February
Monthly Gardening
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February

INTRODUCTION

Before the garden season kicks into full gear, evaluate your garden with regards to sustainability. Are you doing all that you can do to reduce water, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer use? Are you composting? Are you harvesting rain water? Are you planting the right plant in the right place? Do you mulch? Are you using organic and/or mechanical means for pesticide and herbicides control, and are you using organic fertilizers? Let this be the year you consider doing all that you can do. Let this be the year you begin.

BULBS

Now is a good time to fertilize the flowering bulbs. A general 10-10-10 is good, but there are also products made especially for flowering bulbs, such as Holland brand products.

If you see green from your bulbs starting to emerge, don’t panic. While there is still winter ahead, the leaves do fine; they are very hardy.

ANNUALS

Pinch spent blooms off pansies to maintain their flower show through spring.

PERENNIALS

February is a good time to cut back Liriope. The key is not to cut it too late and risk cutting off the new growth. The damage will not recover and can look tattered.  Also, the solid green variety spreads. If your original design had a pattern and if you want to keep that pattern (usually an alternate X pattern), then after the cut back, dig out the Liriope that has spread.

You can still plant peonies.  Fall would have been idea, but they can be planed now as well.  When planting, make sure the top of the crown is just above the soil line.  Peonies need the cold to set the buds.  Fertilize now before the spring growth so that it will be readily available when the plant is.

February is the time to fertilize your flowering ornamentals.  My beds get most of their nutrients from decaying mulch, but often times, from the result of an soil test, I will an organic fertilizer.

A warm winter day is perfect for preparing a new or existing garden bed.  For a new site, mark the area of the new bed and top dress several layers of newspaper and top dress with organic matter such as composted leaf mulch.   For existing beds, work the ground with a garden fork to loosen the soil and mix in the organic matter.  In doing so,  you will improve soil fertility and drainage.

If you vines have gotten out of hand, late winter is a good time to tame them.  Cut back wisteria, Virginia creeper, ivy, and Japanese honeysuckle

Cut back ornamental grasses.  Also, when to fertilize your grass. Check the perennials, particularly those planted last fall, to be sure they didn’t heave from alternate freezing thawing.

TREES AND SHRUBS

If you root pruned trees or shrubs last fall, now is a good time to transplant.

For your enjoyment indoors, have spring come early by bringing in branches or purchase already forced branches or bulbs.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, it is still a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Prepare the planting hole with ample mulch. Also cover the root ball with mulch being careful not to bring the mulch right up to the trunk.

If you haven’t cut your butterfly bushes, do so now. Doing so controls the height, increases the flower show since butterfly bushes flower on new growth, but also protects the plant in the event of heavy wind and ice storms coating the branches too weak to support the ice.

Late winter is an ideal time to prune most shrubs, so the timing couldn’t be better. Take advantage of the downtime in the garden and prune. Careful though, learn to prune before you ruin the natural shape of your shrubs.

Add lime to your fig trees.  Our area tends to be acidic, and figs prefer a much sweeter soil.  Get a soil test to determine how much to apply.  Experience with my so suggests adding about 2 cups of dolomitic lime CaMg(CO

ROSES

For your roses, now is a great time to plant bare root roses. When you receive your bare root rose, unwrap the rose and soak in water for 2-8 hours, then plant immediately or they will dry out. Dig a hole 12-18 deep and 24 wide. Amend the soil by adding bone meal, manure, and soil conditioner. In the center of the hole, make a cone from the soil and spread the roots over the cone. Back-fill the hole with soil and tamp lightly, watering in. This helps to remove air pockets. Cover the bush completely with mulch. The union should not be showing! Consider disease-resistant shrub types such as “Carefree Beauty’ and ‘Knock Out’.

Now is a good time to do the final pruning of last season’s growth to prepare for this year’s growth – prune hybrid teas, grandiflora and floribunda roses.

HERBS

VEGETABLES

February is a good time to plant onions, asparagus, and carrots.  If you didn’t plant your snow peas in January, you still have time now, but time is running out.

WATERWISE

Remember to water new plantings in the absence of rain.

SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES

Even though you raked leaves, mowed them to reduce their size and then put them back on your garden or compost pile, there is still probably leaf litter around blowing in from the neighbors, trees, etc. Take a walk around your garden to collect leaves, old fruits, twigs, seeds, pods – all litter and add to the compost pile. Doing this on a pretty day, gives you a great excuse to be out of doors.

February is a great time to mulch. The ground has had a chance to freeze, killing off fungus and some pests, and the deciduous plants have left room for an easy application. In my book, nothing compares to a fresh application of mulch. I have now converted to total composted leaf mulch. For a long time, I still used triple shredded mulch in landscaped areas with leaf mulch in my garden beds. But I love the color of this mulch and it adds nutrients to the soil.

Mulch also helps prevent heaving.  Heaving is when newly planted plants (planted the previous fall) are subjected to freezing then thawing causing the plant to up root. It is OK to adjust these plants in place and they should be fine. It might be a good idea to add some additional mulch to reduce the likelihood of the ground freezing.

Stay on top of those winter weeds.

GARDEN PESTS

Are you noticing knots forming on the tips of your dogwood branches?  It’s likely caused by a tiny insect called a club-gall midge.  They lays eggs in the tips of dogwood branches in late spring.  As the larvae develop, they cause club-shaped galls, about a half-inch long to form.  Be sure to prune these out and rid them as they develop during the summer.

Once your winter-blooming Camellias (Camellia japonica) finish blooming; be sure to rake the fallen flower heads to discourage Camellia petal blight.

WILDLIFE

Don’t forget to enjoy your birds. Putting feeders out where you can enjoy  the birds from the warmth of indoors, benefits you and the birds.

Birds need a water supply in the winter, if you can invest in a bird bath heater, you won’t be disappointed.