Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

June, 2007
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Lawns
More and more a "protected species," our lawns shrink in size as lots get smaller, and water use concerns shift priorities elsewhere. You can use less water and still have a beautiful lawn. Water early in the morning, preferably before 7 a.m. Water deeply once a week (and definitely not more than twice a week) to promote deep rooting and reduce evaporation. Remove a plug of grass to make sure the water is reaching below the root zone. Wait to water until the grass is a dull green color instead of bright green, and it's slightly wilted -- older leaf blades will begin to fold lengthwise into a tight "V" shape. Don't fertilize heavily with nitrogen, since rapid leaf growth requires more water.

Proper mowing helps grass grow deeper roots and encourages much side-branching for a thicker carpet. For perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and tall fescues, set mower height at two to three inches. For common Bermuda lawns, set it at one inch; for hybrid Bermudas, three-quarters of an inch. For St. Augustine, it should be one and a quarter inches. Mow often enough so you never remove more than a third of the length of the grass blades, or you'll stress the plants; they recover slowly during summer heat. Keep mower blades sharp; when blades are dull, more gas or electricity is needed to mow, and rough edges of grass blades invite dieback and diseases.

Clever Gardening Technique

Propagate by Cuttings or Layering
Root woody cuttings of azalea, chrysanthemum, carnation, fuchsia, and hydrangea. Choose growth that is somewhat woody and not still bright green and pliable. Cut a five- or six- inch piece, and strip off all of the leaves but the tiny young top growth and one or two well-developed leaves. Place the cutting in light, sandy soil or planting mix up to the bottom leaf. Sprinkle the foliage and thoroughly wet the soil mixture. Provide filtered light in a sheltered location and keep soil mix moist until the rootings are well-established, usually in about a month. Then they can be transplanted. Long, supple branches of azaleas, forsythias, and viburnums can be rooted for new plants. Bend branch tips to a shallow ditch a foot long. Cover the branch with soil up to the top cluster of new foliage. Hold it in place with a rock. Keep the soil moist. Rootlets will form, and new plants will be ready for transplanting in about a year.

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