In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2007
Regional Report

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The plants in my lettuce seedling bed are ready for transplanting.

Transition Time in the Garden

Although there never seems to be a "regular" weather month in the garden, March (and September) tend to be weirder than "normal," since it can be hot and sunny one day and cold and rainy the next.

Rain, wonderful rain, is the elixir of life in the garden. To us Southern Californians, it's also precious, free liquid gold upon which our plants thrive. I love every rainstorm in four ways because I know that 1) every leaf is absorbing every molecule of moisture it can, 2) this natural watering covers the whole garden at once, 3) pulling weeds will be very easy because their entire root systems are loose in the moist soil, and 4) I don't have to pay for it.

Of course, a whole night of intermittent light rain is far superior to a all-in-5-minutes drenching. But, even with a downpour, my decomposed-granite hillside sucks up every drop, with its compost-and-manure enriched beds, fruit tree areas, and chipped-wood-covered pathways.

Frost Damage Update
Frost-nipped plants like my bougainvillea are sending up green shoots that tell me the real extent of last month's damage. I'm always amazed how much more of the plant is alive than I expected after the first shock of the frost. This is why I've learned to overlook the dead leaves when it first happens, and not immediately trim away everything that appears dead. Now, this new growth tells me that I can now start trimming to remove the truly dead stuff (which has no new green shoots), and shape the bush or tree at the same time. Then my aesthetic sense can finally rest easy!

Finally, Abundant Fresh Salads
Lettuce that's just germinated bodes a welcome plentitude of huge salads through mid-summer when plants will finally bolt. Harvesting lettuce leaf-by-leaf, leaving only the two inner one-inch leaflets, allows the plants to keep growing for several months. Eventually, they become foot-tall "trees" but by that time they taste too bitter anyway. I never got my lettuce and greens started last fall, so we've had to subsist on a dozen purchased plants of buttercrunch lettuce and spinach for our only-twice-weekly meager salads. But, another dozen purchased plants of broccoli, broccoli raab, baby bok choi and tatsoi Oriental greens have been wonderful additions to soups and stir-fried vegetables throughout the winter. No more starving for greens in our household now, with lots of tiny seedlings being transferred into every nick and cranny in the garden!

Transition Time
The other March transition is from winter-loving crops to summer ones. I planted my last plants of bok choi, broccoli and broccoli raab, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, spinach, tatsoi; and seeds of beets and peas. At the same time, I planted my first tomato plants, as well as seeds of beans, cucumber, melons, peppers, and squash -- the latter just in case we get no more rain, and air and soil temperatures warm up enough for germination. I don't bother with plants of these yet, though, since they just don't like the cold soil, will sulk, and will never really catch up with ones I wait to plant in April -- and that early only if the weather has been consistently warm or a couple of weeks.


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