February Gardening Checklist

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February Gardening Checklist

Fellow Gardeners,

The information, dates and techniques in this blog are as accurate as I can currently offer. During the past three decades I have cared for, nurtured and observed tens of thousands of plants. With the help of many gardening friends I have attempted to offer on these pages some useful information to help you with your own garden. Gardening is sharing. Any corrections, comments or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information.

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Annuals:

  • See also Sweet Peas and Wildflowers
  • Many cool-season annuals can still be planted this month for a great color display throughout spring. Best choices for sunny areas include pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, English daisy, stock, linaria, flowering cabbage, flowering kale, schizanthus and the ‘Bloomingdale’ series of ranunculus.
  • In shady spots plant English, fairy and Chinese primrose, bedding cyclamen and cineraria.
  • There are a few “spring-only” annuals that are uncommon but well worth planting this month for a quick shot of color over the next two months.  These include shizanthus, annual nemesia, annual mimulus, torenia and candytuft.
  • Because of their quick growth and heavy flowering potential, annuals need more fertilizing than most other plants in the garden.
  • Keep deadheading (removing spent flowers) from annuals to help them continue blooming abundantly.
  • Weeding.

Avocados:

  • Apply your first feeding to avocado trees this month.  A mature avocado tree should be given between ½ and 1 pound of actual nitrogen per year, per inch of trunk diameter.  (Example: 15-30 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30-60 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)
  • Avocados are growing very slowly, if at all, this time of the year but will begin to wake up soon.  Certain winter producing varieties may have fruit on them that can be picked.
  • It is not unusual for your avocado to be dropping many of its leaves this month.  New leaves may even be emerging as the old ones are dropping.
  • It’s still a bit early to plant or transplant an avocado.
  • Rains should take care of all the irrigation needs this month.
  • In warm coastal gardens avocados can be pruned late this month.  They do not particularly require any specific annual pruning, but size reduction or general shaping, if necessary, can be done now.
  • Be sure to keep a very thick blanket of mulch, compost or fallen leaves under mature avocadoes at all times.  Avocadoes need a cool root-run for good health.
  • In marginal areas continue to take precautions to avoid frost damage. (See Frost.)

Azaleas:

  • The flower buds on azaleas should be beginning to swell up and a few hybrids might even be blooming this month. Keep feeding them aggressively with a high phosphorus fertilizer from now until they are finished blooming (then switch to a standard “azalea” or “acid” fertilizer).
  • Some of the early blooming azalea varieties will already be blooming.  For these blooming plants be cautious of getting the flowers wet, especially from prolonged rainstorms.  The flowers will turn to mush with water on them.  In a rain shower drape a plastic bag over the plant or even better poke an umbrella into the ground above it.

Bearded Iris:

  • They still may be going through a bit of a “molt” as they are slowly pushing out new growth, while last years growth fades away.  You may still be noticing the transition of last year’s foliage giving way the new growth. Remove any outer (older) leaves as they turn completely brown by giving them a gentle tug.
  • Feed them now with a gentle, well-balanced, organic fertilizer to help them with their new growth and to set flowers.
  • Weeding.

Beneficial Insects:

  • Order and release native mason bees now.  These are outstanding pollinators of many fruit trees and vegetables.
  • Conserve and protect honeybees by selecting and using insecticides wisely.  Avoid the use of broad spectrum and systemic insecticides wherever you can.
  • Plant a few nectar sources for your beneficial insects as well as your native pollinators.  Good choices for this include Yarrow (Achillea), Alyssum, Chamomile, White Clover, Paludosum Daisy, Cosmos, Lantana, Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus), Tansy and Centranthus (sometimes called Valerian or Jupiter’s Beard).
  • Release predacious Decollate Snails now.  These will take some time to establish themselves in your garden, so be patient.  Do not use any snail baits, which also harm Decollate Snails.
  • If aphids are present in significant numbers, consider your first release of the year of Ladybugs and Lacewings.  Two or three releases of both of these predators in the spring can reduce many pest populations significantly, very possibly eliminating the need for pesticides.

