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Add New Plants to Your Garden
  • Got gaps in borders or beds? Fill them with some recent introductions, rather than settling for tried and true. Here are some options from some well-known growers. Look for these plants in area specialty nurseries or shop online sources.

    From Proven Winners (

    Blackberry Punch
    'Blackberry Punch' and ‘Coralberry Punch' Superbells - These new Calibrachoas are the series' fashionistas. ‘Blackberry Punch' flowers are a sophisticated deep purple edged in magenta, while ‘Coralberry Punch' blooms have throats of rich burgundy. Easy to grow, long flowering and ideal for baskets and containers.
    'Golddust' Mercardonia - This petite hybrid to 5-inches tall is a strong garden performer, covered with cheery yellow flowers May to October. Heat tolerant and low maintenance - no deadheading needed. Carpets baskets or border edges with color.

    From Monrovia (

    'Bountiful Blue' Blueberry - All season garden interest and sweet blueberries make this semi-dwarf shrub an ideal addition to edible landscapes. Foliage is strongly blue-tinged, turning red in fall; white flowers are followed by large berries. Performs best near a different variety blueberry bush. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.
    'Heatwave' Salvias - This Salvia greggii series popular in Australia for its heat and drought tolerance is ideal for water wise gardens here. Compact plants to 2 feet tall bear blooms in shades of lavender, pink, rose and white. Hummingbird favorites.

    From Mountain States Wholesale Nursery (

    Chrysactinia mexicana - Low growing mats to 2-feet tall and wide of aromatic foliage are a backdrop for daisy-like flowers in a traffic-stopping intense yellow. Shear lightly for repeat bloom. Water deeply once a week. Heat tolerant.
    Yucca pallida - Nursery rep Wendy Proud calls this succulent the "new agapanthus" for its dramatic four foot tall flower stalks that bear pure white bell-shaped flowers for two months starting in spring. Blue-green leaves are edged in yellow-pink; sharp tips can be clipped off. "Not your grandmother's yucca," Proud adds.
After Bulbs Bloom
  • Many popular spring bulbs finish blooming this month. Some, like tulips and hyacinths, are annuals in our climate and can be yanked from the ground when the flowers fade. Others, like daffodils and baboon flowers (Babiana), will return next year. To keep them vigorous and encourage them to naturalize or multiply, cut off spent flower stalks but leave the foliage to continue to provide nutrients to replenish the bulbs. A light feeding helps this process. Remove leaves only after they turn yellow or brown. If they become unsightly, they can be tucked out of sight.
Aloes Light Up Winter
  • Aloes are a sure bet for winter color in San Diego gardens. These succulents, ranging from ground-huggers to fantastical trees, send up spikes of blazing red, orange or gold flowers January through April. Some favorites are:

    • Aloe barberae (formerly A. bainesii) – Sculptural “Dr. Seuss” 20-30-foot tree aloe with rosy, striped flowers in some years. Frost tender.
    • Aloe plicatilis – Fan aloe to 3 feet tall prized for tongue-depressor-shaped leaves atop gray sculptural branching and scarlet flower spikes.
    • Aloe cameronii – Star fish aloe with chocolate-burgundy serrated leaves that form 3-foot wide rosettes. Fiery orange-red flower spikes.
    • Aloe ‘Cynthia Giddy’ – Two-foot tall and wide rosettes with speckled leaves and tall coral-red flower spikes. Reblooms.
    • Aloe somaliensis - Reptilian-patterned green and silver leaves and small stature are perfect for containers. Glowing red tubular flowers.
    • Aloe ‘Donnie’ – One of several 2-4-inch tall hybrids from Proven Winners, ‘Donnie’ has spotted leaves edged in pink. Ideal for containers.
Alstroemeria Flower Power
  • tricolor

    As companions to the season's poppies, snapdragons and other classic annuals, consider alstroemerias, a perennial with charming freckled blooms that add beauty to the landscape and vase year round. Garden Glories Nursery in Vista specializes in these and other choice plants. Here are some of owner Liz Youngflesh's favorites: Three-foot tall classics 'Casa Blanca' (pure white and rose), 'Third Harmonic' (soft orange that's a perfect foil to blue and purple flowers) and 'Kyty' (shades of butter yellow); two-foot tall mid-size 'Rosea' (sweet dusty rose), 'Ice' (frosty peach with pale green throat) and 'New Beginnings' (yellow blushed with soft pink); and hard-to-find 'Rachel' (rich purple) and 'Charly' (medium red). Give alstroemerias sun to part-shade, well-amended soil and regular water. Visits to Garden Glories are by appointment ( Youngflesh, a Master Gardener, also sells at many of the San Diego Horticultural Society monthly meetings.

