40th anniversary logo for 2020
February Tips & Events for Santa Clara County
“Leap year folklore contends that beans and peas planted during a leap year ‘grow the wrong way’.” ~Rob Leigh
Illustration showing how to prune roses in vase shape - Illinois Extension
Pruning Roses
As with many deciduous plants, it is best to prune roses in the dormant season when they are not actively growing. This minimizes stress to the plant and allows you to better see its structure. Make sure you wear gloves to protect your hands from thorns, and use clean, sharp tools. First, remove dead and diseased parts. Then remove anything that is growing where it doesn’t belong. This includes suckers below the graft union and branches that are crossing or growing towards the middle of the plant. Finally, prune for shape and health. Cut back to about four or five evenly-spaced strong canes, leaving a few buds on each cane. Make pruning cuts ¼ inch above outward-facing buds in order to create a vase shape which allows for good air circulation.

More Information: Rose Pruning

Illustration: Rose pruned in a vase-shaped configuration, University of Illinois Extension .
Carrots in many colors
Purple Carrots
If you only buy carrots at the supermarket, you may think that they are all orange. It is believed that carrots were originally purple, with orange becoming popular through Dutch breeding. Several colors are now available at Farmers’ Markets and by growing your own. Now and throughout the spring are good times to start carrots from seed. Transplanting is not advised because you can easily damage the roots which are the relevant plant part. Loose soil is important so that the carrots will grow straight. Scatter the seeds over the soil with as thin a covering as possible, keep moist until germination, and harvest when the tops expand to a good size. The Master Gardeners have done germination and growing experiments with different varieties and soil blends. Covering seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite yielded the fastest and highest rate of germination. For growing, a soil blend of 1/3 compost and 2/3 soil produced higher-weight carrots than blends with half of the soil replaced with either sand or perlite.

More Information: Growing Carrots

Photo: Carrots come in many colors, by Laura Monczynski
Photo by Allen Buchinski
Aloes
Aloe vera is just one of 500 species in the Aloe genus. Most are native to Africa and parts of the Middle East. They generally grow in a rosette pattern and store water in thick fleshy leaves and stems. Some are dangerously spiky at the tips. Flowers are usually brightly colored and grow on spikes. Aloes are easy to grow in our climate and also make good indoor plants. They are most often propagated from cuttings or by dividing the “pups” from the parent plants. Be careful not to overwater these succulents, especially if they are outdoors during frost season.

More Information: Aloe Cultivation

Photo: Flowering Aloe succulent, by Allen Buchinski
San Jose Scale
Dormant Oil Spray
Fruit trees and other deciduous woody plants can be treated with a dormant oil spray in the winter. This oil coats insects that “breathe” through their skin and suffocates them. Horticultural oil is generally accepted for use in organic gardening and considered safe for humans and wildlife. It should still be used only if pest problems have been observed. Aphids, mites, and scale can be controlled with this treatment. Spray liberally on branches where problems are evident. Make sure to complete the spraying before the trees start to bud and blossom so as not to damage developing flowers and fruit.


Photo: San Jose Scale, by Jack Kelly Clark
Tomatoes and Pepper seedlings
Tomatoes and Peppers
This month and next are when Master Gardeners start seedlings for our annual Spring Garden Market . Tomatoes and peppers need a long, hot growing season, so starting seeds indoors or in a greenhouse in February or March will give them a head start. Put the seeds into small pots with loose potting soil and cover with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite. Keep them moist until they germinate. Keeping them in a warm place, such as by a sunny window or on a seedling heating pad, will help in germination. Provide plenty of light, preferably with fluorescent lighting close to the plants. As they grow and while waiting for the ground to warm up, they can be up-potted to larger pots and gradually introduced to the outdoors. Or, you can just wait until the Spring Garden Market on April 18 at Martial Cottle Park in San Jose and buy the seedlings we already started for you.

More Information: Vegetable Gardening

Photo: Tomato and pepper seedlings under adjustable-height fluorescent lights, by Laura Monczynski

Visit or subscribe to our blog  for longer articles on seasonal topics
View at library presentation by Tuan Hoang
Upcoming Events
We offer free or low-cost gardening talks, workshops, and courses all over the county, as well as hosting information tables at many community events. Please join us and bring your questions!

Sat, Feb 01, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m., Winter Fruit Tree Care , Everett N. “Eddie” Souza Park, 2380 Monroe St., Santa Clara

Sat, Feb 01, 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., Weeds, Weeds, Weeds , Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, 851 Center Dr, Palo Alto

Mon, Feb 03, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Composting in Your Own Garden , Morgan Hill Library, 60 West Main Ave, Morgan Hill

Sat, Feb 08, 10:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m., Starting Seeds in Trays for Spring Planting , St. Louise Hospital Teaching & Demonstration Garden, 9400 No Name Uno Way, Gilroy

Mon, Feb 10, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Growing Your Own Seedlings Successfully , Gilroy Library, 350 W. 6th St., Gilroy

Wed, Feb 12, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Spring Garden Tips and To Do , Los Altos Public Library, 13 S. San Antonio Rd, Los Altos

Sat, Feb 15, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m., Selecting Heirloom Fruit Trees for the Home Garden - a Rare Treat! , Martial Cottle Park in our Pavilion and Orchard., 5283 Snell Ave, San Jose

Sat, Feb 15, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Winter Fruit Tree Pruning , Berryessa Library, 3355 Noble Ave, San Jose

Sat, Feb 15, 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m., Gardening in Containers , Mountain View Public Library, 1st floor, 585 Franklin Street, Mountain View

Sat, Feb 15, 1:00 p.m.–2:30 p.m., Growing Microgreens , Central Park Public Library, 2635 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara

Sat, Feb 15, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m., Growing California Natives in Containers , Sunnyvale Public Library, 665 W Olive Ave, Sunnyvale

Tue, Feb 18, 7:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m., Planting, Growing and Harvesting Potato , Saratoga Library, 13650 Saratoga Ave, Saratoga

Tue, Mar 10, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Vegetable Gardening Basics , Campbell Library, 77 Harrison Ave, Campbell

Wed, Mar 11, 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Terrific Tomatoes and Peppers from your Garden , Cupertino Library, 10800 Torre Ave, Cupertino
Visit the UC Master Gardener Program website  for additional information including an up-to-date list of events and classes .

Have a gardening question? Contact our Help Desk (for Santa Clara County residents). Start by reviewing our plant  problem diagnosis tips .
  • Mon-Fri 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., 408-282-3105
  • Fri ONLY 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m., 650-329-1356 (Closed Dec. & Jan.)
  • Or send us your question online

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Santa Clara County Master Gardener Program volunteers are trained under the auspices of the UCCE. Our mission is to promote sustainable gardening practices by providing up-to-date, research-based horticultural information to home gardeners.

The University of California prohibits discrimination or harassment of any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy (including childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth), physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran (covered veterans are special disabled veterans, recently separated veterans, Vietnam era veterans, or any other veterans who served on active duty during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized) in any of its programs or activities.

University policy is intended to be consistent with the provisions of applicable State and Federal laws.