Bulbs, rhizomes, tubers, etc:

  • See also Bearded Iris, Dahlias, Cannas and Tuberous Begonias.
  • Purchase summer blooming bulbs now, while they are still in good supply.  The “second bulb season” in southern California includes such favorites as dahlia, tuberous begonia, gladiolus, caladium, calla, canna, tuberose, most true lilies and Mexican shell flower (tigridia).  It is still a bit early to plant many of these but buy them now while the supply is good.
  • Plant gladiolus this month.  Plant them in two-week intervals to have a longer bloom season.
  • Some fall planted bulbs that are just beginning their bloom cycle, especially toward the end of the month, include anemone and ranunculus.
  • Those that are in full bloom now are chasmanthe, crocus (spring blooming types), iphieon, leucojum, and some narcissus.
  • Bedding cyclamen, although not generally referred to as a bulb, are in full bloom throughout Orange County
  • Many ornamental oxalis are winter blooming, non-invasive and naturalize easily.  These are in full bloom now.
  • Buy tuberous begonia tubers this month, but wait until March to start growing them.  Keep them in the paper bad that you bought them in and store them in a cool (not in the refrigerator) well-ventilated location.  (See Tuberous Begonias.)
  • Still plenty of time to purchase summer blooming bulbs.  Examples are dahlia, gladiolus, calla, canna, tuberose, and Mexican shell flower (tigridia).   The second half of February and into March is a perfect time to plant just about all of these summer bloomers.
  • Buy them now, but don’t plant dahlias until next month, when the soil warms up a little more.  Keep them in the paper bad that you bought them in and store them in a cool (not in the refrigerator) well-ventilated location.
  • Watch for germinating weeds and control them now, before they get much larger.

California Native Plants:

  • This is your last good month for planting most of these and still having success.  California native plants like to be planted in the cool fall and winter months, which is the beginning of their growing season.
  • This and next month can be one of the prettiest times of the year for many of our California natives.  Many of these are blooming and growing well now, but are already toward the later half of their growing seasons.
  • An extra irrigation or two during any extended dry spell now is justified and will keep them blooming and happy a bit longer.
  • If you have not visited a California native plant garden before, now through March would be an excellent time to visit.  The best are Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Clairemont and The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Santa Barbara.

 

Camellias:

  • Even more varieties of Japanese camellias will be in bloom this month.  This is a good month to shop for these varieties.  The selection will be good and you will be able to see many in bloom.  Since camellias are actually dormant (not growing) while they are in bloom, this is a perfect month to plant them.
  • Feed sasanqua varieties (unless you already fed them last month) with an “acid” or “azalea/camellia” fertilizer now.  Cottonseed meal is a good organic fertilizer.
  • If your Japanese camellias are still blooming or haven’t started yet don’t worry, they still will.  Some varieties are later bloomers that others.

Cane Berries:

  • Apply your first application of an organic, balanced fertilizer as they begin to leaf out.

Cannas:

  • This is the perfect month to plant cannas from dormant rhizomes.
  • Dormant rhizomes arrived at nurseries during mid January.  The selection is good this month, but wait until about the end of this month or early March to plant them.
  • If you didn’t cut them back in January any cannas in the landscape should be cut to the soil.  After you cut them down they can also be easily dug up and divided, if necessary.

Citrus:

  • Citrus are still doing very little growing this month. There will likely be fruit developing on lemons and limes.  Navel Oranges should be ripe and Grapefruits may ready to harvest.  Try one, but if the sugars aren’t developed enough wait another month and try again.
  • Start fertilizing this month and feed every month from now until July.  For citrus it is important to use a fertilizer that is rich in such trace minerals as iron, zinc, manganese, copper and others.  These ingredients are usually poorly represented in synthetic fertilizers.  A better choice would be an organic base fertilizer like Dr. Earth.
  • Control ants climbing up the trunk of the tree or climbing onto the branches now.  Although not directly harmful to the citrus, they are “farming” such pests as scale, whitefly and mealybug, which are all common on citrus.  Continue to trim any limbs that touch the ground, a fence or wall.
  • If ants are present, apply Tanglefoot (a sticky, waterproof substance) around the trunk of the tree to stop them.

Clematis:

  • This is your last chance to prune most clematis.  If you haven’t done so yet, don’t delay.  There are a few exceptions, so check your specific variety with us just to be sure.
  • Begin fertilizing when the new growth is about 3-4 inches long.  Clematis perform best with regular feeding using a balanced fertilizer.

Dahlias (tuberous types):

  • Tubers should still be out of the ground now and quietly resting somewhere in the garage of other cool, dry location.
  • Nurseries now have a good supply of dormant tubers in stock.  Shop early while the selection is good, but don’t plant them for a little while more.

