet Burbank potato), and trees.

The Importance of Trees
Trees and plants are especially important as nature's filtering system. Each day, the average person uses 35 pounds of oxygen -- all of it coming from plants and trees. Trees literally filter the air by collecting dust and pollutants in the air before they reach our lungs. They make our life more peaceful by providing a sound barrier, filtering out noise. Trees mask unattractive sights as well.

Trees cool homes in summer -- one tree can have the same cooling effect as ten room-size air conditioners. In the winter, deciduous trees let the sun shine through bare branches to warm our homes. Trees provide wood to burn for heat, lumber to build houses, and paper for books and newspapers. Tree roots lessen water runoff, and branches slow down wind. Commercial fruit and nut trees provide 26 million tons of food each year. Plant a tree!

Planting Trees
Tree roots can extend almost four times the distance from the trunk to the dripline. The longest ones -- the "feeder" roots -- are near the soil surface. When planting the tree, dig the planting hole twice the diameter of the rootball, and turn over soil a foot deep for that distance again further out. If soil is poor, you can incorporate a small amount of compost and other organic matter to prevent soil from compacting. New roots will easily reach out into the native soil and become well established. In addition, keep paths, decks, and other heavy-traffic and construction areas at least five feet away from the trunk, so feeder roots won't be harmed.

Some trees do best when transplanted in the spring, when warm soil and air speed healthy root growth. These include Nootka cypress, golden-rain tree, hornbeam, magnolia, English and red and white oaks, poplar, tulip tree, tupelo, and zelkova.

Staking
Newly planted trees may need support for a year while they develop strong root systems and trunks. First, remove the stake that came from the nursery. Into the ground on either side of the trunk and a foot out from it, drive two sturdy one-inch- or two-inch-wide stakes about 16 inches deep. About two-thirds the way up the trunk, tie loops from each stake around the trunk; use soft material such as stockings, rags or old garden hose pieces. Tie the loops loosely so the trunk can sway gently in the wind -- this strengthens the trunk and stimulates strong root growth. Remove the stakes after a year.

Citrus and avocado trees do best when they're planted from late this month through May, as the weather warms up. Choose a southwest exposure that is protected from the wind for the best protection from cold weather and frost. Plant them on a mound or in a raised bed so water drains away from the roots. Rub suckers off trunks as they appear. Tape together or remove broken branches. To prevent sunscald, paint trunks and large limbs with a matte-finish, off-white interior latex paint mixed half and half with water.

Don't try to rush growth of nectarines, peaches, or plums by providing too much nitrogen. This contributes to generally poor fruit quality -- poor color development, delayed maturity, softness, and reduced storage ability. Too much vegetative growth from excessive nitrogen can also result in poor fruit set for the following year. If the trees have good growth with dark green leaves in the spring, they have sufficient nitrogen.


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