February in your Southern California landscape is the beginning of new growth. It’s also a month of transition. Spring is looming but winter is still with us. Although frosts are possible they’re improbable after February 1st. Be aware of the weather and plan your garden activities accordingly. Don’t prune back flowering perennials too soon and put them at risk to cold damage.
Take this time instead to plan this year’s changes. Review your notes of what did and didn’t do well last year. A successful garden depends on planning and attention. If you have a busy schedule, use low maintenance plantings to create a ‘well tended’ garden with little effort after it’s established. Consider introducing a new plant into your program; perennials and vegetables both. There are a lot of new varieties available at Briggs. Try one just for the fun of it and see how it does.
Color: Filling in blank spots with cool weather annuals such as dianthus, Iceland poppies, pansies, stock, primula, snapdragons and calendulas is a great way to make an impact fast. Clear leaf trash from winter storms out of the beds and punch in a little spring color for instant gratification.
Fruits & Vegetables: There’s still time to plant bare root fruit trees, grapes and berries before they begin to leaf out. Make sure it’s done early in the month. If you haven’t already done it, prune your fruit bearing trees. Midmonth is the time to apply the final spray application for pests on your deciduous fruit trees. Fertilize deciduous fruit trees 2 to 3 weeks before they flower. Along the coast, Citrus and Avocado’s can be fertilized this month. Inland, wait until next month.
Cool weather vegetables like lettuce, carrots, broccoli, celery, white potatoes, peas and radishes can be planted now. At the beginning of the month, the soil’s not warm enough to plant warmer crops like tomatoes and peppers. Wait until the soil temperature reaches about 60 degrees.
Lawn: Slow growth of your lawn doesn’t mean you don’t have to mow. Mowing regularly helps keep the lawn healthy. Cool weather lawns can be fertilized lightly.
Roses & Flowers: Azaleas and Camellias are in full bloom. Plant those now using an acidic soil mix which will help them thrive. However, you want to feed once they’ve stopped blooming. 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. Dormant roses should have been pruned by now and you may be seeing some new growth. Fertilize lightly toward the end of the month.
Irrigation: With winter rains, the need for supplemental watering may be limited. Watch the weather closely and turn your sprinklers off and on accordingly. After a deep rain, wait until the soil dries out a bit before turning the system back on. Irrigating saturated soil is just a waste of precious water. If this month brings light rains, be sure to water natives lightly. Additionally, give deciduous trees a deep watering to encourage bloom and leaf development.
Also: Applying a pre-emergent weed killer will 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.
Finish heavy pruning of dormant trees before they bud out.
It’s not too late to plant summer blooming bulbs like Canna, Gladiola, 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.