Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

August, 2012
Regional Report

Pinch Blossoms

Pinch off the last blossoms of eggplants, peppers, melons, squashes, and tomatoes. Plant energy will then be spent maturing fruit that's already set, instead of setting more fruit that won't ripen sufficiently before fall cold (yes, it's coming!).

Feed Berries Now For Next Year's Yield

The size of next summer's bramble and strawberry fruits is determined this month and next. The more fertilizer and irrigation during this period, the bigger and more plentiful the berries will be next spring. Propagate bramble fruits by bending the cane tips to the soil surface and burying one or two nodes an inch or so deep.

Seed Onions; Don't Buy Sets

Sowing bulb onion seed now will provide green onions throughut the winter and small bulb onions in late spring. Dig these up when their tops dry, and replant them as sets after the following January's frosts. They will develop into full-size bulbs the following summer. (The set-size bulbs that are larger than a dime may bolt when replanted, but they can be used in winter recipes as "pearl" onions, or used for their greens.) If this sounds like too long to wait when sets are readily available commercially, consider that many more varieties are available in seed that produce better in our area than the sets, which are generally from the Midwest. Unless you purchase the sets from a reputable nursery as soon as they are put on display in late summer or early fall, chances are they'll bolt because they've been kept too warm for too long. So, as inexpensive as seed is, and as simple as germinating them is, a little effort every so often produces many more quality green and bulb onions.

Pick Off Faded Flowers for Another Flush of Blooms

Encourage more blooming periods by removing mature flowers and seed pods of coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, marigold, penstemon, Shasta daisies, yarrow and zinnia. Cut perennials back to within six inches of the soil, and they may bloom again in the fall. Continue gently shaping roses after pruning suckers, unwanted branches, and spent blooms; then cultivate manure, bonemeal, and cottonseed meal into the top three inches of soil, and water deeply.

Harvest Sunflowers For People and Birds

Cover sunflower seed heads with cheesecloth when birds start pecking, but also leave a couple heads uncovered for the birds. Heads are ready to cure when the backside of the head is brown and dry, with no trace of green. Cut off the seed head, leaving a foot or two of stalk attached. Hang it to cure -- still in the cheesecloth -- in a well-ventilated, warm location. When the backs are entirely brown and crisp, the seeds should snap out easily.

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