Apply fertilizer high in nitrogen to mature fruit trees
  • Most mature fruit trees require the equivalent of one-pound of actual nitrogen annually. Divide the amount of fertilizer required into three equal lots and apply them six weeks apart, starting in the spring after new growth begins.
Australian Plants for San Diego Gardens
  • Plants from areas around the world with Mediterranean-style climates like ours fit easily into San Diego gardens. One rich source is Australia and one of Down Under's biggest fans is Mo Price, a Master Gardener who lectures on Australian plants. Below are some of her favorites, all tested in her Encinitas garden. Give these flowering beauties good drainage and once established, minimal water unless otherwise noted.

    Dampiera diversifolia - This trailing groundcover, ideal for rockeries, slopes and containers, is covered with brilliant purple-blue flowers in spring and summer. Spreads up to 6 feet wide, but is not invasive or weedy. Tolerates moderate frost and some drought. Full sun, except inland where afternoon shade is desirable.

    Thryptomene - These tough shrubs 2-3 feet tall and wide bloom non-stop with dainty pink or white starry flowers that can be cut for bouquets. Not fussy about soil if well drained; easily pruned to shape. Full sun to part-shade.

    Dianella (Flax Lily) - Aborigines favor the fibrous strappy leaves of some species to weave baskets. Gardeners love them for their blue flowers with sunny yellow stamens that are followed by electric blue berries that last for months. Forms clumps 2 feet tall. Newer hybrids have variegated leaves. Moderate water.

    Eremophila (Emu Bush) - The name of these 4 foot tall and wide shrubs means "desert loving" which suggest how important it is to provide full sun and only minimal water. Tubular pink or yellow flowers in summer are followed by fleshy fruits popular with birds and other animals. Thickish leaves vary from green to blue- and gray-green.

    Grevillea lanigera (Woolly Grevillea) - Spidery pink and cream flowers cover this gray-green leaved shrub from January through October. Mounding to 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Many hybrids, including dwarfs, are available. Full sun.

    These plants and many other Australian natives can be found at specialty nurseries throughout San Diego County.

Begin Camellia Feedings
  • camelliaThe first of three annual feedings for camellias is March. An easy way to remember the schedule is to feed around St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day and July 4. For the first feeding, mix blood meal with cottonseed meal at a ratio of one part blood meal to four parts cottonseed. It is also recommended to add chelated iron at this time. A pre-mixed camellia/azalea fertilizer also can be used.

Begin to thin fruit on fruit trees
  • Begin thinning fruit of apples, pears, and stone fruit when they are about 1/2" in size. Space fruit four to six inches apart. Leave one fruit per spur. Thin early-maturing varieties produce earlier and heavier than late-maturing varieties.
Care for Backyard Orchards
  • As new growth begins to appear, it's time to feed mature fruit trees. Most require the equivalent of one pound of actual nitrogen annually. Divide the amount of fertilizer required into three equal lots and apply them six weeks apart. Check trees for pests and use a forceful spray of water to dislodge aphids, spider mites and whiteflies. If a pesticide is needed, use a chemical that has short residual activities, such as insecticidal soap, horticultural oil or pyrethrin, to protect beneficial insects. To keep ants off trees, wrap a band of heavy paper or duct tape around the trunk and coat it with a sticky material like Tanglefoot. Trim branches that touch other objects to stop ant trails. Also place ant stakes or small containers with toxic bait by ant nests and trails.
Care for Cactus and Succulents
  • The recent rains and warmer sunny days should have all aeoniums unfurled and in full face. Other winter growers like senecios and some echeverrias are also in their growth season. If you want to start cuttings, this is a great time to do it. Remember to allow cut ends to callus for a few days. If you want to use fertilizers, you can apply as directed on these plants now. Watering, even for winter growers, should be minimal unless the Santa Ana winds pay a visit. Be sure to watch for colder temperatures and rain. Keep protective plastic covers readily available to protect plants from hail. Hardware store plastic drop cloths or even shower curtains will help. Hail permanently pits the leaves of succulents. After rain, don’t let container plants stand in water.
Care for Mexican Sage
  • Almost every garden has a Mexican sage in it. And why not? A favorite of landscape designers, Salvia leucantha fills late summer and fall gardens with floral fireworks in various shades of velvety purple. By this time of the year, these work horses can look shabby and spent. Like many other sages that bloom at the same time, they benefit from being cut back. But in this case timing that trim can make the difference between rejuvenating the plant and killing it. Wait until new basal growth at the base of the plant is 6 to 8 inches tall before removing dry bloom spikes and tattered stems.

    Other plants that benefit from similar treatment now when new growth is visible include penstemon, Verbena bonariensis, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, and other sages such as S. guaranitica ‘Black and Blue, pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) and S. ‘Indigo Spires’ and the shorter ‘Mystic Spires’.
Check Container Drainage
  • Container gardeners get more benefit than moisture from a soaking rain; the water can help wash away salt build-up in the soil from San Diego’s imported water. But a downpour can also be deadly to container plants when drainage holes are clogged with roots or the plant is severely root-bound.

