Monday, October 19, 2009

Warm Weather Bud Dropping

By Kent Higgins

October weather is very unpredictable. Many Western horticulturists maintain stoutly that all weather here is just as temperamental as an Eastern spring and that, on occasion, it has been known to baffle many self-respecting plants.

High temperatures often prevail during the first part of the month followed by vigorous early storms accompanied by rains and later by sharp frosts. The most troublesome areas are the central valleys and inter-mountain regions.

Watering during warm spells - Should the weather still be warm don't hesitate to use the sprinklers sparingly on those plants that appreciate moisture. Rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and their kin have been known to drop their precious buds simply because of a couple of weeks of unseasonably warm weather in October.

Bulb planting - Go heavy on bulb planting except in the warmer parts of Southern California and Arizona. There it will be best to delay the job until December when the ground has cooled off. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other lesser-known bulbs provide a burst of color in spring.

Some unusual and unique South African bulbs are particularly adaptable to the milder areas of the West. Such things as babiana, freesia, ixia, sparaxis and watsonia should be planted this month. Not all of these will be readily found in catalogs or local garden stores but they're well worth hunting for - do some web searches for the best places.

Storing vegetables - A cool, dry place with good ventilation will keep such crops as potatoes, squashes, onions and pumpkins for several weeks or months. Avoid scratching or bruising the skins and do not wash any of the root vegetables. Break or brush away the dirt but do not wash them. Dry beans or peas can be stored in glass or tin containers.

Planting strawberries - Plants set in the fall will become well established during the fall, winter and early spring. About half of the normal production of berries will be obtained the first season.

Easily grown orchids - Epidendrum is an easily grown genera of orchids well suited for outdoor growing in Southern California. Planted in full sun, they soon form huge clumps and flower continuously with minimum attention to soil and care. They grow up to 4 feet high with leaves borne over the entire length of the stem. The flowers, which are produced in dense clusters, are useful for cutting and corsages. Hawaiian hybridists now offer improved strains in every color of the rainbow except true blue.

Storing tuberous begonias- By placing the tubers in peatmoss in a cool, dark place, tubers can be easily stored over the winter months just like plants that clean air. If tubers were grown in pots some gardeners would prefer to allow the plants to die back naturally and then place the pot on its side on a cool dark shelf.

Holly that withstands heat -The Chinese holly, Ilex cornuta, is a native of a warm climate and is well suited for the interior valleys and Southern California. It resembles the English holly and has big scarlet berries. Though Chinese holly is dioecious, pollen from the male plant is not needed for the production of berries.

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