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March in the Southern California garden

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Courtesy of All-America Selections

(Read caption) This colorful zinnia, Zahara Starlight Rose, won an All-America Selections award for its color and disease-resistance. It should look nice in Souther California gardens.

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By now we’ve probably seen the last of our meaningful rains, and can look forward to drier, warmer weather and longer days. That's all good for the garden, and for all gardeners, the good the bad and the pretty, it’s time to prepare for summer.

Los Angeles to San Diego can look for temps in the 70s F; Blythe, Barstow, and Palm Springs can expect some 80-plus days; the Inland Empire — Riverside and San Bernardino, as well as farther north, Fresno, Bakersfield, and the Central Coast will all start to head into summer.

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Soil is the foundation of all good gardens

As well as what to plant, gardeners need to think about the soil that makes up our gardens.

If you’re planting in containers or raised beds, you’ve already prepared a good home for seeds or plants. but if you’re working directly in the ground, give the soil a boost by adding organic material. Work in any kind you can get your hands on including hay, straw, leaves, grass clippings (providing they don’t have Bermudagrass in them and haven't been treated with chemicals), and compost.

Double dig the material using a spade, or mix it in with a tiller a couple of times, and your garden will love you for it.

Don’t worry about fertilizer just yet, that can come later this month or next.

Get ready to start planting

Having done this, you’re now ready to plant vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees, bulbs, or anything else that loves the warm weather to come. Late this month some seeds can be direct seeded in the garden some might be better started indoors, or under plastic or glass, but this month is a prime time to get started.

Flowering perennials probably should go first, since they’ll take longer to get going. Foxglove, yarrow, hollyhock, and others can be planted now.

Any of the summer vegetables can be seeded in now, but peppers and tomatoes might be better started under controlled conditions, either indoors, under plastic, or in a cold frame or greenhouse.

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Gerald Burke is a freelance horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association.