Deciduous Fruit Trees:

  • Many of these trees will be in bloom now.  Honeybees and native mason bees are important pollinators for these trees.  Be sure to conserve these beneficial insects and encourage them.
  • Sometime this month should be your third and last application of dormant disease control.  This may be either a Copper Sulfate or Lime-sulfur product (do not use Lime-sulfur on Apricots).  Both of these are organic products.  Applying these products should be an annual chore, repeated every year to avoid infestations of such diseases as Peach Leaf Curl, Shothole Fungus, Apple Scab, Brown Rot, and many others.  The timing of this application is the most important of them all.  Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage”.  This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink”, but have not let opened.
  • Apply your first feeding this month as soon as you see the buds beginning to swell, but before the flowers open.  The second and last feeding of the year will be in April.  At this application, apple, apricot, peach, plum, etc. should be given about ½ pound of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter.  (Example: 15 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)

Ferns:

  • Most ferns are still pretty sleepy.  No need to fertilize and irrigations can be minimal.  Although in Orange County, most of these will still be evergreen, they are growing slowly if at all.

Fertilize:

  • See also the information under the individual plants
  • Most plants still will not need too much fertilizing this month.  However, there are a few exceptions:
  • Camellia, azalea and lilac are all setting buds now for spring bloom. You can encourage this spring bloom with a high phosphorus fertilizer applied now.
  • Many potted plants will wake up before their siblings in the ground.  Feed these as needed.
  • Feed cool-season lawns (fescue, ryegrass and bluegrass) now.

Frost:

  • There is still a good chance of frost or cold damage this month to tender plants, especially in inland gardens.  January is the most likely month for damage in most Orange County gardens, although December and February may produce frost days as well.
  • Frost protection strategies include:
  • Moving potted plants to protected areas
  • Covering tender plants with old sheets or special “frost cloths”, but do not let these touch the foliage.
  • Stringing sensitive plants with miniature outdoor Christmas lights.  These radiate heat.
  • Wetting the foliage.  Once the temperatures get to freezing, the water will freeze on the surface of the foliage and insulate the leaf.  It really works!
  • If frost does occur, do not prune it off right away.  Leaving the damaged foliage in place helps the plant protect itself from additional frosts.  When new growth begins in spring, trim the plant back to just above where new growth is beginning.

Fuchsias:

  • Cut your fuchsias back now if you are in an inland or colder area with frost potential.  Warmer coastal gardeners should have trimmed them as early as last November.  Fuchsias bloom on new growth and need to be pruned fairly heavily each year.  In a basket cut to about the edge of the basket.  In the ground, trim between 30% and 50%.  If you are in a very cold area you may want to wait another month on this pruning.
  • If re-potting is needed the best time to do this is at the same time as the annual cut-back.
  • After pruning and new growth resumes, feed all fuchsias regularly with a fertilizer high in nitrogen, to promote lots of vigorous foliage growth at this time of the year.
  • If you cut your fuchsias back in November (in coastal areas) and have been feeding them, you should continue pinching the tips of the new growth.  Keep pinching the tips every couple of weeks through the end of March and then let them bloom.  You’ll have a full and glorious plant with hundreds of flowers.

Gardenias:

  • Gardenias are still unhappy about the cold weather of February.  In another month or so they will start showing some signs of new growth.  Be patient.  No need to fertilize yet.

Geraniums:

  • This group includes Ivy geraniums, zonal geraniums (also called “Common” geraniums), Martha geraniums and the various scented geraniums, but does not include true geraniums (sometimes called “Hardy” geraniums), which are discussed under Perennials.
  • Purchase and plant most geraniums (pelargoniums) beginning this month.  Ivy and Zonal types may be in bloom.
  • If the weather is warm at the end of the month then it’s time to begin fertilizing.
  • Pay particular attention to feeding Martha types this month and next to encourage a big bloom.
  • Don’t do any pruning of Martha types, but continue pinching the tips regularly to create fuller plants and ultimately more flowers.

Grapes:

  • These should start leafing out in the next few weeks. Not much to do in the meantime.
  • Sometime this month should be your third and last application of dormant disease control.  This should be a Copper Sulfate product, which is organic.  Applying these products should be an annual chore, repeated every year to some help control some very common fungal diseases.  The timing of this application is the most important of them all.  Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage”.  This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink”, but have not yet opened.
  • Early this month is still a good time to plant grapes.  With some searching you may still be able to find dormant bare-root plants now.  These are a great value, but do some research to be sure that you select a variety that is appropriate for your climate.
  • As soon as the new growth has grown a couple of inches begin fertilizing.  Use a well-balanced organic product that contain trace minerals, which grapes need.  Organic products usually are a good choice.

