Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

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

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Brilliant red chard perks up chilly days and warm soups!

Rains! Wonderful Rains!

Our glorious rains have soaked the soil, and the remaining daytime warmth will help winter-sown seeds to sprout and transplants to quickly establish themselves. Fresh-picked chard, lettuce, spinach, and other greens are delicious, nutritious, and far less expensive than what's available at the supermarket. They're worth starting now, if only for their flavor and texture added to store-bought basics. Besides, it's wonderful to have something bright green growing in the garden all winter besides weeds.

Keep the Veggies Coming
Sow chard, kale, leeks, bibb and buttercrunch and romaine lettuce, mustards, green and bulb onions, flat-leaf parsley, peas, radishes, and savoy spinach. Sprinkle just enough to get good contact between seed and soil.

With the nighttime chill, plants will grow very slowly, so sow or transplant three or four times the amount you would in the spring. Lettuce and leafy greens can be spaced very closely since you'll harvest them frequently.

To help concentrate daytime warmth and increase germination, cover the bed with clear plastic sheeting. Anchor down the edges with soil or rocks to keep out slugs and others that love the succulent sprouts, and to keep the sheeting from blowing away.

Harvest leaf crops like lettuce and spinach by removing only the outer leaves. The center leaves will continue growing -- and you'll continue harvesting -- until late spring when they'll go to seed. By then, you'll soon be harvesting spring-sown or transplanted greens to supply your salads.

Start Your Favorite Flowers, Too
Sow African daisies (gazania), ageratum, alyssum, baby-blue-eyes, baby's breath (gypsophila), bachelor's buttons, calendulas, candytuft, delphiniums, forget-me-nots, hollyhocks, impatiens, larkspur, lobelia, money plant (lunaria), lupines, nasturtiums, pansies, sweet peas, California and Iceland and Shirley poppies, verbena, and wildflowers. While they may not germinate immediately, they will after a stretch of warm weather, so keep seed flats moist.

Plant more spring-blooming bulbs early this month, and save some to plant from mid-February through mid-March for extended bloom through late spring.

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