Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2004
Regional Report

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Keep tomato fruits off the ground with double-decker cages stabilized with metal stakes.

April Fool's Weather

I've already transplanted my tomatoes, and sown my first planting of squash, beans, and cucumbers. Ordinarily, I wait till mid-month to assure myself that the weather's going to stay warm and not flip-flop again. And to take advantage of California State University at Fullerton's annual plant sale -- this year on April 24 and 25.

But my cue that couldn't be denied was a "jumble bed" where I'd tossed a couple of handfuls of loose vegetable seeds, and they'd all come up. So I knew it was time for me to proceed with my intended garden.

I will wait a bit longer, however, to transplant corn, eggplant, melons, and peppers, all of which tend to just sit there and sulk until it gets consistently really warm. They never really catch up, so I just give them what they want ... later.

Don't Forget Edible Flowers
Be sure to add to your garden some edible flowers for their foliage and their bloom. You may already grow some; the edible portions of artichokes, broccoli, and cauliflower are all immature flowers. Nasturtium leaves and flowers taste peppery. 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 hasn't been sprayed with a pesticide not registered for food.

Choose Pest-Resistant Varieties
If hornworms have plagued your tomatoes in the past, consider planting cherry tomatoes. Their thicker skins and higher alkaloid content seem to repel the worm. Adult hornworms are the larval form of large fast-flying, mottled gray or brown moths that will hover near tubular flowers at dusk later this summer. As you work your soil prior to planting, destroy the pupae -- the hard, brown, 2-inch spindle-shaped cases with a handle that are buried 3 to 4 inches underground.

An Early Fertilizer Boost
Feed vegetables with manure tea or fish emulsion when they are transplanted and every six weeks throughout the season for gradual and gentle feeding. Make manure tea by placing a container in the sun and filling it with one part manure and two parts water. Stir the mixture once a week. Within a month, a rich fertilizer tea will be ready to feed plants. Replenishing the container with manure and water after each use will maintain a ready supply throughout the season.

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