Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

October, 2006
Regional Report

Try Different Broccoli

Just about any broccoli variety will do well in our area. Try the sprouting kinds for lots of small mouthful-size heads. For brilliant chartreuse, pointed heads that taste milder than regular broccoli, try 'Romanesco', a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

Get Garlic in the Ground

Garlic planted now will develop a strong root system over the winter, and leaf production can begin early in the spring, resulting in large heads next summer. The sooner you plant them now in rich, well-drained soil, the larger they'll be at harvest. Planting in the spring, even with rich soil, will produce only medium- or small-sized cloves, or a single bulb without cloves. (These small bulbs can be used in place of a single large clove in recipes. They can also be left in the soil or stored and replanted the following fall, when they'll develop further and then mature into separate cloves.) For the largest-sized garlic, plant cloves 4 to 6 inches apart in a raised planting bed that's well drained and enriched with compost, and keep the soil moist through next June.

Transplant Strawberries

Start new strawberry beds away from where potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers have grown within the last three years. Incorporate rock fertilizers, compost, and cottonseed meal. Water well. After two to four weeks, transplant strawberries 1 foot apart so the crown is just above the soil level. Strong roots will develop over the winter, and spring warmth will encourage fast growth and large berries.

Plant a Colorful Cover Crop

For a cover crop of flowers before, during, and after spring bulb bloom, sow seeds or plant seedlings of low-growing annual bloomers after you've planted the bulbs. Think of color contrasts, such as purple pansies with yellow daffodils, or white alyssum with red tulips. Good choices include calendulas, pansies, Iceland poppies, primroses, dwarf snapdragons, dwarf stock, and violas. Sow seed thickly, water the area, mulch it lightly, and keep it moist until seedlings have two sets of true leaves.

Switch to Fall Watering Schedule

Help overwintering plants harden off by changing your irrigation schedule. Cooler weather slows evaporation from the soil and transpiration from plant foliage, so irrigation is needed less often. So decrease how often -- but not the length of time -- you water. For example, water once every three weeks instead of once a week, but still water for half an hour each time. This change will continue to provide water to deep roots while allowing the soil to dry in between waterings, and it doesn't encourage new, frost-tender growth.

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