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.

January
Monthly Gardening
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January

January is a good time to look back on your gardening year and to plan ahead. Walk around your garden, shoot some photos, and make a wish list of your garden’s hopes and dreams.

It is always a good idea to photograph your garden each month as a photo journal of what is blooming when. But also, looking at your garden through the lens is telling. What you see and what others see are often times  two different things. We all have our priorities. What you may pass by everyday and don’t notice  because you got use to looking at it, will show up and be noticed in print, and by others.

It’s no different when seeing oneself in a photograph. Most of us don’t like what we see; we start picking it apart.  Do you like what you see in your garden photographs?  So while it is a good idea to walk around your garden to jot down ideas and list what needs to be done, it is a better idea to evaluate what you see from photographs.

We gardeners tend to plan our gardens to spring and summer showings.  Make your winter garden just as rewarding by planting for winter interest – flowers, color, fruit, textures, and scent.  Take a good look around. January is a good time to look back on your gardening year. Are there things you would like to change? Make a list, keep it handy, and add to it, as necessary, and check off the tasks once completed – its a good feeling.

Another thing to do at the first of the year is to conduct a soil test. Consider this your yearly reminder.

BULBS

If you will begin to see bulb foliage begin to emerge. It’s OK.  The leaves are hardy and if harmed, they will grow more.  Keep bulbs mulched so they aren’t lifted by heaving resulting from repeated freeze and thaw.

As the tips of your daffodils emerge, add a general 10-10-10 fertilizers or a fertilizer especially designed for bulbs, such as Holland Bulb brand.

If you didn’t fertilize your bulbs with a slow release fertilizer last fall, it is still OK to do.  Apply about a teaspoon per square foot of bed after the foliage emerges.

ANNUALS

To keep your pansies happy, apply an organic fertilizer such as bone meal or root simulator fertilizer designed specifically for pansies following the label directions. Re-apply every 4 – 6 weeks.

PERENNIALS

Semi-evergreen ferns look great in the winter garden.  There are some great ones to choose from including Christmas, Holly, and Autumn.

Late January and February is a good time to dig and divide liriope and mondo grass.  Now is also a good time to cut back liriope before the new growth emerges.  If done before new growth emerges, a lawnmower or string-tirmmer can make short work of this annual task.

TREES & SHRUBS

The most common Camellias grown in our area are Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonicas.  C. sasanquas bloom from September to January and tend to have a mass of small flowers (as compared to C. japonicas) blooming all at one time.  C. japonicas bloom from September to March and tend to have a fewer flowers bloom at a time.  Camellias like acid soil with some organic matter in semi-shady conditions.  Camellia sasanquas are also tolerant of some sun.

Figs do fine in many soil types, but perform best in slightly alkaline soil. To aid in this, given our areas natural acid tendencies, add powered dolomite limestone (CaCo3) to the fig bushes.

ROSES

With black spot so prevalent in our area, rack and clean underneath the rose bushes and discard.  this will help to reduce the amount of disease going into the next growing season.

Check that the crown of the rose bush is still covered. Often times, winter winds can blow mulch away.

HERBS

Lavender foliage remains a silver-green color during the winter months creating nice interest in the winter months.

VEGETABLES

Now is the time to plant English (green) peas.  A common mistake is to plant too late in the season.  English peas are very hardy and withstand sub-freezing temperatures.

Indoors or in a cold frame, sow seed of cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.

WATERWISE

Plants in the winter still need water. We usually get a gracious plenty of rain in the winter and in the spring, but in times of drought, remember a winter drought can be as severe as a summer one. In fact, a plant planted in the fall that was not watered sufficiently in the winter and dies in the summer is often times blamed as a summer problem when it was more likely caused in the winter. Not that this is much consolation for the dead plant. But it does remind us that plants need water even in the winter.

Pansies have a shallow root system – make sure they get watered weekly, if not by nature, then by you.

For your Plumber…leave the hoses attached to your faucets! Your plumber will love you for it. If this is not the kind of love you seek, remove the hoses from your faucets so they don’t freeze and bust.

Stay on top of your weeding by handpicking your weeds from the grass and beds on a routine basis. Dig up wild onions and garlic as they emerge.  If possible, walk my gardens daily and note what needs to be done, creating a to-do list. Then weekly, work through the list!

GARDEN PESTS

Spray for your aphids, scale and mites with a dormant oil. This will help to reduce the number of pest. Wait until the temperature is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer for at least 24 hours.

Look for and remove bagworm pouches hanging in junipers or other narrow-leaf plants.  Fire is an effective way to destroy bagworms.  If not removed, they will begin the cycle again during the next growing season.

Camellias (particularly Camellia japonica) really start to shine in January. To discourage Camellia petal blight, remember to rake spent flowers that have fallen underneath the bushes.

WILDLIFE

Recycle your Christmas tree to the garden for the birds. Fill with “ornaments” of pine cones covered with peanut butter rolled in birdseed and add some dried cranberries for color and good eats. The birds with thank you and you can reap the rewards of watching them enjoy.

Adding hollies to the landscape brightens up garden with color and food for the wildlife.