    Check containers after every rain to be certain plants aren’t sitting in water. If you discover accumulated water, tip the container to drain the water away and remove the obstruction, if possible. Allow the container soil to dry out, moving it to a sheltered spot if more hard rain is forecast. On the other hand, when rainfall is light, container plants may not be thoroughly wet and may need additional water. Check soil moisture using your finger. Soil a couple inches from the surface should be damp, not wet nor too dry.
Check trees for pests
  • Inspect trees weekly (especially new growth) for signs of pests. Wash foliage periodically with a forceful spray of water to dislodge aphids, spider mites and whiteflies. If an insecticide is needed, use a chemical with short residual activity, such as insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, pyrethrin, or Bt (for caterpillars)to protect beneficial insects
Continue planting cool-season vegetables
  • Continue planting cool-season vegetables where frost seldom occurs. Cool-season vegetables include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, potatoes (white), radishes, rutabagas and turnips.
Control powdery mildew on grapes
  • Control powdery mildew on grapes. Apply sulfur spray (Safer Garden Fungicide) or dust when new shoots are 6", 12", 18" and 24" long. Then repeat every two weeks, or as needed until harvest.
Don’t Irrigate in the Rain
  • Monitor irrigation and adjust it to suit the weather, which is very variable this month. Use the Be Waterwise calculator ( to find out how long your sprinklers should run. Shorter, cooler days reduce water stress on established plants, while bursts of heat, especially from Santa Anas, up the need for water. The changing season also can shift shadows to places that earlier basked in the sun, also reducing irrigation needs. Sprinklers may need to be adjusted too, to accommodate summer plant growth or the addition of companion perennials and annuals. Since months may have passed since your last check, inspect the system for leaks and water waste. With everyone watching water consumption, don’t irritate neighbors and drain your bank account by watering during a rainstorm. Hit “rain delay” on your timer whenever precipitation is forecast.
Feed Growing Succulents
  • As the seasons change, new growth should start to appear on many succulents that were dormant during winter. This is a good time to start fertilizing them using a balanced granule or liquid fertilizer (20-20-20). Dilute it to half strength. Be sure plants in containers or in the ground are watered before applying the fertilizer. If granule fertilizer is used, water it in after scattering it on the ground.
Feed New and Established Plants
  • Help plants thrive with an application of fertilizer rich with the nitrogen too often in short supply in San Diego soils. Nitrogen content is indicated by the first of the three numbers on a fertilizer bag; pick one with more nitrogen (N), than phosphorus (P) (the second number) or potassium (K) (the third number.)

    Scatter fertilizer granules lightly and evenly at the edge of the plant's rootball or foliage-drip line, scratch it into the ground taking care not to harm feeder roots, and then water lightly if soil is not moist from recent rain or irrigation. It's tempting to fertilize when rain is forecast, but heavy showers could carry granules away in runoff.

    A new layer of mulch will help build organic content in the soil, but at a slower pace. Mulch also will help hold moisture in the ground as temperatures start to climb. For container plants, a time-release fertilizer is a good choice to keep nutrition high in the limited amount of soil available to the plant.
Fertilize fruit trees
  • Apply fertilizer high in nitrogen to mature fruit trees Most mature fruit trees (5 years and older) require the equivalent of one-pound of actual nitrogen annually. One pound of nitrogen can be supplied with 5 pounds of ammonium sulfate (21% N), or 8 pounds of blood meal (13% N) Divide the amount of fertilizer required for one year into three equal lots and apply them six weeks apart, starting in the spring after new growth begins.
Fighting Eugenia Psyllids
  • Spring weather is a boon for garden pests, many of which have been inactive in the previous cool months. Some like the psyllids that attack Eugenia hedges or eucalyptus trees appear before their natural predators make their seasonal comeback. Be patient while waiting for their enemies to reduce psyllid populations and the damage they do. Eugenia hedges can be sheared every 6 weeks to remove new foliage damaged by the Eugenia psyllid. Leave the clippings around the base of the plant to allow time for tiny beneficial wasps that attack psyllid larvae to emerge. Do not feed plants with nitrogen fertilizer in spring since lush, new growth favors psyllids.

Get Landscape Design Advice
  • Shocked by high water bills? Determined to transform your garden into a waterwise landscape but not sure where to begin? Jump-start your makeover with a professional landscape design consultation at The Water Conservation Garden. The 45-minute sessions are with consultants who specialize in drought-tolerant landscapes. Homeowners bring photos and dimensions of a targeted area; they leave with a design plan and plant list. Cost is $75 ($60 for garden members). Call (619) 660-0614, ext. 10, to learn dates and availability.
Grow A Backyard Orchard
  • January is the perfect time to add apple and stone fruit trees to an edible landscape. Nurseries tend to have the largest selection during bare-root season when these deciduous trees are bargain priced. Many are supplied by Dave Wilson Nursery (, one of California’s largest growers of fruit trees.  Here are some suggestions from Tom Spellman, Dave Wilson Nursery Southwest sales manager. Plant now but don’t allow fruiting during the first year while the tree becomes established. Grow a moderate crop the second year; enjoy a full crop in the third.

