Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

October, 2003
Regional Report

Care for Wild Oaks

If you have old wild oak trees on your property, it is important not to raise or lower the soil grade between the trunk and the drip line. Also avoid watering within 4 feet of the trunk or allowing water to stand in the area under the canopy of leaves. Keep old trees groomed by removing dead limbs and branches. Imitate the natural weather cycle of California by providing irrigation in drought winters and allowing the trees to reach down into the earth to find their own water during the summer months.

Fertilize Cymbidium Orchids

Make the fertilizer switch on your cymbidium orchids now. We are blessed with the ideal climate for these exotic natives to the mountains of Asia. To promote the best bloom, plants need a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as 6-30-30 or 6-25-25, until the buds set. Apply the fertilizer 1/2 strength every week until the end of the year. It's best if the potting bark is damp before applying fertilizer.

Purchase Spring-Blooming Bulbs

Purchase spring-blooming bulbs now. Select firm bulbs that have no sign of fungus or injury. The papery jackets should be in place on tulips, daffodils should not be sprouted, and ranunculus and anemones should be firm. Keep in mind that large bulbs create large flowers, so buy the biggest bulbs you can afford. Because chilling is beneficial for spring-blooming bulbs, place them in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator once you get them home. Make sure they are stored in paper -- not plastic -- bags to prevent rotting. Plant outdoors in 4 to 6 weeks after chilling.

Dig and Store Summer-Blooming Bulbs

Dig and store summer-blooming bulbs and tubers, such as tuberous begonias, dahlias, and gladiolas, after the foliage dies back. Brush off the soil, allow the bulbs to dry for a few days in a shady area, then store in a cool, dry area for the winter. Make sure you store your bulbs in a single layer on newspaper or sawdust to prevent rotting.

Watch for Snails

Slugs and snails are a menace now. It's not cold enough to keep them home at night, and they are out and about, eating their way through your garden. Keep garden beds clean and raked up to eliminate hiding places. Surround new plantings with diatomaceous earth, egg shells, or fireplace ashes and keep it fresh. Slugs and snails don't like the rough texture. Surrounding garden beds with strips of copper foil also repels them. Copper reacts with the body juices of slugs and snails causing an electrical charge that gives these garden dementors an unpleasant jolt. Set beer traps near the surface of the soil. Slugs are real boozers and will help themselves to a fatal sip if available. Last but not least, pay kids a penny a piece for snails collected from your garden.

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