Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February, 2006
Regional Report

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Butterhead lettuce, soft yet crunchy, is a beautiful and flavorful favorite.

A New Year, A New Garden!

February in southern California means starting a new garden, and we can now get into high gear choosing seed varieties to sow and searching for the earliest tomato seedlings to plant. But remember to finish pruning dormant fruit trees and perennials, including roses (which are already blooming anew in my garden!).

Successful and exciting gardens result from including something new as well as the dependable favorites. I always try some new lettuces and greens and tomato varieties, but keep my proven winners -- butterhead lettuce (soft yet crunchy, flavorful and beautiful), Ace and Celebrity tomatoes and Gardener's Delight or Camp Joy cherry tomatoes (best flavor and great producers), pimento peppers (thickest walls and sweetest flesh), Straight Eight and Burpee Hybrid II cucumbers (best flavor and yield), and yellow crookneck squash (buttery flavor when just steamed).

It's very hard to resist planting a lot when the seeds are so tiny and the small plants are so cute. As gardeners eager to taste our garden delights, we automatically plant too much, only to be swamped with tomatoes and overwhelmed with zucchini. This year try to limit yourself to the amount of space and number of plants you'll realistically be able to take care of. Then, six months from now, you'll be pleased with your successes rather than disappointed with your attempts.

As you explore the mail-order seed catalogs and nursery seed racks, read the descriptions and promised results with that proverbial grain of salt along with your hopefulness. Some varieties -- like the All America selections -- are widely adaptable to various growing areas, but others are not. Purchase those that are known to do well in your immediate area. Even then, a particular vegetable or flower variety may produce well for you but not for a friend a few miles away or across town, and vice versa. Nothing's fool-proof, but that's part of the anticipation and fun! Just like the "normal" year's weather, it never really works out the way it "should." Sometimes it's a whole lot more wonderful!

Gardening can be either frustratingly uncertain or an exciting challenge. Each one of us gardens differently, according to our own needs and desires. There's always some new vegetable or flower or tool or technique to try. The great fun is in discovering and making your "perfect" garden happen. The great payoffs are in eating the delicious veggies, admiring the beautiful blooms, smelling the wonderful fragrances, and marveling at the plentiful harvest from those few tiny seeds and plants. Happy Gardening!

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