Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

June, 2006
Regional Report

Look for Female Squash Blossoms

If your first squash blossoms don't set fruit, don't worry. They're probably just male blossoms. Once the female blossoms (the ones with the miniature squash at the base of the flowers) start appearing along with the male flowers -- and bees are present to pollinate them -- fruit set should take place.

Flick Tomato Blossoms

Hand-pollinate tomatoes by flicking each bloom during the driest part of the day. Big plants can be taken care of with one or two shakes, while holding onto their cages or stakes. The pollen is naturally sticky, and this helps spread it.

Leave Corn Suckers

Plant the last batch of corn this month, as later plantings will probably have smut problems (those big, grey and black puffs of fungus in place of kernels) when harvested in September. Or you may choose to innoculate your corn with the fungus -- it's a delicacy in Southwest and Mexican cuisine. Removing suckers that form at the base of cornstalks will not increase (and may even decrease) yields. The extra leaf surface of the suckers increases photosynthesis, which provides more food for the developing ears. However, remove any ears that form on the suckers, as these will take energy away from the main, full-sized ears.

Dry Mature Garlic and Onions

Stop watering your garlic and bulb onions when the foliage begins to dry naturally. Bend the foliage to the ground to encourage the bulbs to form the dry outer layers that are necessary for long storage. Avoid bruising the bulbs during harvest, and cure them in single layers on slats or screens in a dry, shady, well-ventilated place. Make sure the necks of the bulbs are completely dry (crisp and papery) before clipping the foliage or bunching and tying the bulbs. Thick-necked onion varieties are more vulnerable to infection because they dry more slowly and less completely than thin-necked ones, so eat these first. Store the thoroughly dried onions in a shaded, cool, dry, well-ventilated area. Check them periodically, and eat any that show signs of spoilage.

Fertilize For Fruit and Blooms

Now that blooming and fruiting plants are using all their energy to produce what we love them for, feed all plants with a balanced, long-release fertilizer containing micronutrients in addition to the basic nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash/potassium (N-P-K). Well-nourished plants not only develop into stronger plants that produce flowers and fruits and vegetables longer, they are better protected against insects and diseases and can better withstand heat and water stress.

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