Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

March, 2007
Regional Report

Evaluate Sunlight When Locating Crops

An average of six hours of direct sun daily is the minimum amount necessary for leaf and rooting crops like lettuce and carrots. At least 8 hours of direct sun is necessary for blossoming and fruiting crops like tomatoes and squash.

Sprout Sweet Potatoes Indoors

Sweet potato sets can be started indoors now for planting outside in May. Place small to medium-sized tubers in a container that drains well, and cover them with light, sandy soil or planter mix. Maintain a damp but not soggy moisture and a 70- to 75-degree temperature in bright light. Sprouts will be ready for transplanting in four to six weeks. An easy way to start sweet potato sprouts -- and give yourself an ornamental plant at the same time -- is to sprout a tuber in a glass or jar filled halfway with water. Shoots will sprout from the top half, and roots will grow from the bottom half. You may even decide you like the foliage so much, you'll keep it growing as a houseplant, perhaps stringing the vines around a window. To plant the sweet potato shoots into the garden, carefully pull or cut the 9- to 12-inch shoots from the starter root, retaining attached roots. Plant these 12 inches apart in sandy, well-drained soil. Water them in well with a half-strength solution of a balanced fertilizer, and shade them from the hot midday sun for a week.

Plant Citrus and Avocados

Citrus and avocado trees do best when they're planted from late this month through May. Choose a southwest exposure that is protected from the wind for the best protection from cold weather and frost. Plant them on a mound or in a raised bed so water drains away from the roots. Rub suckers off trunks as they appear. Tape together or remove broken branches. Paint trunks and large limbs with a matte-finish, off-white interior latex paint mixed half and half with water to prevent sunscald.

Wait to Plant Bougainvilleas

Wait to plant bougainvilleas until later this month or in April, after all threat of frost is past.

Pruning Roses With Your Fingernail

Rub off new, unwanted foliage on roses, especially when it points in toward the center of the bush. When the growth is young, this pruning is easy; just the flick of a fingernail will do the job. And squish those first aphids right on the stems and buds (use gloves if you're squeamish) so the bug juice wards off future generations.

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