What to do in a Southern California garden in March

What to do in a Southern California garden in March

March is citrus month. Almost every kind of citrus tastes good in March in Southern California. While some are still ripe, others are already starting to taste sweet. What I mean is, some are wrapping up their seasons now, like navel oranges and blood oranges and Kishu mandarins, while others are in the early part of their seasons, like Valencia oranges and Gold Nugget mandarins.

Here is what we should all do: Go to a farmers market and taste every different kind of local citrus available. Do any knock your socks off? If you can get the variety name from the farmer, then go and buy a tree of that variety from a local nursery.

I did something similar a few years ago with a tour of the Citrus Variety Collection at U.C. Riverside, after which I planted a Cara Cara navel orange, Satsuma, Kishu, Gold Nugget, and Pixie mandarins. By the way, do you have children or grandchildren? You’ve got to give them the gift of a Kishu mandarin, which in my opinion is the best fruit tree for kids.

About vegetables, March is a month of transition. We can still plant some vegetables that like to grow in cool weather (think lettuce), but we can also start planting some vegetables that like to grow in warm weather (think corn).

To be specific about it, plant lettuce and its ilk as soon as possible, but be in no rush to plant corn and friends. I have found success sowing or planting those warm guys only toward the end of March.

With all of those ideas in mind, in March we can:

Sow and plant

– Sow or plant some cool-season vegetables: beets, carrots, greens, lettuce, green onions, peas, potatoes

– Sow or plant some warm-season vegetables: tomatoes, squash, corn, beans (some beans, but not all)

Not sow or plant: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage; sorry, it’s too late to get good production out of those

Harvest and eat

– Eat (had you planted them): asparagus, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, beets, lettuce, parsley, cilantro, spinach, celery, greens, strawberries

– Eat (if you have the trees): avocados (Hass, Fuerte, Pinkerton); citrus (almost all kinds)

Miscellaneous

– Collect or redirect any rain we get so it sinks into your yard near your plants and isn’t lost into the street

– Change irrigation on fruit trees as necessary (e.g. from drip lines to mini-sprinklers); do it now before the trees start depending on irrigation because the current mild weather and thoroughly moist soil from winter rains allow the tree roots to most easily adjust to new patterns of soil moisture

– Put in plants that are native to your neighborhood, especially in parts of your yard that are difficult to irrigate; I put wild lilac (Ceanothus) and monkey flowers (Diplacus) in a couple of Marches ago, watered them by hand a couple of times their first summer and haven’t watered them since, and they’re beautiful and blooming right now

– Observe your deciduous fruit trees as they bloom and leaf out; notice if they flower mostly on short branches (apples, cherries, apricots) or on long branches (peaches, nectarines), for this can guide your pruning next year — or now, because it’s never too late to prune

– Plant avocado trees, and prune them if necessary; you can grow your own avocados in a surprisingly small yard space

Avoid spraying anything on citrus trees if the new leaves get damaged by leafminers

– Plant more citrus, of course!