Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2004
Regional Report

Mark Cracked Sidewalks

If the sidewalk in front of your house has lifted or is uneven due to surface tree roots, mark the uneven areas with brightly colored paint so that pedestrians have ample warning of the uneven surface. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Prune Shrubs

Existing evergreen shrubs benefit from early-season pruning. By thinning the growth from the center of the plant just before the active growing season, you increase air circulation and light. Plants will respond with a lush burst of growth in a few weeks. First, remove any dead, diseased, or injured wood from the plant, then follow branches back to the main stems and remove them flush with the trunk. For healthier plants in the long run, remove several branches instead of clipping the outside foliage with hedge shears.

Plant Unusual Seeds for Spring

Love in a puff (Nigella damascena), spider flower (Cleome), and canary bird vine (Tropaeolum peregrinum) are just a few of the unusual flowers you can plant from seed now. Plants that aren't commonly available in nurseries and garden centers evoke interest and envy from fellow gardeners. Search seed catalogs and the Internet for sources of unusual seeds.

Spray with Dormant Oil

Smother overwintering insect eggs by spraying deciduous trees and shrubs with a dormant oil or copper/oil spray before new growth begins. Apply lime sulfur spray to roses or other deciduous plants that tend toward fungus problems. Always wear protective clothing when spraying, including gloves, boots, and goggles. Don't apply spray on windy or rainy days.

Plant Tomato Seeds

Plant tomato seeds indoors now for planting outside as soon as the soil is warm in spring. Fill a seed-starting tray with fresh potting soil, then water it well prior to planting the seeds. Dig a shallow furrow (1/4 inch deep) across the surface of the soil, then shake seeds from the packet directly into the furrow. Barely cover the seeds with a light dusting of fresh potting soil, mist generously, and cover with clear plastic. Place the seed tray in a sunny, warm location until seeds germinate. After germination, increase air circulation inside the plastic cover and keep moist by misting. 'San Francisco Fog', 'Early Girl', 'Big Beef', and 'Ace' are varieties of slicing tomatoes that do well in this region.

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