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Plenty of rain bodes well for flowers Karina Hernandez | Mon, Jun 14 2010 11:38 AM

Spring-like weather and rainfall in February mean several flowers will be blooming, such as camelias, magnolias, and the daffodil bulbs planted last Fall. Clivia, or Winter Lily, blooms in February, making it a good time to shop for them and see the color of the flowers before purchasing.

February is a slow growing month but there are still plenty of things to do in preparation for spring and summer gardening. Now is the best time to sow seeds for summer flower and vegetable seedlings so they'll be ready to transplant into the garden in late March or April.

Because starting seedlings is somewhat labor intensive, San Diego Master Gardeners Association suggests growing varieties, colors and sizes that are not found in nurseries. From an economical standpoint, it also makes sense to start your own seeds, even when it's a common plant variety, if you want several plants. If you only need one or two, then it will be less expensive to buy the plant at the store.

Purchase seeds of rare lettuce, tomatoes and flowers in advance from mail order seed catalogs or local nurseries. Reference the seed packet for the best time frame to start seeds indoors-typically weeks before the last frost. Chula Vista has virtually no risk of frost this month, but to be sure, count the weeks backward from March 30 (San Diego's average last frost date) to determine when to start seedlings.

Chula Vista falls into Hardiness zone 10, as the average minimum temperatures here is plus-30 to plus-40 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the National Climactic Data Center, there's less than 10 percent chance of frost in Chula Vista in February, and an average low of 47 degrees. These favorable conditions combined with just under two inches of average rainfall, make the area hospitable to most types of plants.

Starting seedlings requires the seeds be placed in flats or seed pots warmed with some heat source and at least twelve hours of bright light. Place them in a windowsill or directly beneath fluorescent lights to achieve this.

The seed packet should give instructions on when to begin "hardening off" the plant in preparation for transplantation to the outdoors. The process consists of acclimating the seedlings to the outdoors gradually. Start by placing them in the shade for one week, during the day only. The following week, leave them in the sun during the day and the third week, leave them outside all night. Once "hardened off," the seedling will be strong enough to withstand the change of environment when they move to the garden permanently.

Purchase fine, light soil mix for seeds and use old plastic plant packs and pots from previous gardening projects, or reuse small containers such as yogurt cups and egg cartons to plant the seeds in.

Use sterile, quality starting or potting mix for seeds. Avoid using soil straight out of the garden, which carries the risk of spreading pests and diseases to the new seeds.

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