Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2008
Regional Report

Start Tomatoes and Peppers Indoors

In anticipation of that sunny, warm summer weather that will surely come, start tomato and pepper seeds of your favorite varieties indoors. After the seeds germinate, move the containers to a cooler area with as much direct sun as possible for sturdy seedling development. Too much warmth and too little light will result in spindly growth that will not produce well outdoors.

Prune Cane Berries

Cane berries are most easily pruned when all their leaves have fallen off and the buds have just begun to fill out and show their light pink color. The dead canes and the plant structure are quite apparent, and the thorns are more easily avoided. When clipping away all the dead growth, be careful not to injure the new pink shoots at the crown. Then prune each strong cane from the root crown just above its point of attachment to the top horizontal support of the trellis. Prune side shoots just after the third strong bud. Spread and re-anchor the upright canes evenly along the trellis in order to keep the area open for good ventilation and promote the even spread of developing foliage. This pruning and trellising procedure will encourage strong growth of fruiting vines but not of unnecessary foliage. Although cutting down all dead and growing vines at the soil level in a clean sweep is an easy approach, it encourages weak bushy growth with only a few berries setting very low on the plant.

Dig Wide Planting Holes for Trees

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, 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, making it prone to being blown over as it grows larger. 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 drip line.

Spray Dormant Oil

This month's "height" or "depth" of dormancy is time for another spraying of dormant oil for fruit trees, especially if this was not done last month or if it rained within two days of that application. The point is to have the sprayed material on the tree throughout the dormant season, especially at specific pest growth periods. Choose a day when the temperature stays above 40 degrees and the wind is calm. For peach leaf curl, choose a lime-sulfur fungicide. The next critical time for spraying is about mid-February, when the buds are swollen but don't yet show color. Spraying at the precise period of bud swell is critical; before the buds swell is too early, and after the blossoms open is too late. Once the buds open, the damage has already been done.

Let Your Lawns Breathe

Lawns -- especially frosty or soggy ones -- need to breathe so keep leaves and litter raked up, and stay off them as much as possible.

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