Q: We’ve hardly had a “real” winter this year. Is it too soon to think about spring planting? — Kathi R. in Cambria
A: Never trust Mother Nature. We could still have a bit of winter. If you want to garden, there are some chores to do this month that will benefit your garden and a few plants that are waiting to get an early start.
The days are lengthening and plants are feeling the urge to put out new growth. Finish pruning dormant trees and shrubs along with flowering vines, grapes, and berries.
Treat aphid invasions with a strong spray of water or use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to control. Apply a final dormant spray to peaches and nectarines if peach leaf curl was severe last year. Be on the lookout for snails and slugs.
In late February, your plants will be working up an appetite. Organic sources of nutrients such as well-composted manure, bonemeal and cottonseed meal are considered slow release fertilizers, feeding both plants and soil. Work these amendments into the top three inches of soil. Fertilize citrus and fruit trees with fertilizers specific to their needs. Mediterranean-climate plants need no fertilizer.
Alyssum, achillea, aster, calendula, coreopsis, rudbeckia, scabiosa, California and Shirley poppies and wildflower seeds can be planted in late winter. Spring bulbs such as amaryllis, caladium, calla lily, canna, dahlia, daylily, bearded and Dutch iris, and gladiolas are ready for planting this month.
Coastal gardeners can plant beets, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, potato eyes, spinach and snow peas in beds, in pots or among flowers. Inland gardeners can plant the above and start seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower indoors for transplanting later when the soil warms. Sow parsley seeds, endive, leek, lettuce and turnips. You may also consider planting garlic, shallots and bulb onion sets or transplanting artichoke, asparagus crowns, and rhubarb rhizomes.
Be careful not to overplant this year. Landscape water will be restricted in many communities unless there are drastic changes in our weather patterns. Better to curb your urge to plant now than have to choose what to save this summer.
GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?
Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email firstname.lastname@example.org .