Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2004
Regional Report

Prune Deciduous Trees

Prune and shape deciduous trees while they are still dormant. Use a pole pruner to remove any dead, diseased, or injured wood first. Next, remove any growth that crosses through the center of the branching structure to improve air circulation. Double trunks or weak crotches should be identified and removed.

When removing large branches, make your cut on the outer side of the branch collar. The branch collar is an area of slightly wrinkled wood at the base of each branch. It is a fast-growing bark that covers wounds in a short period of time. If you remove a branch too close to the trunk, the tree may take longer to heal, which can allow insect pests, canker, and fungus disease to develop.

Finally, make heading cuts on the small outer branches to reduce the overall size of the tree and direct new growth.

Plant Spring-Blooming Annuals

While the soil is still cool, plant early spring-blooming annuals from nursery cell packs. Calendulas, English daisies, fairy primroses, Iceland poppies, pansies, snapdragons, stocks, and violas will brighten your dreary winter garden. Use a slow-release fertilizer in the soil at planting time to get young plants off to a good start. If you desire, plant annuals in large containers using fresh potting soil.

Prune Fuchsias

Prune frost-tender fuchsias just as winter comes to an end. Pruning stimulates new growth, so by waiting until late in the season, you eliminate the danger of frost damage. Fuchsias can withstand severe pruning. Hanging plants can be cut back to several inches from the surface of the soil. Leave a basic, five-branch framework so that new growth has a good shape.

Spray Dormant Applications

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, including gloves, boots, and goggles when spraying. Don't apply spray on windy or rainy days.

Plant Tomato Seeds

Plant tomato seeds indoors now to plant outside as soon as the soil is warm in the 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) in 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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