February Garden Tasks

Inspired by the various home and garden and flower and garden shows this is a month for great excitement and anticipation for the coming growing season. Although many activities are still indoors this moth holds the promise of at least a few balmy days that beckon the winter weary gardener to the earth. But just as there always seems to be a stretch of balmy weather in February there is also the potential for bone chilling weather as well. The objective is to be flexible and take advantage of good weather when you can.

Those of you inspired to grow plants for yourself should invest in grow-lights or be buying new replacement bulbs if you are already have fixtures. My old standby is still a shop light with two 40W fluorescent bulbs. Using one warm white bulb and one cool white bulb has worked well for me and with the money I save on buying full spectrum bulbs I can usually get all the seeds I will need for the year. I have an online video demonstration of using shop lights to grow plants that also may be useful. You can also find a full line of garden seeds.

You can also grow plants outdoors by building or buying a coldframe and/or hotbed. Both are like miniature greenhouses. A cold frame can be as simple as an old window sash hinged to a wooden frame or as complex as a self-ventilating unit made from lightweight plastic materials. A hotbed is just a coldframe with heating cables buried underneath to provide additional heat. They can be used to start seedlings or get a head start on cool weather crops like lettuce. Coldframes are also used in the hardening off process that acclimatizes the plants grown indoors to outdoor temperature fluctuations. For those on a smaller budget you can use a cloche or hotcap like the Season Starter Cloche which provides individual protection for plants.

Flower Garden

Last call for dormant pruning of roses. The various types of roses (modern bush roses, floribunda, gallica, climbers, standard, etc.) have varying pruning needs. Make sure you choose the right method for your roses. Start seeds indoors of annuals biennials and perennials requiring a long growing period like: petunias , impatiens, geraniums, wax begonias, coleus, snapdragons, salvias, browalia, dusty miller, lobelia, Dianthus (pinks), vinca, stock, flowering tobacco, alyssum, bee balm, delphinium forget-me-nots, daisies, gaillardia, lupines, maltese cross, pansies, black eyed susan, coreopsis, milkeweed, yarrow, and phlox.

General Landscaping

  • Keep those bird feeders stocked this month. Natural sources of food are at their lowest point of the year now.
  • Take cuttings of spring flowering trees and shrubs for forcing indoors. To keep the buds from drying out indoors wrap bunches of stems in newspaper that has been moistened. Set in a cool room with indirect light. Keep an eye on them and as they are just about to open recut the bottoms and place in a vase etc. forsythia, pussy willow (Salix), Japanese quince (Chaenomeles), crab apples (Malus), redbuds (Cercis), serviceberry (Amelanchier), cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima).
  • Plant bareroot stock as weather and soil conditions permit. For example, fruit trees, grapes, kiwis, ornamental shrubs, trees, vines, and roses. Prune Flowering deciduous trees and shrubs that bloom later in the season (June and later). These trees produce flowers from wood produced in the current season so pruning now will not remove preformed flower buds. Eg. Butterfly bush (Buddleija davidii), rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and shrub hydrangeas.
  • Early blooming plants can be pruned to clean out dead wood and suckers. Other types of pruning now may remove flower buds. Eg. Barberries, golden-rain tree, magnolias, crabs, mountain ash, dogwoods, redbuds.
  • Prune narrow leafed evergreens to improve shape and clean out winter damaged branches. E.g. yews, junipers and arborvitae.

Indoor Garden

  • Repot overcrowded cactus or start new ones from seed. To avoid injury use heavy duty gloves or wrap in newspaper and secure with tape. You can also begin repotting other root bound plants.
  • Indoor azaleas that should be pinch back to maintain good form and control growth.
  • Propagate new Boston ferns by pining down a runner to a fresh pot of soil.
  • Fertilize any plants that have flowered or fruited recently.
  • Clean leaves from dust that accumulates during winter months.
  • Fun with Children: Start a pineapple plant from the top of a used pineapple. Clean out fruit flesh allow to dry for two weeks and then pot up in good potting soil and water by misting the leaves.

Pest Alert

  • Slugs can become active on mild days in some areas. Use safer iron phosphate slug baits natural baits if you see any damage. I have found them on my overwintering broccoli already.
  • Now is the time for dormant oil sprays on fruiting trees like apples cherries and pears. Smothers egg masses and overwintering pests like aphids, thrips and scales.

Vegetables, Herbs & Fruit

  • Harvest Overwintering broccoli. If you planted overwintering broccoli like early sprouting Rudolph you will begin to see buds form this month for harvest. Combine with sautied garlic, fresh sage and rosemary and throw over some bow tie pasta. Top with some fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese and fresh grated pepper and enjoy!
  • Still time early in the month to sow seeds indoors of leeks and onions, as well as lettuce (lettuce can be planted at staggered intervals to even out harvest)
  • Sow seeds indoors or in hotbed: celeriac, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and rhubarb.
  • Sow seeds outdoors in the second half of February or as soon as the soil can be worked for Arugala (Rocket), radishes, garlic cloves, shallots, bulbing onions, onion sets, fava beans, peas, spinach. If in doubt when to plant use a soil thermometer.
  • Sow seeds indoors or in hotbed of herbs like fennel, parsley, chives, Roman chamomile,and French sorrel.
  • Clean up pruning of dormant fruit trees avoid fruiting spurs unless you are intentionally thinning them.
  • Train trailing raspberries and blackberries to support trellis if this was not done last fall. Once growth starts raspberry and blackberry patches can become a tangled mess if not properly trained to support trellis.