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Prep Soil and Enjoy Winter Blooms By Angela Hartman, Ruth Bancroft Gardens

Jan 29, 2017 10:17PM ● By Elena Hutslar

Acacia vestita

Sick of winter but not quite ready for spring? February can be an interesting time of year, when cold temperatures mingle with periods of sun-soaked warmth to give us a glimpse of what lies ahead. Tempting as it is to stay inside with a warm blanket and a cup of hot tea, there is plenty of work to tackle outside to prepare your garden for the upcoming spring.

                  February is a good month to ready your soil for new growth. Most cacti and other succulent plants grow well in slightly acidic soil with a pH around 6. Soils in the East Bay tend to have a pH of 7.0, which are neutral to slightly alkaline. Composted organic matter can lower pH by a half a point, which is usually sufficient.

                  Prepping your beds for proper drainage using Bancroft bedding blend to create raised or sloped areas is one way to ensure your succulents will have good drainage. Adding pumice to your soil (which we carry in the nursery) will also provide increased soil aeration. Removing newly sprouted weeds is notably easier once the bed area is saturated from winter rains.

                  Incorporating winter bloomers like Aloe ‘Erik the Red will add a vibrant flare to your garden. If you’re looking for a pop of cheery yellow, Acacia vestita (as shown in the photo) and Acacia merinthophora are go-to shrubs to fill this need. Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga macrantha will soon be exhibiting sun kissed orange, bell-shaped flowers to an otherwise gray winter-scape. Additionally, pick up some Lomandra longifolia ‘Breeze,’ an Australian rush that is an extremely cold and hardy low maintenance ground cover. Stop by the garden and nursery to see these winter bloomers in person, and get tips on how to set your garden up for success this spring. 


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