First, here’s the word on sidedressing from a grower: Fertilizer [like manures] should be applied at least three times each year; apply the first time when new growth starts (late January or early FEBRUARY, or early April), the second in mid-May and final application in mid-July to mid-September. Nitrogen applications should be heaviest in autumn to encourage the production of large crowns, and lowest in spring as nitrogen has adverse effects on fruit quality. Avoid heavy nitrogen applications just before or during the heavy fruiting period. [Remember, you want fruit not just leaves!]
Now. What you do in February depends on what you want to do in March, and April, and May! What you want to plant. Leave space for those April heat lovers, OR, plant what will mature quickly, and when its harvest period is finished, you are on time, those areas are free for the April heat lovers plantings! Think about the Sun’s light path through your garden. Plant tall at the back of where you will get the most sun. Generally, that is tall to the North, short to the South. Be mindful for better returns.
Here’s your coastal SoCal February to May Schedule!
FEBRUARY – let fall, winter plants finish. Remove, clean up, prepare your soil now for planting the first summer crops from seed. Start compost to enrich April, May soils. Did you plant favas for green manure, and are they starting to bloom? Turn them under now while they are still tender and easy to chop. Especially leave the roots under soil so the Nitrogen they collected (legumes) will fertilize your soil. Frost not likely….
Sow beets, caraway, celery, carrots, chard, chervil, chives, collards, cilantro (coriander), dill, endive, fennel, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, mustards, green onions, bulb onion sets, flat-leafed parsley, peas, white potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinaches, and turnips.
Transplant artichoke and asparagus crowns and rhubarb rhizomes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, horseradish, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, and spinach. It’s the best time to plant strawberries, so they can grow well before the weather warms and they put out blossoms.
Start seedlings indoors, in the greenhouse. Eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes, as a promise to yourself that warm times are truly coming.
Planning succession planting makes sense if you have a small space. It keeps a steady supply. For example, plant 6 lettuces now, leave room for 6 more in 3 weeks, and so on. That way you aren’t overwhelmed by too many maturing all at once then losing them to bugs or bolting. If a group fails, start another. One way of doing it cleverly is to plant seeds and a six pack at the same time. That’s an equivalent of 6 weeks succession. Plant different varieties for different nutrients and delightful variety.
MARCH – Tomatoes! Few gardeners can keep themselves from planting cold tolerating quick maturing tomatoes as early as March!
Outdoors, sow or transplant beets, carrots, celery, chard, herbs, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, green onions, bulb onion seed and sets (be sure to get summer- maturing varieties), parsley, peas, peanuts, potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinaches, strawberries, and turnips. Transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi seedlings.
This is the last month to transplant artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale; also strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry roots so they’ll bear fruit well this year.
Indoors, sow eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes for transplanting into the garden in late April or early May. Also Cucumbers, eggplants, melons, squash and sweet potatoes. Time for heat-resistant, bolt-resistant lettuces of all kinds!
APRIL – Now we’re talking true heat lovers time! Sow or transplant asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, heat-tolerant leaf lettuce, okra, summer-maturing onions, parsley, peanuts, the last peas (choose a heat-tolerant variety such as Wando), white potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, and spinach.
Transplant early-maturing varieties of beans, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes that will tolerate cooler soil temperatures.
Herbs! Sow or transplant basil, borage, chervil, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. Be mindful where you plant them… Mediterranean herbs from southern France, like lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme, do well in hot summer sun and poor but well-drained soil with minimal fertilizer. On the other hand, basil, chives, coriander (cilantro), and parsley thrive in richer soil with more frequent watering.
Here are some WISE WORDS from Yvonne Savio, Program Manager and Master Gardener Coordinator for Los Angeles County’s University of California Cooperative Extension: ‘Wait until the end of the month to sow or transplant vegetables and fruits that prefer very warm weather to mature–including beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, pumpkins, and squash. They will do better when they have consistently warm soil and air temperatures. Planting them into the soil when air temperatures are still cool results in growth stress which is difficult for the plants to overcome. Peppers, especially, will just “sulk” if their roots are chilled, and they won’t recuperate quickly [if ever] – best to just wait till the soil has warmed before planting them.’ I couldn’t agree more. I have done exactly what she warns against and can say the results aren’t happy. Sigh.
MAY – Sow seeds of lima and snap beans, beets, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
Creature Department! Ms Savio says ‘Interplant cucumbers and beans to repel cucumbers beetles and prevent the wilt diseases they carry. Also plant Cucurbita lagenaria gourds as trap plants for cucumber beetles. Plant potatoes to repel squash bugs.’ And here’s a trick she recommends! ‘When hand-picking those hard-to-see tomato hornworms, sprinkle the plants lightly with water first. Then, as the horn-worms wiggle to shake off the water, you can easily see them and remove them.’ Doncha love it?!
Important to know this: Later this month, when foliage on garlic, bulb onions, and shallots begins to dry naturally, stop irrigating. Dry outer layers needed for long storage will form on the bulbs. When about half of the foliage slumps to the ground naturally, bend the rest to initiate this maturing. The bulbs will be ready for harvest when the foliage is thoroughly dry and crisp. Not pretty, but it’s the way it works!
Be careful with your strawberries! Give them a balanced fertilizer, like a yummy micronutrients fish/kelp mix, now and after each heavy fruit-bearing period for continued strong growth and fruit set. However, if you have skunks, etc., don’t use fishy stinky stuff because it attracts these foragers. Avoid mulching with manure, especially chicken, that has a relatively high salt level strawberries don’t like. Even with excellent irrigation and drainage, summer heat will cause its saltiness to burn the berry plants. So what to use if you have skunks and the like? Try bunny poop. Get it on Thursdays at the Animal Shelter. You are doubly warned.
Mulching? Do it in summer! Self Mulching! This is the cheapest, easiest technique! Transplant seedlings close enough so that the leaves of mature plants will shade the soil between the plants. That’s all there is too it! Roots are cool and comfy, less water needed. Natural mulches feed your soil as they decompose. Avoid any that have been dyed. Strawberries and blueberries like loose, acid mulches – pine needles or rotted sawdust. Raspberries and blackberries enjoy SEEDLESS straw. Mulch is just so clever! Besides the underground advantages, above ground, it keeps plant leaves off the soil where snails, other critters, soil diseases, climb onboard. It keeps leaves drier, less molds, mildew. It keeps fruits off the soil, clean to harvest.
Ok. Now you have all the info you need to plan your super garden! You can see when to start what – whether from seed or transplant. You can set up your space for succession planting, maximizing your delicious harvests!
See entire February GBC Newsletter!