Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Budworms take all the fun out of growing two of the bay area's most hardy blooming plants. Both petunias and geraniums are susceptible to the ravages of budworms. In order to enjoy the abundant blooms on these plants, start your vigil: At the first sign of damage, hand pick or spray Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Mix only the amount you will use and spray only the plants that are affected.
Fertilize Tuberous Begonias
The secret to growing magnificent tuberous begonias is the big fertilizer switch. Use 22-14-14 to get the plants up and growing. The high amount of nitrogen produces lush green foliage. The moment you see buds forming, switch to 15-30-15. This will produce an abundance of those incredible flowers. Tend your begonias in the morning hours to help prevent powdery mildew. Also keep in mind that tuberous begonias don't need nearly as much water as people believe. A thorough soaking once a week will suffice, depending on the type of soil.
Patrol for Tomato Hornworms
Tomato hornworms look like aliens from another planet! The creepy eye-like markings along both sides of the creatures give the eerie feeling of being watched. The green color makes the 4- to 6-inch-long caterpillars very difficult to spot on tomato plants. Look for chewed leaves and black droppings and you will find a tomato hornworm not too far away. You can pick them off and destroy them, or treat plants with Bt if it's really necessary. As for me, I find these creatures intriguing and I let them be. Kids love them!
Pinch and Fertilize Fuchsias
Fuchsias bloom on new wood. If you keep the branch tips pinched back, the plant will produce two new stems for every one you pinch off. That means twice as many flowers! Remove the last two sets of leaves after the blooms have faded from each stem. Fuchsias are heavy feeders, so pour on the fertilizer.
Prune and Shape Rhododendrons
This is the ideal time to prune and shape rhododendrons and azaleas before they begin to set their buds for next spring. Cut rangy plants back to bare wood if necessary. Fertilize plants with a high-acid fertilizer after pruning to encourage maximum bloom.