Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2007
Regional Report

Sow Veggies

Some seeds will sprout outdoors, given a little time, including chard, kale, leeks, Bibb and iceberg lettuces, mustards, green and bulb onions, flat-leaf parsley, peas, radishes, and savoy spinach. Indoors, sow more of these and broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chamomile, caraway, cauliflower, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, lettuce, marjoram, mint, oregano, curly-leafed parsley, sage, spinach, tarragon, and thyme.

Cover Seedlings

You can help seeds germinate (and early seedlings grow) outdoors by covering the seed or seedling beds or trays with clear plastic sheeting after watering them in. Although the plastic doesn't alleviate very much of the chill from cold nights, it does help the soil absorb daytime warmth, and it lessens evaporation. This provides the seeds with a more comfortable environment in which to sprout and develop.

Plant Garlic and Onions

Plant garlic cloves, bulb onion sets, and shallots where they will be able to dry out for a month before harvest next summer. When digging to plant these, move the soil as little as possible: remove a full scoopful with a small hand trowel, place the clove/set/bulb in, and gently crumble the soil back on top. Sprinkle just to settle the soil around it.

Plant Bare-Root Trees

Plant bare-root fruit and nut trees (except for citrus and avocados) through early March. Buy trees that have well-developed fibrous root systems, a single well-shaped leader, and no serious bark injury. Avoid trees with circling or tangled roots. Branches should be smaller than the trunk and growing from it at angles more horizontal than 45 degrees. Roots of mature trees can spread up to three or four times beyond the distance from trunk to dripline, so be sure to prepare the planting hole well at least a foot or two beyond the size of the rootball. Loosen soil and add some compost and manure if desired, but don't be too generous or the tree roots will not have to reach out into surrounding soil for nutrients. Instead, they'll circle in the planting hole and not anchor the tree well outside, making it prone to being blown over, the larger it grows. As the tree develops, feeder roots will remain somewhat close to the surface, so keep ground covers and construction away from the trunk at least as far as its dripline.

Keep the Garden Watered

Our periodic showers haven't been sufficient to wet more than the surface of the soil. Water as long as you do in the summer, to make sure the deep roots are kept moist, just water less frequently.

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