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Winter Gardening: February Garden Checklist Zones 9-11

The pace starts to pick up in February for gardeners in Zones 9-11. The milder winters in USDA Grow Zones 9-11 mean that there are plenty of plants that you can get started in February both outdoors and as seed-starts indoors.

February is a time packed with initiating garden preparations, carving out new garden beds, edging, pruning, and much anticipated planting of indoor seeds and outdoor cool weather crops.

Check out our robust February Garden Checklist Zones 9-11 for valuable information on all you can do in your garden this month to ensure a hearty and healthy garden this year.

hand of a farmer giving plant fertilizer in soil.

Spring Garden Planning

It is best to have garden beds prepped and ready to go so that you can plan what plants you want to fill the space. February is an optimal month to put to work all of those ‘December and January Year in Review’ notes and ‘Planning for the Year Ahead’ plans from your garden journal.

Use your sketched out garden design plans and dream boards to figure out where your newly acquired plants and seedlings will go. Decide what you still need to fill the spaces. You will likely be planting in-ground and starting seeds indoors this month.

Garden Preparations and Maintenance

One of the premier things to do on our February Garden Checklist Zones 9-11 is garden prep and maintenance. Prepping garden beds includes edging, amending soil, mulching garden beds, pruning, dividing and transplanting, fertilizing, and even carving out new garden beds for the upcoming planting season.

Cleaning Up & Clearing Out Garden Beds

Start with cleaning out your already established perennial garden beds. If you haven’t done so already, rake them out and take garden leaves, spent foliage, and debris right to the compost pile. It’s time to get those beds ready for when those perennials start sprouting up.

Amending Garden Soil

It’s time to put that compost pile to good use and dig out some of that dark, nutrient-rich soil and add it to your beds. Use a hoe or garden rake to work compost and soil amendments into your soil, so it is ready to receive plants.

Mulching the Garden

February is a prime time for mulching all garden beds. Many weeds start germinating in late February and throughout the month of March, so getting a nice thick layer of mulch down in your garden beds will help to keep some of those weeds at bay.

Pruning Perennials

It’s time to do a hard pruning of dormant woody perennials and dormant ornamental grasses. You can be aggressive about your pruning with these dormant plants and only leave the first bud at the plant’s base. This applies only to plants that produce blooms on new stems.

Many perennial shrubs have already formed buds for next season’s blooms. It is not the time to prune these shrubs unless you are only growing them for greenery or hedge; otherwise, you risk cutting away their blooming potential. If your plantings are purely for greenery and privacy, you may trim the bushes’ tips to shape them. Boxwoods are an example of these green shrubs.

Some of the flowering shrubs to leave intact at this time include:

  • Forsythia
  • Rhododendron
  • Azalea
  • Viburnum
  • Daphne
  • Weigela
  • Japonica
  • Hibiscus
  • Fall-Blooming Clematis
  • Plum, peach, and cherry trees

Pruning considerations can get confusing at times. If you have any doubt on whether or not to prune back a perennial dramatically, simply let it be and prune it after it flowers. Do some more research on your plant variety and gain more insight for the next time around.

Dividing and Transplanting

It’s a great time to spread your garden wealth with friends and neighbors and also around your own yard. Some perennial plants form large root balls over time that can benefit from some plant dividing. This practice can infuse more life into the plants.

A few great examples of plants that can benefit from dividing are:

  • Daylilies
  • Hostas
  • Shasta
  • Daisies
  • Rudbeckia

Fertilizing Garden Beds

February is a great time to add some slow-release organic fertilizer around your shrubs and perennials. Note that you can feed your indoor plants as well as your outdoor ones at this time to ensure optimal growth.

Gardener spreading straw mulch in garden.

Garden Tools and Supplies Assessment

There is a good reason that we highlight assessing garden tools on our February Garden Checklist Zones 9-11. It’s vital to get all of your gardening supplies in tip-top shape so that you are fully prepared for yard and garden work when spring rolls in, so you do not have any setbacks. If you haven’t done so already, be sure that you assess your tools for sharpening and cleaning needs. The lawnmower should receive a fluid change as well.

