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March: your Northern California guide.

* IDEA WE LOVE

SANDBOX FIREPIT

Creating a play area for kids is half the story behind this circular sandbox in an Orinda, California, backyard. The rest of the story is revealed at nightfall, when the kids sleep and the grown-ups come out to play. The sandbox transitions from beachy to blazing with the simple addition of a firepit. A "cast in place" concrete curb defines the space, hugged by a meadow of Berkeley sedge. For height, texture, and color, landscape architect Stefan Thuilot added Eastern redbud, variegated Japanese silver grass, strawberry tree, and a pink-flowering New Zealand tea tree. -PAUL LEE CANNON DESIGN Thuilot Associates, Berkeley (thuilot.com)

To-do list

* When choosing new plants for the garden, avoid invasive ones like pampas grass and periwinkle (Vinca major). For more info and a complete list of invasives, visit plantright.org

* Weed seedlings slip easily out of the moist soil of early spring. Pull or hoe them before they flower and go to seed.

* Feed annuals, perennials, and trees with an all-purpose fertilizer.

* Plant a citrus tree.

* Get inspired at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show (Mar 20-24), at the San Mateo County Event Center. View display gardens, attend seminars, and shop at an extensive marketplace. From $16 through Mar 10, from $20 Mar 11 and after; sfgarden show.com

* If you've sown a cover crop, cut or mow it clown and till it into the soil.

* Prune frost-damaged plants only after all freezing temps have passed and new growth starts.

* Bent, blue, fescue, rye, and other grasses begin their spring growth spurts now. Feed with a high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer according to label directions.

* Alyssum, cosmos, and, zinnias are all easy flowers to grow from seed. Sunset Landscape supervisor Rick LaFrentz suggests his own summer favorite to start now: "Annual statice are available in so many colors. They make great cut flowers, and the blossoms keep coming all season long."

* Plant peas--they like the cool growing conditions of early spring.

* Keep apples worm-free by setting codling moth traps high in trees before flower petals fall.

* Check plants for early signs of infestation by insects such as aphids (look for distorted new growth and tiny, often green or black insects) and spittlebugs (look for white foam on the stems). Blast them off with a hose.

* Turn on drip-irrigation systems and repair any leaks. Flush sediment from filters and check screens for algae; clean with a small brush if necessary. -JOHANNA SILVER

"I'm loving 'Diamond Heights ceanothus. It stays low, and its chartreuse leaves--splashed with deep green--almost glow."

-KATHLEEN N. BRENZEL, SUNSET GARDEN EDITOR

CHOOSE PLANTS AND LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR ZONE: sunset.com/plantfinder

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Title Annotation:GARDEN CHECKLIST; gardening tips
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
Words:441
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