Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

December, 2000
Regional Report

Cover Seeds

For best germination, cover seed or seedling trays with clear plastic sheeting after watering them in. Although the plastic doesn\'t reduce the nighttime chill, it does help the soil absorb daytime warmth and lessens evaporation. This provides the seeds with a more comfortable environment in which to sprout and develop. When the seedlings are 1 inch tall, remove the plastic during the day to begin acclimating them to the coolness, but recover them at night. After 1 to 2 weeks, remove the cover completely.

Protect Seedlings

Provide seedlings with cloches made from clear plastic milk or water jugs with their caps removed and their bottoms cut off. These mini greenhouses protect seedlings from wind and cold until they\'re established. Place the jugs over the seedlings after they\'ve been watered well. Press the jugs about 1 inch deep into the soil to stabilize them and to prevent the entry of pests such as cutworms. Remove jugs when the foliage begins to crowd the cloche or when night temperatures stay above 50F.

Avoid Compacting Soils

When transplanting seedlings, be careful not to compact the soil, especially when it's cold and moist. Dig and replace the soil gently and water the transplant just enough to settle the roots. Do not press the soil with your hand or foot. Tamping the soil heavily will make it hard for plant roots to get water and air.

Sow Flowers

It's time to sow some flowers outdoors for spring. The long list of flowers that can be planted now includes ageratum, alyssum, bachelor's button, calendula, candytuft, celosia, columbine, coreopsis, English daisy, delphinium, dianthus, forget-me-not, four-o-clock, hollyhock, larkspur, lunaria, pansy, California and Shirley poppies, salvia, snapdragon, stock, sweet pea, sweet William, and native wildflowers.

Add Soil Amendments

Soil amendments such as compost, manure, and organic fertilizers incorporated into the soil or applied on its surface now will decay over the winter, and their nutrients will wash into the soil gradually with each rain. Which amendments to add depends on your soil needs based on a soil test. At the very least, all soils can benefit from an addition of nutrient-rich and soil-building compost.


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