plum tree

Zone 8-10 Gardening - The Countdown to Spring!

Timothy Hammond: Big City Gardener

It's February, which means there are less than 50 days before springtime. I don’t know about you, but the thought of that puts a big smile on my face.  

What am I planting this month? 

In Houston, Texas, zone 9, February is when we start to warm up, and we can plant our first round of spring crops. I usually put my tomatoes in the ground this month, but something tells me to hold off. For some reason, we will experience some freezing temperatures late in the month. I don’t care that the groundhog didn’t see his shadow and predicted an early spring.  So this month, I am planting the following crops instead of tomatoes.  

  • Napa Cabbage- I recently started eating kimchi again and am obsessed. Now, I will grow Napa cabbage to try making my own. Napa Cabbage is an Asian cabbage used in many different Eastern dishes. It grows taller and more cylindrical than most of the cabbages we are used to seeing here in the grocery store. This cabbage does not do well in excessive heat, so if you want a spring harvest, plant before spring is in full effect in your area.  You can directly seed it or grow transplants; leave at least 8” between seedlings. I am planting a variety named Bilko. I like this variety because it only takes 50 days from seed to harvest.   
  • Dill- One of my favorite herbs in the garden is dill.  The way it looks, smells, and tastes is irreplaceable in the garden. I plan to grow bushels of cucumbers this year, and few herbs pair better with cucumbers than dill.  Dill is a fantastic companion plant in the garden, and even better, pollinators love it. Plant extra and allow it to flower. Please don’t kill the caterpillars you find crawling on your flowering dill plants; they are swallowtail larvae. This year, I am growing the variety called Bouquet. This is probably the most widely grown variety that you often run across at your local nursery.  This quick-growing variety is ready to harvest in as little as 30 days.  


  • Cilantro- It still blows my mind that some people taste soap whenever they eat cilantro. I am sorry if this is you. I’m glad it does not affect me. Cilantro is a cool seasoning herb, and since  February is the last month you can successfully plant them, I won’t waste any time. I’m planting cilantro every seven days throughout the month. Also, I will make one final planting at the end of the month that I encourage to bolt and go to seed. Save the seed its coriander.   
  • Garlic- This year, I am trying something different with Garlic. Rather than planting the garden in November, I put the bulbs in a paper bag in my fridge. Garlic needs to be exposed to cold temperatures to form bulbs. This is called vernalization.  I have had garlic bulbs in the refrigerator for over 30 days, and this is the month I will plant those bulbs in the garden.  


  • Carrots- It is time to get the last cool season crops into your garden, so I will plant carrots every other week for the next 4-to 6 weeks. Carrots grow best in loose, debris-free soil that is full of organic matter. Remember to be patient after planting your carrot seeds; they can take up to 21 days before they sprout. Typically, I plant the seeds and then cover them with a moist burlap or cardboard. I usually wait two weeks and then remove the cardboard. The covering helps ensure the soil remains moist and helps keep the seeds from being picked away by birds. This month, I am planting a variety called Amarillo. This bright yellow variety reminds you of sunshine. These roots average 8” and even retain their yellow color when juiced. 


Springtime, to me, signals a time to replant herbs in the garden and start thinking about which flowers I am going to grow this year. I'll spend the rest of February solidifying my flower plans before I order the seeds and get ready for March, when I will plant them outside.  


What am I harvesting this month? 

Oregano and thyme are flourishing in my garden so much that I will start drying herbs earlier than last year. It's still too early to break out the dehydrator; I make bundles and hang them to dry inside my house. Once dried, I will process them in the food processor to make shelf-stable herbs for cooking. 


What didn’t work in the garden?  

I planted a round of potatoes early in the garden last month, but unfortunately, we had over a week of freezing temperatures, and they all died. I knew there was a chance that the potatoes I planted wouldn’t make it, so I kept some seed potatoes. I will cut them into smaller pieces and plant them in the garden towards the end of the month after our last freeze.  

What else am I doing around the Garden?  

I am spending a lot of time planning my upcoming spring, summer, and fall gardens this month. I made it a mission of mine to work through all of the seeds I have in my collection before going and adding more new ones to the equation.  Since I recently took over a plot at my local community garden, I can now plant three times as many crops.   

I am still on a mission to be able to harvest fruits year-round from my garden, and this month, I am adding two more fruit trees to my urban orchard.  I am planting two plum trees, a Methley plum tree, and a Santa Rosa plum tree.  Ever since I had fresh plum jam from my buddy's farm in Northern California, I have always wanted to grow my own. 

Enjoy the last month of winter because we will be swamped in the garden starting next month. And like always, don’t forget to Just Grow It.  

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