Plant people: Start preparing your summer vegetable gardens now

An illustration of a tomato, an orchid and a Monarch butterfly.
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

If you haven’t already, now is the time to dig out your garden forks, shovels and bags of soil amendments to get your garden ready for spring.

SoCal’s recent spate of cool temperatures has kept nurseries from setting out too many hot-season seedlings, but that will change as the temperatures rise. Tomatomania is already in full swing this month, so start thinking now about the veggies you want to add to your garden.

In the meantime, refresh the depleted soil from last year’s crop by adding some good, preferably organic amendments to your garden beds or pots, such as compost, worm castings and steer manure; water it well; and let it sit for at least a week to give the soil time to cool down. The heat generated by beneficial microbes chomping down on all those yummy (to them) amendments can burn tender seedlings, so make sure the soil has a chance to cool down before you start planting.


One last note: The Santa Monica Mountains Fund is hosting its second virtual Southern California Monarch and Milkweed Conference on Saturday, March 12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This deep online dive into “all things monarch and milkweed” is free, but registration is required online.

Email garden- and plant-related events to 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 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 gardens 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 ranging from $50 to $125, depending on garden size. Visit the website for entry forms and information.

Even when baseball isn’t in season, Dodger Stadium is open for visitors to its botanic garden filled with drought-tolerant plants.

March 3, 2022

March 11-12
Tomatomania! at Otto & Sons Nursery, 1835 E. Guiberson Road in Fillmore, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. SoCal’s renowned rose nursery makes room for Tomatomania’s more than 200 heirloom and hybrid tomato plants and some 100 varieties of peppers.

March 11-13
Tomatomania! at Fig Earth Supply, 3577 N. Figueroa St. in Mount Washington, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

March 12
Spring Bloom Tours at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive in La Cañada Flintridge, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Take a guided walking tour to see what’s blooming. Reservations aren’t necessary; just meet at the Center Circle. Free with $15 admission to the gardens ($11 seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $5 ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free).

March 12-13
19th Clivia Show & Sale presented by the Southern California Chapter of the North American Clivia Society, at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Society members will have more than 200 plants on display along with unusual varieties of clivias available for purchase. Visitors can also cast their votes for the show’s “People’s Choice” award. The show is free with $29 admission to the Huntington ($24 for seniors 65 and older, active military and students with ID, $13 for ages 4-11. Members and children under 4 enter free).


Invasive shothole borer and gold-spotted oak borer beetles have killed thousands of trees in Southern California. Here’s how to protect yours.

Feb. 23, 2022

March 13
South Coast Cactus & Succulent Society presents a free, in-person talk by succulent expert Woody Minnich about the cactuses and succulents of New Mexico from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Peninsula Center Library Community Room, 701 Silver Spur Road in Rolling Hills Estates. Minnich grew up in the Mojave Desert and now lives in New Mexico. This is the society’s first in-person event since the COVID-19 shutdowns in March 2020; please check the website for any last-minute changes.

March 18-20
San Diego County Orchid Society Orchid Magic International Spring Show and Sale at the Scottish Rite Center, 1895 Camino Del Rio South in San Diego, from 3 to 7 p.m. on March 18, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 19 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 20. The show will include four orchid classes on March 19 and four on March 20 on topics such as caring for a new orchid purchase, reblooming an orchid, repotting an orchid and orchids to grow outdoors. The society will also have free printed materials about orchids available to take home, including care sheets for each of a dozen different types of orchids. Admission is $10 for one day or $12 for the weekend. Children under 12 enter for free.

Tomatomania! at Tapia Bros. Farm, 5251 Hayvenhurst Ave. in Encino, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

March 19
Golden Garden’s Long Beach Plant Swap at the Hangout, 2122 E. 4th St. in Long Beach from 4 to 6:30 p.m. This free event will feature Danae Horst of Folia Collective signing copies of her book, “Houseplants for All.” If you plan to bring healthy, pest-free plants or cuttings to share or swap, RSVP online to ensure a space is available for you.

Social media is going berserk about SB 1383, California’s new food waste rules. Composting is an easy way you can tackle global warming. Here’s how.

Jan. 28, 2022

March 19, 26 and April 2
Three-part native bee workshop led by community scientist and photographer Krystle Hickman at the Theodore Payne Foundation nursery, 10459 Tuxford St. in Sun Valley, on March 19 and 26 and a private garden in Altadena on April 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. each day. Hickman will discuss how to identify and photograph native bees, their relationships to native plants and how to garden for native bees. Workshops will be held both indoors and outdoors and are limited to 15 people. Participants should prepare for walking on steep, uneven surfaces and dress in layers, as the classroom windows will be open for ventilation. Participants must provide proof they are fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 PCR test result and wear a mask while indoors. Register online, $150 ($130 for Theodore Payne Foundation members).

March 25-27
Tomatomania! at Underwood Family Farms, Moorpark Farm Center, 3370 Sunset Valley Road in Moorpark, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.


March 26
Family Night Hikes: Under the Looking Glass at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Participants in this guided stroll will explore the tiny plants and animals that live in the garden and learn how even the tiniest living things can have a huge impact on our world. Buy tickets online for $20 ($15 for members. Children under 12 months enter for free but must still be registered.)

Adult Night Hike: Floriography, the Language of Plants at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia from 7:30 to 9 p.m. This guided walk explores the Arboretum’s historical gardens and the secret meaning of the plants, as expressed by the Victorian era’s obsession with communicating through flowers, when “famously repressed young Victorians, in a world before Twitter, relied on innuendos and insults sent in the form of bouquets to convey messages too unseemly for polite conversation.” Register online for $25 ($20 for members).

Spring Celebration at Descanso Gardens includes tours of the pollinator garden and the new nursery, as well as the native milkweed and other plants the gardens are growing to support pollinators, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1418 Descanso Drive in La Cañada Flintridge. Tours are scheduled in English at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and a tour in Spanish is scheduled for 1 p.m. The event also includes informational tables staffed by the garden’s partner organizations — Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Latino Outdoors, Arroyos and Foothill Conservancy, California Native Plant Society, Theodore Payne Foundation and Kidspace Children’s Museum — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All activities are free with $15 admission ($11 for seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $5 for ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free).

April 1
Tomatomania! at Wachter’s Hay & Grain, 114 S. Montgomery St. in Ojai, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

April 2
Tomatomania! at Seaside Gardens, 3700 Via Real in Carpinteria, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.