Castro Gardening: Expert Tips For Drought And Spring Planting

With the temperatures rising and longer, sunnier days upon us, spring is here. We visited our local gardening store Hortica and chatted with owner David Gray  to get some tips on spring gardening and overall plant care during another season of the region's ongoing drought.

You may remember our spotlight piece on Gray's store from last November, where we explored the history of Hortica and its current offerings. Since then, Gray has seen improvement with post-construction business, and is experiencing a steady flow of customers and interest in what to plant for spring and summer gardens during the drought.

"People are being very consciousness about the drought this year while also expressing usual interest in planting crops," he says. "Food plants tend to require more water than others, so gardeners are also focusing on ways to save water elsewhere to compensate."

"Cool-weather tomatoes and leafy greens are always popular. While each neighborhood has micro climates, a lot of the success of planting anything depends on placement, proper watering, and keeping a steady regimen of adding compost to the soil to feed the plants," Gray says. Specific tomato varieties that do particularly well in the area include the Stupice and the "Dirty Girl," which is a variation of the Early Girl species.

Herbs are also very popular locally, and Gray has advice for types that do the best. "Herbs that do particularly well in this climate are sage and rosemary. Basil and cilantro are more temperamental, as warmth, water, and weather all impact their development much more."

Flowering succulents are steadily sought after as well due to their beauty and hardiness in dry soil. "The Chilean Rock Purslane produces a beautiful flower, and many people are seeing them along Cesar Chavez where they were planted as part of the street improvement project," Gray notes.

Given the drought conditions, watering needs to be more deliberate and targeted. "Many people either over-water things like succulents, or under-water things like vegetables," says Gray. "Making sure each type of plant gets the correct moisture is vital. Make sure to ask about the watering needs of each plant you grow, or check online."

Some good websites for garden water use include Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco and

For general landscaping plants, flax and geraniums are both good drought-tolerant options, says Gray. "Geraniums are easy, beautiful, and can flower year-round." Other grasses and non-flowering succulents are also well-suited to little to no watering once established with the correct soil and sun requirements.

Visit Gray's store for more information on plants, gardening tips, and supplies. Hortica stocks an ample variety of indoor and outdoor items and can also order specific plants based on your needs.

What would Gray recommend for a newcomer to gardening and to a seasoned grower? "If you've never grown anything or had bad luck with plants, I'd definitely say to start with something like a geranium or succulent. If you're looking for a challenge, gardenias can be very difficult and require a good deal of care."

Happy gardening, Castro residents!

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