Garden is a Last Frontier for Creativity

African marigold and sweet alyssum are annuals that self-sow in the garden

African marigold and sweet alyssum are annuals that self-sow in the garden

April may be “the cruelest month,” as T.S. Eliot wrote, especially when it comes to gardening in Los Angeles. It’s the month when we experience our first heat wave of the growing season, the equivalent of a harsh horticultural slap in the face.
During winter, our horticultural sense of responsibility may have lapsed. We were lulled into a false sense of security by gray skies and dormant plants. Suddenly we are jolted into awareness by the sun and recognize in the full light of day that our plants are helpless without us.
April heat is a cruel reminder that we will probably not experience any more rain for half a year or longer. It is the month of botanical sobering up, of quickly realizing our total dependence on far-away sources of water for the survival of our plants.
Actually, the virtual absence of rainfall in the coming months presents a wonderful opportunity for dry climate gardeners. It is an opportunity to get to know your plants, if you choose to make that commitment. For example, you could keep a record of how often you water your individual plants, noting the condition of the plants and the soil at each watering. Over the course of a single growing season, you would become expert in the relative moisture requirements of the various species that inhabit your garden.
In our ready-made world, the garden is one of the last frontiers of creativity. The beauty of gardening is that it puts you intimately in touch with processes of growth. You have a front-row seat to the birth, development, decline and rejuvenation of plants.
Don’t think for a moment that just because hotter weather has arrived, you no longer have the opportunity to plant. Seeds, especially, deserve your attention, now or at any time, because their germination and development will forever be the quintessential, most enjoyable gardening experience.
Most flower seeds are quite small; mix them with sand or fine compost to evenly distribute them in a garden bed. The idea of digging holes or furrows for small seeds should be removed from your mind. When we plant small seeds beneath the soil surface, we usually plant them too deeply, and they simply rot before they see the light of day.
Recall that in nature, seeds germinate where they are dropped or blown from the plant, or where animals carry them; 99 times out of a hundred, they sprout lying flat upon the ground. After distributing the seeds, cover them with a light layer of compost or peat moss to protect them from desiccation.
Remember to plan ahead when selecting seeds. At this time of year, for instance, you would want to plant summer and fall bloomers such as sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, annual vinca, nicotiana, petunia, Oriental poppy and celosia. Because of our mild climate, perennials such as Shasta daisies, and plants such as sweet alyssum, begonia, and impatiens — that bloom throughout the year — may be grown from seed at any time.

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