Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

January, 2002
Regional Report

Planting Rhubarb

Rhubarb prefers partial shade. Plant the single bud of its rhizome at the soil line. The wide spread of its mature leaves requires four feet between plants. Water deeply once new growth begins. Restrain yourself from harvesting until the plant's second season, to enable the plant to get established. When you do harvest, pull off the stalks -- don't cut them with a knife because this encourages rotting at the base. Harvest no more than one third of the plant's stalks at any one time so you don't stress the plant by removing too much foliage.

Buying Bareroot Trees

Buy bareroot fruit and nut trees that have well-developed fibrous root systems, a single well-shaped leader, and no serious bark injury. Avoid trees with circling or tangled roots. Branches should be smaller than the trunk and growing from it at angles more horizontal than 45 degrees.

Preparing Planting Holes

Dig tree planting holes at least a foot or two wider than the diameter of the rootball, but just deep enough so that the tree will sit at the same height as it did in the nursery. Loosen soil and add a little compost and manure, but don\'t be too generous, or the tree roots will find their \"container\" too comfortable. Instead of spreading into the surrounding soil, the roots will circle in the planting hole. This poor anchoring will make the tree prone to blowing over as it grows. As the tree develops, feeder roots will remain somewhat close to the surface, so keep ground covers and construction away from the trunk at least as far as its dripline.

Reblooming that Gift Amaryllis

Caring for a gift amaryllis so it will bloom again is easy. After it's through blooming and the stem dries down (it is reabsorbing energy for next year's bloom), cut off the bloomstalk about an inch above where it emerges from the bulb. Place the plant in a warm, sunny place to grow. Water it generously, and fertilize regularly until Labor Day. Watering with a quarter-strength houseplant fertilizer solution each time will provide constant feeding for gradual growth. Don't let the soil get dry at any time, as this will disrupt the cycle. Flower buds set in fall when night temperatures are cooler, from 50 to 55 degrees.

Gift Poinsettias Take More Attention

Acclimating gift poinsettias to the cold outdoors before planting them into the garden is also easy. First, clip long branches after the third node to encourage bushier growth. Place plants in a sunny spot outdoors that's protected from wind for several hours each day, and a cool spot indoors at night. After a week or two, plants should survive a full day outdoors in the protected spot. Keep the soil moist, and feed them a slow-release or quarter-strength regular fertilizer every week or so. After another month, they can be successfully transplanted into the garden.


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