Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

May, 2003
Regional Report

Plant Warm-Season Crops

As soon as the soil reaches 60 degrees F, a comfortable temperature for warm-season crops, such as peppers and cucumbers, go ahead and plant your vegetable garden. Buy plants in cell packs from the nursery and transplant into the garden, or grow your own from seed. Try using a black plastic landscape fabric under heat-loving plants. It will provide a few extra degrees of heat and get your plants off to a good start.

Fertilize Indoor Plants

The longer days should have your indoor plants growing like weeds right now. Provide the nutrients they need for rapid growth by fertilizing with a slow-release fertilizer. The slow-release granules will deliver nutrients each time you water, ensuring healthy plants without overfeeding. If your indoor plants have brown tips on the leaves, it means they have dried out between waterings. Keep the soil evenly moist.

Plant Giant Pumpkins

Now is the ideal time to start your prize-winning pumpkin. Look for Atlantic Giant seeds on the Internet and start them indoors now. When they have two sets of leaves, plant outdoors in full sun with excellent soil. If the soil is less than perfect, add plenty of organic compost to a depth of at least 24 inches. Protect young pumpkin plants from slugs and snails, and stand back! These plants need plenty of room. Roots grow where the soil is damp. Once blooms begin to form, hand pollinate the female flowers (female flowers have a swollen bulb at the base) to ensure a successful, prize-winning harvest.

Watch for Bugs

May brings warm weather and insects. As the soil warms, insect eggs hatch and come to life, usually with a voracious appetite. This is the time of year when army worms, tent caterpillars, grubs, and whiteflies make their seasonal debut. The best offense is a good defense, so be on the lookout for signs of infestation. If you only have a few insects, live and let live. If you notice an infestation, rake the area clean, wash the foliage, and treat with a soap and oil spray.

Thin Fruit

To ensure a harvest of large fruit, thin apples, pears, peaches, and nectarines to one fruit every six inches along each stem. This is time-consuming work, but worth the effort. If your trees have not produced fruit even though they flowered, perhaps the problem is that you don't have enough pollinators in your neighborhood. Look into importing orchard mason bees into your garden for next year's harvest.

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