· Start seeds of summer perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs indoors now.
· It is not too early to begin planting the spring vegetable garden. Cool-season crops like broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, turnips, Irish potatoes and onions planted now will yield their harvest soon.
· Container and ball-and-burlapped plants are in good supply and can be set out most any time this month. Winter and early spring planting provides an opportunity for good establishment before hot weather comes.
· Weather permitting and as long as buds haven’t yet begun to swell, you can still plant or transplant most deciduous trees and shrubs of all kinds.
· After the danger of frost has passed, you can sow seeds of poppies and larkspur directly into the ground.
· Buy new roots and tubers to begin in pots indoors so they’ll be ready for planting after the last frost.
· In fair weather, lift and divide perennials before they show new growth.
· Select and order gladiolus corms for March planting. Plant at two-week intervals to prolong flowering period.
· Plant dahlia tubers in late February and early March.
· Save transplanting houseplants for warmer weather, when houseplants have more energy to make a healthy move.
· Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.
· As the new green foliage of spring blooming bulbs pokes up in the garden, it is time to fertilize. These plants are dormant during the summer months when most fertilizer applications are made. An application of 10-10-10, or any general fertilizer, provides these plants with the nutrients needed to increase in size providing more flowers next spring.
· Apply a light application of fertilizer to established pansy plantings. Use one-half pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet of bed area. Repeat the application every four to six weeks, depending on rainfall. Dried blood meal is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies. Don’t forget to water when needed.
· Fruit bearing trees like apples, peaches, plums, pears and grapes, unlike ornamental trees and
shrubs, need to be pruned every year. Opening up the canopy to increase air circulation is important to help reduce diseases and allow light penetration, which is important for ripening and fruit quality.
· When pruning shrubs, first prune out any dead or damaged branches; then thin out by removing about one-third of the canes or stems at ground level, removing the oldest canes only; and last, shape the rest of the plant, but do not cut everything back to the same height.
· Prune summer blooming shrubs like crape myrtle, butterfly bush, summer blooming spireas and evergreens, if needed. Summer bloomers produce flowers on new growth. Pruning in late winter gets the job done before the new growth begins and flowering is not delayed.
· Prune spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines like quince, azalea, forsythia, weigela, dogwood, spirea and Carolina jasmine ONLY after they finish blooming.
· Hybrid tea roses generally bloom from late spring through late fall. Hybrid tea bushes should be pruned in late February just as new growth begins. Prune each cane back to 12 to 15 inches. Make cuts just above a bud pointing outward so new grow is directed away from the center of the bush and toward sunlight. To protect against the rose cane borer, treat the fresh cut with glue.
· Prune bush roses during February or early March. Use good shears to make clean cuts. Remove dead, dying and weak canes. Leave four to eight healthy canes and remove approximately one-half of the top growth and height of the plant.
· Climbing roses should be trained but not pruned. Weave long canes through openings in trellises or arbors and tie them with jute twine or plastic/wire plant ties. Securing canes now prevents damage from winds and contributes toward a more refined look to the garden when roses are blooming. Wait until after the spring flowering period to prune climbing or once-blooming shrub roses.
· Prune grapes. Trim oldest wood and leave only primary stems. Each stem should have four to six canes from last years growth.
· Before new growth begins, remove the old dead foliage of ornamental grasses in the landscape. Once growth begins this becomes almost impossible without damage, so put this gardening chore on the top of your to-do list. Even though not a true grass, the old foliage of liriope or Monkey grass can be removed. For large areas, use a string trimmer or lawn mower. Removing the old growth is not essential, but removing the old damaged foliage does insure the plants will look their best throughout the season.
· Once you plan your plantings, pots and beds, you can design an irrigation system that can save you time and money in more efficient watering for a maximum yield.
· Water containerized plants only when needed and not by the calendar.
· In the early spring, as temperatures rise above 40o for several days at a time, an application of horticulture oil will safely kill over-wintering soft-bodied insects like scale, whiteflies and aphids. Since horticulture oil is not a poison and works by coating insects, good cover is important. Make sure the spray covers both the upper and lower surface of leaves and gets into bark cracks and crevices. As with any spray, read and follow label directions.
· Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage. Hand removal and burning of the pouches are ways of reducing the potential damage next spring.
· Spray camellias to prevent scale.
· Check your winter protection on your plants: deer netting, fences, straw coverage, burlap wraps, etc., and reapply where necessary.
· It may seem early to begin controlling summer weeds, but crabgrass and other warm-season weed seeds begin to germinate as soil temperatures rise. By applying pre-emergent or preventative herbicides mid to late-February, these weeds are killed as they emerge. Wait too late and these products are no-longer effective. Wait to fertilize until the lawn greens up to get the most efficient use of the fertilizer.
· Keep the upper hand with slugs and snails. Does it help to know each one may produce as many as 200 more?
· Begin spring soil preparation for vegetables. Make sure your soil isn’t too moist before you start to spade and till. (If a squeezed handful leaks water, it isn’t ready.) Mix existing soil with prepared manure and compost.
· When buying plants, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes (four to six feet) are usually faster to become established and more effective in the landscape than the larger sizes.
· Now is an excellent time to select and plant container-grown roses to fill in those bare spots in your rose garden.
· Make sure all your tools have been cleaned, sharpened and are ready to go. There is nothing quite as vexing as having a perfectly good weekend opportunity to mow the lawn only to discover the blades are dull or the mower otherwise needs service. It’s your last best chance to get your implements to the repair shop and in prime working order this month. Waiting could result in longer wait times as other procrastinators discover the same thing.
· It’s a good time to inventory your supplies including seeds. Seeds, if kept dry and cool, will often be just as good as they were last year. Use them up, but don’t rely on them.
· If the chilly winds don’t keep you under the covers, spend sunny February weekends doing building projects so you’re all ready when spring kicks in.
· If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month.
· Now is the time to build the trellis for indeterminate tomatoes, squash and gourds, so purchase materials this month. Build frames for new raised beds.
· Set up flats for starting seeds. Full spectrum lighting and a heat mat can facilitate growing a variety of annuals, perennials and vegetables for this year’s garden.
· A potted plant, tree, shrub or cut flowers make excellent Valentine gifts for loved ones and shut-ins.
· Whether or not the groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, this is the heart of winter. Tender plants and newly-planted or thin-barked trees can be threatened by wind, cold and even dramatic weather changes.
· If you’re still being zapped by cold snaps, it’s not too late to provide cover for tender and early-flowering plants. Place a circle of stakes around them and drape cloth covers so as not to touch their leaves. If you covered plants earlier and temperatures are now more moderate, remember to remove the wraps.
· If stored summer-flowering perennials are tricked into growth by a warm spell, move them to a cooler spot.
· Keep raking leaves to prevent them from smothering grass.
· If you’ve been feeding the birds this winter, don’t stop now – they’re counting on you!