Groundcovers:

  • Cool season groundcovers are still growing and blooming well.
  • On sloped areas this is not a good time to do any significant planting.  Winter rains and erosion are too much of an issue.
  • California native groundcover plants, like Ceanothus and Arctostaphyllos (Manzanita) are growing nicely and may be beginning to bloom now.
  • Warm-season groundcovers are still sitting through the winter now.  No fertilizing, and no pruning at this time of the year.

Herbs:

  • Many annual or short-lived herbs that can be planted now include anise, arugula, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, garlic chives, lovage, parsley, salad burnet and sorrel.
  • Many other herbs are essentially year-round in our mild climate and can be planted at any time of the year.  Some of these include chives, comfrey, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass and rosemary.

Hydrangeas:

  • They are probably still completely dormant and there is nothing to do.  If, however, they are beginning to leaf out, feed them with a general purpose or acid fertilizer.
  • Contrary to some references, do not prune hydrangeas in the winter.  Hydrangeas bloom on one-year-old stems.  Pruning now will eliminate most of next year’s flowers.
  • If you want to try to get blue or lavender flowers on your otherwise pink plant you need to continue applying Aluminum Sulfate to the soil now.  White flowered varieties will not be effected and not all pinks will be effected the same.

Lawns:

  • Apply pre-emergent Crabgrass Control to all lawns to prevent the germination of crabgrass.  Make a second application about May 1.
  • Remember, cool-season lawns (fescue/Marathon, bluegrass, ryegrass) should be mowed about a half an inch lower in the winter than in the summer.
  • Keep feeding cool-season lawns.  This is their favorite time of year and they will need regular feeding with a high quality, slow release fertilizer.
  • Warm-season lawns (bermudagrass, St. Augustine, zoysia) are still pretty much sleeping now.
  • If you over-seeded your warm-season grass with Annual Rye last fall you should continue feeding it.  Within the next 60 days or so the rye will begin showing signs of heat stress and will naturally die out.  At the same time this grass is fading away, your warm-season grass will be greening up again.  In a well maintained lawn you will hardly even notice this change.
  • Weeding.
  • This is a good month to aerate cool-season lawns.  This is done with a coring machine, either gas powered from a rental yard or a small hand held version.  Be sure that the coring device that you select actually removes a plug from the soil.  After coring be sure to apply a fine textured top dressing to the soil.

Orchids (outside grown):

  • This and next month may be the peak time of bloom for most cymbidiums.  Continue feeding with a high phosphorus fertilizer through the end of their bloom period.
  • For four days near the beginning of the month, South Coast Plaza hosts the annual Fascination of Orchids show.  This is one of the largest orchid shows in the country and over 100,000 people attend.  (See more under Places to Visit.)

Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) and sages (Salvia)

Ornamental Grasses:

  • Some ornamental grasses are best cut to the ground each year and allowed to grow fresh foliage.  But be careful, not all grasses appreciate this treatment.  Some that do are: Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata), Japanese Forest Grass (Hackonakloa), Fountain grasses (Penisetum), Deer Grass (Meulenbergia) and Miscanthus.  These should be cut to just above the soil line any time during the cool winter months.  If you haven’t already cut these down, do so now, before new growth begins.

Perennials:

