So. California

What to do in your garden in March
Sharon Cohoon

PLANTING

Cat grass. Our March 2005 article, Dog friendly gardens, offers ways to make your garden more appealing to the family canine. Want to do something nice for your cat? Try growing cat grass (Avena sativa) to satisfy a feline's craving for greens. It's quick and easy, and the plants can be grown indoors. If you can't find seeds at your local nursery, visit Botanical Interests' website ( www.botanicalinterests.com) for a list of retailers.

Culinary herbs. Sow seeds of arugula, chervil, cilantro, and dill. Plant chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme.

Perennials. The weather is perfect for planting perennials, and nurseries are well stocked with them now. These newcomers are worth searching for: Gaura lindheimeri 'Passionate Rainbow', which is as tough as other gauras but with cream and green variegated leaves that turn rose in winter; Lavandula stoechas Bella, which bears the same showy flowers as other Spanish lavenders but over a much longer bloom cycle; Salvia 'Hot Lips', with showy white flowers tipped bright red; and Verbena 'De La Mina', a mound of light green leaves topped with sprays of purple flowers.

Vegetables. If your vegetable beds have bare spots, fill them in by sowing seeds of beets, carrots, radishes, or turnips. Or plant chard or spinach. To get an early start on summer, you can also sow seeds of corn or green beans.

MAINTENANCE

Fertilize roses. Every rose lover has a different feeding formula, but many rosarians are turning to alfalfa because it yields triacontanol, which is believed to encourage the growth of new canes. Rose grower and garden writer Rayford Reddell uses pure alfalfa pellets (not the kind sold as rabbit food; they contain sugar), which are available at many feed stores. He applies two 2-pound coffee cans of pellets to the soil around each established plant. To hide the pellets, he rakes away mulch, sprinkles the pellets, then reapplies the mulch. You can also use alfalfa meal, which is available at most nurseries. Use according to package directions.

Thin fruit on trees. Begin thinning apples, pears, and stone fruits when they are about 1/2 inch in size. Space the fruits 4 to 6 inches apart, or leave one fruit per spur. In general, the earlier the variety, the more heavily its fruits need thinning.

PEST CONTROL

Control aphids. Tender new plant growth attracts these sucking pests. Dislodge them with a strong blast of water from a hose, or, if blossoms are delicate, mist plants with insecticidal soap. For fastest results--if you're not squeamish--strip aphids from plants by hand.

Deter rabbits. The only sure way to keep hungry rabbits out of your vegetable or flower beds is with physical barriers. Place a chicken wire fence at least 18 inches tall around the area you want to protect and bury it at least 8 inches below the soil. If you want to protect just a few new plants, try sprinkling blood meal around them immediately after planting and reapply every few weeks.


Events

CLAREMONT, MAR 19?MAY 15

Spring Garden Walks at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Docent-led. 2 p.m. Sat?Sun; free. 1500 N. College Ave.; www.rsabg.org or 909/625-8767.

DEL MAR, MAR 4?6

20th annual San Diego Spring Home/Garden Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Includes display gardens, plant marketplace, free seminars. 12?7 Fri, 10?7 Sat, 10?5 Sun; $12. 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.; www.springhomegardenshow.com or 858/519-0855.

FULLERTON, MAR 10?13

Monster Tomato & Pepper Sale at Fullerton Arboretum. 100 varieties of tomato plants; 60 types of peppers. 10?3 Thu?Fri, 10?4 Sat?Sun; free. 1900 Associated Rd.; www.arboretum.fullerton.edu or 714/278-3579.

SANTA BARBARA, MAR 4?6

Santa Barbara International Orchid Show at Earl Warren Showgrounds. 9?5; $10. 3400 Calle Real; www.sborchidshow.com or 805/967-6331.


Clipping

The high rainfall from the last few months will likely make this one of the best wildflower seasons in years. Don't miss it. To find out what's in bloom in central and Southern California, call the Theodore Payne Foundation's Wildflower Hotline (818/768-3533); it opens on March 4 and continues through May 31. Also check out the foundation's website ( www.theodorepayne.org).