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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Feb 08

When Life Hands You Lemons

Posted on February 8, 2018 at 10:35 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

The scuba-diving trip I’ve been planning for a year has found me in St. Lucia with ear infections and the inability to dive. What's a person to do? It didn't take long for this gardener to move to Plan B. 

 banana tree
 Banana tree in St Lucia
On this tropical island, ferns grow like trees and color abounds. “Vegetation is not lacking,” I thought, while eating lunch with friends at the resort where we are staying. The shrubbery next to me caught my eye when I noted an unusual shape growing within. Upon closer inspection, I realized the shape was very familiar, only hanging upside down from what you might expect ... bananas! Fruit trees are all around the resort. It then dawned on me we are in the midst of bare-root season at home. 

Bare-root season is a time to let your imagination run wild. There is no reason not to have fruit trees and assorted berries, asparagus, rhubarb, artichokes or grapes growing in our gardens. Even the smallest of garden spaces can support dwarf fruit trees grown in containers on your deck or patio. The only caveat for container gardening is the need for additional fertilizer and monitoring of water needs.

For me, bare-root season represents a time to explore nurseries for the huge selections not available during other times of the year. Many people are intimidated by purchasing a tree without a container. So, while my friends are off diving, let me share the simplicity of this planting process with you.

First, after selecting your tree(s) of choice, examine the exposed roots. Prune all broken roots back to healthy tissue. Fill a bucket with water (I usually add some vitamin B1 to the water) and let the roots hydrate overnight.

Pick a good sunny location to plant your new tree. Some fruits do better if located where they have some protection from the wind. 

Dig a generous hole and create a cone of soil in the middle to cup the roots around. Lay your shovel across the hole as a level, and set the tree in the hole. Note where the graft of the trunk of the tree sits in relation to the prostrate shovel. The graft should be about two inches above the shovel. Adjust the soil elevation accordingly before proceeding.

Once the soil level is adjusted and the tree positioned, begin adding prepared soil a bit at a time. Gently but firmly tamp the soil around the root system with the butt end of the shovel handle before adding more soil. Continue adding soil in this fashion until you are at grade, then water in well.
 
Next, check the top growth of the tree. Remove all broken or damaged branches as well as branches growing toward the inside of the tree. If two branches cross each other, remove the weaker. 

It may be a few years before you reap the benefits of your labor, but you’ll know your efforts were worthwhile the first time you bite into that sweet peach or plum and feel those juices flowing down your chin. 

As for lemons, citrus does not come in bare-root form, but Marin cannot be beat for growing citrus. And if you live in the most southern part of Marin, it might even be worth trying your hand at growing bananas.

Enjoy your surroundings no matter where life takes you! 

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