Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Make the fertilizer switch on your cymbidium orchids now. We are blessed with the ideal climate for these exotics native to the mountains of Asia. To promote the best bloom, plants need a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 6-30-30 or 6-25-25, until the buds set. Apply the fertilizer 1/2 strength every week until the end of the year. It's best if the potting bark is damp before applying fertilizer.
Buy Spring-Blooming Bulbs
Purchase spring-blooming bulbs now. Select firm bulbs that have no signs of fungus or injury. The papery jackets should be in place on tulips, daffodils should not be sprouted, and ranunculus and anemones should be firm. Keep in mind that large bulbs create large flowers, so buy the biggest bulbs you can afford. Because chilling is beneficial for spring-blooming bulbs, place them in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator once you get them home. Make sure they are stored in paper -- not plastic -- bags to prevent rotting. Plant outdoors in four to six weeks after chilling.
Dig and Store Summer-Blooming Bulbs
Dig and store summer-blooming bulbs and tubers, such as tuberous begonias, dahlias, and gladiolus, after the foliage dies back. Brush off the soil, allow the bulbs to dry for a few days in a shady area, then store in a cool, dry area for the winter. Make sure you store your bulbs in a single layer on newspaper or sawdust to prevent rotting.
Apply Beneficial Nematodes to your Lawn
If raccoons and skunks are digging up your lawn, chances are that they are looking for grubs. These grubs are the larval stage of destructive garden pests, such as Japanese beetles. Treat your lawn with beneficial nematodes, sold as BioSafe Insect Control. It is not harmful to earthworms, fish, plants, honeybees, or birds. Although expensive, this is an organic control that brings excellent results if applied while the grubs are still near the surface of the soil.
Lawns need one more application of a slow-release fertilizer to help them through the cold winter months. Don't use a product high in nitrogen, which will produce lush top growth susceptible to fungus disease. Also, decrease the amount of time on automatic irrigation systems.