March is known as ‘other’ bulb season

“There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time...must be paid heavily for their acquiring.”

— Ernest Hemingway

One of the requisite skills of being a horticulturist is acquiring knowledge about the approaching gardening seasons. In my case, the learning came slowly, not for a lack of interest, but rather for the youthful excuse of lack of time and too many competing interests. But the lessons of horticulture from my father were not completely wasted, and I am proof that with enough time one is bound to learn a little.

My pulse quickens with excitement for spring gardening — to shed the rain gear and taste the first strawberry from the garden. I anticipate and then savor the glorious moment when the first tulip appears. I smile at Catharine’s joy in seeing three new spikes on her prized orchid.


And I enjoy answering your questions for the Plant Man this month.

Q. My rose is still in its plastic bag. Is it too late to plant?

A. Not yet, but please hurry!

Q. Plantman, should I fertilize my garden now?


A. Spring-like weather is predicted to return, in the middle of next week, and your plants are hungry. If you don’t fertilize your garden on a regular basis, this is the most important month to do so.

Q. Is it too late for bulbs?

A. March is the “other” bulb season. There is plenty of time to start gladiolus, dahlias, the fragrant tuberose and of course tuberous begonias. They will all benefit by being mulched to keep the soil friable during the anticipated, sunny late winter.

Q. Is it safe to start my tomatoes and herbs?

A. If you’re missing those home-grown tomatoes, I would recommend that you set out varieties like early girl and cherry tomatoes, which do well in Laguna beginning in March. You can, of course, plant herbs in a protected, sunny part of your garden.

Q. My camellia has just finished blooming. Do I need to do anything with it?

A. Fertilize it with a complete fertilizer, one formulated for acid-loving plants. Mulch with azalea mix or leaf mold; don’t forget to rake up old flowers.

Although I consider myself fortunate to be busy, one thing hasn’t changed much over the years, I still struggle to budget time for competing interests. I wish I could spend more time being with family and friends and walk even more often with Buster. I promise to try, but first I’m going to enjoy “Freedom’s Legacy” at the Patriots Day Parade on Saturday. See you next time.


STEVE KAWARATANI is married to writer Catharine Cooper. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to .