  • (See also Bearded Iris, Bulbs/Rhizomes/Tubers, Cannas, Dahlias, Fuchsias, Geraniums, Ornamental Grasses and Tuberous Begonias)
  • Plant.
  • Depending upon your garden, you may want to begin regular fertilizing this month.  Use of a granular organic fertilizer (especially if under a fresh layer of mulch) is an excellent choice.
  • There is still a quick chance to divide some perennials that you may have meant to take care of last fall.  It’s not too late for plants like ornamental grasses, cannas, hemerocallis, agapanthus, shasta daisy, coreopsis, and many others.
  • Many perennials are now waking up, or soon will be, and a bit of a trim may help them look a little better, and may even stimulate more flowers.  Even if you cut some of these back in the fall, another trim now may be helpful.  These can be cut back rather hard now if necessary (wait until the end of the month if you are in a cool inland garden): artemesia, aster (perennial types), baby’s breath (gypsophila), calla (common white), coreopsis, daylily (hemerocallis), dianthus (perennial types including carnation), gaillardia, gaura, geranium (true geranium), heliotrope, lamb’s ears (stachys), lions tail (leonotis), oregano (ornamental types), penstemon, phygelius, rudbeckia, Russian sage (perovskia), most salvia (sage), scabiosa (pincushion flower), shasta daisy, stokesia (stokes aster), thyme and valerian (centranthus).
  • Wait another month or so until you prune sub-tropical perennials like begonias, heliotrope, impatiens, lamium, pentas (starflower) and plectranthus.
  • Cool-season plants are doing great right now, blooming abundantly and giving the garden a sense of the spring blooms ahead.  These include alstroemeria (except in very cold inland gardens), armeria, euryops daisy, forget-me-not (myosotis), hellebore, marguerite daisy and viola (perennial types).
  • Those perennials that completely disappeared a couple of months ago will soon start sprouting from the soil again, mostly either this month or next.  Those to look for signs of life from include kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, monkshood (aconitum) and obedient plant (physostegia).
  • Divide them now, especially if they are completely herbaceous (die down completely in winter).  Examples include dahlia, Echinacea (coneflower), Anemone hybrida (Japanese anemone), liatris (Gayfeather), and sidalcea.
  • Tall, upright, spiking perennials like dahlia (tuberous perennial types), delphinium, foxglove (digitalis), kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, true lilies (lilium), monkshood (aconitum), oriental poppy and most thalictrum (meadow rue) should have their stakes put in place now to hold the soon to develop flower stalks.  Staking these now will prevent root damage later and provide support for them as they grow.  Thin, unpainted, natural bamboo stakes work well for this and look very pleasant in the garden.
  • There is still a chance of a frost early in the month, especially in inland gardens.  Frost sensitive perennials, like felicia daisy, heliotrope, lamium, some lavender, pelargonium, pentas, plectranthus and scaevola, may need a little protections on a couple of these cold nights.
  • Removing spent or old flowers regularly, especially from the cool-season perennials, will help them to produce more new flowers.
  • Weeding.
  • Toward the middle or end of the month, prune cane and angel-wing begonias back to three or four nodes from the soil.  The common richmondensis begonia should be cut back more lightly.  Common bedding begonias can be rejuvenated now by cutting them off at one to two inches, feeding them, and letting them re-grow.

Pests & Diseases:

  • (See also the information under the individual plants and Beneficial Insects)
  • Bait or control snails and slugs.
  • Protect Evergreen Pears (Pyrus kawakami) from fireblight.
  • Control pests on citrus trees.
  • Monitor roses for earliest signs of powdery mildew or rust.
  • Trap gophers now before the breeding season begins.

Places to Visit:

  • Gardens that look terrific almost any time of the year include Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona del Mar), The Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton), Los Angeles Arboretum (Arcadia), Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (San Marino) and Quail Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).
  • The UC Irvine Botanic Gardens are still blooming well this month.  Enjoy the spectacular blooming aloes, Mediterranean bulbs and many South African plants that are in bloom now.
  • Mediterranean and California native plant gardens are now in their peak bloom season.  Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, in Claremont is beginning to show lots of color this month.
  • Worth a quick visit, and not far away, is the relatively young and developing Niguel Botanical Reserve in Laguna Niguel.  The plant focus is almost entirely on Mediterranean and California natives.
  • This is a perfect time for a visit to our coastal wild areas to observe our native plants.  The coastal bluffs and grasslands at San Onofre State Beach and Aliso Creek are at their peak this month.
  • Further afield, one of the best Mediterranean botanical gardens in the country is the UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden (in Santa Cruz).  This and next month are its peaks of bloom.
  • For four days near the beginning of the month, South Coast Plaza hosts the annual Fascination of Orchids show.  Over 100,000 people attend this very popular show with thousands of blooming orchids from dozens of the country best growers.  Lots of seminars, demonstrations and an extensive orchid competition.
  • The largest garden show west of the Mississippi, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is not to be missed.  Held in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center, it is worth the pilgrimage to the garden-savvy northwest just to take this in.  Five days of enormous displays, expert seminars, and a “marketplace” full of specialty and hard to find plants.
  • Held at the end of February or the beginning of March is the San Diego Spring Home and Garden Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.  Unlike most home and garden shows, which are all “home” and very little “garden”, this is an excellent show.  With the assistance of The San Diego Horticultural Society, this three-day event offers very good displays, seminars, hard-to-find plants and dozens of dozens of vendors and organizations.

Planting:

  • See also the information under the individual plants
  • Perennials, annuals, shrubs, etc.

