San Diego Gardener
Southern California Garden Guide
Month of February
February is a transition month; one foot in winter, the other in spring. In Southern California, these days may seem like spring - the weather is warming and the first of the spring bulbs are starting to bloom - but it's still winter and most plants are growing slowly. This is not a major planting month.
Wait to plant those summer vegetables. There is little sense in planting tomatoes and other summer-garden edibles until the soil warms up.
Plan for spring. Time to go through those seed catalogs and order your seeds. Try something new - an interesting flower or vegetable you haven't tried yet. Do your part to maintain the world's biodiversity, try some of the wonderful open-pollinated or heirloom varieties.
Now is also a good time to clean up the garden; prepare the soil, build a compost pile, and stay ahead of the weeds.
Azaleas & Camellias. Azaleas and camellias can still be planted this month. Camellias and azaleas are best planted while in bloom not only because you can see what colors you are adding to your garden but also because you can take advantage of the post-bloom growth spurt. Whether or not they're flowering, plant them in a location that provides good soil drainage and afternoon shade.
Bare-Root Plants. If you haven't finished planting all your bare-root plants, don't wait, if they haven't started to leaf out yet, they're about to soon. Don't buy bare-root plants that have leafed out; the premature growth likely will wilt and die although new buds may grow once roots develop.
Cool-Season Lawns. Now is a good time to plant cool-season grasses like fescue, ryegrass and bluegrass. Hold off (until May) on planting the warm-season grasses like bermuda, zoysia and St. Augustine.
Spring Annuals. Fill in bare spots by planting spring annuals such as snapdragons, calendulas, primroses, pansies, and stock.
Summer-Blooming Bulbs. It's still a good time to plant summer-blooming bulbs. Buy early in the month while nurseries still have a good supply. Summer-blooming bulbs include baboon flower (Babiana), canna, caladium, calla lily, crocosmia, dahlia, gladiolus, gloxinia, homeria, laitris, lilies, nerine, ranunculus, tigridia, tuberose, and tuberous begonias. Plant gladiolus now and a few more every week until the end of March to get a continual bloom through the summer.
Summer Flowers & Vegetables. February is too early to plant summer crops directly in the ground but you can get a jump on the season by planting seeds for later transplant. Place planting trays in a greenhouse or indoors under lights (or under a south-facing window) until the seedlings are ready for the outdoors. Note: In some areas (depending on the weather), a sunny sheltered spot outdoors may work fine.
Avocado. If you live near the coast (or any frost-free area), start fertilizing your avocados this month. If you live inland, wait until March (to avoid frost damage). Mature avocado trees (8 years old or older) need about two pounds of "actual" nitrogen per year (Give young trees proportionately less). You can do this by applying 25 lbs of aged chicken manure in February (or March if inland) and then sprinkling a cup of blood meal and 1/2 cup of bonemeal under each tree every 6 weeks through August. Don't rake up leaves that have fallen. Allow them to remain under the tree; Studies have shown that a very thick layer of mulch protects avocado trees from avocado root rot (Phytophthora).
Citrus Trees. Now is a good time to clean up your citrus and take steps to prevent citrus pests. Start by pruning any branches that touch the ground to help close off access to ants. Clean the tree with a spray of soapy water made with insecticidal soap (according to package instructions) or dishwashing soap (1 Tbls/gallon of water). Use a hose-end sprayer to get adequate water pressure. This removes dust, allowing beneficial insects and mites to attack pests. Finish by wrapping the trunk with a sticky ant barrier such as 'Tanglefoot'. Do not apply Tanglefoot directly to the tree. First wrap the trunk with a strip of paper (use either cotton or a nylon stocking under the paper to keep ants from crawling under the paper) then apply Tanglefoot to the paper.
If you live near the coast (or any frost-free area), continue fertilizing your citrus. If you live inland, wait until March (to avoid frost damage). Mature citrus trees need about one pound of "actual" nitrogen per year. Split the fertilizer into equal portions and apply once a month (or every other month) until June.
Deciduous Trees. If rains are light, be sure to water deciduous trees as this is the time that they put out new leaves and blossoms.
Fuchsia & Begonias. Prune fuchsias and begonias. Hard pruning now will result in shapelier plants later in the season. Fuchsia bloom only on new wood and need to be cut back annually to produce new growth. Cut back hanging basket plants to container's edge or 4 inches above the soil. Cut back shrub fuchsias by half or more. Prune begonias to keep them from getting leggy. Cut cane and angel-wing begonias to pot level or three or four nodes from the ground. Prune wax begonias 1-2 inches from the ground.
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Last update: Thu, Feb 25, 1999.