Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

March, 2006
Regional Report

Fertilize Indoor Plants

It's wake-up time for your indoor plants. Give them a mild application of fertilizer now to encourage new growth. It's also a good idea to take them outside for a shower. Spray them first with a mild soap solution to loosen the dust collected over the winter. Don't forget the undersides of the leaves where insects like to hide. Use the shower setting on your hose end nozzle to wash the foliage and pots and to give the soil a good drenching. Allow the plants to drain outdoors, but make sure they are not sitting in full sun, and bring them back inside before nightfall.

Deadhead Azaleas

Azaleas and rhododendrons are not self-shedding, meaning that the faded flowers will stay on the plants. Pull away and compost any spent flowers or carefully clip the trusses off rhodies when the flowers begin to fade. Once the plants have finished blooming, apply a half-strength solution of a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 22-14-14, to encourage new foliage growth. In August you will switch to 15-30-15 to encourage flower production.

Care for Faded Spring Bulbs

Once daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and other spring-blooming bulb plants begin to fade, remove the spent flower heads and continue watering. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer to strengthen the foliage, which in turn will nourish the bulb. Once the foliage begins to turn yellow, withhold water. If the bulbs are in an existing flower bed, roll the foliage of each bulb and collect it with a rubber band to keep it tidy. After the foliage has turned completely brown in midsummer, gently pull it away from the soil. Your bulbs are now resting peacefully until next year.

Keep on Pest Patrol

With longer, warmer days, insect pests will be hatching and hungry. Look for infestations of aphids, white flies, and scale insects on roses, hydrangeas, citrus and annuals. Usually a strong jet of water will dislodge and discourage most insects. Use insecticidal soap if you need a stronger treatment, or consider releasing beneficial insects into your garden. But don't apply insecticidal soap once you have released beneficials. Keep in mind that a few bugs aren't a bad thing. Another alternative is to invite birds to your garden with feeders and birdbaths. Birds are the best insect control of all!

Tend Frost-Damaged Plants

Don't throw out those plants damaged by the frost we had in February. They may still be alive! Cymbidiums, succulents, hydrangeas, citrus, and fuchsias were hit hard, but probably not hard enough to kill the plants. Check for viability by scratching the bark. If the tissue just below the surface is still green, the plant is still alive. Pune frost-damaged plants from the tips inward. Continue pruning inch by inch until you come to live wood, then stop. Allow nature to take over from there.

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