f918c47281f9be11a6232f599f181319

It seems mothers’ can always tell when their children are telling a fib.

rvanderhoff

Maybe it’s the child’s mannerisms, their eyes, or maybe it’s the sound of their voice when a child is not being honest and forthcoming. However the method, mother knows what’s true and what’s not.

Perhaps gardeners should take a lesson from their maternal relationship. Like the mischievous child, when a gardener tries to fool Mother Nature, they almost always fail. Mother Nature always knows the truth and in the end Mother Nature will always impart her will. Like children, gardeners also needn’t attempt to fool mother.

Today’s sunlight will last ten hours and twenty nine minutes, yesterday’s one minute less and tomorrow’s one minutes more. Tonight’s low temperate will be 51° and the soil six inches under the surface, where the roots are, will stay at a rather even 61°f today. At its highest point today, the sun will rise 33° above the horizon.

Day length and temperature statistics are at best a curiosity to humans. However, plants are utterly controlled by these trivia. Plants respond to temperature, day length and sunlight in extremely precise and predictable ways. Plants are utterly indifferent to the wants and whims of their landlord gardeners. Instead, the plants in our gardens are ruled in a totalitarian, uncompromising regime of strict codes, reinforced through millennia of experience.

Pansies_2-5-11

Like a young child who hasn’t yet tested their mother’s instincts, beginning gardeners may challenge nature’s steadfast rules, perhaps by planting at the wrong season or attempting to make a plant behave in a way that suits only the gardener. In battles of nature vs. the gardener, it is Mother Nature that will prevail. Understanding natures signals, then embracing them, rather than denying them, is the sign of a mature, experienced and wise gardener.

February is ripe with opportunity and is an active time for a local gardener. However, understanding a few of natures timing subtleties will make your experience more successful.

In the vegetable garden it is almost time to set out tomato transplants – but not yet. The soil is still too cool. Tomatoes set out now won’t produce fruit any sooner than the same plant set out a month or two from now. Tomatoes don’t set fruit until nighttime temperatures stay above 55°f for at least two nights in a row. In the meantime, a crop of lettuce would be a good idea. You’ll harvest the lettuce just in time for perfect tomato planting season.

Annual flowers don’t set fruit, so night temperatures are less important. Instead, success with these plants is regulated more often by soil and air temperatures. Flowers that should be planted now in our still-cool soil include petunias, pansies and violas, bacopa, nemesia, snapdragons, alyssum, stock, primrose, ageratum, cosmos and most poppies. Don’t bother with impatiens, begonias, verbenas, coleus, zinnias, dahlias, marigolds and other warm weather plants; they’ll just languish now. Wait until the soil warms and the days lengthen.

Gladiolus, tuberous begonias, dahlias, most lilies and other summer flowering plants grown from bulb-like structures should get into the ground this month or next. The cool air and mild soil temperatures are perfect for their initiation of roots, followed by foliage and flowers.

If we resign ourselves and our gardens to the rules of Mother Nature, then in February we will be planting cilantro not basil, ceanothus not bougainvillea, fescue not bermuda, potatoes not plumeria and apricots instead of avocados. Those are Mother Nature’s desires. Best that we learn her rules, then do our best to abide by them. We needn’t try to fool her – we can’t.

Mother Nature tells us that it’s time to start feeding citrus now. Citrus are heavy users of nitrogen and micronutrients. Micronutrients, like iron, zinc and manganese, are often absent from synthetic fertilizers; another reason why I always recommend organic nutrition. While you’re at it, be sure to apply fertilizer to most potted plants. The soil of potted plants will warm considerably earlier than that of the ground, requiring more frequent and earlier applications of nutrition, and resulting in an earlier season of foliage and flowers.

If you’ve been pinching the tips of your fuchsia over the past two months, as I recommend, keep doing so for another month, then stop. Your pinching diligence is developing a very full plant with lots of tips. These tips are where hundreds of flowers will eventually form.

