Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

April, 2012
Regional Report

Solve Seed-Starting Problems

Poor germination of seeds may result from several conditions. The seeds may be too old, been poorly stored, or planted too deeply. The soil temperature may be below 50 degrees. The soil may be too dry or too wet. The soil may have too much fresh manure, which burns the seedlings but is wonderful a month or so later for transplants. Soil that forms a crust kills germinating seeds before they can break through the soil surface. To lessen this problem, cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost, potting soil, grass clippings, potting mix or other light-textured substances rather than with the heavier soil.

Include Edible Flowers for Foliage and Bloom

You may already be growing some edible flowers -- the edible portions of artichoke, broccoli, and cauliflower are all immature flowers. Other edible flowers to try are peppery nasturtium blossoms; leaves are also edible. Squash blossoms have a cucumbery flavor. Some marigolds taste unpleasantly strong, but others are mild. Be sure, however, to harvest only flowers and foliage that haven't been sprayed with a pesticide not registered for food.

Feed Trees

Feed all trees heavily for strong growth and good fruit production. Topdress them with compost and fertilizers high in nitrogen (fish emulsion, chicken manure, cottonseed meal, blood meal), and phosphorus (bone meal and rock phosphate). Keep composts, manures, and fertilizers away from tree trunks.

Thin Fruit Tree Fruits Ruthlessly

Start thinning excess fruit set on trees and vines for better-developed remaining fruits with less strain on the tree or vine. This is especially important for those trees bearing fruit for the first or second time. Allow a spacing of five inches between peaches on opposite sides of the branch, and three inches between plums and apricots. Thin peaches before the fruit reaches almond-size for the greatest benefit in size and flavor of the remaining fruit.

Mow Lawns Frequently

Mow lawns up to two times a week to keep the height at about two inches. Don't remove more than one third of the green leaf blades at a time, or the individual grass plants won't have enough left to continue growing, or they'll get sunburned. Because lawns are the greatest users of outdoor irrigation, make sure that the roots are growing deeply, and that they are getting the amount of moisture they need. The two-inch mowing height will allow the lawn to retain some surface moisture, so you don't have to water as often.

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