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March Tips & Events for Santa Clara County
“A flower blossoms for its own joy.” ~Oscar Wilde
Citrus Trees
Did you hold off fertilizing and pruning your citrus during the cold winter weather? Both strategies help prevent tender new growth that could be damaged by frost. You can go ahead and fertilize citrus now. Nitrogen is the primary nutrient required by the trees, and there are commercial fertilizers balanced specifically for citrus. Later this month, after the average last frost date of March 15, is also a good time to prune citrus trees. Pruning is not needed for fruit productivity yet may be desired for size management. Consider removing crossing branches to open up the center of the canopy a bit but be judicious severe pruning of citrus can reduce fruit yields.

More Information: Citrus for the Home Garden

Photo: Nitrogen deficiency in Citrus, by Laurence R. Costello.
Papaya in west San Jose - Laura Monczynski
Tropical Fruit
Santa Clara County is marginally acceptable for growing tropical or subtropical fruits. The hotter their native climate, the more challenging it will be to keep the plants alive here and get even a small harvest. If you’re used to eating a banana a day, you will not be able to get that from your backyard but you can get a few bunches a year. Fruits that have successfully been grown in our area include cherimoyas , dragon fruit , and macadamia nuts . You will need to give them a bit of extra care to approximate their native conditions. When choosing a planting spot, keep in mind how you will protect them on the coldest winter nights. Plant them in the sunniest, warmest place in your yard, or put them in portable pots that you can move to a protected area in winter. The California Rare Fruit Growers (Santa Clara Valley Chapter) is an excellent resource for local information and they hold bimonthly meetings at Emma Prusch Park in San Jose. If you’re willing to do the work to grow these plants, you will have bragging rights and fresh exotic fruit that hasn’t been shipped from far away.

More Information: Fruit and Nut Information

Photo: Papaya in west San Jose, by Laura Monczynski
Shovel Pruning
Sometimes a plant just isn’t working out in your garden and it comes time to part ways. The most drastic form of pruning is “shovel pruning” where you finally just dig the plant out. Another term for this technique is “editing the garden.” Perhaps you saw a plant you liked in another part of the country or world. If that other location had a different climate or soil type, it may not translate well to sunny, dry California with its clay soils. Perhaps you want to garden organically but the plant has too many pests or diseases and you are having trouble controlling them with organic methods. Or maybe it simply doesn’t resemble what the tag promised. It’s okay to let go. Spring is a good time for new plantings, so it is also a good time to reassess the appropriateness of what’s in your yard.

More Information: Shovel Pruning

Photo: Digging up a dead almond tree, by Jack Kelly Clark
Peas in pod
An old American tradition says that planting peas on St. Patrick’s Day will bring good luck at harvest time. But the best planting date actually depends on the climate where you live. Planting on St. Patrick’s Day in the northeast may lead to a second planting weeks later when frost gets the first batch. Yet in warmer climates like ours, we can plant weeks earlier and may even be eating peas from the garden on St. Patrick’s Day. (We can also plant them here in the fall.) You may want to soak the seeds overnight to help get them ready to germinate. They can be planted directly in the ground, about half an inch deep. Keep the seeds evenly moist until they start to sprout. Provide a trellis or some kind of support for the vertical vines if you are growing pole peas; bush peas can stand on their own.

More Information: Peas

Photo: Peas in pod, posted by Evett Kilmartin
Sweet Pea- Lathyrus odoratus - photo by Jack Kelly Clark
Sweet Peas
You have probably heard people use this term incorrectly. In garden terminology, sweet peas are flowers. They are not edible and are poisonous. Edible peas, even if sweet in taste, are not correctly called sweet peas. Sweet peas are incredibly fragrant vining flowers that come in a variety of colors, mostly pastels. They are an annual flower so they must be planted again every year. You can sow seeds anytime during the winter for spring bloom. The seeds are hard and it can be helpful to nick them slightly before putting them in the ground. Sweet peas do best in full sun or light shade. The plants will decline when it gets hot outside and they will need to be removed. Remember, you cannot eat sweet peas.  

More Information: Sweet Peas

Photo: Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus, by Jack Kelly Clark

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Upcoming Events
We offer free or low-cost gardening talks, workshops, and courses all over the county, as well as hosting information tables at many community events. Please join us and bring your questions!

Wed, Mar 04, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Growing Warm Season Vegetables in your Garden , Gilroy Library, 350 W. 6th St., Gilroy

Sat, Mar 07, 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., The Wonders of Growing Citrus , Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, 851 Center Dr, Palo Alto

Sun, Mar 08, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m., Growing Fabulous Citrus , Eddie Souza Park Community Garden, 2380 Monroe Street, Santa Clara

Mon, Mar 09, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Growing Tomatoes Successfully , Morgan Hill Library, 60 West Main Ave, Morgan Hill

Tue, Mar 10, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Vegetable Gardening Basics , Campbell Library, 77 Harrison Ave, Campbell

Wed, Mar 11, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Terrific Tomatoes and Peppers from your Garden , Library, Cupertino Library, 10800 Torre Ave, Cupertino

Sat, Mar 14, 12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m., Beginning Gardening Basics , The Forge Garden, 1051 Sherman Street, Santa Clara

Sat, Mar 14, 1:00 p.m.–2:30 p.m., Growing Unusual Summer and Winter Leafy Vegetables , Central Park Public Library, 2635 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara

Sat, Mar 14, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m., Growing Asian Vegetables , Sunnyvale Public Library, 665 W Olive Ave, Sunnyvale

Sat, Mar 21, 10:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m., Build Your Soil , The in St. Louise Hospital Teaching & Demonstration Garden, 9400 No Name Uno Way, Gilroy

Sat, Mar 21, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m., Warm Season Vegetable Gardening , Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Ave, San Jose

Sat, Mar 21, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Vertebrate Pest Control in the Home Garden , Berryessa Library, 3355 Noble Ave, San Jose

Tue, Mar 24, 7:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m., Deciduous Fruit Trees: Pome, Stone, Figs and Persimmons , Saratoga Library, 13650 Saratoga Ave, Saratoga

Wed, Mar 25, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Growing Tomatoes- Peppers- and Eggplants in Your Garden , Los Altos Library, 13 S. San Antonio Rd, Orchard Room, Los Altos

Sat, Mar 28, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m., Growing Citrus in Containers , Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Ave, San Jose

Sat, Apr 11, 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m., Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplants , Mountain View Public Library, 585 Franklin Street, Mountain View

Thu, Apr 16, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Five Essentials for a Great Summer Harvest , Palo Alto Rinconada Library, 1213 Newell Rd., Palo Alto

Sat, Apr 18, 9:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.,  Spring Garden Market - Martial Cottle Park , Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Ave,  San Jose  
Visit the UC Master Gardener Program website  for additional information including an up-to-date list of events and classes .

Have a gardening question? Contact our Help Desk (for Santa Clara County residents). Start by reviewing our plant  problem diagnosis tips .
  • Mon-Fri 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., 408-282-3105
  • Fri ONLY 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m., 650-329-1356 (Closed Dec. & Jan.)
  • Or send us your question online

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Santa Clara County Master Gardener Program volunteers are trained under the auspices of the UCCE. Our mission is to promote sustainable gardening practices by providing up-to-date, research-based horticultural information to home gardeners.

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