Regional Gardening Guide - Zone 9-10

February 1 to February 28-- Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.

Here’s what’s happening in your gardening region:

Winter’s only just begun, yet the last frost date is right around the corner. (Time to plant warm season veggies, flowers, make room when harvesting cool season veggies, use frost protection or plant in trays and bring seedlings indoors if necessary.


map for zone 9-10

Your Regional reporter

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Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

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1. Transition Vegetable Beds for the Warm Season.

It’s still winter, but we’re already running out of time to plant cool-season vegetables and annuals. Now is really the time to start your warm-season plantings, even if you live in zone 9 and have to start them in containers or protect them during cold snaps. Prepare your beds if you haven’t already, and set aside some sheltered spots for tomatoes and peppers whenever you’re able. You still have months left to plant warm-season seeds, but get a jump-start on the season and an extra crop or two by planting in February. After all, it won’t be long until those cool-season crops give way to new possibilities. Transition Vegetable Beds for the Warm Season Continue caring for existing cool-season plantings and begin making room for warm-season vegetables, if you haven’t already. Provide extra irrigation during short warm spells, as the soil will dry out more quickly and could damage crops as they’re finishing up production. Lay down a mulch of fallen leaves or pine straw to conserve moisture, prevent weeds and add some cold protection for warm-season seedlings. Continue to pull weeds as they appear, taking care not to damage fragile vegetable seedlings. Remove any carrots, radishes or salad greens that have begun to flower early, otherwise known as bolting. Harvest or compost any spent crops, and prepare the site for more vegetables by either tilling in compost or spreading it over sheets of newspaper. When choosing warm-season replacements, avoid planting vegetables from the same family two years in a row. If you’ve been growing vegetables in the same spot for a few years, let it recuperate by covering the plot with sheets of black plastic or cardboard. If desired, cover the sheets with mulch or potted plants.

2. Begin Planting Warm-Season Vegetables.

Once you have a bed prepared, you can finally begin planting warm-season vegetables again. These include tomatoes, peppers, corn, pole beans, melons, zucchini and summer squashes. Growers in zone 10 can plant directly in the ground without worrying too much about frost. Gardeners in zone 9 can also begin warm-season plantings, but plan on keeping them warm for another month or two. Start seeds in trays or containers that can be easily whisked away on cold nights, and keep floating row covers and frost blankets handy so that you can quickly protect them on cold nights. Start seeds in trays or coir pots, using a quality seed-starting potting mix for proper drainage. To give young plants a strong start, apply either compost tea or an organic fertilizer that’s specially formulated for seedlings and transplants. Avoid using all-purpose chemical fertilizers on seedlings, as they can easily burn their sensitive roots.

3. Learn to Plant Seeds Correctly.

Starting seeds off right is the single most important thing you can do for a garden. Just think; almost every individual seed in that packet has the potential to become a healthy and productive plant, so why would you throw your seeds to the whims of fate by planting them without following the directions? Even then, a lot can happen to seeds when you’re not looking. Rain could wash them away, birds could gobble them up and a hot day can leave them dry and sizzling by nightfall. Give those emerging seedlings a fighting chance by first planting them in pellets, pots and trays, where you can keep them safe from pests, weeds, disease and stray dogs until they’ve developed a sturdy stem and enough leaves to make it on their own. Harden them off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions, and carefully transplant them into a prepared and improved garden bed. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to mess it all up after that, but at least you’re that much more likely to succeed.

4. Plant these New Flower Varieties.

It’s time to begin planting warm season annual seeds again, though young plants will still need protection from cold snaps. This season, grow some old favorites with new and sensuous colors. Subtle pastel hues make our new ‘Strawberry Blonde’ marigold look like a designer version of the usual day-glow varieties, yet are every bit as low maintenance. Plant the ruffled pom-poms of ‘Zinderella Peach’ Zinnia nearby to echo the color, and create contrast with the wicked bronze to black foliage of ‘Mystic Spirit’ Dahlia and ‘Cannova Bronze Scarlet’ Canna. Plant the branching ‘Candy Mountain’ sunflower for its burgundy and caramel flowerheads that bloom in profusion all the way up to their 8-10-foot-tall tops.

  • Sunflower, Candy Mountain Hybrid, , large
  • Nasturtium, Red Troika, , large
  • Marigold, Strawberry Blonde, , large

5. Grow Canna from Seeds and Roots.

With bold, saturated blooms erupting from broad banana-like leaves, canna brings somehow even makes tropical gardens appear more tropical. Folks up north have to dig up their bulblike rhizomes each fall to keep the show going, but here we can leave plants in the ground to go dormant in winter. The Canova series rocks gorgeous flowers from vibrant yellow to peachy orange and deep scarlet, and since the plants grow no taller than four feet, can be grown at the back of flower borders without obscuring views. Unlike the other canna varieties on the website that are sold as rhizomes, grow these from seed. Plant in winter or early spring, either directly in the ground or in containers. They will survive neglect once established, but need moist soil and protection from cold snaps, slugs and foot traffic for now.

  • Canna, Cannova Orange Shade, , large
  • Canna, Cannova Bronze Scarlet, , large
  • Canna, Cannova Rose, , large