Poinsettias:

  • Try to keep them indoors still in a well lit area away from heater vents and other drafts.  They may be looking a bit rough but those plants that you just bought a couple of months ago will be better off indoors through this last cold month.
  • If you do take them outside don’t cut them yet.  Instead, keep them away from frost and cold nights.
  • No fertilizing is needed this month.

Records, Catalogs, Books and Organizations:

  • The newest edition of Sunset’s Western Garden Book was published this month in 2000.  This 7th edition includes over 2,000 new plants, many more photographs improved line drawings and more detailed climate zones.  If you’re using an old version, it’s time to upgrade.
  • If you didn’t begin your garden journal last month do it now.  This can be one of the most rewarding and useful things you can do for both you and your garden.
  • Now is a good time to join a gardening organization.  Most of these groups offer informative meetings led by garden experts, a newsletter, occasional garden related tours and most importantly, the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other good gardeners.

Roses:

  • Finish planting bare root roses now, while there are still available in nurseries.
  • Don’t let newly planted bare root roses dry out.  It is almost impossible to overwater a freshly planted bare root rose for the first 30 days.
  • Apply your first feeding to roses now, when the new growth is about four to six inches long.  Do not use soil-applied fertilizers that are combined with a systemic insecticide.  These products are very disruptive to soil life (beneficial microorganisms, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworms, etc.).  Many rosarians also believe they reduce the vigor of the rose.
  • Granular, well-balanced, organic fertilizers work especially well for roses and most of these will encourage beneficial soil life.
  • Weed as needed, but avoid most herbicides around roses.
  • Watch for the earliest signs of diseases like powdery mildew or rust.  If disease is spotted treat it immediately.
  • Be on the lookout for aphid infestations on the new growth.  Hose it off with a strong jet of water or use a mild product like Insecticidal Soap.

Shrubs:

  • See also the information under Azaleas, Camellias, Gardenias, Hydrangeas and others
  • Many common spring blooming, evergreen shrubs, like rhaphiolepis, escalonia and abelia can be given a quick pruning early this month.  These shrubs flower on their new growth so don’t prune again until after the spring bloom is complete.

Soil Care:

  • The soil is often pretty wet at this time of the year and sometimes even soggy.  Try to keep from walking on this wet soil, which compresses it and reduces its ability to drain quickly and also its oxygen content.
  • We have included this section, because as you know, or will discover with more experience, a good garden begins with the soil.  Investing in the soil, managing the soil and protecting the soil are not afterthoughts in a successful garden, but the foundation.  Healthy soil is living and breathing, teaming with earthworms, microorganisms, beneficial fungi, bacteria, microbes and other invisible life.  This section, possibly the most important topic of all, provides some helpful guidance to good soil care.
  • A thick layer of organic mulch, averaging about two inches should be maintained on top of the soil just about year-round.  Applied now, this thick layer of mulch will moderate the soil temperatures, reduce weed growth, and improve both soil life and soil quality.
  • We do not suggest the use of very high analysis fertilizers in a garden, especially phosphorus.  Examples of fertilizers to avoid are synthetic versions with formulations like, 10-55-10, 10-30-10, etc.  We don’t even suggest the popular 15-30-15 formula.  These formulations will inhibit or even destroy much of the soil life that is so vital to a healthy sustainable soil.
  • We also suggest that you not use soil-applied systemic fertilizer/insecticide combinations (especially popular with roses).  These are very damaging to soil life.
  • Use insecticides only when necessary and even then use the least damaging product available.  Many of these products move into the soil and interfere with invisible soil life.
  • If you can, begin a compost pile or purchase a compost bin.  Leaves, clippings, kitchen produce scraps, and many other ingredients can be composted and returned to the garden.  Home compost is one of the very best ingredients you can add to your soil.  The benefits are huge in the areas of disease suppression, increasing beneficial microorganisms, improving soil structure and texture, nutrient retention and nematode suppression.

Strawberries:

  • If you don’t have them planted yet – hurry. Buy big four-inch or one-gallon size plants if you’re still planting.
  • Pinch out the first two or three sets of flowers that your young plants will produce to encourage better root develop and a stronger overall plant.
  • Feed them regularly. Periodically alternate with an organic acid fertilizer, like cottonseed meal, to keep the soil pH low, which strawberries prefer.
  • Plant Alpine varieties (also called “Fraise du Bois”) now.  These bear small, but intensely flavorful and aromatic fruit.  They are small plants, with smaller foliage and do not create runners.