    Dorset Golden Apple – A very reliable producer, this apple requires minimal “chill hours” to set fruit, making it ideal for coastal as well as inland areas. Pick fruit as early as mid-June. Apples are bright yellow blushed with red and pink; flesh is crisp and firm
    Stark Saturn Donut Peach – Disc-shaped fruit with a dimpled center on this gourmet white peach ripens in July. Flavor is “very peachy with hints of almond,” Spellman says. 
    Red Baron Peach – This tree is beautiful – and bountiful. In bloom with double bright red flowers, Red Baron rivals many ornamental peach trees. Yellow freestone fruit is large and juicy.
    Burgundy Plum – This tree bears juicy ruby-red fruit from mid-July to September. A Japanese-style plum, it is a good pollinator for other plums and pluots. Deep burgundy flesh is sweet, without tartness.
    Flavor Delight Aprium – Apricot lovers generally can’t tell that this hybrid has been crossed with a plum. The breeding gives apriums greater adaptability than finicky apricots.  Fruit is gold blushed inside and out and ripens as early as mid-May.
    Arctic Star Nectarine – Sweet, juicy, low-acid fruit can be enjoyed starting in June from this recent introduction. Deep red skin is a vivid contrast with the white flesh.
    Bella Gold Peacotum – Peach, plum and apricot combine in this 2011 introduction. Golf ball-size fruit is amber with a red blush. Flavors reflect all three parents with an emphasis on plum and a hint of citrus. Attractive landscape tree with white flowers in spring. Needs a cross pollinator.
    Flavor Grenade Pluot – Oblong yellow-green fruit tinged with red “explode with plumy apricot flavor,” Spellman says. Late bearing and suited to low-chill areas like San Diego. Showy white flowers in spring. Needs cross pollinator.
    Dapple Dandy Pluot – Egg-shaped, cream fleshed fruit with marbled maroon and gold skin ripens in late July to early August. A consistent taste-test winner. Needs a cross pollinator.
    Flavor King Pluot - Garnet skin and fruit with a spicy scent and flavor make this a taste test winner and a favorite of backyard orchardists, who also appreciate its handsome form. Bears in late July into August. Needs a cross pollinator and good choice as a cross pollinator for other pluots.
    Spice Zee Nectaplum - This self-fertile combo of plum and nectarine bears large red fruit with mottled flesh with predominate nectarine flavor. Double pink flowers in spring and dark greenish-red leaves make it one of the most highly ornamental fruit trees. Long bearing season from June to August.
Grow a Tub of Spuds
  • purple majesty potato

    Like all homegrown vegetables, fresh-picked potatoes put supermarket-bought spuds to shame. If there's room for a half wine barrel on your patio or deck, you can grow these South American natives today enjoyed around the world. Don't make the mistake of using supermarket potatoes as seeds; they are usually treated to delay sprouting. Instead purchase seed potatoes, small potatoes or cubes with at least two "eyes." Mail-order sources include and   Put 6-9 inches of potting soil in the wine barrel in a sunny location, lay the seed potatoes on top, cover with 4 inches of potting soil then water. When sprouts appear, begin adding more soil, always leaving tips of the seedlings exposed, until the barrel is filled. When the bushy plants bloom, dig for "new" potatoes prized for their sweet taste. As the plants die down, mature potatoes are ready to harvest. In mild climates like ours, they can be left in the ground until needed.

Grow Classy Camellias
  • This month, when flowers on early-blooming sasanqua camellias are fading, the japonica and reticulata camellias blossom to brighten winter-weary landscapes. Here are some of favorites. Plant them now when these handsome shrubs are in bloom and vegetatively dormant.

    ‘Nuccio’s Carousel’ – From the famed breeders at Nuccio’s Nursery in Altadena, this tall, upright japonica has semi-double warm pink flowers with yellow stamens. Petals are slightly darker at the edges. Long bloom time.
    ‘Buttermint’ – Unusual flower color plus fragrance combine in this fast growing shrub. Small, ruffled blossoms in creamy yellow with buttery centers cluster up and down branches, lighting up the glossy, dark green foliage. Grows 6 feet tall.
    ‘San Dimas’ – Semi-double orange-red flowers centered with yellow stamens glow on this striking shrub to 5 feet tall. Can be hard to find.
    ‘Sunny Side’ – Soft white, pink-blushed single flowers with golden stamens. Compact, upright growth. “Very fresh and clean looking,” she says.
    ‘Yume’ – Viruses cause the variegation in most camellias, but not Yume (which means dream). Genetic changes explain why its flower petals alternate between dark and light pink. This low-growing shrub is great for container planting.
    ‘Unryu’ – Contorted stems and a weeping form make this one of the more unusual japonicas. Add single dark-red flowers and it’s a garden showstopper.
    ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ – This classic white double-flowered camellia is prized for its elegant blossoms and luxuriant foliage. Thrives along the coast where it can grow more than 6 feet tall. Inland, try the more cold tolerant ‘Silver Wave’.
    Grow camellias in shade “bright enough to read in,”. Plant them in well-drained soil with the root ball slightly above the soil line.
Grow Hydrangeas
  • Hydrangeas are showy flowers that brighten any winter garden. While they have a reputation as water guzzlers, their water needs can be reduced with proper siting out of direct sun and lots of mulch to hold moisture in. Small additions of aluminum sulfate in the weeks prior to spring bloom can transform some pink-flowered varieties into blue beauties. Here are some favorites.

