The impulse to plant a new garden right after removing a lawn can be almost impossible to resist, particularly in spring. The rest of the world is abloom. What's more, immediate succession planting is done around Southern California all the time. However, unless the successor plant is a summer vegetable, it's always wrong.
Plant right away and remnant seeds and roots of the grass you've just removed will be awakened by the water you intend for the new stock. You may never disentangle their warring root systems. Above all, as what's left of the grass breaks down, your soil is still in conversion. It needs time. And so do you. Once the hard work of lawn removal is done and you're overseeing the soil conversion and weeding recurring grass, it's time to go back to square one of this series.
That is to say that this is the time to think. The questions are still: What do you want? Where do you want it? What will do well? What won't? How much water and maintenance will it take? To help answer those questions, to my mind, these are the best six books.
The New Sunset Western Garden Book If a gardener uses USDA climate zones instead of sunset ones, they are not from the West. This continually refreshed encyclopedia for western gardeners is perhaps the first book anyone new to the region should buy.
California Native Plants for the Garden Plants we love on hikes might not work in our gardens. The three co-authors of this book -- Bart O'Brien, a former horticulture director from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden; Carol Bornstein a former director at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden; and David Fross, a founder of Native Sons Nursery -- have dedicated their professional lives to selecting the most beautiful manzanitas, lilacs, grasses, sages, and vines from our native flora and developing durable, beautiful, and compact cultivars for our home gardens. A classic.
Landscape Plants for California Gardens Only this book by USC School of Architecture professor Robert Perry prepares you to plant a new garden with full understanding of compatible plant sizes, color palettes, durability, and water budgets.
Drip Irrigation for Every Landscape and All Climates The argument may be on-going about which kind of irrigation is best for plants -- drip irrigation or overhead sprinkling -- but drought is settling the score. If our gardens are going to keep going, drip will have to win. Robert Kourik, a plantsman who literally took his study back to how plant roots work, is the author I trust for those about to turn from sprinklers to drip.
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond The world is coming around to Brad Lancaster's way of thinking when it comes to simple steps that we all should be taking to maximize benefits of fleeting rains. He may look like a New Age desert hippie, but he thinks like a scientist and he has a garden aesthetic that would please Vita Sackville-West herself.
Designing with Succulents Anyone reading this series will have detected concern that we've gone too far in the succulent direction. I wonder if that concern would exist if more people had the understanding of how to use them demonstrated in this book by the San Diego-based garden writer Debra Lee Baldwin. Follow her instructions and you will not end up with a gravel pit.
For those with lawn gone but soil still in conversion, spring and summer aren't just tortuous intervals in which we must sit patiently inside studying gardening books. It's tour time. There's no sweeter path to inspiration than stealing a beautiful idea from a designer on the Mar Vista or Theodore Payne tours. Heat willing, this is also the season to take classes. Even buy tomato plants or succulents if the waiting is too much. Just please, please, please don't buy any plant that can't feed you in the months leading up to fall, or wait patiently in its pot until next November before you put it in the ground.
Los Angeles County
April 19: Claremont Eclectic: A Tour of Six Local Gardens, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Claremont
March 21-25: Theodore Payne Native Garden Tour, Los Angeles County, many locations
April 25: Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase, Mar Vista
San Diego County
April 10-14: Spring Break in San Diego, Pacific Horticulture, San Diego
April 11: Visit to Patrick Anderson's Garden with plants from South Africa, Australia and other Mediterranean climates, Mediterranean Garden Society, Fallbrook
April 28-29: San Diego: California Native Plant Society Native Garden Tour, San Diego
Los Angeles County
March 28: Tomato Mania! (heritage tomato seedling sale), Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge
April 8: Tomato Talk and Sale, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia
May 30-31: Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society Annual Drought-Tolerant Plant Festival, Encino
March 21-22: Veggiepalooza (rare vegetable plant sale), Fullerton Arboretum, Fullerton
April 4: Irrigation 101, Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College, El Cajon
April 4: Garden Design Elements, Tree of Life Nursery, San Juan Capistrano
April 18: Creating and Caring for Your Native Garden, Tree of Life Nursery, San Juan Capistrano
April 25, May 23, June 20, August 22: "The Magic of Composting, Shipley Nature Center, Huntington Beach
Los Angeles County
March 21: Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative Class, Altadena Community Garden
March 21: Water Conservation Workshop, Wattles Farm, Hollywood
March 21, 28; April 4, 11: Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative Class, Fountain Community Garden, Hollywood
March 21 and 28, Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative, Community Gardens of Santa Clarita
April 4 and May 16: Native Plant Horticulture with Lili Singer, Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley
April 4, 11, 18 and 25: Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative Class, Long Beach Organic South 40 Community Garden
April 10: Three-Part Native Garden Design with Joshua Link, Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley
April 11 and May 23: "Look, Ma, No Lawn!" with Lili Singer, Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley
April 19, 26; May 3, 10: Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative Class, Venice High School
April 23, 30: Bi-lingual Greywater Workshop, Greywater Action, Culver City
May 2: Propagating Native Plants with Tim Becker, Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley
May 2: Irrigation Practices for Native Plant Gardens with Tim Becker, Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley
May 2, 9, 16 and 23: Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative Classes, Culver City High School
May 16: Wildflower Workshop, Arlington Garden, Pasadena
May 16 and June 13: California Native Plant Horticulture with Lili Singer, Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley
May 23: Native Plant Garden Maintenance with Madena Asbell, Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley
City of Los Angeles: Bureau of Sanitation centers open most days in Boyle Heights, Elysian Valley, Griffith Park, Lake View Terrace, Lincoln Heights, North Hills, North Hollywood, San Pedro, Sun Valley, Van Nuys, and West LA
Inland Empire: March 21: Mulch and Compost Giveaways, Chino Basin Water District, Montclair (then every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month), Montclair
LA COUNTY GARDEN WORKSHOPS AND BIN SALES*
March 21: Garvey Ranch Park, Monterey Park
March 21: Gates Canyon Park, Calabasas
March 21: South Coast Botanic Garden, Palos Verdes
March 28: Columbia Park, Torrance
March 28: Artesia Public Library, Artesia
March 28: Chevy Chase Park, Atwater Village
March 28: La Mirada Regional Park, La Mirada
April 11: Holly Dale Library, South Gate
April 11: Memorial Park, Azusa
April 18 Veterans Memorial Complex, Culver City
April 18: Walnut Senior Center, Walnut
April 18: Glendora Library, Glendora
April 18: Spanish-speaking Workshop, Taller Gratis de Jardinería en Español, Centro Cívico de Esta LA
April 25: Arceo Park, El Monte
May 2: Virginia Park, Santa Monica
May 2: La Verne Public Library, La Verne
May 2: City Yard, West Covina
May 9: Eagle Rock Recreation Center, Eagle Rock
May 9: Pasadena Senior Center, Pasadena
May 9: George Lane Park, Quartz Hill
May 16: Charter Oak Park, Covina
May 16: Spanish-speaking Workshop, Taller Gratis de Jardinería en Español, Parque de Chet Holifield, Montebello
May 23: Pico Rivera Library, Pico Rivera
May 23: Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia
May 30: San Pedro Science Center, San Pedro
June 6: Integrated Waste Management Facility, Glendale
*For additional dates of beginner and more advanced classes throughout the summer across LA County go to the Department of Public Works.