Subtropical Fruits:

  • See also the information under Avocados, and Citrus
  • Continue taking precautions for frost and cold weather damage on sensitive species. (See Frost.)
  • Do not fertilize again until at least next month.
  • Do not do any pruning during the cool winter months.
  • Many subtropical fruits are sensitive to too much moisture around the roots during cool weather.  Water very carefully, little if at all during the winter.
  • Except for the ‘Beaumont’ variety, keep checking for fallen Macadamia nuts.  Pick them off the ground weekly, which may continue for up to three months.  The ‘Beaumont’ variety will be picked directly off the tree early next month.

Sweet Peas:

  • These should be beginning their bloom about now.  Keep the flowers trimmed regularly to encourage more flowers.  This may be as often as twice a week.  Sweet peas are one of the plants that really benefit from having their flowers trimmed.

Trees:

  • See also the information under Avocados, Citrus, Deciduous Fruit Trees and  Subtropical Fruits
  • This is about your last good chance to prune most trees (except for tender sub-tropical trees like Ficus, Coral Tree, Avocado, Citrus, etc.).  Few birds are nesting in trees at this season.
  • This is an especially good time to prune coniferous trees like pines and cypress, since their pests, various bark beetles, are not active this time of the year.

Tropicals & Subtropicals:

  • See also the information under Avocados, Citrus and Subtropical Fruits
  • Plants like cannas, gardenias, ginger, begonia, brunfelsia, etc. can be trimmed now in warm coastal gardens (not in the fall).  If you are in a cold inland location wait another month.
  • Continue taking precautions for frost and cold weather damage on sensitive species.  (See Frost.)
  • Do not fertilize until at least next month.
  • Do not prune during the cool winter months.
  • Many subtropical plants are sensitive to too much moisture around the roots during cool weather.  Water very carefully, if at all, during the winter.

Tuberous Begonias:

  • Tubers are still in good supply at nurseries.  It is still too early to plant them, but it is a good time to buy them, since they will probably be gone by next month.  Store them in an open box with dry peat moss, perlite or sawdust.  Place the box in a cool, dark location until it’s time to sprout them, in March.

Vegetables:

  • If you prefer to grow your summer vegetables from seed rather than transplants, (the selection is much, much greater from seed), this is a good time to shop for these.  Most of these won’t go into the ground for about another month though.
  • Cole crops, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. are often attacked by caterpillars at this time.  If only a few plants, hand picking may be enough.  Otherwise use BT, a safe, effective and organic solution.
  • There is still time to plant quick cool-season vegetables from transplants, especially along the coast.  Use transplants now for arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, peas or spinach.
  • Beets, carrots, parsnips, radish, and possibly turnips can all be started this month and are only available from seed.
  • Fava beans are producing this month.  If they are flowering, but not setting fruit, try cutting off the top couple of inches of each growing tip.  This will divert their energy from growing leaves into “bean” production.
  • If you didn’t start larger perennial vegetables like rhubarb, artichoke, horseradish and asparagus last month, hurry and get it planted now.  Bare-root plants may still be available.  Caution: horseradish can be quite invasive, so keep it in a container.
  • If you want to get a head start on your warm-season vegetables from seed, plant a few on a warm windowsill now.
  • Feed cool-season vegetables regularly and control weeds before they get large.

Water & Irrigation:

  • See also the information under the individual plants
  • Apply a balanced granular fertilizer application now for even better results.
  • Plants should be growing well now and several varieties should be in good bloom. Enjoy the show.
  • Irrigate the planting if Mother Nature doesn’t do the job for you.
  • Weeds are still germinating.  Weed the area regularly or they will easily overwhelm the flowers.

Wisterias:

  • Big fat flower buds should be developing now and with close observation can be distinguished from the smaller, more slender leaf buds.
  • No pruning now or you may interfere with the blooms.
  • No need to fertilize now and rains should take care of any irrigation needs, except on very young plants.
By | 2017-09-28T14:51:19+00:00 February 1st, 2017|Gardening, Gardening Checklist|4 Comments

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4 Comments

  1. JEANNE LEWAND March 2, 2014 at 6:09 am - Reply

    HI RON,

    THANKS FOR YOUR RECENT ANSWERS RE HELIOBOROUS AND CLIVIA. I WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW THAT I JUST DISCOVERED ALL YOUR HARD WORK AND AM USING YOUR LIST AS A BIBLE. I ALSO TOLD THE TUSTIN GARDEN CLUB ABOUT IT AND HAVE RECEIVED MANY EMAILS THANKING ME FOR LEADING THEM TO YOUR BLOG. YOUR WORK IS NOT GOING UNNOTICED.

