Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2008
Regional Report

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Many new color combinations brighten the fall garden.

More Winterizing of the Garden

Here are some more activities to attend to before winter's chill settles in:

Wait to cut asparagus ferns until they've turned completely brown, generally after the first hard frost. By then, they've reabsorbed all their energy back into the crowns for next year's edible shoots. Cutting them sooner means throwing away this recycled nutrition. Trim the fronds at soil level rather than yanking them from the crown to avoid injuring the crowns.

For the greatest yields of broccoli, pinch out (and eat!) the main shoot a month after transplanting. This will force several large side shoots. Waiting to cut the main head after it's full-sized will result in more but smaller side shoots. Or, seed "sprouting" broccoli varieties for many small shoots.

Cole crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi) and Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) will taste sweeter when harvested after the first hard frost, when the chill turns some of the vegetable starch into sugar.

Fruit Trees
Leave citrus fruit on the trees until they're needed -- many varieties become sweeter the longer they're left on the tree. When all the fruit is picked, spray the tree with a dormant oil spray.

Anchor stakes and ties to young trees and shrubs to stabilize them against winter winds -- but not so tightly that the tree can't sway in the breeze. This movement helps the roots grow into strong anchors that firmly establish the tree.

Remove mulch from under trees back to the drip line. The bare soil can then more easily absorb the day's heat and release it to the trees at night. This also discourages overwintering of disease-carrying bacteria and insects.

Knock down water basins around trees and plants to lessen the chance of sitting water and the resulting root rot. Loosen the soil within the basins so water can penetrate more easily.

Color Plants and Trees
After chrysanthemums finish blooming, cut their stems to about 3 inches from the soil. Trim fuchsias only to shape them, but wait to thoroughly prune them until late spring, after the plants have leafed out. Root the hardwood portions of these and geranium cuttings in a protected outdoor area for more plants.

Slightly prune top-heavy trees to reduce wind resistance by cutting out whole branches so you can look through the tree -- this means wind can blow through, too. But, hold off on heavy pruning until the trees are completely dormant, in January.

Move container plants next to but not touching a south- or west-facing wall so plants absorb reflected daytime heat but are shielded from winds.

The Whole Garden
Dig in manure and compost. These will break down over the winter, and nutrients will be available for immediate use when seeds are sown and transplants begin to grow vigorously in the spring. Another approach is to lay manure down now but wait until spring to dig it into the soil; until then, the rains will percolate through the manure and provide "manure tea" to enrich the soil underneath.

Rearrange indoor plants if necessary for winter conditions. Keep them away from cold drafts by windows and away from drying heat of fireplaces or vents. Move them closer to windows to get what winter sunlight they can. Many houseplants also go dormant at this time of year, so they need less water and fertilizer.

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