The Star-News

Picking the fruits of your labor

Mon, Jun 14 2010 11:51 AM Posted By: Karina Hernandez

March is a good time to start planting warm weather vegetables. The climate in our area favors popular summer veggies that are easy to care for such as corn, carrots, leaf lettuce, snap beans and tomatoes.

Signs of spring appear weeks before the first official day of the season on March 20. Identify plants and crops that will thrive on your terrain. National City and Chula Vista (west of the 805) lie in Sunset Climate Zone 24, and the rest of Chula Vista lies in Zone 23.

Unlike the USDA Hardiness Zones, Sunset Climate zoning indicates where plants will thrive year round, not just during cold weather. It accounts for temperature as well as elevation above sea level, ocean influence, hills, valleys, mountains and microclimates.

March is still a rainy month, receiving two inches of rain on average, but the soil, when dry, is workable and ready for cultivating. After rain, wait until soil is crumbly, avoid working soggy soil. Turn several inches of compost and an all-natural, organic fertilizer rated for vegetables into the top six inches of soil. Use grass clippings from the lawn as a mulch to top the soil.

Start off the season with quality soil and fertilizer, as they will help control unwanted pests.

Farm manures are valuable fertilizers for veggies, fruits and herbs. Poultry manure, dairy (cow), rabbit and horse manures can be purchased at some local nurseries and farms. Chicken manure is the richest of these in nitrogen, potassium and potash, the essential nutrients in fertilizers known as N-P-K. Make sure chicken manure is composted and aged six months before adding it to the garden, otherwise it can easily burn plants it comes in contact with.

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