Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
January, 2009
Regional Report

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Train upright branches to spread out for more fruiting by inserting a pruned branch.

Our Real Winter

Oh, rain, wonderful rain! And cold, lots of true chill hours -- under 45 degrees and no higher than 60 degrees -- for our deciduous fruit trees! To say nothing of being able to wear a real coat instead of just a sweater! Hooray for a real winter, Southern Cal style!

When my folks moved here from Chicago in the early 1940s, my Mom remembered the looks of askance she observed when she and my Dad wore only light jackets even during blustery rainy weather when everyone else wore heavy coats and hats. But, after two years, they too had acclimated to our climate and were wearing coats.

I feel the same way, after four years of pepper plants producing all winter long with nary a browned leaf. I worried that my apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, and plums wouldn't bear well because they hadn't endured sufficient chill to enable restful and rejuvenating dormancy. I had chosen varieties needing fewer chill hours but that still had flavors and textures I enjoyed. All but the apples did well.

I knew when I had chosen my Fuji apple that I was pushing the possibility, since the best guess for its needed chill hours was some 700 (when at best we get 300), but I really loved that apple and didn't like the other lower-chill varieties, so was determined to try it.

My Yellow Delicious is a grafted root sucker from the original 1950s-era tree that my Dad planted -- really intensely sweet apple flavor and juicy crunch, completely unlike the modern mushy things by the same name available in grocery stores.

So maybe this year, if the chill hours continue to accumulate, my Fuji and Yellow Delicious apples will finally bloom and bear well.

For the figurative icing on this cake of wonderful winter, our rain came before the chill and therefore moistened the soil deeply so trees were protected from frost damage. The perfect combination!

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