Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

September/October 2017 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.

The gallon plants I bought at the nursery are jam-packed with roots, and there's hardly any soil. Will they grow?

If the roots are growing in circles, you have to unwind them or they will never grow into the soil. I am a bit brutal about cutting off the bottom inch or so of roots and making some slices along the sides of the root growth. You want to stimulate the plant into putting out new roots that will grow in your soil. While the plants are acclimating, keep them well watered, but not soggy. Sprinkling the leaves daily helps with water lost to transpiration.

I've cleaned out the plants from my vegetable garden for the winter. Do I need to do anything else to be ready for next year?

Add compost to the soil. If fact, add compost every time you take out one crop and put in another. Many gardeners plant a cover crop for winter—fava beans, for example—and then turn the crop under in the spring to add nutrients to the soil. Do an online search for "cover crops" and you'll get plenty of advice.

It is good to let vegetable beds be fallow for part of the year. It's letting the soil get a rest. You might cover the soil with straw to keep the rains from pounding on it. However, a straw mulch comes with its own problems: You'll have wheat sprouting in the spring! Whatever you use for mulch, be sure to pull it away rather than turn it into the soil. You don't want the mulch stealing the nutrients as it breaks down. 

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