Hot Gardens Newsletter: Winter 2008
Wild Fire Stoppers. The firestorms that struck the western Mojave desert regions outside of Los Angeles in October revealed a new use for succulent plants. One homeowner claims that her giant Aloe arborenscens stopped the fire from burning her home. And she may be right. The 4 and 5 foot tall Aloes were planted like a hedge around her house. Naturally filled with water, they baked and wilted in the intense heat — but did not burst into flame. Nor did her home.
Many drought-tolerant plants have high oil content and burst into flame easily — aloes are the exception. Since we wrote about this, we have heard similar reports from other gardeners in fire areas, confirming the value of these and other succulents as fire barriers.
Aloes bloom in Spring, sometimes as early as February, and provide a welcome burst of brilliant orange and yellow color in otherwise drab late-winter gardens. These giants are well over 6 feet tall.
Hate To Give Up Your Lawn? Native Buffalo Grass (Buchloe dactyloides) is growing in popularity as a substitute for traditional lawn turf grasses, such as Fescue or Kentucky Blue Grass. This native of the American Great Plains needs significantly less water and the newer varieties which grow to only 3 inches in height almost never need to be mowed. In autumn, Buffalo grass turns brown, then regrows in Spring. If your local nursery does not have the seeds or plugs, you can find them online. More ideas for lawn replacement here.
Non-Toxic Weed Prevention. Get a head start on weed control in your flower borders by applying biodegradable corn gluten on the beds. This natural product, available in local nurseries or online, prevents seeds from sprouting without harming your existing plants. Corn gluten is a pre-emergent weed killer — it does not work if those pesky weeds have begun to grow.
Winter Root Health. It is cold now in many desert regions of the Northern Hemisphere, but the trees in your desert garden still need watering. This is doubly important if your winter climate includes drying winds. In winter your trees are growing new roots within the protected environment of the soil. Slow, deep watering every two weeks or so should keep your trees healthy through the cold dry season. More roots this winter also means more vigorous growth in Spring.
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