    I DO HAVE TWO MORE QUESTIONS RE FERTILIZER – YOU SAY TO USE A HIGH NITROGEN FERTILIZER FOR FUCIAS DURING THE GREENING TIME – WHAT NUMBERS WOULD THAT FERTILIZER BE?
    YOU ALSO SAY TO USE A FERTILIZER HIGH IN PHOSPHEROUS ON AZALEAS DURING THEIR FLOWERING TIME IN THE WINTER. WHAT NUMBERS WOULD THAT FERTILIZER BE?

    THANKS – YOU HAVE BEEN SO VERY HELPFUL TO ME IN UNDERSTANDING WHAT TO DO AND WHY TO DO IT. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

  2. Ron Vanderhoff March 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    Jeanne, thank you again for your kind words. I am glad to hear that you are using and sharing the information.
    Love The Tustin Garden Club, one of my favorite groups; I’ve been on their garden tours a few times and spoken to their group a couple of times as well.

    On your questions:
    Fertilizer “numbers” are a very misunderstood issue, so I can’t give a straightforward answer or simple. The problem arises because the source of the nutrients have a HUGE influence on the fertilizer and its “numbers”. It’s a very long explanation, but I’ll just say that the proportion of the nitrogen to the other nutrients is generally far more import than the “number” itself.

    For instance, a 4-2-1 is fine, but so is a 30-15-7. From just this information alone, you really can’t decide which is better than the other. Just choose a fertilizer with a first number (the nitrogen) that is higher than the other two numbers (the phosphorus and potassium). My personal favorite for fuchsias during the “green-growing” period is liquid Fish Fertilizer, sometimes also called fish emulsion.

    When you want to focus more of a plants energy toward flowers, either azaleas of fuchsias, then you want to select a fertilizer that is a bit lower in the first number (nitrogen) and higher in the second (phosphorus). Again, the level of the number is of far less concern than most gardeners understand, but the relationships of the nutrients to one another is important.

    It’s a complex topic, but the old school thought of fertilizers as being boxes of “numbers” should be abolished forever. You cannot make a fertilizer decision simply by its numbers. The source and quality of those numbers (nutrients), the longevity of the nutrient flow, the interaction of the fertilizer to the soil organisms, the environmental issues, etc. – these are what should be considered when making fertilizer decisions.

    Sorry to make it sound complicated, but that should get you started . . . or maybe I just confused you more. I hope not.

  3. Elizabeth Hyland March 6, 2016 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Hi Ron,
    I love your column! And I share it with others, including a gardening friend who is hostess for the community garden in HB. She loves it, too, and prints copies for her gardeners.
    I live in an upstairs condo with 2 large wood decks and a good size “lake” water feature that I overlook. I am already experiencing a huge number of whiteflies. It was a battle I lost last year after spraying, a detergent mixture application, and 2 shipments of wasp eggs with a hatch rate of maybe 5%. I have seven 6′ tall container grown ficuses that get the worst of it. Other plants are infested, too, but not as badly. What can I try asap? Thanks for your expert advice!

    • Roger's Gardens March 7, 2016 at 8:58 am - Reply

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Here is my suggestion for your whitefly issue.

      · First, do as much as possible to be sure the plants involved are in an area of good air circulation. Stagnant patio corners, crowded areas, etc. will make the problem more difficult to manage.
      · Be sure there are no Argentine ants associating with the whiteflies. Ants ae vectors for whiteflies (and a few other pests), move the colonies around on the plant and protect the insects from their natural predators.
      · Spray the foliage as often as possible with plain water, especially the undersides. Whiteflies dislike this immensely and if wet often enough will not favor that location. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a hard stream of water intended to knock them off, although that is ok too. Just a syringe of the foliage is fine.
      · Lastly, use earthworm castings applied at the base of any infested or susceptible plants. You will need to use a healthy dose, usually about an inch over the entire soil surface. And replenish it occasionally. This will not be a quick fix, but in about 4-8 weeks (depending on temperatures and the rate of plant growth) the whitefly numbers will begin receding. The manner in which this works is complicated, but in a nutshell it has to do with chitin, which inters into the whiteflies via the earthworm castings, and interferes with their natural metabolism.

      I hope some of this helps. And thanks for reading the checklist and for your encouragement.

      Ron

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