Check your tools for disrepair signs, tune-up and thoroughly clean and sanitize, sharpen blades, and oil up moving parts. These steps will give you confidence for a strong start to the garden season. It is also essential to keep your garden free from diseases that may have plagued your garden last season.

  1. Start by using steel wool or a metal grill brush to clean any debris off your garden tools.
  2. Wipe surfaces with a damp rag.
  3. Use coarse sandpaper to scuff away any signs of rust on metal surfaces.
  4. Dab vegetable oil onto a rag and wipe metal surfaces.
  5. Use a piece of sandpaper to slough away any rough or splintering spots on wooden handles.
  6. Wipe wooden handles down with a rag wet with linseed oil.

Winter Composting

One of the best things you can do for your garden is to create a compost system. After all, healthy gardens begin with a nutrient-rich soil structure. If you have a compost pile already established, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of the black gold that is made of decomposed organic materials. Your gardens will be enriched when you amend your soil with this rich planting material.

When you rake out and trim back your perennial gardens, add this garden debris to your compost heap. Continue to add kitchen scraps, pine needles, and fully cooled wood ash to the pile and turn your pile with a pitchfork.

Indoor Planting

Changes are happening for your indoor plants as well as your outdoor ones. Take time this February to repot your indoor houseplants. The sun is more prominent in the sky, and your indoor plants should be ready for premium growth. You do not need to get all new pots unless, of course, your indoor plants have outgrown their containers.

  • Remove the houseplant from the pot.
  • Shake off loose soil from the plant.
  • Fill the pot with new potting mix and reposition the plant.
  • Add some organic slow-release fertilizer.
  • Give plants a thorough watering session. Consider a shower watering, which will clean the plant’s leaves and give the roots a good soaking.
  • Allow the potted plants to drain water and set them in their sunny location.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Before we discuss starting seeds indoors on our February Garden Checklist Zones 9-11, it is crucial to identify your growing zone’s last frost date, even though these climates are mild. This date varies with each zone and is just an estimation. The last frost date is essential because this is how you will calculate what you can start planting indoors by counting the seed maturation days backward from the last estimated frost date so they will be ready for outdoor planting.

  • Zone 9– Estimated last frost date of February 6-28, which means you can start planting seeds indoors in late February or early March.
  • Zones 10 and 11– Has no estimated last frost date, so feel free to start planting

You can begin planting warm-season crops indoors in early February for Zones 10 and 11 and a couple of weeks later in Zone 9.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Squash
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Melons
  • Eggplants
  • Lettuces

Flower seeds with long maturation periods can also be germinated in seed trays and pots indoors throughout the month as well.

wheelbarrow with compost next to flower garden.

Outdoor Planting

It’s the start of the growing season for gardeners in the warm climates of Zones 9-11. Vegetable gardening for these zones takes place almost all year-round.

Our February Garden Checklist Zones 9-11 includes plenty of vegetables that you can plant outside in the garden beds this month.

  • Asian Greens
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Turnips

Those in Zone 10 can even begin planting:

  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Melons
  • Squash
  • Beans
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes

It is also an excellent time to plant trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials in your garden beds.

Harvesting Winter Vegetables

If you sowed seeds in late summer or early fall, you could enjoy a healthy harvest of plenty of cooler weather varieties of vegetables and herbs. When it comes to our February Garden Checklist Zones 9-11, the temperatures are mild enough in these zones for growing vegetables.  Winter harvests always depend on the time of planting.

Gardeners in Zones 9-11 can harvest things like:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Leeks
  • Parsnips
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • Chives
  • Fennel
  • Chervil
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Sorrel

If you did not plant with the intent of a February harvest, don’t fret.  Planting season is beginning, and you will start to see rolling yields before you know it.


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