February has arrived, and believe it or not, it is time to start prepping for the spring garden season in San Antonio by planting and pruning specific plants. We all know that in this area, the weather can have us shoving our feet in wool socks and boots one day and tossing them aside in favor of flip flops the next. We’ve all seen the memes, right? While we try to follow a calendar for our seasonal gardening, we really rely on the weather and temperatures more than anything to be successful. This means, we still need to be ready for planting and pruning at “normal” times, but we must be prepared to wait or protect our plants in case of an errant late freeze. 

Today, I’m going to try to give you some timely planting and pruning gardening tips for February. Keep in mind that these are general timing tips and that the weather in February and March can make a big difference. Stay tuned for next week’s blog, Part 2 of our Jump Start Spring Gardening Series: Lawn and Soil.

February Early Spring Planting Do’s

Veggie planting options for early spring gardens.

*Always remember that ALL new plantings are tender and MUST be protected in the event of a freeze.

Veggie Planting: 

  • If you do it soon: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and other cole crops. What we have is most likely our last selections, so get them soon if you want them. Cole crops tend to bolt (flower) once the warm weather hits, causing the veggies to taste bitter by the time they mature. 
  •  Fresh veggie plantings of potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, green onions (not for big bulbs), lettuce, spinach, asian greens, and direct seedings of root veggies: carrots, radish, turnip, kohlrabi, beets, etc…
  •  Ok hear me out….tomatoes will be in the nursery by about mid month (maybe sooner. This is the time to BUY them, but NOT plant yet. Now is when you will get the selection you desire, but the small transplants should be bumped up to larger containers to continue to develop roots but still be protected from the cold until about March 15th (weather dependent).
Fruit trees for planting in early spring

Shade Trees, Shrubs, Fruit Trees, Nut Trees and Berry Planting:

Trees and shrubs are those type of plants that take longer to get their roots established. While warm weather gets us excited to be outdoors planting trees and shrubs, it’s better to plant earlier so they have as much time possible to develop their roots to be able to withstand our summers. Fall is best for planting, late winter/early spring is your next shot. 

If you want to include hardy fruit trees, nuts, berries, grapes, etc… Not only is February a good time to plant fruit, it is also prime time for selecting a great variety as both of our locations have welcomed in huge shipments. Look for apples, peaches, plums, figs, pomegranate, persimmon, pecans, berries, grapes, and specialty fruits from David Wilson Nursery like: kiwi, specialty raspberries and grapes, goji berries, hops, etc… These also need as much time possible to get their roots established before the heat rolls in. 

Extra tip: Even self-pollinating fruit varieties tend to produce more when provided another variety of fruit tree/bush/vine to cross pollinate with

Planting Indoor Seed Starts of Warm Weather Annuals

Seeds of zinnia, marigolds, basil, gomphrena, gaillardia, etc…like the warmth and won’t do well planted in the garden right now. If you want to grow your own from seed, start these indoors now to have strong transplants for the garden later when the sun starts doing its thing.

Early Spring Pruning Do’s and Don’ts

Roses being cut.

Time for Pruning Roses:

February is prime time to do your major spring rose pruning. We use Valentine’s Day as a good marker for when to start and the first week of March to have completed this gardening task. In general, you are removing old, broken and damaged canes, with the goal of ending up with 6-8 healthy canes cut down to a height of about 24”. (You may get fewer blooms but they will be bigger, pruning the plant a little taller will give you more blooms but they will be smaller.) 

Exceptions to rose pruning in February are: groundcover roses (they don’t usually need to be cut down too severely, just to maintain shape), old garden roses (wait until after spring bloom to prune), and climbing roses have a more specific way to prune and train. Sterilized and sharp pruners are a must for this task. Need your pruners sharpened? Come see Larry Smith with “Hello Sharpness”, at our Bandera location on Saturdays from 9AM – 1PM, to get a professional sharpening. 

Pruning Summer Flowering Trees and Fruit Trees

I am attaching a link to this informative article from TAMU about pruning trees, with a chart showing some examples of which ones to prune now and which ones to prune later. It also gives you some great tips for how to prune. But here is my warning. I better not see any of your crape myrtles hacked down to nubs! I mean it! Enough of that!

February is prime time to prune fruit trees in San Antonio. This will encourage larger fruit at production. Pruning should be done before buds swell, so don’t delay. Those fruit trees put out their gorgeous buds and blooms pretty early here in San Antonio. Extra info here.

A chrysalis is a reason to hold of pruning in early spring gardens in February.

Prune or Don’t Prune Perennials and Ornamental Grasses…What?

Okay, this one is tricky. It honestly kind of comes down to a preference. There is a lot of advice (from reliable sources like TAMU Agrilife Extension Services, etc…) to go ahead and trim perennials down to about 4” and ornamental grasses to about 10”. This is valid advice, and it can be done. If you do prune down your perennials and grasses now, be sure to add a 2″-3″ layer of mulch around the base of your plants to help protect their roots. 

Now, the other method of addressing your freeze burned plants is to do nothing yet. THIS is what I do. I wait until the temperatures are consistently above 50°F, and the picture above shows why (see the chrysalis at the bottom center of pic?). Many butterflies, bees, and other pollinators overwintering in the winter damaged leaves and hollowed out stems. I leave the tops of my plants alone, mostly for shelter and protection of our local wildlife, but I also believe the browned, ragged rubble also serves as more protection for my plants in the event of additional freezes. This week proves my point. 

No pruning oak trees in early spring.

 

No Pruning for Spring Blooming Shrubs, Oak Trees, and Tropical Plants

If you prune these now, guess what? No blooms in springtime! For a list of some common spring blooming shrubs to avoid pruning, see this link. You can prune these right after their flower flush. This allows for vigorous summer growth and will encourage lots of spring buds next year. 

From February to June 30th, you should refrain from pruning oaks to help prevent the spread of oak wilt throughout Texas. If you have to prune a broken branch from winter damage, do so selectively and be sure to paint the wound completely with pruning paint. 

These are the most cold sensitive plants out there. Pruning them now would definitely put them at risk for severe damage or death by a late freeze. You do have them in a warm and protected area for winter right?

I hope these little tidbits will help give you a jump start on spring planting and pruning. Here’s to a successful spring season. Until then, stay safe and warm!

~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy