Five things to do in the garden this week:
1. Now is a good time to bring some garlic home from the grocery store and put it in your refrigerator for planting in October. Garlic benefits from a month of chilling prior to planting. When you plant cloves that have been chilled, the bulbs that grow from them will be more robust than if they are not chilled. That being said, and although fall is the best time to plant garlic locally, you can plant garlic cloves any time of the year in Southern California. You can order so-called seed garlic, which are ordinary-looking garlic bulbs (just as seed potatoes are ordinary-looking potatoes), from online sources. Seed garlic and seed potatoes produce supposedly higher quality garlic bulbs and potato tubers than grocery store equivalents. Yet there is considerable disagreement about this as many backyard gardeners have gotten reliably good crops of garlic and potatoes by planting garlic cloves and potato tubers that came from the grocery store.
2. Speaking of fall planting, now is as good a time as ever to plant strawberries. Richard Mueller of Granada Hills grew Sequoia strawberries for several decades and harvested fruit throughout the year, from a few berries to a few boxes, depending on the season. From just a couple of original plants, he had built a collection of two hundred, whose many runners he was constantly giving away so friends could start strawberry patches of their own. Although strawberry plants have a lifespan of around six years, their productivity declines sharply after two, so if you want to keep plenty of strawberries coming along, you will need to continue propagating them from runners.
Planting now, you will not have much fruit this year and, even if you do see flowers from which the fruit would grow you might want to pick them off and, while you’re at it, any meandering runners, too. You see, the point of planting now is to establish a strong root system, which imparts the vitality needed for producing a bountiful crop next year. Flowers and those characteristic runners use up resources that, at this stage of growth, would more profitably be channeled into root development. You can order Sequoia strawberries online at starkbros.com.
3. If you plan on planting bulbs this fall, pick them up at your nursery or home center garden section as soon as they are available. Otherwise, you will be stuck with the leftovers. The bigger the bulb, the better. If bulbs are moldy or shrimpy or somewhat dry, leave them alone. There are many online sources for bulbs and, as the bulb bins at nurseries are depleted, you will find better quality online. Here, too, it is wise to order now since, as bulb season progresses, the time it takes to process and deliver your order increases too. Most bulbs benefit from being chilled for a couple of months in the refrigerator, but some bulbs, such as most daffodils, can be planted without chilling. Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) do not need chilling and show off large trumpet flowers that are second to none. Amaryllis are pink to tomato red in color and spread reliably throughout the garden, showing off an increasing number of flowers with each passing year. The beauty of bulbs, drought tolerance speaking, is that they do not need to be watered once they finish blooming.
4. Stop fertilizing at this time. You want to winterize your plants, so to speak, especially those in the garden, so that they will not be inclined to put on growth as the weather cools. The exception to this rule are certain indoor plants such as moth orchids which, although they will be less inclined to grow with fewer daylight hours, still appreciate attention to their mineral needs. A good friend of mine fertilizes his moth orchids three weeks out of every four, throughout the year, with a 20-20-20 granular fertilizer at a concentration of one teaspoon per half gallon of water. Every fourth week he applies water alone in order to flush out any salts accumulated from fertilizer application.
5. To speed up propagation from seeds and cuttings, use a heating pad designed for this purpose. Or, better yet, get a foot heating pad, which is a more durable version of the same thing. You then want to find a plastic tub that is the same size as the heating pad, more or less. Place your dixie cups or other small containers in which you have planted seeds or inserted cuttings into the tub and roots will start to form much sooner than they would otherwise. You can acquire a good-sized heating pad through online vendors for around $50.
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