What to do in a Southern California garden in February

What to do in a Southern California garden in February

And winter’s over. Did you blink and miss it? There are sure to be a few more chilly mornings and a few more rainstorms, but look outside: the plants are already waking up.

Native plants are well on their way, as acorns germinate into baby live oak trees and wild cucumber, lemonade berry, and manzanita bloom (those are the ones I noticed on my run through the hills this morning); but also, a couple of my avocado trees are swelling flower buds. By the end of the month, apricots (as pictured above during February 2016), peaches and plums, they’ll all be opening flowers.

February is my favorite month of the year. Yes, my first-born son arrived in February, but I also like this month because I think of it as the beginning of our spring in Southern California, when not only do many plants start to bloom but also our landscape briefly glows green with grasses, mustard, filaree — all weeds, but man do they make this place look lush like Tennessee for a slice of time. Temperatures are wonderful for afternoon hikes. The air is filled with the freshness of a rain that just passed or the potential of a storm on the way. There’s also the potential of all of those flowers. Will my pluot tree set a lot of fruit? How many blueberries will we get?

And there are opportunities. We can:

– Sow or plant peas, carrots, lettuce, beets, greens (chard, kale, turnip, mustard, collards), green onions, potatoes

Clone your grape vine, fig tree, or pomegranate tree (or a friend’s) by rooting a cutting

– Buy and plant bare root fruit trees before they get potted up

Graft deciduous fruit trees, and also graft avocados

– Transplant shoots of your raspberry plants and runners of your strawberry plants

– Collect or redirect any rain we get so it sinks into your yard near your plants and isn’t lost into the street

– Pull weeds at the right time for maximum effectiveness: soon after a rain so the soil is moist, but just before a Santa Ana so you can leave the weeds right there on the ground and the dry air will desiccate and kill it

– Change irrigation on fruit trees as necessary (e.g. from drip lines to mini-sprinklers); do it now before your plants start depending on irrigation in a couple months because the current mild weather and thoroughly moist soil from rains allow plants to most easily adjust to new patterns of soil moisture

– Mulch under fruit trees with wood chips; the mulch sort of seals in the soil moisture, and then upcoming rains should soak the mulch for free

Prune deciduous fruit trees and grape vines; it’s easy to see the structure of the bare branches now

– Harvest fresh peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, chard, spinach, carrots, strawberries, parsley, cilantro (these are just what’s happening in my yard, not the limit of what’s possible)

– Harvest Fuerte and Hass avocados

– Harvest some citrus, such as navel oranges, Kishu and Satsuma mandarins