Master Your Garden Month-By-Month
Enjoy an extra hour in your garden thanks to Daylight Savings Time!
WHAT TO PLANT
Edibles: You can still transplant artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and rhubarb. At month’s end, seedlings of early variety tomatoes can be planted. Continue sowing seeds of lettuce, peas, radish and spinach. Plant starts of chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme. March is a good month to select and plant citrus, also bareroot stone fruit such as cherry, apricot and peach. See “Planting Bare-Root Trees” in the California Master Gardener Handbook.
Succulents: Choose from the wide variety of locally-available species that are excellent for firescaping. Most succulents are also extremely easy to propagate, which make them smart choices economically as well as ecologically.
Ornamentals: Despite recent rains, Santa Barbara County remains in a moderate drought, so it’s still a good idea to concentrate on plants with low-water requirements after becoming well-established. Annuals—alyssum, cosmos, geranium (pelargonium), marigold, morning glory, phlox, verbena and zinnia. Perennials—achillea, artemesia, coreopsis, daylily, dianthus, eryngium, lavandula, salvia, santolina, sedum and thyme. Shrubs—dwarf pomegranate, pyracantha, barberry, mahonia (for part-shade), all of which also provide habitat and food for birds. To attract beneficial insects for pest control, try aster, chamomile, coreopsis, cosmos, feverfew, marigold, scabiosa, and yarrow. For more suggestions, see Sunset’s Guide to Beneficial Insects.
Bulbs, Corm, Tubers: For summer flowers, plant agapanthus, tuberose, tuberous begonia, calla lily, caladium, canna, dahlia, gladiola, and watsonia.
Don’t plant invasive species!
Learn what not to plant at PlantRight
Conserve water by irrigating only when soil is dry to the touch. Deep watering forces roots to grow downward where water is more readily available to them. Several inches of mulch around plants, shrubs and trees helps hold in moisture and decreases the need to water as often. Caution: always keep mulch at least 6" away from trunks to avoid promoting root and crown diseases!
Pruning: Once danger of frost is past, prune any frost damage after buds have developed, which will permit you to easily distinguish healthy tissue from dead branches.
Feed: Fertilize established berry plants, camellias, hydrangeas, roses and turf grass.
Weed: Begin now, while the weeds are still small and they haven’t yet begun to reseed. If soil has dried out, water the day before weeding—you’ll be very glad you did!
Pest Control: Be vigilant looking for aphids, mealybugs, and white flies. To control, either hose off with strong stream of water from the hose, or apply insecticidal soap. Be sure to check under the leaves, too. Watch for snails and slugs to appear once the weather warms up. TIP: gather the spiky seed pods from liquidambar trees and use them to build a “corral” around any prized plantings you wish to protect—snails and slugs will head in another direction!
Think ahead to fire season by continually removing debris, weeds, and flammable overgrowth.
Tools: Clean and dry after each use. Put a thin coat of oil on the blades to protect from rust and erosion. Store in a cool, dry place.
FYI: Do you have citrus trees? In 2012, the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) was found in Santa Barbara County for the first time. This insect harbors the bacterium Huanglongbing (or HLB), which is a fatal disease with no known cure that is responsible for destruction of citrus trees worldwide. The only way to control the disease is to learn how to control the pest that carries it. Since at least 60% of Californians have at least one citrus tree on their property, homeowners are the first line of defense against this deadly invasive pest. Learn what you can do to help protect your citrus trees and the California citrus industry. ACP Distribution and Management. Click here for quarantine information ACP Quarantine Boundaries.
WHAT TO PLANT
Edibles: Sow seeds of beets, celery, carrots, chard, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips. Plants sets of garlic, onions, and shallots. If you want to grow unusual varieties of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, start seeds indoors now. Artichoke and asparagus crowns, as well as rhubarb rhizomes, can be dug and transplanted. For information about planting strawberries, check out Growing Berries in Your Backyard.
Trees and Shrubs: Continue planting bareroot roses, fruit and nut trees early this month. See “Temperate Tree Fruit and Nut Crops,” in the California Master Gardener Handbook. Berries and grapevines can also be planted now. Select container-grown camellias and azaleas while they’re blooming and re-plant in rich, acid soil.
Ornamentals: Plant seeds of annuals such as alyssum, aster, cornflower, calendula, carnation, coreopsis, columbine, cosmos, delphinium, forget-me-not, hollyhock, impatiens, lobelia, lupine, marigold, pansies, petunia, violas, and native wildflowers. Tip: sweet pea seeds should be sown before Valentine’s Day.
Bulbs: For early spring bloom, plant agapanthus, anemone, amaryllis, caladium, calla lily, dahlia, iris, gladiola, and tuberoses. Tuberous begonias can be planted either indoors in small peat pots, covered with no more than ¼” of soil, or outdoors in filtered shade.
February is usually our rainiest month. It’s best to stay out of your garden when the soil is wet, especially around planted areas, to avoid compaction. If necessary, lay down pieces of plywood to walk on instead of directly on soggy ground. Tip: take your houseplants outdoors during the rain for a nice, deep, cleansing soak.
Pruning: Finish pruning dormant roses, fruit trees, berries, grapevines, and summer and fall-blooming shrubs such as abelia, brugmansia, budleya, salvia and toyon. Remove dead limbs from hydrangeas, but wait until all danger of frost is over before pruning more tender ornamentals to help protect emerging new growth. Deadhead perennial flowers to encourage increased blooms. Cut back perennial ornamental grasses to 4-6” above ground, dig up and divide clumps for transplanting.
