Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

October, 2011
Regional Report

Sample Broccoli Choices

Just about any broccoli variety will do well in our area. Try "sprouting" kinds for lots of small heads. For brilliant chartreuse, pointed heads that taste milder than regular broccoli, try Romanesco, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

Plant Garlic Now for Huge Heads in Spring

Garlic planted now will develop a strong root system over the winter, and leaf production can begin early in the spring, resulting in a large head next summer. The sooner you plant the cloves now in rich, well-drained soil, the larger the bulbs will be at harvest. Planting in the spring, even with rich soil, will produce only medium- or small-sized cloves, or a single bulb without cloves.

Harvest Potatoes Now or Leave Them

Harvest potatoes now, being careful not to cut or bruise them, or leave them in the soil for harvest through the winter. Take care to not expose them to sunlight or soil cracks, however, or they'll develop inedible, bitter green areas. (After off cutting these areas and discarding them, the remaining potato can be eaten.) After harvest, hold the potatoes at 75 to 85 degrees for a week, and then store them at 50 to 60 degrees with high humidity. They should keep for six to fifteen weeks. Refrigerating them at 36 to 40 degrees will turn some of the starch into sugar, making them taste oddly sweet and cook up dark.

Plan for Posies With Bulb Blooms

For a cover crop of flowers before, during, and after spring bulb bloom, sow seeds or plant seedlings of low-growing annual bloomers after you've planted the bulbs. Think of color contrasts such as purple pansies with yellow daffodils or white alyssum with red tulips. Good choices include calendulas, pansies, Iceland poppies, primroses, dwarf snapdragons, dwarf stock, and violas. Sow seed thickly, water the area, mulch it lightly, and keep it moist until seedlings have two sets of true leaves.

Change the Frequency, not the Duration of Irrigation

Help overwintering plants harden off by changing your irrigation schedule. Cooler weather slows evaporation from the soil and transpiration from plant foliage, so irrigation is needed less often. So decrease the number of times -- but not the length of time -- you water. For example, you may only need to water once every three weeks now instead of once a week, but you'll still irrigate for the same amount of time at each watering. (The actual length of watering time needed will depend on your type of soil.) This change will still provide water to deep roots while allowing for longer periods for the soil to dry in between waterings, and it doesn't encourage new, frost-tender growth.

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