Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2007
Regional Report

Plant Annuals from Seed

Start flats of petunias, lobelia, zinnias and other colorful annuals now to set out in April or May. Plant seeds in fresh, moist potting mix and set them in a sunny, warm location. Cover with clear plastic until seeds germinate, then prop open to allow air circulation. The main reason people fail when planting from seed is they bury the seeds too deeply in the soil. Small seed should rest almost on the surface, covered with a light dusting of potting mix. Planting from seed will save you money and expand your choices!

Patrol for Slugs

Snails and slugs will be out in force soon. Use organic bait such as Sluggo, hand-pick, or lay down barriers of fireplace ashes, diatomaceous earth, or copper tape to prevent slugs from consuming your garden. Birds love to eat slugs, so invite them into your yard with bird feeders or a shallow birdbath.

Prevent Blossom Blight

Camellias suffer from a fungus disease called blossom blight. Keep fallen flowers raked up, and mulch under the plants to prevent fungus spores from splashing back onto the foliage.

Spray Dormant Plants

This is your last chance to spray dormant plants with lime/sulfur to kill overwintering insect pests. Roses, fruit trees, and even deciduous azaleas will benefit from a dormant season spray. At the very least, spray with a horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs.

Provide Habitat

If you have room, leave one corner of your garden in a tangle for wild birds. Secure cover provides hiding places for shy birds such as sparrows and towhees. These birds consume an amazing number of insects. If you want a bug-free garden, set up a "bird hotel" by planting dense, thorny shrubs and vines, such as bougainvillea, pyracantha, barberry, and blackberry.

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