Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2001
Regional Report

Water Trees


Trees and shrubs rely on annual winter rains to get them through the long, dry summer. Normal winter rains move water deep into the soil, and healthy roots follow the water down. Deep-rooted plants are better able to withstand periods of drought than shallow-rooted ones. If rains aren't coming in your area, mimic Mother Nature by irrigating established plants. Use a soaker hose or build a soil basin around the drip line, then flood the basin to drive water down to the roots and beyond.

Prune Shrubs

Existing evergreen shrubs such as pittosporum 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 penetration. 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 stem and remove flush with the trunk. Remove several branches instead of clipping the outside foliage with hedge shears to create healthy plants.

Plant Seeds of Unusual Annuals

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), spider flower (Cleome), and canary bird vine (Tropaeolum peregrinum) are just three of the unusual flowers you can plant from seed now. Search seed catalogs or the Internet for sources of these and other unusual seeds.

Spray Dormant Oils


A lack of cold weather this winter means that insect eggs weren't killed by the frost. Smother overwintering insect eggs by spraying deciduous trees and shrubs with a dormant oil spray before new growth begins. Apply lime-sulfur spray to roses or other deciduous plants that tend to have fungal problems. Always wear protective clothing, including gloves, boots, and goggles, when spraying and don't spray on windy or rainy days.

Plant Tomato Seeds Indoors


Plant tomato seeds indoors now so they're ready to be transplanted outdoors as soon as the soil is warm. Fill a seed-starting tray with fresh potting soil, then water it well before planting the seeds. Dig a shallow furrow (1/4 inch) 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 some of the tomato varieties that I've grown with success here.

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