If you’ve been considering removing some thirsty plants and replacing them with native plants, hurry. Local native plants are evolved to grow quickly during the cool, wet season, then slow down or stop growing during the hot, dry summer months.

These are just a few of the rules of the game for gardeners. When you’re dealing with Mother Nature, you can’t cheat her and you can’t lie to her. Learn mother’s rules, then abide by them and you will have a more successful and rewarding garden experience.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar.

Questions from Readers February 5.

Do I really need to prune my roses, they still have flowers on them?

Grace, Newport Beach

Answer:

Yes. Almost all modern roses bloom on new growth. If you don’t prune your roses each winter, this years growth develops on top of last years growth, creating a tall, woody and bare bottomed plant with less flowers and an unattractive appearance.

Assembly_7-24-10_4

Plant Care Reminders

Lemon Tree Monthly Plant Care
Edibles Julie Bawden-Davis

Lemon Tree - (Citrus limon) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Hibiscus Monthly Plant Care
Shrubs Proven Winners

Hibiscus - Lavender Chiffon ( Hibiscus syriacus 'Notwoodone') - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Ceanothus spp (California Lilac) -…

11509 Julie Bawden-Davis
Ceanothus Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum…

4603 Julie Bawden-Davis
Loropetalum chinense Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Marcie Forsberg
Expert Bios Marcie Forsberg

Marcie Forsberg - Midwest

Region: Midwest

Top Garden Trends: Gardening with a Purpose

5659
Default Image
Philadelphia— Put your garden gloves on and join the fun because ‘gardening with a…

Puzzle #5 - Butterflies

3314
Butterfly Crossword Puzzle
Print this and take a few minutes and have some fun trying to figure this crossword…

Don Walker - Southwest

15382
Don Walker
Region: Southwest

Plant Recommendations

Steve Plath
Plant Recommendations Julie and Steve Plath

Desert Trees for Arizona by Steve Plath

Steve Plath's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Desert Trees.
Aloe marlothii
Plant Recommendations Patrick Anderson

Aloes - Southern California

Patrick Anderson's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Aloes for Southern California. 

Fire Safe Plants - Southern California

6440 Dave Ehrlinger
Dudleya pulverulenta
Dave Ehrlinger's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Fire Safe Plants for Southern…

Cut Flowers - Southern California

8777 evelyn alemanni
Argyranthemum frutescens 'Fireball Red'
Evelyn Alemanni's Top Plant Recommendation: Fresh Cut Flower for Southern California. 

Shrubs & Perennials with Red Color -…

18587 Taylor Murphy
Loropetalum chinense
Taylor Murphy's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Shrubs & Perennials with Red Color.

Featured Plant Care

Corn Monthly Plant Care

Corn - Sweet Edible (Zea mays var. rugosa) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Carrot Monthly Plant Care - photo by Burpee

Carrot (Daucus carota var. sativus) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Camellia plant care

Camellias Planting and Care in southern California

in Shrubs
Camellias are native to Japan, China and Indo-China, where they grow on well-drained…
Crape Myrtle Monthly Plant Care

Lagerstroemia spp. (Crape Myrtle) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Trees
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Latest Articles

Edit Your Tagged Photos!

How to Edit or Remove A Plant "Tag" In Your Garden Photos

Instead of 'Tagging' your friends on Facebook, now you can 'Tag' your Plants in your…
Seed Starting

10 Easy Cut Flowers to Direct Sow

in Seeds
A cut-flower garden or "cutting garden" allows you to bring the beauty of your garden…

Popular Articles

Baseball Field Maintenance

Baseball Field Maintenance - A General Guide for Fields of All Levels

in Lawn
More great baseball field resources can be found here (including a pdf version of this…
Queen Palm Care & Use

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…
Kahili Ginger Plant Care

Hedychium gardnerianum (Kahili Ginger) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

User Guides (Slide)

Popular Recommendations (Slide)