By Francesca Filanc, for Let's Talk Plants! March 2022.
Traditionally March is a work horse month in our gardens. My mum, Pat Welsh, gives all the details in her books which you can buy as eBooks or as used hardcopies online. It has been said that Mum wrote the ‘Bible’ of gardening in Southern California. Pat Welsh was also coined as the ‘Julia Child’ of gardening. One can still see her videos and television segments online. Pat was the star of shows for Home and Garden TV, as well as being the garden expert on Channel 39 news every Friday night for five years in San Diego. Pat was hilariously funny and taught millions how to garden through humor and knowledge and she won an Emmy for her terrific performance.
Years ago, when I would ask Mum a question about gardening, her response was, "look it up Francie, it’s in the book."
Mum’s books are a wealth of knowledge and have all the answers for gardening in Southern california.PatWelsh.com
Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening Month by Month
Climate change is causing bumps and starts in our gardens. We are learning to be flexible and how to adjust. My gardener planted seeds in my garden back in November that did not come up at all and others that did come up, but the plants are growing very slowly compared to previous years.
"Under a global warming scenario, dormancy relief and seedling emergence declined and seed mortality increased as soil temperature increased along a thermal gradient."
Traditionally March is also the beginning of spring in Southern California. March is a great month for avid gardeners to be working in their gardens all day long. March is a good time to put in spring vegetables. Wait a month or two to put in the summer vegetables. We also need to be careful of frost. If it freezes in your area don’t cut back frost bitten plants until all signs of frost have passed.
If you are thinking of growing vegetables for the first time or are considering putting in a new vegetable garden, March is a good time to get started. Whether you have the space or space is limited, you might consider putting in a raised vegetable garden. These can be easily purchased from places like Gardener’s Supply. Such a fun project and some raised beds even have wheels on the raised containers, and they are waist high for easy gardening. Just make sure to pick a spot in your garden that has seven to eight hours of full sun if possible. Also, there are local companies that you can hire to come build your vegetable garden and maintain it if you would like. Friends of mine have raised beds on the side of their house that gets eight hours of sun a day and they can move them to another side of their patio when the light changes as the year progresses.
My first vegetable garden was when I was a little girl and Mum gave my sister and me each our own plot to plant seeds. So much fun and I have been hooked on gardening ever since!
When I was sixteen my father and mother planned a trip to take my sister and me to Europe for six weeks. Uncle Jack had a manor house in Sussex, England from the sixteenth century. The home and gardens were divine. All the fruit trees were covered with a wire house so that birds could not get in and eat the fruit.
Uncle Jack's fruit tree wire enclosure gave me the idea years later to have a wire house for growing vegetables. Inside the wire house I had raised beds built out of redwood. The boxes had wire mesh buried under the ground and overhead to keep critters such as gofers from digging under and into the vegetable boxes. The builder put a drip system into the boxes. I had vegetables year-round. There is a large Spanish style fountain outside of the enclosure that attracts dozens of birds every day. I loved to sit in the enclosure and write or paint or just be with my two wonderful standard poodles Amie and Byron. Horses would trot or gallop by on the trail right next to the property. Oh, what joy. I would pretend I lived in the French countryside.
When I first moved to my present property, I wanted to build a swimming pool in an area that turned out not to be well suited for the pool. I then decided to make a parterre vegetable garden in the spot where I had envisioned a swimming pool. The parterre vegetable garden is in the center of a lawn. In 2020 I had the parterre surrounded by a white picket fence with wire to keep the critters out and keep my dogs, Byron and Prince, out too. There is a beautiful fountain in the middle that attracts dozens of birds every day. Each section has a grass path and a gate into the vegetable garden.
When I first built the vegetable garden six years ago, I bought one artichoke plant. The plant flourished and now puts off babies every year. The mama dies and the baby or babies grow. I have not had to buy an artichoke plant since. This is the month that I start getting artichokes and they last for two or three months. One plant usually produces forty artichokes. Right now, I have snow peas, two artichoke plants, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage, sorrel, arugula and herbs plus an avocado tree that is about to bloom for the first time and will hopefully produce fruit as well as a fig tree both of which planted themselves from kitchen scraps turned into compost and then used in my garden.
As I was writing this article today, I heard a deafening sound. I was so into my writing that it took a while before I went to check on the noise - torrential rain and hail.
Artist, author, photographer, fly-fisher woman, Francesca Filanc grew up in old Del Mar and these days lives, paints and gardens in historic Olivenhain with two French poodles.