One-Block Feast: Spring Garden Plan
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Camellia sinensis is the tropical shrub grown commercially in Asia for making green, black, and oolong teas. It is rare in the United States, and we couldn’t find mature plants at nurseries or growers on the West Coast, so we ordered them from a source in North Carolina (Camellia Forest Nursery). But if you are patient, you can order seedlings from the two sources listed at right.
Our three pretty, round tea shrubs have leathery, dark green leaves and fragrant white fall blooms. Initially we planted them in big pots so we could move them under the eaves in winter (the plants are frost tender), but they weren’t happy, so now they are in the ground (we will cover them when frost hits). The plants will eventually grow to 15 feet tall.
Best Site: Full sun, or light shade inland, and well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost, or use potting soil. Protect from wind and from winter frost.
Days to Harvest: Plants must be at least 3 years old.
Planting and Care: Set the plant in the soil so its base is above soil level, then keep the roots cool by applying a 1/2-inch-thick layer of mulch (keep it away from the stem’s base). Young plants are best in light shade under tall trees. Water your tea plant regularly, at least weekly during the April to October growing season for the first few years; older plants can get by with less water. Feed occasionally with an acid plant food formulated especially for camellias.
When to Harvest: In spring, pick the two uppermost new leaves and the new buds.
Seedling Sources: Greer Gardens; Nichols Garden Nursery.
More seasonal gardening plans:
One Block Feast: Fall Gardening Guide
One Block Feast: Guide to Winter Garden Vegetables
Reprinted with permission from The One-Block Feast: An Adventure in Food from Yard to Table by Margo True & the staff of Sunset Magazine, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Buy this book from our store: The One-Block Feast.
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