Enabling Garden allows everyone to enjoy gardening

Beginning today, I want to introduce you to different exhibits at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve. The Gardens have many exhibits and things going on, and we want you to know about them. Today, I will focus on the Enabling Garden.

The Enabling Garden is the Springs Preserve’s horticultural therapy facility, dedicated to enabling citizens with physical disadvantages, such as the physically and mentally disabled and the elderly, the opportunity to experience the joy of gardening.

Visitors to the Enabling Garden will learn about different techniques and tools that make gardening more accessible. Soon, classes to teach impaired gardeners about plants with sensory attributes, how to use specialized tools, and how to use the skills and knowledge they’ve gained will be offered.

Let’s break the Enabling Garden down to understand it more as you wander through it.

Wall garden: It is the first thing you see as you enter this special area. It is a vertical wall that from far away looks much like a hotel with many windows showing. It enables the gardener to easily plant flowers and veggies in these windows. I envisioned strawberries, flowers and herbs eventually hanging down the wall, but still within reaching distance.

Shallow pans: They are up off the ground to provide leg room for gardeners in wheelchairs. There also are individual dishlike pans off to the side where impaired gardeners can design their own. You don’t have to bend to care for them, but they dry out quickly.

Raised beds: High beds are at a comfortable height so gardeners can work with little bending, stooping or reaching. You are able to easily add your own twist with flower and veggie arrangements. And they are easy to weed, fertilize and water.

Water Smart gardening: Don’t think you have to forget about being Water Smart to do enabled gardening. In fact, Water Smart plants make gardening easy; they require less water and maintenance and produce a deluge of bright flowers, interesting textures and reminiscent scents to appeal to those with memory loss.

Enabling tools: The tools on exhibit are helpful for those with arthritis and other joint problems. Long-handled tools extend the gardener’s reach to eliminate the need to bend. The extra arm support keeps the joint and arm in a neutral position to minimize strain. These tools are available at garden centers or you can ask staff members about them.

Listen: Gardeners with hearing impairments can stay on path and follow sounds of people crunching gravel along the path, wind chimes or chirping of birds to help orient them.

Look: Gardeners with some visual impairment can see plants with bright contrasting colors and textures. Plantings at different heights encourage more active viewing. Visitors also will see other details, as well as a carpet of color.

Smell: Fragrant plantings can create a garden of scent. Include plants such as herbs, butterfly bush and honeysuckle that release their perfume in the evening. But you don’t want to plant too many scented plants, because they can drown each other out.

Here are some questions I encountered this week:

Q: How do you get rid of cicadas?

A: They are difficult to control, because the noisemaking adult cicadas do not feed much on plants. Their mission is to mate, lay eggs and die. Your first visual evidence is exoskeletons they wiggled out of clinging to trunks, limbs and walls. But look at the ground, they emerge at night, leaving finger-size holes under tree and shrub canopies. Adult males screech their shrill love songs to attract females and mate. Later, females prick open sawtooth cuts in tender twigs to lay eggs. In six to seven weeks, the young hatch and drop to the ground, where larvae burrow in to feed on roots for a couple of years. Their feeding on roots doesn’t seem to damage trees.

Q: Why are suckers sprouting from my tree rose base and growing like weeds?

A: Those suckers are coming from your rose’s rootstock that has resistance to many common soil diseases and produces ugly roses. Suckers have small leaves, few thorns and are pale green. So get rid of those suckers now or they will overcome your tree rose, and you don’t want that.

Q: Are cannas hard to grow?

A: No! Because of their magnificent size and beauty, people assume cannas are hard to grow. On the contrary, cannas are quite easy. Just remember, lots of water and lots of sun. There are even a few cannas that will tolerate some shade.

Q: Why won’t my cannas bloom?

A: They need sun, fertilizer and water , or they are overcrowded and need separating. They might be planted too deep.

Q: What is the black sooty stuff on my mulberry limbs?

A: It is sooty canker and it’s very prevalent in our valley, especially if you have been heavily pruning them. First, you’ll find the foliage on limbs becoming small and sparse. Soon, dry, thin bark cracks and splits to reveal black, powdery spores. Branches die back to the canker and occur anywhere on tree. Pruning often provides an open invitation by exposing the stems to sunscald. Remove infected branches at least 12 inches down into healthy wood and cover wound with a water-based latex paint. Prune small limbs as foliage symptoms appear, but wait to prune large branches until winter, to prevent further sunscald injury.

Q: A previous homeowner planted mesquites over our leach field. One died and I removed it, but the other is doing fine. Should I remove the other one?

A: It’s not a good idea to plant trees over leach fields because roots soon find moisture and plug up lines. And here is another overlooked thought, if you go away on vacation and no one uses the facilities for a period of time, the trees really suffer.

Q: I have a large mesquite that has had creative pruning in its life. I was thinking about growing a vine on it to help cover the mess, but don’t want to hurt the tree, and it still keeps suckering.

A: Over a few years, vines weaken trunks and if it is Algerian ivy, it may girdle it, so pull it off.

Suckering is a natural phenomenon of all desert trees. That is their way to shade the area under the trees and conserve moisture. If you don’t like them, cut them off.

Q: Why was my almond tree loaded with blooms and now has mummy nuts?

A: I strongly suspect you were relying on your neighbors’ almond tree to pollinate your crop. Also, mummy nuts, which remain attached to the tree, are usually not pollinated. Next year, take a limb loaded with blooms from another tree, put it in a bucket of water and place in your tree to pollinate.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Thursday. You can reach him at lmills@reviewjournal.com or at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve, 822-7754.

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