    ‘Ayesha’ – A soft floral scent rises from the mauve-pink flowers on this Hydrangea macrophylla hybrid. Change them to cornflower blue with aluminum sulfate. Serrated leaves are deep green. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Prolific bloomer.
    ‘Nigra’ – Black stems accent the dark green leaves and saucer-sized rosy pink mophead flowers. Aluminum sulfate turns them blue flushed with purple. Reaches 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Blooms from spring through August.
    ‘Preziosa’ – Stems are purple and leaves have a purple haze on this dramatic mophead with creamy flowers that turn rose as they age and violet-pink when dry. Grows 2 ½ feet tall and wide. Dense habit.
    ‘Limelight’ – This H. paniculata hybrid from Holland is a vigorous grower to 5 feet tall. Lacy conical booms are a refreshing lime green with a blush of pink as they age. Open habit.
    ‘Forever Red’ – Dinner plate-size blooms are the reddest found on a hydrangea.  Mophead flowers have a purple cast as they age. Stems are burgundy-red. Shrub reaches 4 feet tall and wide.
    ‘Mariesii Variegata’ - Green foliage splashed with cream and light pink lacecap flowers brighten shade gardens. Flowers turn blue with addition of aluminum sulfate. Can take full sun on the coast. Grows to 3 feet tall and wide.
Grow Low-Chill, Heat-Tolerant Blueberries
  • Health nuts crave this “dark fruit,” cooks scatter them in salads and sweets, and, thanks to breeding advances, Southern California gardeners can grow these handsome productive plants on their patios. Blueberry shrubs are best grown in containers filled with the acidic soil mix they need to thrive. A suggested planting soil is a mix of 1/3 bark, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 acid-plant potting soil. Also be sure to pick a low-chill, heat-tolerant varieties like ‘Southmoon,’ ‘Sharp Blue,’ ‘Sunshine Blue,’ ‘Misty’ or other Southern Highbush hybrid. Planting two different varieties near each other will increase your harvest. One warning though: select only fertilizers with no nitrogen from nitrates. It’s fatal to these plants.

Grow Root crops
  • carrotThe warming but still cool weather now is ideal for easy-to-grow root crops including carrots, beets and radishes, to name a few. They will grow quickly from seeds planted in well-tilled beds or containers with nutrient-rich, well-draining potting soil. Mulch to keep seedlings cool and moist; water regularly to encourage well-formed roots; and harvest often while these veggies are sweet and succulent. For variety, try some of seeds woman Rene Shepherd's recent introductions, including her 'Circus Circus' carrots in shades of orange, white and dark purple, 'Pink Punch' round radishes, and 'Watermelon' radishes with pale green skin and pink interiors. (Order them at Then add these salad mates to a new crop of lettuce or mesclun for a tasty spring treat.
Grow the Scent of Spring
  • Along with the heady smell of citrus blossoms, the perfume of jasmine signals the arrival of spring here. Plus its tiny star-shaped white blossoms elegantly dress any structure this strong evergreen vine embraces. A native of China, Jasminum polyanthum is sometimes known as pink jasmine for its rose-hued flower buds or winter jasmine for the start of its bloom cycle. Handsome foliage is dark green with a lighter green underside. A vigorous grower, this vine can reach 20 feet, easily covering a fence or trellis. The sweet scent, a staple in perfumes for centuries, lures pollinating moths but works its magic on humans too, so plant it where you can enjoy it. The vine can be cut back hard after bloom to clean up the plant and promote growth for next year's spring flowers. Jasminum polyanthum is available in most area nurseries.
Harvest Rain
  • With average annual rainfall here of less than 11 inches, it pays to make the most of every drop. Start by redirecting water from gutters routed into storm drains to empty into the garden instead. A simple swale – a depression lined with gravel – also can collect runoff so it can percolate into the ground. Rain barrels too offer simple storage; most fill up remarkably fast, so install more than one if possible.

    The Water Conservation Garden on the campus of Cuyamaca College in El Cajon has a good exhibit of a working rain barrel system. Details are at

How to Grow Horseradish
  • horse radish

    Horseradish, the zing in seafood and roast beef sauces, was the 2011 Herb of the Year, chosen by the International Herb Association. Native to southeastern Europe and temperate parts of Asia, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) does best in cooler climates than ours, but will grow here, planted now for winter harvest of its large white roots. Plant a pencil-size piece of root horizontally in a 3-4-inch deep trench in a sunny spot where the plant's coarse leaves and invasive habit won't detract. Keep evenly moist to encourage root growth. Pick pieces from the root clump as needed and, when grating, avoid inhaling the pungent fumes.

