February is the month we all wait for. It’s the time for planting mania here in the low desert. The traditional last frost date for the year is February 15, but we always press our luck and try planting earlier — especially when the weather has been so warm. Of course there is always the risk of experiencing a frost, but sometimes it’s worth it. I did have a friend who planted 30 tomato plants at the end of January a few years ago and a hard freeze killed all of them, so be warned that it could happen. It is looking like the weather will be nicer this year.
The main reason we like to get our plants in the ground as soon as possible is that it heats up very quickly in the spring, and if we don’t have vegetables well established and producing before then, they will probably not produce at all. The pollen of many vegetables, including tomatoes becomes inviable viable once the temperatures get over 90 degrees. Other plants will just not tolerate the heat and either bolt or wither. Besides, you will want to be thinking about your Summer plantings at that time. Each season has its own demands.
Some things you can sow as seed, while others must be transplanted as seedlings to give them a head start. There are several local nurseries, farmers markets, and local home-based growers you can buy transplants from if you didn’t start them already. Check out local gardening Facebook Groups or YourFarmFoods Facebook group to find out where.
Vegetables and Herbs to Plant Now
Beets, bush beans, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, eggplant, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, radishes, summer squash, tomatoes, watermelon, globe artichoke transplants, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, basil, garbanzo beans, lentils, cilantro, corn, cucumber, dill, eggplant, fennel, kale, most herb transplants, multiplier onion transplants, scallions, peas, sage, spinach, swiss chard, sunflowers, tomatillo, turnips.
Flowers to Plant Now (don’t forget the pollinators!)
African daisies, Ageratum, Alyssum, Bachelor Button, Carnation, Clarkia, Delphinium, Everlastings, Gaillardia, Globe Amaranth, Gloriosa Daisy, Godetia, Gypsophila, Helichrysum, Hollyhocks, Larkspur, Lupines, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Pinks, Poppy, Salpiglossis, Scabiosa, Shasta Daisy, Snapdragon, Sweet Peas, Sweet Sultan, Sweet William, Verbena, Viola.
What You Can Harvest Now (if you planted it, of course)
Jerusalem artichoke, arugula, asparagus, basil, fave beans, lentils, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, collards, dill, endive, fennel, kale, most herbs, lettuce, mizuna, mustard greens, green onions, peas, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, turnips, kohlrabi.
Keep Soil Building
Keep Composting in the ground or in bins so that you’ll have a fresh supply of nutrients for each season. Another thing you may want to do is get on a tree trimming service’s mulch list. The best way to provide a healthy growing environment in our climate is to cover the ground with organic mulch several inches thick. Just ask the most successful gardeners in the low desert and many of them will say that the magic is in the mulch.