February is the third month of winter. Historical names for February include two Old English names Solmonath (mud month) and Kale-monath (cabbage month).
While rain and freezing temperatures can linger in February, coming spring is evident in the buds forming on early blooming deciduous shrubs.
Annuals: Set out spring annuals now: pansy, primrose, calendula, Iceland poppy, and snapdragons.
Perennials: Plant deer-resistant perennials: candytuft, foxglove, Lenten rose, lavender, purple coneflower, and yarrow. Prepare new perennial beds by turning the soil to 12 inches deep and adding in an inch or more of aged compost. Divide overgrown clumping perennials.
Bulbs: Bulbs for spring and summer bloomers can be planted as the weather warms and the danger of frost lessens. Plant tuberous begonia, caladium, calla, dahlia, gladiolus, Gloriosa lily, pineapple lily, tigridia, and tuberose.
Vines: Prune passion vines, clematis and other dormant vines in late winter; trim away dead, woody vines. Protect bougainvilleas from freezing temperatures overnight.
Roses: Feed roses with an organic granular rose food just before buds break in late winter or early spring; or use a slow-release synthetic rose fertilizer with applications every 3 to 6 months.
Shrubs: Add 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch around shrubs, but keep the mulch 6 inches back from the plant's trunk or stem. Purchase camellias and azaleas while in bloom for color and form. Don't fertilize shrubs in winter to avoid early growth and bud drop. Aphids and scale may increase in late winter; spray with canola-based horticultural oil.
Trees: Prune wind damage when safe. Prune frost damage after new growth begins, to judge where to prune.
Vegetables and herbs: Plant cool-season vegetables. Pick peas as they fill out to increase your crop. Cover developing cauliflower heads with leaves so that they don't turn green from sunlight exposure; harvest when the buds are plump and the sections begin to loosen.
Fruits and berries: Prune mature deciduous fruit trees in late winter while they are still dormant. Trees three years old and younger should be pruned to develop an open-vase form by cutting out crossing branches. Trim off the top 6 inches of new Raspberry canes to force lower bud growth; two-year-old canes can be cut back to ground level.
Garden maintenance: Clean up fallen branches. Top off mulch to keep down the mud. Cut back the dead portions of perennials. Check for slugs, snails, and earwigs. Weed out early weed germinators. Gophers will become more active in rain-softened soil; set out traps or bait.
Native plants: Blooming this month are the vivid blue sprays of Ray Harman ceanothus, pink-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), manzanita, Woodland strawberries, wake-robins (Trillium), fairybells (Prosartes), milkmaids (Cardamine), Western columbines, wallflowers, peppermint candy flowers (Claytonia), and baby blue-eyes (Nemophila).
Nature alerts: Wildflowers under Redwood and Douglas fir stands are in bloom this month; look for Adder's Tongue lily, wake-robin, giant trillium, redwood sorrel, miner's lettuce, and huckleberry. February is a month of yellow blooms; look for 3-foot-tall mustard plants blooming in vineyards and orchards; also blooming are the exotics (and invasive) Scotch broom and acacia. Look for willows in bloom this month and next; buttons, buds, and catkins appear before new leaves.
Kenwood weather averages: Temperature: average high 63°F, average low 41°F, mean 52°F. Record high 83°F (1964), record low 21°F (1950). Average precipitation 6.23 inches.
Sunrise and sunset: Sunrise on the Feb. 1 at 7:16 a.m., sunset on Feb. 1 at 5:31 p.m.; sunrise on the Feb. 28 at 6:45 a.m., sunset on Feb. 28 at 6:01 p.m.
Moon: Full on Feb. 3; last quarter/waning on Feb. 11; new on Feb. 18; first quarter/waxing on Feb. 25.
- Compiled by Steve Albert
Steve Albert is the author of The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide available at Amazon.com. He teaches in the landscape design program at the U.C. Berkeley Extension. He lives in Oakmont.