Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

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

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I finally let the tomatoes keep their blooms, now that the bushes are 2 feet tall and fill the width of their cages.

Veggie Growth Moves Into High Gear

That 3-day, 100-plus-degree heat spell we had really got everything growing. Luckily, I'd just watered the garden for the first time since the February rains, so the plants could sustain the heat-shock. But the resulting vigor is marvelous. I even let my first tomatoes keep their blossoms, now that the plants are 2 feet tall and have filled the width of their cages.

Even with the following week of barely 70 degrees, everything took off. With the promise of consistently hot weather coming closer, I sowed seeds of lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes, and late-season tomatoes.

Some varieties I choose ripen at about the same time, since I plan to preserve some of the bounty. For eating fresh, I choose varieties that ripen only a few fruits at a time for a longer eating season, and I'll reseed or transplant seedlings every two or three weeks for continuous harvests.

If you find tomato hornworms, which are so difficult to see since they're the exact same green as the plants they're eating, sprinkle the plants lightly with water first. As the hornworms wiggle to shake off the water, you can easily see them and remove them. Years ago, my husband found a 5-inch-long one that he threw into the street so it'd get run over.

Once you've enjoyed a heavy fruit-bearing period of strawberries, fertilize with a balanced fertilizer for continued strong growth and fruit set. A seaweed and fish emulsion solution offers many micronutrients. Avoid mulching with manure, however, as strawberries are not tolerant of salt, and manure (especially chicken) has a relatively high level. Even with excellent irrigation and drainage, summer heat will cause this saltiness to burn the berry plants.

Plant citrus and other tender trees. Keep the soil well mulched to hold in moisture with fewer waterings. Too little water results in stunted growth and reduced fruiting.

Feed fruit trees, now that they're actively growing. They'll provide a good leaf canopy with these additional nutrients.

Renew mulches under grapes and berries. Strawberries and blueberries benefit from loose, acidic mulches such as pine needles or rotted sawdust. Raspberries and blackberries prefer a hay or straw mulch.

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