How to Harvest Some Winter Veggies
  • Many winter vegetables started in October or November are ready for harvest now. To enjoy their sweet tender leaves, cut cabbages when they are rock-hard; if they feel springy, they need more time. When broccoli buds are full and firm, cut the stalk with a knife. Leave both cabbage and broccoli in the ground and they’ll continue to produce, especially with the benefit of a side-dressing of vegetable fertilizer. Cauliflower, though, forms only one head. To keep it snowy white, pull the leaves up over the head and tie them to block out the sun. Harvest when the buds are full and close together. When they begin to separate, you’ve waited too long. If you haven’t grown lettuce, now is still a good time to plant seeds or transplants. The cool weather will give you a crop quickly, and “the cut and come again” harvest keeps you in fresh salad greens for weeks.
Irrigate fruit trees & vines
  • Irrigate established fruit tress and vines when soil 3-4 inches deep begins to dry out. Apply enough water to wet soil 2-3 feet deep.
Keep ants off trees
  • Keep ants off trees by wrapping a band of heavy paper or duct tape around the trunk and coating it with a sticky material like Tanglefoot. Trim branches that touch other objects or the ground to stop ants from going around the barrier. Also place ant stakes (small containers with toxic bait) by ant nests and trails.
Learn more about pest management
  • Visit to learn more about safe pest management. UC Pest notes provide information on common garden pest and disease problems.
Order Summer-Blooming Bulbs
  • When daffodils and other spring-blooming bulbs start popping up in the garden, it’s time to order summer bulbs for planting in March. Here are some favorites:

    Crocosmia – Blade foliage and small lily-like flowers on 2-3 foot stems; ‘Lucifer’ is scarlet red, ‘Citronella’ is pale yellow with a dark eye.
    Eucomis (Pineapple Flower) – Tall spikes covered with dozens of petite white flowers tinged with purple or pink are topped with a tuft of green bracts. Seed capsules on spent spikes are pretty in autumn. Graceful green leaves can have dark blotches.
    Zephyranthes (Fairy Lily) – Grass-like foliage and cupped flowers that resemble crocus. Color choices range from pure white to pinks and bright yellows. May rebloom. Good in rock gardens or front of borders.
    Crinum – Naked lady relatives with tall trumpet flowers on thick stalks. Very fragrant. Strappy foliage dies back for some species. Colors include solid red, white and pink and stripes.
    Lycoris (Spider Lily) – Fantastical flowers have crinkled petals and long “eyelashes” (stamens) that inspired the common name. Flower stalks appear after blade-like foliage dies back.
    Polianthes tuberosa (Tuberose) – Intensely fragrant white flower spikes rise up to 3 feet above grassy foliage. Popular with perfume makers for centuries. ‘The Pearl’ is a popular double-flowered variety.
Paint tree trunks with whitewash
  • Paint the trunks of fruit trees (especially newly-planted and young trees) with whitewash to protect the bark from sunburn injury. Use equal parts water and white interior non-enamel flat latex paint. Whitewash trunks from 1 inch below ground level to at least 2 feet above to prevent sunburn.
Plant cool-season vegetables
  • Plant cool-season vegetables that will mature before hot summer weather arrives. Plant beets, carrots, celeriac, chard, chives, endive, leeks, green onions, parsley, parsnips, endive, lettuce, peas, potatoes (white), radishes, rutabaga and spinach.
Plant Heat-Loving Roses
  • To take some guess work out of rose buying, All-America Rose Selections (AARS), the association of rose growers and breeders that tests roses around the nation, has created Region’s Choice. This new program selects varieties that thrive with minimal care in specific areas of the U.S. For the San Diego and the Southwest, they picked 11 roses that tolerate heat and won’t fade in the sun. Among their choices are the flashy red-and-white-striped ‘Fourth of July,’ deep red ‘Opening Night’ and ‘Cherry Parfait,’ pure white ‘Iceberg’ and the eye-catching deep lavender ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ and smoky orange-red ‘Hot Cocoa.’

    See the complete list at  Look for them at area nurseries now during bare-root rose season.

Plant onion seeds
  • Plant seeds of medium day-length onions such as White Sweet Spanish, Stockton Yellow Globe and Italian Red (sort storage life) during February for bulbs in late summer.
Plant Perennial Performers
  • There's still time to add perennials to the garden while moderate air and soil temperatures encourage, rather than stress plants. Pick some tried and true performers with long-lasting floral displays and few demands. Among them, to name a few, are alstroemeria, verbena, coreopsis, Asclepias tuberosa (sunny flowers and Monarch butterflies - it's their host plant), and agastache. With the rainy season behind us, take care to water these new additions regularly and deeply during their first season in the garden.

