From the UC Blogosphere...
Advice From the Help Desk of the
Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Responding to Client's Phone Call Request: Thank you for calling the Master Gardener Help Desk with your question about replacements for your fallen oak tree. You were especially interested in our recommendations on small trees, possibly bigger “shrubs” vs. trees, planting them in a row (as many as 14), multi-trunk vs. single-trunk, overhead powerline friendly, and of course, drought-resistant. I think you are on the right track looking into multi-trunked plants such as upright manzanita, as 14 of those might make a more pleasing landscape than 14 standard trees. Since you have powerline considerations, you also need to be mindful of the eventual height of the plants.
You do have many choices, both evergreen and deciduous, for replacements for the old oak. The PG&E publication (Guide to Power-Wise Tree Planting... you can click the link at left for information on obtaining this free publication) that you have is an excellent resource for options. Some that would do well in central county as well as most of the county include western redbud, manzanita, strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), California laurel, and crape myrtle. All of these have low or fairly low water needs, but the strawberry tree will also do well in a lawn. Another tree that isn't on the list, but would be appropriate, is Chilopsis linearis (desert willow). This tree has beautiful flowers that can range from white to rose to purple. It requires little water, so is a good choice for a drought-adapted landscape. All of the trees I mentioned can also be trained as single-trunk standard trees if you have a place in your landscape where that might be more appropriate. Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is another shrub that can grow to be a multi-trunked tree to 25' tall and wide. It takes pruning well, so can be shaped to fit the space.
We also strongly recommend that before you dig and plant the new trees that you call PG&E @ 811 to check the location of the gas lines on your property. The service is free.
Good luck on your tree replacements Please let us know if we can help you further.
Help Desk of the Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SEH)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).
By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
I would like to change my front yard to an edible garden. What can be done now? Francine, Atascadero.
This is a good time to get your front yard prepared for planting spring edibles. To start, turn off all the irrigation lines at the water source. Next, remove the drip tubing, soaker hoses etc. Now you can dig out all the scrubs and plants without damaging irrigation lines that you might want to reinstall.
Once all the plants are removed, take a soil sample and send it to a lab for an analytical soil test. The results generally come with recommendations on how to improve your soil fertility. Take the soil printout to a trusted nursery or agriculture retail supplier and stock up on soil amendments. Unless you have already a high percentage of organic matter (see test results) add some quality and well-cured compost to your soil. Incorporate amendments into the compost. In general, you will add small quantities of micro and macro minerals that are lacking in your soil. Spread a 4-6-inch layer of compost plus minerals onto the top soil. With a large garden fork or spade, work the compost into the top 6-8 inches of your soil. If the soil is very compacted, you need to loosen the soil first and then fold under the compost.
It is helpful at this stage to draw the layout of the planting area, orienting the garden towards the south. Mark pathways and irrigation lines and indicate areas that are shaded from the sun. This preplanning will help you when selecting the right plants for this area of your edible garden. Group water loving plants together, arrange herbs close to garden entrance for easy access. Check out books and garden magazines, and order seeds of edible flowers: Nasturtium, borage, calendula, pineapple- sage, tulips, scented geraniums, roses, and begonia. Trees that have edible flowers and fruit include apple, orange, elderberries, pineapple-guava. All flowers that bloom from herbs are edible and don't forget the flowers from vegetable plants. My Tip: Only plant what you and your family like to eat!
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