Last weekend I started on my annual cleanup and prepping the garden for spring. This consists of pruning back frost damaged plants and deadwood, allowing air and light to get to the new emerging growth; cleaning up any old leaves and debris from the ground; adding and tilling in fresh amendments to the raised vegetable beds; inspecting all the plants for snails and snail damage (handpick any live snails and toss into a bucket of water); replenishing mulch so there is at least 2-3 inches in all planter areas. I also make sure to inspect and repair any leaks in irrigation lines, and flush out the sediment and gunk from filters and at the end of each line. When I see new growth at the base of my established perennials, I know it’s time to cut back all the dead growth. But I don’t do any fertilizing until April!
I’ve been getting my raised veggie beds ready for tomato planting. Tomato seedlings are available at the garden centers now. You can buy them now if you like, but wait another week or two for planting, just to make sure the soil has warmed up enough. Also pay attention to nighttime temperatures–if temps are below 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t plant yet! When you buy tomato seedlings, here are a few pointers to keep in mind: Don’t buy a plant because it has lots of flowers or even little tomatoes on it; this is a plant that has already spent too much of its short life in the pot. Start with a younger plant. The idea is to look for shorter plants with thicker stems and healthy green foliage. Avoid long and spindly plants that have weak, brittle stems and yellowing leaves. When you get the plants home, harden them off by keeping them outdoors in a spot that’s sheltered from direct sun and wind. After a week of hardening off, they are less likely to suffer shock when planted in the ground.
Attention Southern California residents: For the largest selection of heirloom tomato seedlings in the state, check out a Tomatomania event near you. If you’ve never been to a Tomatomania sale before, it’s a lot of fun, and Scott Daigre and friends are there to offer the best expert tomato-growing advice.