Southern California gardening: What to do in February

Here are the things to do in Southern California gardens this month, from pruning roses to starting seeds.

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    An unused half barrel, rigged with a plastic cover, can be an easy way to start seeds this month in Southern California..

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February is still a good time to do pruning in the Southern California garden if you didn’t get it done last month. January is better, but if you wait until March, not so good -- especially in the hot, desert areas such as Blythe, Anza Borrego, and Canebreak, and even in the hot areas of the Central Coast and Bakersfield and Fresno.

Roses and bareroot trees

Roses can still be pruned. Take out all crossing canes, dead canes, or any that look diseased. If any canes have grown below the graft union or bud union, get rid of them. It doesn’t hurt to limit the number of canes; it will make for just as many blooms. And prune mature bushes to around 18 to 20 inches in height.

It's bareroot season, too, so look for additions to the garden in roses and berry bushes. Some ornamental trees may also be available bareroot (without a root ball of soil).

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In planting bareroot varieties, dig a hole deeper than the roots, and at least half a foot wider. Spread the roots apart, as they would be in growing, fill the hole with good soil, and water well to get rid of air pockets.

Starting seeds in containers

You can start some vegetables from seed in the ground this month, but March will be better.

As an alternative, if you have a small, portable greenhouse or any container, such as a half barrel, that you can cover with plastic, you can start many flower seeds and vegetable seeds for the summer garden. Just be sure the plastic is high enough to provide good cover [see photo above] and keep the potting mixture well watered but not soggy. When the seedlings are around three inches tall, they’re ready to transplant into the garden.

While it looks like spring in some areas, we’re still going to have some chilly, rainy weather this month, so continue to protect outdoor potted plants that may need shelter.

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Gerald Burke is a freelance horticultural writer who will be blogging reguloarly at Diggin' It about gardening in Southern California. [Click here for last week's article.] He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association.

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