Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

March, 2008
Regional Report

Check Irrigation System

Test-drive your sprinkler system to see what has stopped working over the winter. Sprinkler heads are favorite winter hiding spots for slugs, earwigs, and other creepy crawlers. Unplug clogged heads, flush drip lines by removing the end emitter, and make sure automatic clocks are in good working order. This might be the time to install a smart controller. These computer-driven devices are linked with a weather-monitoring system and deliver water according to your soil type, landscape, and weather.

Deadhead Spring-Blooming Bulbs

Deadhead faded daffodils, hyacinths, and other spring-blooming bulbs after the blooms have faded. Keep the leafy part of the bulb plant vigorous and strong by fertilizing with a balanced product. The longer you can keep the foliage going, the stronger your bulbs will be next year. Once the foliage begins to turn yellow, usually around mid-May, withhold water. Dry foliage may be bundled, but not removed, until completely dry. Martha Stewart braids her spring-blooming bulb foliage until it's done for the season.

Plant Dahlias

Plant summer-blooming dahlias now. Select a site in full sun with fast-draining, rich soil. Plant dahlias so that the eye is facing up. Sometimes it's difficult to detect the eye, but it is usually just below the dry stem portion and just above the tuber. Dig a hole 14 inches deep, lay the tuber in the bottom, and barely cover with soil. As the plant begins to grow, continue to cover with more and more soil until the hole is filled. This process helps develop strong stems to support big flowers!

Patrol for Aphids

With the warmer weather, keep an eye out for infestations of aphids on new growth of roses. If you find large colonies, wash the foliage with a strong jet of water or purchase ladybugs from your garden center and release in the evening hours after watering the garden well.

Harvest Sweet Peas

Glorious bouquets of heavenly scented flowers are the reason for growing these early-spring annuals. Sweet peas (Lathyrus) benefit from a weekly gathering of blossoms. The more flowers you cut, the more the plants will produce. As a matter of fact, the common name in Holland is "Cut & Cut Again." Once the plant is allowed to go to seed, flower production will cease. Cut the flowers at the base of the stem near the vine.

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