GARDEN FANATIC:When you can't see the ocean for the trees

"Nothing is so beautiful as spring..." -- Gerard Manley Hopkins

"On a clear day/You can see forever." -- Alan Jay Lerner

I was surprised, like many of us, by this week's drizzle teaser. But now, despite a very dry winter, we expect spring to March in.

Nothing is quite as beautiful as a sunny spring day in Laguna, unless it is a sunnier and warmer spring day in the Baja town of Loreto.

Have you noticed how much taller and fuller your neighbor's trees have become? You more than likely have, because they're now blocking the best part of your ocean view. And unknowingly, I'm sure, your own trees are affecting your neighbor's views of the village. So...

Begin a spring cleanup with the trees or the tallest shrubs in your garden. Pruning out deadwood, weak or diseased branches, and keeping the height of your trees under control will allow you to maintain a healthy tree. If your trees are too tall to safely reach with your pruning equipment, contact a qualified tree service. Open up your trees so we can all share precious views!

How do your planting beds look? Do your plantings reflect your good taste? Or is the garden a killing fields for helpless flowers? Poor performance by plantings directly under trees can often be attributed to lack of sunlight, poor air circulation, smothering and/or poisoning from leaf drop and berries or competition from tree roots.

Foundation shrubs, flowering plants and vines also need attention during these warming months. If a plant is doing poorly in a particular location, try moving it. Place it in a spot more favorable to its cultural requirements.

For example, don't plant a shade fern in the hottest spot in your garden or a sun loving plant in deep shade.

The number of garden pests that are lurking might surprise you. Aphids, snails and slugs, and thrips are just a few of the pests that can be identified by either visual sighting or by the damage they cause.

Holes in leaves, deformed flowers, sticky residue on plants, insect "doo doo" or slime trails are strong signs that something bad may be breeding.

Many pests and diseases can be managed by sensible and safe alternatives, other than strong pesticides, and are available from your favorite nursery.

Now that you're finished with the clean-up process, it's time to make your garden "plant friendly." Fertilize and mulch everything, including new planting beds.

Spring is the most important season to provide nutrition for all plants. Be sure to check the sprinkler system for leaks and coverage before you need to use it during periods of warm weather or vacation away from home.

Catharine, who has dedicated her weekends to our garden between writing her column and visiting Loreto, has already planted spring bulbs, responsibly controlled the first outbreak of mealybug with Ultra Fine oil (without harming our lady bugs and wild birds) and is preparing the vegetable planter for Early Girl tomatoes.

However, resist the temptation to keep up with her, unless you have the time and inclination (I gave up almost 20 years ago). Instead, buy a dozen tulips from English Garden and pretend they are from your garden.

Trust me, you'll feel better. See you next time.

  • STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award-winning writer Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-2438, or e-mail to
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