Time to Get Ready for Spring!
If you planted spring blooming bulbs last fall like ranunculus, freesias, Dutch iris and anemones, they’ll be blooming in all their glory this month! Spring comes early to southern California, especially when we get rain in December and January as we did this year. The gorgeous green hills that we began seeing in January will start showing off their supply of wildflowers in February and continue throughout spring. In your garden, the roses and fruit trees that you pruned in January will start showing new growth and blossoming. And, oh the weeds! With the rainfall and then warm temperatures, the weeds are growing like crazy! It’s still too cool to plant warm season veggies and flowers but there’s lots to do to get ready!
Weed and Mulch
Weed – Hand weed or hoe weeds now (I love the ease of a hula hoe) while they are small. Left to grow larger, they will rob your plants of nutrients and sunlight. Some weeds also harbor insects, so removing weeds is good pest control, too.
Mulch – Once the weeds have been removed from veggie and flower beds, apply a layer of compost as a mulch. This will save a lot of work by suppressing germination of remaining weed seeds. A 3 inch layer of compost on top of the soil also conserves moisture as the days get warmer, as well as keeps soil temperature even. Keep the mulch several inches away from stems/trunks of plants for good air circulation. When it’s time to plant warm season plants in March/April, the compost can be worked into the soil as soil amendment providing a great, loose soil for the new plants.
What to Plant this Month
Veggies – It’s still too cold to plant warm season veggies like tomatoes, peppers and squash. Wait until March to plant these. Continue to plant transplants of lettuces and other greens, as well as broccoli and other cole family crops. From seed, continue to direct sow carrots, beets and peas. Plant bare root asparagus this month. If you have limited space, keep in mind that next month you can plant the warm season veggies, so reserve some space for those. Start seeds indoors of those warm season veggies so they are ready to plant in the garden in March/April. See post from earlier this month on buying seeds and my video on starting seeds.
Flowers – Fill in empty spots in flower beds with more cool season transplants. Wait until March or April to plant transplants of warm season flowers like marigolds, petunias, cosmos, impatiens and others. If you want to start these from seed, now is the time to start them indoors.
California Natives – If you didn’t plant native plants yet, plant them this month so they have several months to get settled in before the hot weather arrives. Native plants have their most active growth during our winter months when we get rain (hopefully!).
Time to Fertilize
Deciduous Fruit Trees – Peaches, apricots, plums, apples and other deciduous fruit trees are getting ready to wake from their dormancy and send forth blossoms, and then fruit. To assist in good flowering and fruit set, apply organic fertilizer this month.
Citrus and Avocado – It’s also time to begin fertilizing these evergreen trees as long as you are not inland where you may still get frost. In that case, wait until March.
Roses, Perennial and Annual Flowers – Roses will be sending out new canes and leaves this month so give them some food to encourage vigorous growth. Perennial flowering plants will also be beginning a period of vigorous growth and benefit from an application of fertilizer.
Note about Organic Fertilizer – Organic fertilizers are slower acting than synthetic (chemical) fertilizers especially in cool weather. They are more effective when warm weather wakes up the beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil. So if you don’t see quick results, be patient!
Pest and Disease Control
Pest Control – The garden is waking up after the rains followed by sunshine, and so are the pests! Bait for snails and watch the new growth on plants for aphid attacks. Spray aphids with a strong jet of water to knock them off plants or spray with insecticidal soap.
Disease Control – Moist conditions in late winter and spring can encourage fungal disease. Fungal sprays (copper or bordeaux sprays) are most effective when used before or at the first sign of fungal diseases.