Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2005
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 hazard. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Encourage tree roots to grow deeper into the soil by occasionally deep watering with a soaker hose.

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 branching collar. The branching 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 and 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.

Improve Garden Soil

It's almost spring planting season, so this is the perfect opportunity to improve the existing soil in your garden beds by adding organic compost. It will improve any kind of garden soil, including clay and sand. It's available at garden centers and nursery supply stores, or even better, make your own from garden debris and kitchen scraps. If the soil is wet, simply lay the amendment on the surface to till in later when the soil is workable. It will act as a mulch and prevent weeds from growing until you are ready to plant!

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, stock, 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 colorful annuals in large containers, always using fresh potting soil. Note: Icelandic poppies will withstand the windy days of early spring.

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 and bloom only on new wood, so go to it! 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 good shape.

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