Plant warm season vegetables
  • Plant warm season vegetables after danger of frost is past and soil is warm: Snap beans, cantaloupes, chayote, corn, cucumber, eggplant, Florence fennel, okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes and watermelon. Use hot caps or floating row covers to promote faster growth of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other warm season vegetables.
Prepare Edibles Beds
  • Before planting warm season vegetables, remove spent winter growers from beds and turn the soil, incorporating compost and a complete fertilizer high in phosphorus. Apply chemical fertilizers just before planting. If manures are used, apply them several weeks before planting and irrigate to leach salts from the surface soil. Apply no more than 20 pounds of poultry manure or 50 pounds of steer manure per 100 square feet.
Prepare soil for planting
  • Prepare soil for planting by incorporating compost and a complete fertilizer high in phosphorus. Apply chemical fertilizers just before planting. If manures are used, apply them two weeks before planting and irrigate to leach salts from the surface soil. Apply no more than 20 lbs. of poultry manure or 50 lbs. of steer manure per 100 square feet.
Prune dormant deciduous fruit trees
  • Finish pruning dormant deciduous trees and vines before they begin to grow new shoots.
Prune Frost Damage
  • When the freeze threat dwindles and trees and shrubs begin to bud, is the time to prune unsightly frost damage. Though it's tempting to trim limbs right after a killing chill, waiting is worthwhile. Damage may be only superficial and, come spring, affected branches may leaf out again in full or in part. If that doesn't happen, prune back any damage with an eye toward maintaining an attractive shape. Use sharp loppers to make clean cuts. Follow with water and fertilizer to spur new growth. And once frosty nights are history, don't forget to move plants you've sheltered back to spots where they can enjoy the warm spring sunshine.
Rose Slug Remedies
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    There's no mistaking the toll of voracious rose slugs. Shiny new leaves are perforated with holes or stripped of green leaving behind a lacy brown skeleton. The culprit actually isn't a slug, but the larvae of sawflies, tiny wasps. Sawflies lay eggs on the underside of leaves and when they hatch, the larvae feed there. At the first sign of damage inspect leaves for the light green caterpillar-like larvae about 1/2-inch long.  For minor infestations caught early, remove affected leaves and crush any larvae. Larger numbers can be treated with strong sprays of water to the underside of leaves or a coating of horticultural oil, neem oil or insecticidal soap. None of these treatments harms bees or other beneficial insects. Because this is not a caterpillar, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is not effective.

San Diego Gardeners' Companions "Sunset Western Garden Book"
  • Passionate gardeners are eagerly exploring the latest revision of the must-have "Sunset Western Garden Book," now for sale in soft or hardcover on line or in bookstores. This new 768-page edition is full-color and rich updated information on 9,000 plants. Plus there's a mobile edition of the Plant Finder.

    The editors of this invaluable source book compiled an equally comprehensive guide (304 pages) of edibles for gardeners in California and the west. Information on when and how to grow some 250 varieties of herbs, vegetables and fruit is combined with advice on design, pest control and weed management. A paperback, the "Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles" is also available on line or in stores.
Shape Up Aeoniums and Echeverias
  • Aeoniums and hybrid echeverias, two stalwarts of succulent landscapes and containers, are starting their growth period now, so it’s a good time to shape and propagate them. Both of these plants form dinner plate-size rosettes, some smooth and some ruffled. As they grow, many are pushed up by tall stalks that give an ungainly appearance. End this leggy look by slicing the rosette from the stem using a sharp knife. Leave about an inch of the stem attached. Set aside in a cool, dry place and allow the cut stem to “callus” for a week or more. By this time, new roots may begin to sprout. Plant the severed head in cactus mix. Keep the stem because it may sprout new rosettes along its length. These can be removed and planted as well.
Shop for Orchids
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    The 64th annual Spring Orchid Show and Sale sponsored by the San Diego Orchid Society is this month will fill more than 30,000 square feet in the Scottish Rite Temple in Mission Valley. Vendors from San Diego and around the state will be joined by sellers of exotic fare from as far away as Ecuador and Brazil and orchid displays by society members will be a feast for the eyes. Also, classes all three days will help with orchid culture questions. Details are at

Spray apples after bloom to control codling moth
  • Spray apples after bloom to control codling moth (wormy fruit). Apply carbaryl (Sevin) after petals have fallen and again three weeks later.

    For other control methods see the UC Pest Note on Codling Moth at
Spray dormant deciduous trees and vines
  • Spray dormant deciduous trees and vines with horticultural oil before buds begin to open to control overwintering insect pests.
Store Rain
  • Rain water collection is a new tool for gardeners focused on water conservation. Even with San Diego’s limited rainfall, roof run-off is substantial: One-inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof can generate 600 gallons of collectible water.

    To learn more, visit the Rain Harvesting exhibit at the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon. Funded by the Ecolife Foundation and Ace Rain Gutters, the easy-to-duplicate setup features a 205-gallon rain barrel connected to a downspout and gutters on the garden’s warehouse. Overflow is stored in a 1,100-gallon tank nearby. The Garden, on the campus of Cuyamaca College, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. More info is at

Thin fruit on fruit trees
  • Begin thinning fruit of apples, pears, and stone fruit peach, nectarine, plum and apricot when they are about 1/2" in size. Space fruit four to six inches apart. Leave one fruit per spur. Thin early-maturing varieties earlier and heavier than late-maturing varieties.
Transition to Spring-Summer Annuals and Perennials
  • As gardens move toward spring's bountiful bloom, it's time to replace declining fall and winter blooming annuals with their spring and summer counterparts. Look in nurseries for six packs or 4-inch pots of colorful coleus, cosmos, verbena, marigolds, petunias, vinca, celosia, and other favorite annuals. Popular heat-loving perennials also can be planted now, including lavenders, kangaroo paws, sages, pincushion flowers (Scabiosa), asters, penstemons, heliotropes, artemisia and African daisies.

