Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

Jan./Feb. 2014 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 other readers.

Sometimes we go long spells without rain. Should I water the garden?
Yes, if the garden goes more than a week or 10 days without water, give it a drink. Potted plants need to be watered more often since the water drains away so quickly, and the only protection the soil and roots have is the thickness of the pot. Don't forget pots under eaves or against the sides of the house probably don't get any water from the rains, so it's up to you to keep them alive.

My ornamental grasses are a gorgeous golden color and I love looking at them, but I already see bits of new green growth coming up. Should I cut them back?
Ornamental grasses really come into their own in fall and winter when their foliage turns a beautiful golden color, and they look amazing against the rain and snow. But when you see green growth, that means it's time to cut away the old growth and let the new take over. If you don't cut it now, you'll be cutting away the tops of the new growth when you prune. Some winter tasks can wait, but this cannot.

I want to get a head start on the vegetable garden and was told to plant tomato seeds now. Isn't it too cold outside for that?
Yes and no. If you've grown tomatoes for any length of time, you know you'll get volunteer seedlings in the garden quite early in the season. I always figure Mother Nature knows what she's doing when that happens. Of course, you don't know if these seeds will be what you had last year; they may have crossed with another tomato, or if they were hybrids, they will revert back to one of the parents used in the cross.

The best way to plant tomato seeds now is indoors. If you don't have lights to put them under, put them on a sunny windowsill once the seeds have germinated. Not enough light causes them to get leggy and spindly. Growers who routinely start tomato seeds in February use heat mats and grow lights to get them off to a good start. It's not imperative you do this, but it makes the job easier.

About Pat Rubin, California Bountiful's gardening expert

Pat Rubin

For Pat Rubin, gardening is more than just dirt and plants. "It's about history, romance, adventure and people," she says. "And it should be fun."

California Bountiful's gardening columnist has lived and chronicled this fun, hands-in-the-dirt approach for years—and for additional publications including Fine Gardening, Pacific Horticulture, Christian Science Monitor, Family Circle and The Sacramento Bee. Pat has also volunteered as a Master Gardener, speaks to garden clubs and appears regularly on gardening radio shows.

Need gardening advice? Ask the expert!

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