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Mary Kipp and Eleanor Schubert prepare the beds for spring planting at the Carlsbad Community Garden. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

Spring cleaning, summer planting

It is spring cleaning time! I remember with fondness the vigor with which my German grandmother and my mother attacked all the rooms in the house, taking out all the dishes in the china cabinet to clean, washing the rugs and slipcovers and sanitizing all the kitchen appliances!

Now this was in suburban Milwaukee, where “cleanliness is next to godliness,” but here in Southern California, my indoor house cleaning time has been replaced by outdoor spring garden cleaning.

I encourage my students at the Pine Street Community Senior Garden in Carlsbad to approach our 20-by-6-foot garden bed with the same enthusiasm. 

In the past two weeks we have been pulling out old vegetables that are beyond their prime and amending the existing beds with new soil.

According to Hanna Faulstich, one of my favorite staff members at Anderson’s La Costa Nursery in Encinitas, “This is a good time of year to refresh the soil and add nutrient-dense amendments to your beds.”

Anderson’s recommends E.B. Stone and Recipe 420 Raised Bed soils, which “will refresh the beds and add the nutrients that are washed away during winter months,” she says.

Hannah adds: “It is also a good time to come in and have a look at all the spring vegetables that are ready to go in the ground right now. We have everything in the Brassica family (broccoli, kale and cabbage), and a great supply of spring lettuce and peas, which all love the warm days and cool nights of February.

“It is too early to think about planting tomatoes and peppers, so stick to the cool season crops.”

Anderson’s La Costa Nursery is at 400 La Costa Ave. in Encinitas; phone (760) 753-3153.


Many gardeners with a small front or backyard think about planting bulbs in the fall, but this is the perfect time of year to clear out your beds to make room for summer bulbs.

According to my colleague and fellow garden writer in New York state, Katherine Whiteside, “Now is the time to plan to celebrate a seasonal splash of bulbs with specially selected lilies, sweetly perfumed acidantheras and bursts of outrageous color from dahlias.

“All of these bulbs are inexpensive, readily available, simple to grow and shine as showstoppers in the summer garden.”

In her book “The Way We Garden Now,” she takes us on a wild trip through those summer bulbs we may have forgotten. One of the oldest and most underused bulbs, almost always used as funeral bouquets, comes highly recommended.

Yes, gladiolus are sometimes forgotten in the summer garden, but a particular variety, the Acidanthera gladiolus, is among the most highly scented season bulbs (corms, actually), and can be ordered from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs ( or John Scheepers Company (


Right now, is the perfect time to check the local garden centers for a beautiful selection of flowering summer bulbs. One of the best buys is a bag of mixed dahlias, which can create a colorful display all summer long.

They can be planted in the ground or in garden beds; just wait until the evening temperatures are over 50 degrees. Plant tubers about 4 inches deep, with eyes pointing up. Allow 12 inches between plants, since they will become bushy.

The summer blooming dahlias can also be grown in pots for colorful bursts at your front door. And don’t forget, they make great cut flowers.

For the largest catalogue of dahlias that will make your mouth water and pocketbook groan, go to for a selection of over 100 tubers.


Write to us to share your favorite summer bulb secrets at [email protected].

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and horticulturist and teaches at the Carlsbad Senior Center Garden.