Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2009
Regional Report

Prune Hydrangeas

Now is the time to groom and prune hydrangeas. Remove all but the previous season's growth which can be identified by its shiny, fawn-colored bark. Flowers form in year-old wood. Prune plants low to the ground; 24 to 36 inches is ideal. Leave five to seven healthy branches arranged in a vase shape. Rake up and remove fallen leaves and debris from under the plants and finally, fertilize around the base of the plants with aluminum sulfate for blue flowers or superphosphate for red.

Sow Peas

Peas are a cool-season crop, best planted when the soil is still cool to the touch. Pre-soak seeds in damp paper towels for best germination. Plant in deep, loose soil which has been amended with organic compost. Provide support in the form of a trellis or wire pea cage. Protect young seedlings from hungry snails.

Dormant Spray for Deciduous Plants

Smother overwintering insect eggs by spraying deciduous trees and shrubs with a dormant oil or copper/oil spray before new growth begins. Apply lime sulfur spray to roses or other deciduous plants that tend toward fungus problems. Always wear protective clothing including gloves, boots, and goggles when spraying. Don't apply spray on windy or rainy days.

Prune Evergreen Shrubs

Existing evergreen shrubs benefit from early season pruning. By thinning the growth from the center of the plant just before the active growing season, you increase air circulation and light. Plants will respond with a lush burst of growth in a few weeks. First remove any dead, diseased, or injured wood from the plant, then follow branches back to the main stems and remove flush with the trunk. Remove several branches instead of clipping the outside foliage with hedge shears for healthier plants in the long run.

Lawn Care

Soggy lawns suffer in wet weather. Use a spading fork or golf shoes and walk across the lawn to get oxygen down to the roots. The more air you incorporate into the soil, the less trouble you will have with fungus diseases. Don't fertilize yet -- new growth is very susceptible to fungus disease. Wait for the weather to warm and the days to get a little longer before applying fertilizer. After mowing, wash the underside of the mower with a 10% solution of bleach or Lysol to prevent the spread of fungus diseases.

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