Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2006
Regional Report

Start Tomatoes and Peppers

Start pepper and tomato seeds indoors. In years past, this routine has been a symbolic promise to myself that sunnier, clear skies and warmth would truly come.

Plant Garlic, Onions, and Shallots

Plant garlic cloves, bulb onion sets, and shallots where they will be able to dry out for a month before harvest next summer. When digging to plant these now, disturb the moist soil as little as possible to avoid squeezing out the air pores. Remove a bit with a hand trowel, place the clove/set/bulb in, and gently crumble the soil back on top. Sprinkle with just enough water to settle the soil.

Moving Poinsettias Into the Garden

Acclimating gift poinsettias to the cold outdoors before planting them into the garden is easy. First, clip long branches just above the third node to encourage bushier regrowth. Place the plants in a sunny spot outdoors that's protected from wind. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and fertilize with a slow-release or quarter-strength regular fertilizer every other week. After a month, plants can be successfully transplanted into the garden. Be aware that they'll bloom later next year -- closer to February -- as they revert to their natural timing.

Keep Lawns Clean

Lawns, especially frosty or soggy ones, need to breathe, so keep leaves and litter raked up, and walk on them as little as possible.

Be Prepared For Frost

Frost continues to be likely on dry, windless, clear nights. Plants are less susceptible to frost damage when they have been sufficiently watered, so keep soil or planter mix barely moist. More water may stimulate new growth or drown the plant, since roots don't circulate moisture very quickly during cold weather. Keep frost-protection coverings, especially those made of plastic sheeting, away from the foliage so it doesn't freeze. If plants are damaged by frost, don't remove any of the dead foliage or branches. Plants may look messy, but these damaged portions will continue to protect sensitive growth further inside the plants from later frosts. Wait to start trimming until growth begins in spring. You may even find that branches that appeared dead are alive and well after all.

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