Plant Man gives October answers

October 01, 2004

Steve Kawaratani

"Walking is man's best medicine."

-- Hippocrates

"Across the narrow beach we flit,

One little sand-piper and I;"

-- Celia Thaxter

The sandy reach appeared to stretch forever, as Catharine pulled


me briskly past the lifeguard tower. The promise of a cool morning

and the absence of tourists had lured me out of bed. Of course, the

benefit of walking is clearly demonstrated by my shapely wife, with

my personal fitness, as always, possessing great potential.

We stepped through the kelp, which has been allowed to return to

the northern stretch of the beach. This seaweed has become a haven

for the sandpipers and sanderlings that flitted up and down the sand,

chasing the waves. it was wonderful to see migratory birds visiting

Laguna. They, like us, certainly recognize clean sand and water.

October has arrived, with the promise of clear skies and cooler

temperatures. Your questions for the Plant Man included:

Q: Some time ago you had a recipe for mildew eradication. Would

you be so good as to send it to me, please?

A: Certainly. 1 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of

Ultra Fine Oil is mixed with a gallon of water. Apply the spray every

seven to 10 days until the mildew is controlled.

Q: I need a groundcover for my ocean front slope. What do you


A: Any of the low growing forms of Myoporum would be suitable.

They are tough and fast growing.

Q: My delphiniums are turning "black." The leaves are deformed and

stunted. What's up?

A: Your plants are likely infested with a mite. Cut off and

destroy badly infested shoots and spray Ultra Fine Oil every 10 days

for the next month.

Q: We live near the ocean and our soil is not very good. What

vegetables could we grow?

A: If protected from high winds and salt spray, most vegetables

can be grown. Add a good quality planter's mix to the soil, to build

up the organic content.

Q: I'm not sure if my citrus plant is an orange or lemon. How can

I tell?

A: Look at the foliage. The lemon has much paler leaves than the

orange (if it is healthy). Admittedly, it is sometimes difficult,

except for an expert, to differentiate the two.

Q: When do I plant strawberries?

A: You should plan to set them out as soon as they are available.

Prepare your plot well, on a raised bed, to maintain good drainage.

Q: My garden is exposed to the wind from the ocean. Will I be able

to grow azaleas?

A: Not likely. Azaleas require shelter from strong, salty air to


As we made our return trip back to Main Beach, my spirit felt

invigorated by the gentle breeze and the clear, warm water. I made a

mental note to remind gardeners to minimize fertilizer and pesticide

use, as everything eventually flows toward the sea. And to thank

Wayne Baglin and all of our local officials and activists, who insist

that a clean ocean is not a privilege, but a right for all of us to

enjoy. See you next time.

* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,

1278 Glenneyre, No. 49, in Laguna Beach. He is married to local

artist, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats. He can be reached at

(949) 497-2438 or e-mail to

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