Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

October, 2004
Regional Report

Harvesting 'Taters

Harvest potatoes now, being careful not to cut or bruise them, or leave them in the soil for harvesting through the winter. Take care not to expose them to sunlight or soil cracks, however, or they'll develop inedible, bitter green areas. (After cutting off these areas and discarding them, the remaining potato can be eaten.) After harvest, hold the potatoes at 75 to 85 degrees F. for a week, and then store them at 50 to 60 degrees F. with high humidity. They should keep for six to fifteen weeks. Refrigerating them at 36 to 40 degrees F. will turn some of the starch into sugar, making them taste oddly sweet and turning them dark when cooked.

Prepare Herbs for Indoors

After dividing and repotting established herbs for overwintering indoors, leave the newly potted sections in a lightly shaded place for three weeks, and then move them indoors to a cool spot with bright light. This will allow them time to acclimate to higher indoor temperatures and lower humidity before it's too cold outdoors to make the change without shock.

Water and Fertilize

Give one last deep watering to grapevines and deciduous trees to make them more cold hardy. Feed all overwintering plants with a no-nitrogen, high-phosphorus, high-potassium fertilizer to help them become cold hardy.

Plant Flowers to Accompany Bulbs

For a cover crop of flowers before, during and after spring bulbs bloom, sow seeds or plant seedlings of low-growing annual bloomers after you've planted the bulbs. Think of color contrasts, such as purple pansies with yellow daffodils, or white alyssum with red tulips. Good choices include calendulas, pansies, Iceland poppies, primroses, dwarf snapdragons, dwarf stock and violas. Sow seed thickly, water the area, mulch it lightly and keep it moist until seedlings have two sets of true leaves.

Tend to New and Established Lawns

You can still seed new lawns or reseed thin spots in established ones. For good germination, water newly seeded lawns two or three times a day for the first two weeks. For another two weeks, water once a day. Then change to watering only three times a week but for longer periods. You want the moisture to reach 2 to 3 inches down so the roots grow deeply into the well-prepared seedbed. When the grass gets bushy and about 3 inches tall -- about a month after sowing -- the lawn is ready for its first mowing. Allow the soil to become firm and fairly dry before mowing, however, to avoid compressing the new lawn with mower wheels and your footsteps.

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