The Plant Man: Answering your February planting questions

By Steve Kawaratani

“In my garden, after a rainfall, you can faintly, yes, hear the breaking of new blooms.” –Truman Capote

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Photos courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

As winter is predicted to bring on-and-off rain for the next week and beyond, February still promises the joy of life and color in our gardens. With our moderate temperatures and the promise of spring beckoning soon, this is an opportune time for gardeners to prepare their landscapes for Superbowl LVIII (58 if you are challenged by Latin numerals), Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day.

Laguna’s special coastal location provides many opportunities for gardeners this month. The proximity to the Pacific influences our microclimate, with milder winters compared to the persistent stormy cold elsewhere. This makes it easy to play in our gardens whenever we wish, compared to friends and family who are busy shoveling snow.

But I digress; let’s get back to the garden with the Plant Man!

Q: What is the most important garden thing to do this month?

A: Other than remembering to have fun, pruning deciduous trees and shrubs to encourage new growth and maintain form is tops on my list. Mindful pruning not only promotes the overall health of your plants, but is also the precursor to the future beauty of your garden. Don’t forget that you have until the end of February to prune your roses.

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Homegrown greens

Q: I’m interested in farm to table produce. Is it possible in my garden?

A: Of course it is! February is an excellent time to start planting cool-season vegetables, like lettuce, beans and spinach, which flourish in the cool temperatures of late winter, with the surety of a bountiful harvest in the spring. Homegrown greens are always the finest kind for sure.

Q: Should I be fertilizing my garden during the winter?

A: Applying a balanced fertilizer for plants that are not dormant should always be undertaken as the second most important garden job during February. Select fertilizers suitable for the types of plants in your garden and apply prior to the rain for optimal results.

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Tulips come in a variety of colors

Q: What can I plant for winter color?

A: Planting viola, snapdragon and Iceland poppy between rain will ensure early spring blooms. While it is a bit late to plant spring bulbs like daffodil, tulip and hyacinth, they are available, ready to bloom, at Gelson’s and Trader Joe’s, so you can add a splash of color indoors.

Q: Should I shut my sprinklers off this month?

A: It depends. Pausing your sprinklers during rainy weather will conserve water for the future. However, with ever-changing weather patterns, they may need to be used during dry spells. Implementing a layer of mulch around your garden beds will retain moisture and discourage weeds. Don’t forget that sprinklers running while it is raining is dumb.

February offers myriad of opportunities for gardeners to nurture their landscapes. Whether you’re planting edibles for a sustainable harvest, cultivating flowers for garden color, or maintaining the health of your garden and yourself, remember to be grateful that you don’t live where winter actually exists. Happy Valentine’s Day and see you next time.

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at, or 949.494.5141.


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