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Diggin' It

Southern California gardening: What to plant in April

If you garden in Southern California, April is the time to get busy and plant these flowers and vegetables.

By Gerald Burke / April 24, 2011

You can plant seeds of all melons directly in the soil this month. Lambkin melon, shown, is an All-America Selections winner from 2009 and will do well in Southern California.

Courtesy of All-America Selections

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Like our colleagues in areas where winter is beginning to end, April stirs those of us in SoCal to get busy in the garden. Our youngest son lives in Massachusetts, and in an e-mail earlier in the month he reported another four inches of snow, but said it was beginning to melt.

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Fortunately, we don’t have that problem, and April for us is a time to get serious about gardening and getting things done before hot weather arrives.

Sow seed of vegetables and flowers

We can sow seed of most vegetables directly in the garden this month, including beans -- both pole and bush -- beets, carrots, sweet corn, cucumbesr, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, all melons, long-day onions, pumpkins, radishes, Swiss chard, spinach, and squash.

This late, it's best to set out plants of tomatoes and peppes, although you can start them from seed if you have controlled conditions, such as a small portable greenhouse and bottom heat.

Gardeners who have had trouble growing either bush or pole beans should try cowpeas. They grow just like bush beans, taste just as good when cooked, and are as good as dried beans.

Seeds of most herbs can be sown directly in the soil this month, too. Or you can buy plants.

Only a few flowers are hard to start in the soil this month, so plant these easy ones: amaranthus, bells of Ireland, cosmos, cornflower, gaillardia, lobelia, ageratum, marigold, morning glory, nasturtium, scabiosa, statice, strawflower, sunflower, and zinnia.

Get moving before hot weather

If your garden needs refurbishing with basic ornamental plantings -- such as roses, trees, shrubs, and fruit trees -- these can be planted now and get a good start before hot weather arrives.

And don’t forget to plant summer -lowering bulbs such as gladiolus, dahlia, tuberose, canna, and lilies. Wait another two or three weeks to plant fancy-leaf caladium, elephant ear, begonia, and gloxinia.

An interesting link to check out is EZ From Seed, a website from the Home Garden Seed Association. While it doesn’t always address Southern California conditions specifically, it does have some good info on planting.

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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.

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