Spring at last, and now suddenly there’s urgency in the air for gardeners. If you want to grow vegetables in SoCal, April is the time to get them in the ground, with a thick layer of mulch, like compost, so they can get settled in before the true heat is upon us.
But while you’re thinking about what veggies, herbs and flowers (to keep pollinators happy) you want to grow this year, it’s best to consider an even more important question: How will you keep your garden watered during the drought, especially since there’s an excellent chance outdoor water restrictions may be coming soon?
Master gardener Yvonne Savio, creator of the endlessly helpful garden blog GardeninginLA.net, has a brilliant suggestion: She keeps all her tomatoes watered by sinking into the ground 5-gallon nursery buckets — the kind with holes in the bottom — leaving just 4 inches or so sticking out aboveground so there’s room for several inches of mulch, like compost or dried leaves. She plants her tomatoes on either side of those buckets and then once or twice a week fills the buckets with water to send moisture deep into the ground.
The plants’ roots will dig deep into the ground to follow that water, protecting them from summer’s heat and giving them a better chance of growing healthy and strong. You can find those empty buckets at nurseries (some have so many they give them away) or maybe from friends who have stacks stored in their garage (like me).
Anything you can do this month to ensure efficient deep watering will pay dividends later this year, when we’re likely to see the drought worsen. Experts agree that the best type of watering is slow, deep and infrequent, rather than short and frequent irrigation that keeps roots near the surface searching for water, making them more vulnerable to water stress and the heat.
The goal is to push water deep into the ground where it can do the most good, so take advantage of our coolish weather now to figure out a watering system that will get you and your plants through the coming heat.
And don’t forget to mulch!
Here’s a list of garden- and plant-related events and activities for April. Email events to email@example.com at least three weeks before they happen, and we might include them in the calendar.
Through May 31
The first Butterfly Garden Contest for gardens in southwest Riverside County, sponsored by the Santa Margarita Group of the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club. Gardens should include California native nectar plants for adult butterflies and host plants for the caterpillars (based on information on the California Native Plant Society’s Calscape.com database under the “butterflies” tab). Gardens must be in the communities of Canyon Lake, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Temecula, Wildomar or Winchester and will be evaluated in four categories, ranging from extra small (25 square feet or less, including container gardens) to larger than 125 square feet. Gardens will be judged on their overall beauty and functionality for all local butterflies; to be eligible, they must be primarily composed of native plants. It’s free to enter. Winners will be announced June 10, with prizes from $50 to $125, depending on garden size. Visit the website for entry forms and information. sierraclub.org/san-gorgonio/santa-margarita
Saddleback Valley Bromeliad Society Bromeliad Show & Sale from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sherman Library & Garden, 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar. Society President Cristy Brenner will give a talk about growing bromeliads in Southern California from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with information about repotting, separating pups and mounting Tillandsias (air plants) and other epiphytic bromeliads. Included with $5 admission to the gardens (members and children 3 and younger enter free). thesherman.org
April 3 and 10
Prisk Native Garden Open House, a rare (and free!) opportunity to tour the blooming garden of California native plants and wildflowers at William F. Prisk Elementary School, 2375 Fanwood Ave. in Long Beach (the garden is behind the school, at the corner of San Vicente Avenue and Los Arcos Street). The 7,500-square-foot garden was started in 1996 by school science teacher Candy Jennings with help from her husband, Alan, neighbor Frank Duroy and native plant enthusiast Mike Letteriello, and is now designated a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. The annual open house was canceled the last two years due to COVID but is open for visitors this year from 1 to 4 p.m. both days and admission is free. facebook.com/prisknativegarden/
Grow It Now — Warm Season Vegetables, a class in edible gardening presented by the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Orange County at the Anaheim Public Library, 500 W. Broadway in Anaheim from 5 to 6 p.m. This free class includes pointers in how to choose the right vegetables, starting with the No. 1 rule: plant what you and your family like to eat. Registration is not required. mgorange.ucanr.edu
Earth Day Celebration at Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum is a free family event at 18127 S. Alameda St. in Rancho Dominguez from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The events include docent-led tours of the museum and its gardens along with educational booths from local organizations and hands-on activities for children. dominguezrancho.org
The Southern California Iris Society presents its Spring Iris Show & Sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days in Ayres Hall at the L.A. County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia. The event includes tall bearded, small bearded and aril-bred irises, and society members will be available to answer questions. Admission is included with $15 entry to the gardens ($11 for seniors 62+ and students with ID, $5 for children 5-12, free for members and children under 5 and members.) arboretum.org
“Going Wild on the Urban Edge,” a talk by Mary Forgione, editor of the Los Angeles Times newsletter The Wild. for the Sherman Library & Gardens Lunch & Lecture series from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar.. Admission with lunch is $45 ($35 for members). Admission to the lecture only is $5, free to members. thesherman.org
