Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

July, 2009
Regional Report

Think Overwintering Veggies!

Sow carrots, celery and cole crops -- broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they're up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week's time.

Hot-Weather Germination

Get better germination during summer's heat by employing several techniques. Sow seeds thickly in flats or beds. Mulch the seeds thinly with sifted compost instead of heavy soil, which easily crusts over. Frequently sprinkle the flat or bed to keep it moist, or leave a mister on for several hours each day. Shield the bed with a piece of burlap or plywood -- this will keep the seeds cooler than the air temperature, give them the moisture they need, and keep the soil surface from crusting. Remove the shade board or burlap after one-fourth of the seeds have germinated. Continue keeping the bed moist until most of the seedlings are up. If flats are used, place them in an area with less than full-day sun, and pay close attention to keeping them moist. Transplant the seedlings when the second set of true leaves develops. These are the ones that look like miniature versions of the mature plant.

No More Corn Planting

Corn planted this late in the season may develop problems with smut (the enlarged grey-black pods) when it's harvested in September. Destroy -- don't compost -- these infected ears carefully to prevent spreading the spores. On the other hand, Southwestern cuisines appreciate the fungus, called huitlacoche -- try it instead of mushrooms in an omelette!

Summer Watering

Soak strawberry beds and fruit and nut trees every other week this month if the weather's especially hot. Keep citrus and avocado trees well-watered through the summer. Build a basin for water to soak in deeply, but start it one foot away from the trunk to prevent crown rot.

Fertilize A Bit

Continue watering and feeding the entire garden with a balanced fertilizer and manure tea or fish emulsion every other week or so for steady growth and food production. Foliar sprays of liquid seaweed help trees, vegetables, fruits, and ornamentals withstand heat stress. Pay special attention to shallow-rooted plants, which wilt and dry out quickly in hot, dry weather. Remember to not overhead water late in the day during warm weather, when leaves can't dry off by sunset, as this encourages diseases.

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