February in the Garden


In the Southern California landscape, February is the beginning of new growth and a month of transition. Although frosts are possible, they’re improbable. Now is a good time to decide on any garden changes you want to make this year. Review your notes of what did and didn’t do well last year and plan accordingly. Consider introducing a new plant to your garden. There are a number of novel perennial and vegetable varieties available now.

Color: Clear leaf trash from winter storms out of the beds and punch in a little spring color with cool-weather annuals for instant gratification.

Fruits and vegetables: Early in the month, there’s still time to plant bare-root fruit trees, grapes and berries before they begin to leaf out. Mid-month, apply the final spray application for pests on deciduous fruit trees. Fertilize deciduous fruit trees two to three weeks before they flower. Along the coast, citrus and avocado trees can be fertilized; inland, wait until next month. Cool-weather vegetables like lettuce, carrots, broccoli, celery, white potatoes, peas and radishes can be planted now. Wait until the soil temperature reaches about 60 degrees to plant warmer crops like tomatoes and peppers.

Lawn: Slow growth of your lawn doesn’t mean you don’t have to mow. Mowing regularly helps keep the lawn healthy. Lawns with cool-weather grasses can be fertilized lightly.

Flowers: Azaleas and camellias are in full bloom. Plant them now using an acidic soil mix, which will help them thrive. Feed once they’ve stopped blooming. It’s not too late to plant summer-blooming bulbs like canna, gladiolus, lilies, tuberoses and tuberous begonias. If you plant a couple of gladiolus each week through the end of next month, you should have continual blooms through the summer.

Prune: Prune hydrangea and feed with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. If you want blue blossoms, apply Hydra Blue (aluminum sulfate) or a similar product now for blue flowers next year. Don’t prune back flowering perennials too soon and put them at risk for cold damage. Dormant roses should have been pruned by now, and you may be seeing new growth. Fertilize lightly toward the end of the month. Finish heavy pruning of dormant trees before they bud out. If you haven’t already done it, prune fruit-bearing trees. 

Irrigation: With winter rains, the need for supplemental watering may be limited. Watch the weather closely and turn your sprinklers off and on accordingly. Wait until the soil dries out a bit before turning the system back on after a deep rain. If this month brings light rains, be sure to water natives lightly. Give deciduous trees a deep watering to encourage bloom and leaf development.

Also: Apply a pre-emergent weed killer to save you time later in the season. Do not apply in areas where you plan to sow seeds for vegetables or flowers. Pull weeds while they’re small — before they have a chance to spread seeds around your garden.


Alissa Adams-Simmons
Briggs Tree Company Inc.

Categories: Gardening