Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

February, 2009
Regional Report

Prune Fuchsias

Mid February is the ideal time to prune fuchsias. Fuchsia blooms on new wood only, so cut them back hard. The basic frame should retain many branch stubs, so you get an abundance of flowers. Hanging plants should be cut back to the rim of the pot. Wait to fertilize until you begin to see new growth. Use a balanced, slow-release product. Once new growth begins in earnest, keep branch tips pinched back for an explosion of blossoms!

Awaken Indoor Cactus

Water indoor cactus plants when you begin to see new growth. Soak pots in a bucket of tepid water until the root ball stops bubbling. Topdress surface soil with bone meal or cotton seed meal. The plants should reward you with a flush of blooms.

Care for Cut Flowers

If you receive a bouquet of flowers for Valentine's Day, please make sure to make a fresh cut to the stems. Cut flowers, especially for this particular holiday, have had rough treatment and may have been left out of water for some time. Place the stems in a deep bowl or basin and make a new cut under the water. You will see a tiny bubble escape from the stem -- that's air that was trapped inside which would otherwise move up the stem and cause the flower to wilt prematurely. Use the floral preservative that came with the bouquet or, mix 1/2 cup of lemon lime soda with 1 quart of tepid water. The lemon acts as a fungicide and the sugar feeds the blooms. Use one ounce of gin or vodka for bulb flowers. Never mix daffodils with other types of flowers. The juices from their stems clog capillaries.

Slug Watch

Warmer nights and longer days mean that slugs and snails will be on the move. Tiny snail hatchlings are ravenous and will destroy tender foliage overnight. Use an iron phosphate-based bait or hand pick larger snails. Slugs can be controlled with copper foil placed around planting beds. Invite migrating birds into your garden by setting out bird baths and feeders. Birds love to eat snails and slugs! Eliminate snail hiding places by keeping garden beds raked clean.

Sow Peas

I LOVE fresh peas from the garden. Plant now for spring harvest. Peas require rich, sandy soil and full sun. Amend soil with organic compost and provide a trellis for them to climb. Unused tomato cages work well. Protect young pea plants from hungry birds by temporarily covering with netting. Once the plants are a few inches tall, you can remove the net.

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