Down and Dirty Southern California Gardening
A weekly GardenZeus article series to help gardeners succeed in Southern California’s unique climates and growing conditions.
Post 2: Grow Your Gardening Brain Here in Sunny Southern California
Let’s be honest: California is a different world in many ways from the rest of the United States. From the comparatively mild climate across most of the state to the international allure of celebrity culture and the entertainment-industry in Los Angeles and beyond, California can seem larger-than-life, exciting, and unreal; a land of dreams and possibilities. Gardening here is also a different world that can be confusing and difficult to those who don’t know the ropes.
Your gardening habits, tried-and-true advice, favorite varieties, and tips and tricks from New York or Iowa might or might not work so well here. Southern-California gardening is a completely different animal (or would that be vegetable?) than anywhere else in the United States, from the midwest to the East Coast and Eastern Seaboard, from New England to the cold Northern states and the Pacific Northwest, and from the South westward to Arizona – and despite our dry climate, gardening in Southern California even differs in important ways from gardening in the desert Southwest.
Many gardening basics are the same – plants have the same needs and tolerances – but timing and seasonality, planting schedules, selection of varieties, soil issues and challenges, and many other key gardening issues, techniques, requirements, methods, and knowledge are different. Even methods for successful composting and managing soil organic matter are somewhat different to completely unexpected for those arriving here after gardening in other climates, or for those who have assumed general or temperate-climate gardening methods or practices will succeed here.
Every land of dreams also, naturally, has its own nightmares. At GardenZeus we recommend that when new to gardening in Southern California, whether having lived here your whole life or just arriving from out of state, you take off the emerald glasses of general gardening advice and/or your prior gardening habits and knowledge, and look at everything with fresh eyes: restart, rethink, relearn, reexamine.
Save yourself a few years of hassle and disappointment by putting all your prior gardening habits on a shelf for now, along with the instructional gardening books by authors from wherever it snows during winter. Assume only that until proven otherwise, everything about gardening here is different than with temperate-climate gardening. Give yourself time to grow a new gardening brain. Let your green thumb harden off here in sunny California before you try to use it for growing plants.
“Down and Dirty Southern California Gardening” is a weekly GardenZeus article series in which expert Darren Butler shares more than 20 years of experience about what works and what doesn’t with gardening in Southern California:
Post 1: What did you say about gardening in Southern California?
Post 3: My Garden Crash-Landing in the San Fernando Valley
All articles in this series: Down and Dirty Southern California Gardening