In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February is the best time to transplant artichokes and enjoy sweet peas.
Plant Perennial Vegetables
It may still be winter, but it's prime time for starting new plantings of asparagus, rhubarb, and artichokes. Unlike the many annual vegetables we grow, these perennial plants will provide with harvest for many seasons.
Asparagus will grow and produce satisfactorily in partially shaded areas, such as next to a fence or building, especially if the plants receive morning sun. A patch can last some 15 years, so plan its location well. Choose a new area rather than replanting an old asparagus bed with new roots. In an old bed, residues from the old plants will retard the growth of the new young ones, and the old bed may have accumulated fungal pathogens.
Dig a lot of compost and manure into the soil, and set roots at least 6 inches deep and a foot apart. Cover them with a fluffy mix of soil, manure, or other organic mulch, and water in well. In future years, maintain the bed by applying manure to the depth of an inch or two to slowly feed the plants as rain and overhead irrigation wash the nutrients down into the root zone.
Set artichoke roots with buds or shoots just above the soil line, spaced 6 inches apart. Water them in, and when new growth emerges, deeply soak the area once a week.
Rhubarb prefers partial afternoon shade in our climate. Plant the single bud of its rhizome at the soil line. The wide spread of its mature leaves requires 4 feet between plants. Water deeply once new growth begins. Restrain yourself from harvesting until the plant's second season to enable the roots to gain strength. When you do harvest, pull off (instead of cutting) no more than one-third of the stalks at any one time. Removing too much foliage at once can stress the plant.
As you go about your planting, be careful not to compact the soil while it's thoroughly cold and moist. Dig and replace the soil gently, and barely water in the transplants -- just enough to settle the roots. Don't stomp the soil with your hand or foot. Tamping the soil more than lightly will compress it and damage the soil tilth.
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