Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

November/December 2018 California Bountiful magazine

As a California Bountiful reader, you have the opportunity to get your seasonal gardening questions answered by gardening expert Pat Rubin. Here are a few questions from our readers.

My vegetable garden is a mess, and weeds are starting to sprout. Is there anything I can do now instead of waiting until spring to make it easier to manage?

Yikes, yes! At the end of each season, pull all of the dead plants out of the garden. If you have a compost pile that gets really hot, compost all of the clippings. Otherwise, toss them into the green waste garbage bins if your community provides them. If you leave all this dead debris in the garden, it gives overwintering insects a place to hide and live.

Next, add as much compost to the soil as you can. Finally, put the garden to bed by adding mulch: leaves, straw, chipped bark. This keeps the weeds away. In the spring, rake away the mulch and plant the garden. Do not turn this mulch into the soil, because it will use the nitrogen in the soil to break down and deprive your vegetable plants of that nitrogen. An alternative to mulch is to plant a living mulch that you can turn into the soil and add nutrients to the soil. Timing is crucial for overwintering live mulches. There are plenty of instructions online if you are interested.


My camellias are making buds, but for the past few years the flowers have been turning brown and mushy and falling to the ground just a short time after they bloom. What's wrong?

Sounds like camellia blight. It generally affects late-winter- and spring-blooming camellias. It's caused by a fungus. It's the bane of all camellia enthusiasts.

The best control is to keep the fungus out of the garden, which, if you already have it, means judiciously picking up all the dropped flowers, including those stuck between the branches of the plant, not just the ones on the ground. Throw them in the garbage. Do not compost them. Chemical control of the blight is usually unsuccessful.

Oddly enough, fall-blooming camellias usually aren't affected by camellia blight.

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