Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

May, 2006
Regional Report

Plant Blocks of Corn

To assure good pollination, plant corn in blocks of at least four rows in each direction. Repeat every three weeks for successive harvests, but only through the end of June, as later plantings generally suffer from severe smut problems when they mature in September.

Use Legume Inoculant

Inoculate bean seeds with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobium for better germination. It comes in powder form, and you sprinkle a bit in the hole or furrow, place the bean seed on top, cover with soil, and water it all in. Corn stalks make convenient pole bean supports. But plant the beans only after the corn is 6 inches tall -- no sooner -- or the beans will outgrow the corn.

Leave Roots of Pea Vines

When removing spent pea vines, cut them off at the soil level rather than pulling them out. The roots should have nodules that contain excess nitrogen from their fixation process, and this nitrogen is released into the soil as the roots decompose, where it will benefit the next crop.

Thin Fruits

Thin grape bunches and marble-sized tree fruits to improve the quality of the remaining fruits. Plus tree branches or vines may break if too much fruit is left on them. Remove about half of the number of grape clusters -- more on young vines. Thin tree fruits on alternate sides of branches for balance. The minimum distance to leave between fruits on branches is determined by the age of the tree and the size of the mature fruit. For apples, pears, peaches, and nectarines, leave 5 to 8 inches; leave 4 inches for plums and apricots. In general, leave on the tree or vine only what you will realistically use. Thin too much rather than not enough so trees and vines aren't strained. Nut trees will usually take care of their own thinning.

Tending Spring-Blooming Bulbs

Remove faded blooms and seedpods from spring-blooming bulbs, but leave the foliage until it dies back naturally. Apply a balanced fertilizer for next year's strong growth and bloom. When the foliage has died back completely, dig up the bulbs, gently remove any soil (but don't wash them), and store them in a cool, dry, well-aerated area.

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