Try Top Tomatoes
  • A sweet juicy tomato from the garden - ah, heaven! These days, homegrown tomatoes come in exotic shades of pink, purple, yellow and more and range from bite size to hefty four pounders.

    Scott Daigre grows more than 300 varieties of tomatoes for his Tomatomania sales, including the one at the San Diego Botanic Garden March 20 and 21. He also sells online at Here are some of his favorites:
    Green Zebra - Chefs discovered this green striped tomato and helped make it an edible garden classic. "It pushes the taste barrier," Daigre say. "It's spicy, tangy, different." Beautiful on a salad plate.
    Jaune Flamee - Another saladette tomato, Jaune Flamee (yellow flame) turns tangerine colored and often shows a pink blush when ripe. "It loves the heat and will produce forever," Daigre says. Taste is sweeter and milder than the typical "big red tomato taste."
Cherokee Purple - This American heirloom is considered one of the black-purple tomatoes but Daigre describes its color as closer to mauve. A slicing tomato, Cherokee Purple has "the most outrageous tomato taste ever." Plant is a consistent producer over a long season.
Sungold - Daigre calls this the world's favorite tomato... and no wonder. Its golden cherries are sweet and juicy, perfect for snacking and convincing kids to eat their veggies. An early, prolific producer.
Aussie - This pink-hued heirloom, Daigre says, is "everything a beefsteak should be." It bears later in the season when other tomatoes may slow down. Great in a sandwich.
Ramapo - If you crave the much-touted Jersey tomatoes, Ramapo is for you. It was developed by Rutgers University four decades ago and credited with starting the Jersey tomato craze. Off the market for 20 years, it's been reintroduced this year. Medium-sized tomato with great taste.
Yellow Pear - Another chef favorite, this lemon yellow, petite, pear-shaped beauty dresses up any salad. As reliable along the coast as inland. "It's kind of irresistible," Daigre says.
Marvel Stripe - This bicolor heirloom is yellow streaked with red. It really shows its beauty, though, when sliced; no two look alike inside. "It's like a pinto pony," Daigre says. "Plus it's lusciously sweet, succulent and wonderful."
View a Weed Gallery
  • Rain jump-starts weeds as well as prized landscape plants. But which weed is which? To ID these pesky plants, turn to the updated Weed Gallery on the UC Davis Web site. Photos of leaf shapes start the identification process. A click on any one leads to a line-up of likely suspects that includes photos of seeds and flowers, seedlings and mature plants. Tutorials on four different categories of weeds also aid in naming the culprit. Once the weed is identified, there are links to downloadable pest notes with tips on how to control and eliminate it.

    Bookmark this site for easy reference:

Warm season vegetables
  • Plant warm season vegetables when the weather and soil are warm. Plant Florence fennel, snap beans, sweet corn, and tomatoes (plants).
Water if Rainfall is Light
  • Winter rainfall is essential for healthy gardens here. If rainfall is light or the ground dries out between rainstorms, supplement moisture from the sky with irrigation. Regular water is especially important for newly planted plants that may have small or immature root systems. A 3 to 4-inch layer of much will help hold in moisture.

Win the Battle Against Slugs and Snails
  • Cloudy damp winter brings out slugs and snails. If these pests are nibbling on seedlings and other tender plants, here are some ways to fight back that won’t harm the environment.

    Start by eliminating daytime hiding places under rocks, pieces of wood or dense foliage. Handpick any snails found, put them in a bag and dispose in the trash. Potted plants and trees can be protected with a band of copper flashing that the snails and slugs won’t cross. Recently introduced baits made from iron phosphate and marketed as Sluggo or Escar-Go are safe to use around wildlife, pets and children. Another option is to introduce decollate or so-called “killer” snails into the garden. Search on line for a local distributor.

    More info on snail and slug control is at

Win the Pest Battle
  • Spring also gives a boost to garden pests. Here are a few simple controls that won't harm bees, beneficial insects or the environment.

    For aphids, soft-bodied insects that cling to rose and citrus foliage, blast them with water to knock them off or (if you're not squeamish) squish them with your fingers.

    For geranium bud worms and ugly tomato horn worms, spray with all-organic Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), bacteria that target only caterpillars without harming beneficial insects, people or pets.

    For a mild infestation of fuzzy white mealy bugs, dab the pests with rubbing alcohol.

    To combat common brown snails, release decollate snails that feast on them, not plants. Good sources can be found on line.