Southwest Regional Reports

April Garden To-Do List for Southern California

garden containers
A healthy growing environment ensures healthy plants. Give your plants a good start with clean pots. Photo: Francesca Corra

Clean out containers. Before you start a mad rush of buying new plants this month, get your old pots ready for reuse. Plants need every advantage you can give them, and a clean pot is one of them. I know you are just going to get them dirty again, but you don’t know what sorts of diseases or insect eggs they may be harboring. Brush off as much of the old dirt and crud as you can. Then use a solution of bleach or vinegar mixed with water to disinfect them. Finish them off with some soap and water, and let them dry in the sun.

blueberries in containers
Blueberries are great container candidates. Photo: Francesca Corra

Grow blueberries. If you haven’t yet tried growing blueberries, why not buy a few and grow them in pots? I have had better luck with them in pots than in the ground. In their own pots, you can control the growing conditions and move them around to find the best spot.

edible garden area
This edible area not only has its own dedicated hose, but it also makes room for a potting table with a sink. No soaps or harmful chemicals are used here, so excess water from the sink drains into a dedicated part of the garden. Photo: Francesca Corra

Give your veggie garden a dedicated hose. If you are still organizing your edible area, here is something to consider: A dedicated hose, situated right inside or next to your edibles, makes watering them very convenient. Even if you have drip irrigation to your beds, it is often necessary to give some edible plants a bit of extra water.

aphids on leaves
The aphids found on the underside of these rose leaves are the cause of the unsightly yellowing and browning. Photo: Francesca Corra

Check over your roses. Roses (Rosa spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) are sprouting new growth, and buds and flowers are appearing. Before they really take off, check your plants for any pests or diseases. There are a myriad of things to look for: mildew, rust, aphids, and more. I like to take the organic approach, starting by simply hosing down the plants in early morning. I also pick the offending leaves off the plants before they fall to the ground. If you find aphids on your plants, you can also practice gardening methods that encourage native ladybug species to visit your garden to control the aphid population.

Gopher spurge
Gopher spurge, native to the Mediterranean region, has blue-green leaves and gorgeous chartreuse bracts. Photo: Francesca Corra

Deter gophers with euphorbias. Critters in the garden are always a challenge. It seems that with the recent fires the coyote population is down, resulting in an upswing in the gopher population. If you have seen any signs of gophers, here is one fun way to deter them. Euphorbias, or spurge, have a sap that you can see when you break off a branch. The sap is irritating to humans and distasteful to gophers. I recommend that you try Euphorbia rigida (Zones 7–10), which is aptly called “gopher spurge.” It will grow to be about 1 to 2 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide. It’s self-seeding, so expect to be pulling little seedlings from the garden—or let them grow if you have the space. It likes full sun but tolerates a fair amount of shade. Learn more about euphorbias here.

garden decor
Gardens are healing spaces. Allow the act of gardening to hearten you and give you strength this month. Photo: Francesca Corra

Take some time to relax. If there was ever a moment to hunker down and spend time in your own garden, this would be it. Anxiety is running high among us all, so creating an outdoor haven is now more important than ever. Take the time to unwind in the garden this month. This could be through yoga, meditation, or simply relaxing and enjoying the flora surrounding you. Find a quiet corner of the garden, perhaps enclosed by some shrubbery or a partition, or under a beautiful shade tree. Oh, and speaking of trees, remember that nesting season is in full swing, so please hold off on your tree pruning until the fall.

—Francesca Corra, APLD, is a nationally certified landscape designer and owner of Dirt Diva Designs in Studio City, California.

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