Apply dormant spray to fruit trees after the buds swell but before the blossoms open. Timing is critical to achieve the intended protection from peach leaf curl. See UC IPM Pest Note 7426.
Control snails and slugs with organic bait, but only after removing sources of shelter, food and moisture. See UC IPM Quick Tip. Treat Aphids by spraying with a strong stream of water to remove them from the plant, or treating with non-chemical insecticidal soaps or oils. See UC IPM Quick Tip. Earwigs can damage tender young growth but they are also fierce predators of aphids and other unwanted insects. Trapping in rolled-up newspaper is one of the most effective controls. See UC IPM Pest Note 47102.
Pull weeds now before they can flower and set seed, and while the soil is workable. Winter annual weeds springing up include clover, crabgrass, cheeseweed and purslane. Get rid of them now and they’re gone (at least until next year), while perennials like Bermuda grass, nutsedge, bindweed and oxalis will just keep coming back unless roots are removed intact. Weed Photo Gallery is a helpful tool for weed identification and management.
Fertilize groundcover, perennials, shrubs, and trees with organic materials that release nutrients slowly, such as bone meal, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion or well-composted manure. Tip: don’t fertilize right beforeit rains in order to keep the nutrients and/or chemicals from washing away into storm drains and creeks.
Clean and sharpen spades, shovels, hoes, rakes, trowels, hand pruners and loppers in preparation for the busy gardening season ahead. Soak rusted tools in oil for a few hours, scrape with a wire brush or steel wool to remove rust, then sharpen blades with a whetstone or hand file. Tip: cleaning tools after each use and hanging them up in a dry spot will make them work better and last longer.
WHAT TO PLANT
Poinsettias typically do not perform well when potted plants are brought into the house for long periods, where the light and relative humidity are low and the temperatures are at human comfort level. They require bright light and should be kept away from drafts. A temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Keep them well-watered, but do not overwater. After the bracts fade or fall, set poinsettia plants outdoors where they will receive indirect light and temperatures of 55 to 85° Fahrenheit. Water sparingly during this time, with just enough water to keep the stems from shriveling. Cut the plants back to within 5 inches from the ground and re-pot in fresh soil. As soon as new growth begins, place in a well-lighted window. After the danger of frost is over, place pots outdoors in a partially shaded spot. Pinch the new growth back to get a plant with several stems. After Labor Day, or when the nights start to cool, bring the plants indoors. Continue to grow them in a sunny room with a night temperature of about 65°F.
Christmas cacti like to be slightly pot-bound. Repotting is only necessary about every 3 years. Plants initiate and develop buds and bloom with bright light, short days, and night temperatures from 55-65°F. Flower buds won’t develop if the nighttime temperature reaches 70°F. Full sun is beneficial in winter, but bright light during summer months results in plants that are pale and yellowish. Less water is needed during the winter; take care that the soil never becomes waterlogged.
See California Master Gardener Handbook second edition, pp 266-269, “Care of Potted Flowering and Holiday Plants.”
Cyclamen make good houseplants but absolutely thrive outdoors in full sun during cool, wet weather. Inside, they require full sunlight and night temperatures from 50-60°F. Water whenever the soil surface feels dry. Allow the plants to die down after flowering, then repot the corm outside. Be sure to leave the top of the corm exposed. Cyclamen are available in vibrant shades of crimson, cranberry, pink and white, cyclamen, making colorful additions to container plantings throughout the winter. Consider red and white shades to decorate for Valentine’s Day and beyond.
Camellias and Azaleas add lots of color to homes and winter gardens. They are blooming now, so it's a good time to select and buy. Flowers can last up to 6 weeks in the home with bright sunlight and a constant rate of moisture. They will drop leaves readily in low light situations. They can be planted outdoors in a shady garden bed during the summer. Because these plants prefer acid soils, it is helpful to add soil sulphur in the planting hole. (Although many sources advise adding sphagnum moss to an azalea/camellia planting mixture, this is no longer considerable a sustainable material so high acid substitutes are recommended.)
Bare root roses should be planted in December, when nursery selection is at its best. They are generally less expensive than container-grown specimens, they require less care, and are easier to handle and plant. Avoid bare-root plants that are kept in a sunny location at the nursery—they may be dried out or have premature shoots. Plant bare-root roses the same day they are purchased for best results. Roses in the Garden and Landscape for complete cultural information.
Perennials such as foxglove, penstemon, yarrow, and agapanthus can be planted later this season. It’s still a good time to plant native wildflowers for spring blooms. Visit SB Botanic Gardenfor suggested plant species in this area.
Cool season food crops generally do best with 8 hours of sunlight and 55-75? F temperatures. Continue to plant asparagus, beets, carrots, cabbage family,lettuce, onions, parsnips, potato, radish, spinach, turnips in succession from December through the winter. In January, plant artichokes, horseradish, rhubarb, strawberries, and herbs such bay leaf, borage (can be invasive-keep potted), chives, parsley, rosemary, and French thyme. Visit CA Garden Web for complete information about preparing, planting and caring for home vegetable gardens all season long.
Select and plant deciduous fruit treesnow. Visit the UC California Backyard Orchard website for details. California Rare Fruit Growers is another excellent resource for environmentally sound information on the culture of fruit trees and other edible plants.