Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

April, 2008
Regional Report

Deter Tomato Hornworms

If hornworms plagued your tomatoes last year, consider planting cherry tomatoes. Their thicker skins and higher alkaloid content seem to repel the worms. Adult hornworms are the larval form of large, fast-flying, mottled gray or brown moths that will hover near tubular flowers at dusk later this summer. As you work your soil prior to planting, destroy the pupae -- the hard, brown, 2-inch spindle-shaped cases with a handle that are buried 3 to 4 inches underground.

Fertilize Veggies Every Six Weeks

Water vegetables with manure tea or fish emulsion when they are transplanted and every six weeks throughout the season for gradual and gentle feeding. Make manure tea by placing a container in the sun and filling it with one part manure and two parts water. Stir the mixture once a week. Within a month, a rich fertilizer tea will be ready to feed plants. Replenishing the container with manure and water after each use will maintain a ready supply throughout the season.

Thin Fruits

Start thinning excess fruit on trees and vines for better developed remaining fruit with less strain on the tree or vine. This is especially important for those trees bearing fruit for the first or second time. Allow a spacing of 5 inches between peaches on opposite sides of the branch, and 3 inches between plums and apricots. Thin peaches before the fruit reaches almond-size. Be ruthless in your thinning: the fruits are small now but will take lots of energy to mature, and you don't want to stress the tree or vine to produce fruit you won't eat because there's too much ripening at one time.

Fertilize Roses

Incorporate manure, bonemeal, and cottonseed meal within the plant dripline to the 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, feed lightly, and water. Water only in the mornings or early afternoons to reduce mildew and other disease problems.

Invite Beneficial Insects

To entice beneficial insects to populate your garden, provide them with their chosen foods and habitats. Weeds such as lamb's quarters, nettle, knotweed, pigweed, and cocklebur, as well as many cultivated annuals, perennials, and herbs are food sources for two of the most important orders of beneficials -- wasps and flies. Most of these plants are members of the umbelliferae and compositae families. Umbelliferae, such as anise, carrot, caraway, coriander, dill, fennel, and parsley, have many tiny flowers arranged in tight umbels. Compositae, such as black-eyed susans, goldenrod, and strawflowers, have central disc flowers surrounded by many ray petals. Mustard flowers attract lacewings, which feed on aphids, and parasitic wasps, which feed on cabbage caterpillars and coddling moths. Rows or interplantings of these plants can support a large beneficial insect population.

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