Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

March, 2011
Regional Report

Determine Your Soil's Texture

To easily determine the texture of your soil, fill a jar two-thirds full of water and the rest with soil' To speed the settling process, add one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent, and then shake the jar well. Place it on a windowsill where you can observe the results without moving it. After a few days, the layers will be apparent, and you can make your analysis. The heavy sand particles will settle first to the bottom of the jar, followed by the silt and then the clay. Organic matter will float. Good loam contains about 45% sand, 35% silt, and 20% clay.

Pluck Strawberry Blossoms

Remove strawberry blossoms through May -- or whenever the warm weather has settled in for good -- to concentrate the plant's first real burst of fruiting energy into large sweet berries rather than small tart ones. Unless, of course, you're desperately waiting for that very first berry, even if it is tart.

Give Veggies the Right Light

An average of six hours of direct sun daily is the minimum amount necessary for leaf and root crops like lettuce and carrots. At least eight hours is necessary for blossoming and fruiting crops like tomatoes and squash since they have to do all that extra work to develop the part we eat.

Harvest Peas ASAP!

Harvest pea pods as soon they are ready, depending on the variety. Allowing them to mature too fully on the vine will stop further blossoming. This is true for summer crops like cucumbers, peppers, and squash.

Drought-Resistant Flowering Plants

Drought-tolerant flowering annuals include alyssum, cosmos, gazania, geranium, helichrysum, marigold, morning glory, phlox, portulaca, thunbergia, verbena, vinca, and zinnia. Perennials include achillea, anaphalis, artemisia, asclepias, coreopsis, daylily, dianthus, echinopsis, eryngium, gaillardia, lavandula, potentilla, salvia, santolina, sedum, sempervivum, stachys, thyme, verbena and veronica. Many beautiful flowering shrubs are naturally drought-resistant and provide food and habitat for birds and small animals.S These include Australian fuchsias, ceanothus, coffee berry, cotoneaster, pineapple guava, manzanita, and rockrose. For fall and winter color, dwarf pomegranate, pyracantha, and barberry are excellent choices.

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