Tuesday’s Tips — Where to find soil and other essentials.

Note: This week’s tips are aimed at our home communities of central Orange County, CA and Durango, CO, though if you are in another location you might glean some ideas about where to look in your own area.

The UCCE Orange County Master Gardeners have a great hotline (714-708-1646 or hotline@uccemg.com) that’s available to OC residents to ask any kind of gardening, horticulture or pest-related questions. Once the question is phoned or emailed in, our Master Gardeners consult with each other, research the literature, and make sure that any answers they give are based on University of California research, so it’s all very correct and scientific — as opposed to that great tip that your grandma gave you that may or may not be good for your garden.

This past week a question came in about where to find soil, amendments, etc. in Orange County. In Southern California it’s time to think about beefing up the soil so we’ll have a successful growing season and the rest of the county isn’t that far behind. So here are some ideas about where you’ll find what you need to get your garden ready for planting.

This first set of suggestions was complied by OC Master Gardener and workshop presenter extraordinaire, Kay Havens. Kay is a terrific presenter and she’ll be speaking at the one of the spring workshops at the Great Park Food and Farm Lab on March 19th. Don’t miss it!. (The complete schedule is over to the right.)

During talks Kay encourages gardeners to…

Ask pros at “better nurseries” in their area which products will produce the end result you desire. A potted tomato needs an entirely different product than a reseeded lawn. A list of “better nurseries” in Orange County would begin with; Green Thumb, Plant Depot, Rogers Gardens, Armstrong Garden Centers, and Village Nurseries.These “one stop” shops stock plants, bagged soil materials, and tools. For many gardeners knowledgeable assistance and a variety of healthy plant materials is worth paying a little more for. Big boxes such as Lowe’s and Home Depot are economical alternatives.

There are some specialty businesses. Orange County Farm Supply is the most quixotic — geared towards the more advanced gardener who knows what they need. If you need something special, like Citrus Leaf Miner pheromone traps, it is often a good idea to call before going to be sure it is in stock. Their stock is geared towards gardeners and small orchards. They have specialty tools and a very wide range of bagged goods, including bagged pumice. They do stock plants, but the inventory is ever-changing. If you want a 40# bag of Cottonseed meal, an avocado picker, or Texas tomato cage this is the place for you. They give everyone a discount — not just MG’s. Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) will stock some of the same things.

“Bulk” amendments are most cost effective with a pickup truck load costing less than $30 at some locations. Most bulk distributors such as Tierra Verde Industries (TVI) and Aguinaga sell a range of soil amendments. The problem is you do need a pick up truck and some way to cover and secure the load for the drive home. You’ll also need wheelbarrows and shovels to move the materials when you get there, and a big clean up after. Materials are priced and loaded by the tractor scoop ONLY, and that is how it is. No, they don’t have a smaller pricing structure. They don’t want homeowners taking up space in their yard shoveling into buckets.

Most homeowners will find it easier to use bagged goods… so it is worth knowing that some of the local “Big Box” Scotts products use local TVI goods. Serrano Creek Amendments is another place to know about. It sells only composted horse manure, which is available bagged.

For those of you in Durango Mary Beth says:

Native Roots Garden Center and Durango Nursery and Supplies are the two nurseries I visit the most in Durango. Between the two you will find everything you need to get you started off on the right foot this season. They both have friendly knowledgeable staff who can answer all your gardening questions and they have a huge selection of perennials, trees and shrubs that will survive in this tough climate.

Native Roots has some great gardening hand tools (Cape Cod weeders!) and seeds. They both carry several different kinds of mulch; shredded cedar, pine bark, spruce bark, chipped aspen, and recycled pallets (oak) in both bags and bulk. They have samples for you to look at at the checkout desks. Both nurseries carry the Soil Menders line. Yum Yum Mix and Back To Earth are two products I use every year in my gardens to improve the soil.

In Bayfield, I love to visit Bayfield Gardens. It has a wonderful lush indoor nursery that has a large selection of perennials, annuals, vegetables, and beautiful hanging baskets and containers packed with great color combinations. They also carry bagged soil amendments and fertilizers.

The “Big Box” stores and hardware stores in town and in Bayfield carry bagged soil, mulch  and a variety of plants. Home Depot has a large variety of tools, hoses and pond kits.

If you’re looking for soil to be delivered to your gardens, Soiled Rotten Topsoil (love the name!) will deliver. I hear they have custom mixes to suit your gardening and landscaping needs.

If it’s beautiful colorful pots of all shapes and sizes you want, go to Dietz Market. It’s always a fun place to visit. In the spring it’s overflowing with colorful, unique home and garden accessories that will pick you up out of the winter doldrums.

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