Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Patrol for Slugs
Voracious snails and slugs are coming out in force now. Protect new seedlings from hungry snails by surrounding planting beds with copper foil. Individual plants can be protected by surrounding them with fireplace ash or diatomaceous earth. The secret is to keep it fresh. Organic slug and snail control products are available. Please do not use chemical pesticides around food crops.
Protect Tree Trunks
Trees planted in the fall have ample time to grow new roots and anchor themselves into the soil before the spring growing season begins. However, the trunks need protection from the sun. Here's what happens: The sun is low in the sky. On those clear windless days, the sun heats the trunk of a young tree, causing it to heat up only along the side facing the sun. The rest of the trunk stays cool. The bark then splits and dies, causing the cambium layer beneath the bark to also die. To prevent the trunk from splitting, wrap it with cardboard, tree wrap, or cloth strips.
Now is the time to groom and prune hydrangeas. Remove all but the previous seasons growth, which can be identified by its shiny, fawn-colored bark. Flowers form in year-old wood. Prune plants low to the ground; 24 to 36 inches is ideal. Leave at least five to seven healthy branches arranged in a vase shape. Rake up and remove fallen leaves and debris from under the plants and, finally, fertilize around the base of the plants with aluminum sulfate for blue flowers or superphosphate for red.
Avoid walking on wet soil to prevent compaction. Roots push easily through loose soil but struggle when the soil is compacted. If you must walk on your planting beds, place temporary walkways of plywood or stepping stones in the areas where your big feet hit the dirt.
Peas, including sweet peas, are a cool-season crop, best planted when the soil is still cool to the touch. Presoak seeds overnight in damp paper towels for best germination. Plant in deep, loose soil that has been amended with compost. Provide support in the form of a trellis or wire pea cage. Protect young seedlings from hungry snails.