Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

October, 2011
Regional Report

Harvest Herbs for Holiday Decor or Presents

Harvest herbs for making wreaths or vinegars as holiday presents. Herb wreaths are easy to make and can include whatever herbs are most used by your recipient. Good choices include basil, oregano, marjoram, anise, parsley, thyme, sage, dill, tarragon and rosemary.

Harvest Pumpkins and Other Squash

Harvest pumpkins, winter squash, and decorative gourds when the vines are dry and the rinds are hard and resist easy puncture by a fingernail. Cut the stems rather than breaking or tearing them, and leave two inches of stem attached to the squash to lessen the chance of spoilage. Gourds will dry more quickly if you drill a small hole at each end. Let them cure in a dry, well-ventilated area at room temperature for two weeks. Store cured squash at 50 to 60 degrees in a dry area. Check them weekly for mold. If any appears, wipe it off with a paper towel moistened with vinegar, and let dry before storing. Squash should keep up to six months.

Help Citrus and Avocado Harden Off

Feed subtropicals like citrus and avocado with a fertilizer containing high levels of phosphorus and potassium but no nitrogen to help them become cold-hardy. Keep them watered, though, until the rains take over.

Thin Azalea and Camellia Blossom Buds

Thin bloom buds to three or four inches apart for fewer but more spectacular blooms in the spring. Feed camellias and azaleas lightly all winter long to help develop their spring blooms.

Discard, Don't Burn Oleander Prunings

After you've pruned your oleanders, remember not to burn the trimmings. The entire plant is toxic, including the smoke from burning and the water in which flowers have been placed. According to the AMA Handbook on Poisonous and Injurious Plants, the toxins in the plant are cardioactive glycosides similar to those in digitalis. However, you can compost oleander leaves, flowers, and stems -- but only if the pile gets hot enough -- since bacteria and fungi will break down the toxic organic compounds. Large stems and branches that won't compost quickly should be discarded.

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