Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

September, 2008
Regional Report

Troubleshooting Poor Germination

Problems with seed germination may be due to old seed, soil that is too warm or has been allowed to dry out, or seeds that were sown either too deeply or not deeply enough. Sow seed thickly and count on transplanting the ones that do come up. Then, for later sowings, buy fresh seed to guarantee you'll have strong plants for eating and viewing through the winter.

Make Multiple Bulb Plantings

For a long-lasting spring display, plant some early, midseason, and late-blooming bulbs every other week from October through mid-December, and again beginning in late January. Depth of planting also affects when the bulbs will bloom: shallower plantings will bloom sooner, and deeper plantings will bloom later. If you want everything to bloom for one spectacular display, plant the bulbs at the same time and at the same depth. If you prefer color over several months' time, plant bulbs every several weeks, and vary the planting depths each time you plant.

Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Buy some bulbs just for indoor forcing from Thanksgiving through January. Good choices include amaryllis, crocuses, freesias, lily-of-the-valley, paperwhites, and tulips. Store the bulbs in a cool, well-ventilated area until you're ready to plant them. Chill crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, narcissus, and tulip bulbs in a paper bag on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator for at least six weeks. Wrap them in a paper -- not plastic -- bag, since the bulbs are alive and must breathe. But don't keep them near ripening fruit, since the ethylene gas will spoil the bloom buds.

Transplant While Soil is Warm

Transplant shrubs and trees no later than six weeks before the soil temperature drops to 40 degrees or lower to give them enough time to get their roots established before going dormant for the winter.

Switch Fertilizers

Switch to a 0-10-10 fertilizer for azaleas, camellias, gardenias, and rhododendrons to encourage formation of next spring's blossom buds. Increase the spring bloom size of azaleas, camellias, dahlias, and rhododendrons by removing half of the new flower buds. For extra-large camellia blooms, remove all but one bud per branch; leave some further down on the bush for later bloom.

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