Wetland Wednesday Herb Walk, a guided tour through the historic wetlands of the Ojai Meadows Preserve, 1601 Maricopa Highway in Ojai, to identify the California native plants used by the Chumash and other Indigenous people for food, medicine, fibers, housing and ceremony. Tour leaders Lanny and Rondia Kaufer will also discuss how these plants can be used in home landscapes. The walk, from 5 to 7 p.m., is presented under a special use permit issued by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. Register online, admission is $25. Participants will receive an email after the event listing all the plants and wildlife seen on the walk. herbwalks.com
Your (Un)natural Garden art experience opening day at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive in La Cañada Flintridge, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Artist Adam Schwerner has created a touchable art installation through the gardens and the Boddy House and Sturt Haaga Gallery, and will be giving a guided tour at 1 p.m. starting at the Center Circle. Live music will be performed on the path to the Hilltop Gardens between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. by Talking Strings, Tsering Dorjee, Jessica Fichot, George T. Abe and On That Note A Cappella. Schwerner’s installation runs through Jan. 8. Included with $15 admission to the garden ($11 seniors 65+ and students with ID, $5 children 5-12, free for members and children under 5). descansogardens.org
10 Essential Plants for Your Warm-Season Edible Garden, a gardening class at the Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar. The class provides tips for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs in your summer garden as well as watering, fertilizing and handling pest problems. After the talk, participants will tour the garden to see how many edible plants have been incorporated into the landscape and will get a selection of plants to take home. The class costs $40 ($30 for members). thesherman.org
California Native Plant Society presents “Saging the World” documentary premiere at the Warner Grand Theater, 434 W. 6th St.
in San Pedro, from 7 to 9 p.m. The documentary is the centerpiece of the native plant society’s new campaign to stop poaching of white sage from wildlands, tribal lands, public parks and private property to feed the growing interest in saging and smudging. Tickets are $15 ($10 to members of the California Native Plant Society). cnps.org
Pruning Plumeria is a hands-on class at the L. A. County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; participants should arrive by 9:30 to walk to the Arboretum’s plumeria grove. Instructor Diana Donnellan will explain how to correctly prune plumeria trees and then give participants a chance to learn by working on the Arboretum’s plumeria. Tickets are $40 ($30 for members) and include admission to the gardens. arboretum.org
Earth Day Family Class: Creating a Wildlife-Friendly Garden outlines the elements wildlife and plants need to thrive, and how home gardeners can be part of the solution at the Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. After the class, participants will get to tour the gardens and learn how the plantings are helping nature. Tickets are $30 per household ($25 for members). thesherman.org
Composting for Beginners is an Earth Day demonstration offered by the Sherman Library & Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar, between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Drop in to get composting ideas, including pointers about worm composting from the Junior Gardeners After School Club. The demonstrations are included with $5 admission to the gardens. (Members and children 3 and younger enter free.) thesherman.org
Earth Day Herb Walk in Matilija Canyon northwest of Ojai from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This is the first time tour leader Lanny Kaufer has brought a group to the canyon since it was ravaged by the Konigstein Fire in December 2017. The canyon is home to many native plants used by the Chumash and other Indigenous peoples, including white sage, coastal sagebrush, yerba santa, matilija poppy and California bay laurel. Kaufer will identify native plants and their uses during the 2-mile walk on mostly level terrain, as well as birds, butterflies and other wildlife spotted on the trail. Participants should meet at Maricopa Plaza, 1207 Maricopa Hwy. in Ojai to caravan to the trailhead. Register online, tickets are $35, but upon request, discounts are available for seniors, students and children. herbwalks.com
Pacific Rose Society Show & Sale in Ayres Hall at the L.A. County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, 1 to 4 p.m. on April 23 and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 24. The society’s show features thousands of cut roses from the home gardens of growers throughout Southern California. Admission is included with $15 entry to the gardens ($11 for seniors 62+ and students with ID, $5 for children 5-12, free for members and children under 5). arboretum.org
Gardening in Minimal Space is a class offered by the L.A. County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, for people who want to create a home garden on their balconies, side yards or windowsills. Elliott Kuhn, owner and cultivator of Cottonwood Urban Farm, will outline the basics of growing food in small spaces, from understanding climate and seasons to seed starting, companion planting, fertilizing and container requirements. Register online for the two-hour class, which starts at 10 a.m. Admission is $35 ($25 for members). arboretum.org
Adult Night Hike: Plants That Changed the World, an evening hike through the grounds of the L.A. County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, while discussing the “political assassinations, genocide, social revolutions and the amassing of untold fortunes” due to “humble and often unnoticed flora.” The hike is from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Admission is $25 ($20 for members). arboretum.org