Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Inspect Indoor Plants
Indoor plants are still in resting mode, but that doesn't mean that insect pests are taking a break. Low humidity and accumulated dust are the ideal conditions for scale and mealy bug pests to multiply. I discovered an aspidistra covered in scale only this morning! Treat pests with insecticidal soap, increase humidity, and keep plants clean.
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 on second year wood. Prune plants low to the ground; 24-36" is ideal. Leave 5 to 7 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 sulphate for blue flowers, or superphosphate if you prefer red. Use aluminum sulphate on one side and superphosphate on the other for a 50/50 plant!
Avoid walking on wet soil if possible to prevent compaction. Roots push easily through loose soil but struggle if the soil is compacted. If you must walk on your planting beds, place temporary walkways made of plywood or stepping stones in the areas where your feet fall.
Peas and sweet peas are a cool season crop, best planted when the soil is still cool to the touch. Presoak 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 as soon as they emerge from hungry snails.
Make soft or hard wood cuttings of your favorite plants while they are resting. Roses and indoor plants can be propagated by taking a cutting from the end of a branch. Dust the cut end with a rooting hormone. Remove most of the foliage, leaving a few healthy leaves to photosynthesize. Removing most of the foliage will reduce the stress on the cutting.
Place the cutting in damp fresh potting soil, sand or vermiculite, and cover with a plastic bag to hold in humidity and heat. Place the cutting in a bright location and keep moist until you begin to see new growth. A gentle tug will tell you if roots have formed. Once the cuttings have grown roots, transplant into a small container filled with fresh potting soil.