Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2007
Regional Report

Transplant These Veggies

Transplant artichoke and asparagus crowns and rhubarb rhizomes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, green and bulb onions, flat-leaf parsley, radishes, and savoy spinach. Plant cole crops up to the first set of leaves to prevent their maturing into weak, less-productive plants.

Use Care When Transplanting

When transplanting, be careful not to compact the soil now that it's thoroughly cold and moist. Dig and replace the soil gently, and barely water in the transplant -- just enough to settle the roots. Do not stomp it with your hand or foot. Tamping the soil more than lightly will damage the soil tilth by compression.

Plant Grapes and Berries

Plant grapes, berry vines, and strawberries from now through March. Tips from last year's berry canes should be well rooted. Cut off the vine above the third node from the rooted tip. Use a slanted cut at the top and a straight cut at the bottom so you'll know which end is which when you transplant it.

Prune Deciduous Fruits and Nuts

This is the big month for pruning deciduous fruit and nut trees. Basic guidelines for winter dormant pruning are to remove crowded or crossed branches to open the center for good light exposure and airflow, to repair structural weakness, and to remove vigorous vertical branches (waterspouts). The height or width of the tree can also be reduced. Avoid leaving stubs and overpruning in any single year, as this encourages excessive new foliage growth and less fruit. An excellent, inexpensive, and easily used disinfectant for pruning tools is rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Wipe shears with the alcohol after pruning every several cuts to avoid spreading any diseases. Clean the blades extra well before moving to another tree or bush. Pruning cuts that are under 1-1/2 inches across don't need protective covering. Paint larger cuts with an off-white or sand-colored interior latex paint that has a matte finish, not a glossy one. Black asphalt substances or dark-colored paint, especially on south-facing surfaces, will concentrate the sun's heat, baking and killing the tissue that the tree is trying to heal.

Pruning citrus trees requires a different approach: remove entire branches at the trunk. Heading branches back (cutting off only portions) will remove wood that would have blossomed and set fruit this coming season, and will stimulate more bushy growth.

Prune Berries

Cane berries are most easily pruned when all their leaves have fallen and the buds have just begun to fill out and show their light pink color. The dead canes and the plant structure are then quite apparent, and the thorns are more easily avoided. When clipping away all the dead growth, be careful not to injure the new pink shoots at the crown. Then prune each strong cane from the root crown just above its point of attachment to the top horizontal support of the trellis. Prune side shoots just after the third strong bud. Spread and re-anchor the upright canes evenly along the trellis in order to keep the area open for good ventilation and to promote the even spread of developing foliage. This pruning and trellising procedure will encourage strong growth of fruiting vines but not of unnecessary foliage.

Although cutting down all dead and growing vines at the soil level in a clean sweep is an easy approach, it encourages weak bushy growth with only a few berries setting very low on the plant. A variation of this easier approach would be to clean-cut half of the berry vines every two years. Then you'll always have a year-old patch to bear fruit the following summer.


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