Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

April, 2007
Regional Report

Troubleshoot Poor Seed Germination

Poor germination of seeds may result from several conditions. The seeds may be too old, poorly stored, or planted too deeply. The soil temperature may be too low or too high. The soil moisture may be too dry or too wet. The soil may have too much fresh manure, which burns the seedlings but is wonderful a month or so later for transplants.

Water Seed Beds

Keep the newly seeded area moist but not soggy until two true leaves develop ("true" leaves are the ones that look like tiny versions of the mature leaves). Sprinkling the bed with a fine spray of water several times a day helps. If a muddy slurry results from irrigation, it will dry into a crust. Soil that forms a crust can kill germinating seeds before they can break through the soil surface. To lessen this problem, cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost, potting soil, grass clippings, potting mix, or other light-textured substances rather than the heavier soil.

Fertilize Roses

Feed roses heavily to ready them for their long blooming season. Incorporate manure, bonemeal, and cottonseed meal within the plant dripline to a depth of 3 inches. Water deeply. Once a week or every other week until fall, prune the spent blooms down to the first five-part leaf or a bit further to gently shape the plant, then feed lightly and water. Repeating this process throughout the season will encourage continuous bloom. Water only in the mornings or early afternoons to lessen mildew and other disease problems.

Set Mower Height High

Mow lawns up to two times a week to keep the height at about 2 inches. Don't remove more than one third of the green leaf blades at a time, or the individual grass plants may not have enough left to continue growing, and also may get sunburned. Since lawns are the greatest users of outdoor irrigation and it's important to make sure the roots are growing deeply, the 2-inch mowing height will allow the lawn to retain some surface moisture so you don't have to water as often.

Mix Your Own Natural Fertilizer

Make your own complete, slow-release, and fairly well-balanced granulated fertilizer from natural ingredients. Use four parts seed meal or fish meal; one part agricultural or dolomite lime; and one part rock phosphate or one-half part bonemeal and one-half part kelp meal. Seed meal is any kind of ground-up seed. Cottonseed is the most inexpensive and is easy to work with but contains the most pesticide residues. Fish meal tends to be odorous for a day or two after incorporation (just pretend you're at the beach). All are high in nitrogen and contain moderate amounts of phosphorus but little potassium. Agricultural lime or the more balanced dolomite lime should be finely ground so it acts quickly. Do not use quicklime or slaked lime. Bonemeal and rock phosphate are effective phosphate fertilizers. Bonemeal is faster-acting but is more expensive and tends to become lumpy. Kelp meal adds potassium and many necessary trace elements.

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