March Tips & Events for Santa Clara County
"More grows in the garden than the gardener sows." ~Spanish proverb
Monthly Tips
Weed Patrol
It’s weed season! Admittedly, it’s always weed season in California. Yet lots of plants, cultivated or uninvited, take off in the spring when we’ve had rain and are now getting sun and warmth. Some of these weeds you may have battled for years, and others may make their first appearance in your yard, introduced by birds or wind or a maintenance gardener’s mower. While it may be nice to know the name of a weed, it’s more important to just get rid of it. Perhaps the most useful information to know is how it propagates. This lets you know if you can prevent spreading by removing it before it goes to seed or if you have to make sure to get every bit of root or runner. Just always remove it as quickly and completely as possible. As it grows, it will be robbing water and nutrients from the soil and from other more desirable plants. Keep in mind that there are positive benefits to some weeds, including many that are edible.

Photo: Malva parviflora, little mallow (cheeseweed), UC, by Joseph DiTomaso
Native Wildflowers
Wildflowers aren’t just for meadows; they can provide a pop of color for a small space like a border or parking strip or driveway strip. If you are participating in the “lose the lawn” movement and planting California natives or other drought-resistant plants, you know that it takes a little while for the new plants to grow; wildflowers are a nice way to fill in that space for the first couple years. Most prefer full sun and they naturally grow well in our soil and climate, so they need very little care. Choose colors and forms you like, or use a wildflower blend for more variety. California wildflowers have evolved to germinate with winter rains, so you can still plant them now for late spring or early summer bloom. If we are not getting significant rain, water regularly until the wildflowers germinate and start to grow. If allowed to go to seed, they will self-propagate for years to come.

Photo: Nemophila menziesii, Baby Blue Eyes, UC, by Jack Kelly Clark
Snails and Slugs
Escargot may sound good on a plate, which is where the French who brought this delicacy to California in the 1850s intended for the ingredients to stay, but they escaped into gardens where they became pests. Brown garden snails are the most common ones we see (or don’t see) eating our plants. Signs of their presence include holes in fruit rinds and leaves, not necessarily at the edges, and slime trails. They tend to hide in dark damp places during the day and come out mostly at night. The best times to find them are at night with a flashlight, early in the morning, or during and right after heavy rain. They can be hand-picked and crushed or put in a bucket of soapy water. Gloves are recommended, especially with the shell-less slugs. Creating hiding places, such as laying a wooden board over a section of the garden, will draw them to that location so you can find and dispatch them in the morning. Copper barriers and beer traps are other options. Or, after making sure the snails are clean, you can sauté them with butter and garlic!

Photo: Beer trap for snails and slugs, UC, by Jack Kelly Clark
Beer trap for slugs and snails
More Cool Season Crops
Mustard seedling by Jack Kelly Clark
Many of the cool season crops that are planted in September or October can be planted again in February and March and sometimes into April. You can get in another crop before it's time to put summer vegetables in the ground. These vegetables include carrots, beets, spinach, kohlrabi, cabbage, collards, and other leafy green vegetables. Sow root vegetables directly in the spot where they will grow to maturity to avoid damaging the roots during transplant. Buy other vegetables as transplants or seed them in pots for later transplanting. About a week before transplanting the seedlings, set their pots out in the planting location. This allows the plants to acclimate to the new location. Then when you remove the seedlings from the original pots, you will change fewer conditions at one time and the plants will suffer less transplant shock.

Photo: Mustard seedling, UC, by Jack Kelly Clark
Right Plant, Right Place
UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley by Genevieve Schmidt
There’s so much to consider when designing a garden and choosing plants. First is the purpose of the garden. Do you want food? Privacy? Shade? Color? Bees? Equally important are the conditions of the site. Is there a lot of sun, and during which part of the day? What type of soil is there? Is it windy? Does the temperature get below freezing? How many chill hours, between 32 and 45°F, does the site get per year? What is the rainfall and humidity of the area? A plant that is well-adapted to the conditions will be healthier, with less input from the gardener. Healthier plants will have fewer pests and diseases and won’t need so many resources to survive and thrive. California native plants are already matched to our climate, soil, and native fauna. Drought tolerance is important for ornamental plants in our area, and Mediterranean plants, which evolved in similar weather conditions, can work well here. Also consider the plant's eventual size; width is usually more of a limiting factor than height. Other aesthetic considerations are color, fragrance, and texture.

Photo: UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, by Genevieve Schmidt
Upcoming Events
'King Alfred' trumpet daffodil by Jack Kelly Clark
We regret that we will not be holding a 2021 Spring Garden Market due to COVID restrictions. We hope to return with a full event in 2022.

Successful Vegetable Gardening Class 2: Soil, Monday, March 1, 7–8:30 pm, Online

Successful Vegetable Gardening Class 3: Seeds & Seedlings, Monday, March 8, 7–8:30 pm, Online

Growing Your Own Sweet Potatoes, Thursday, March 11, 5–6 pm, Online

Plant Clinic, Saturday, March 13, 10 am–noon, Online

Become a Weed Warrior, Saturday, March 13, 11:30 am–1 pm, Online

Successful Vegetable Gardening Class 4: Water & Mulch, Monday, March 15, 7–8:30 pm, Online

How to Save Money with Water Wise Gardening Techniques, Tuesday, March 16, 7–8:30 pm, Online

Growing Tomatoes and Peppers Successfully, Thursday, March 18, 7–8:30 pm, Online

Successful Vegetable Gardening Class 5: Managing Pests, Monday, March 22, 7–8:30 pm, Online

Plant Clinic, Saturday, April 10, 10 am–noon, Online
Check our calendar for the latest schedule of events. Videos of many past presentations are also available.

Photo: Daffodils, UC Statewide IPM project, University of California
About Us
University of California Master Gardener volunteers promote sustainable gardening practices and provide research-based horticultural information to home gardeners. Visit our website for more information including:

Have a gardening question? Contact our Help Desk (for Santa Clara County residents). Start by reviewing our plant problem diagnosis tips and then:
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