A GROWING CONCERN: New month, new work list for gardeners

SO IT LOOKS like we are going to have our own “Arctic Vortex” but although our temperature will be 22, 19 and 25 degrees, those temperatures are all above zero.

Make sure to cover sensitive plants lightly with straw or evergreen branches and make sure your outdoor water faucets are winterized.

Then sit back, make a fire and enjoy the brief winter wonderland as the snow falls.

Then it will be back to work with a February to-do list.

1. Prune, baby, prune.

Get on those fruit trees today, tomorrow or the next day before the sap runs and they bloom out.

You only have a couple of weeks left to attack your orchard, so get on it now.

2. Bare-root trees

This is the season to plant bare-root items, and February is the best month.

Bare-root items really are defined as half-priced plants.

The selection is as great as it will ever be, and all nursery outlets have a fresh selection, many on sale today.

Along with saving money, an item planted now is fully rooted before the dryness of summer requires hours of time and lots of bucks of water.

3. Plant, divide and transplant perennials.

Just like bare root trees, many perennials are on sale.

This is the time to buy and plant because selection is great, you have time, cost is low and, when planted now, moist perennials will bloom this year.

The same is true for your overgrown perennial clumps or plants that need to be moved because of light, space or design.

Digging, transplanting and dividing today gives you huge, productive plants this year.

4. Weed — then edge.

I call February “the Invasion of the Garden Snatchers.”

Pull, yank, burn, rake or smother, but get the weeds out this month while your root systems are not fully developed. In a few more weeks, a simple pull will turn onto a real back-breaking job.

To finish, edge all your lawn areas these next few weeks before rhizomes get a hold of the rock garden or flower bed.

5. Feed the beast.

Your plants are just a few weeks away from their fastest growth period and greatest nutrient needs.

Fertilize everything this month using the specific fertilizer for that specific plants (rhododendron for rhododendron, rose for rose, evergreen for evergreen).

Don’t forget lime for all your non-acid loving plants.

This is my No. 1 trick for improved flower production.

6. Bulb care.

Your spring bulbs are popping up all over, and now is the time to care for them.

Make sure they are not being smothered by soil or leaves.

Lightly cultivate the soil and give a bone meal and lime mixture to feed them.

Make sure they are moist — sometimes an overhang can shelter them from rain.

Foliar feeds are great now, too.

7. Slug and mice alert.

As your bulbs start to become active — primarily due to temperature — so too, slug eggs hatch and mice begin to forage.

The veterinarians beg you to be careful with your furry family members.

8. Sow a seed.

Now is the time for money items to be germinated.

Sow broccoli, cabbage, kale, leek, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kohlrabi.

Do this in a warm, sunny picture window, then later move the plants to a cold frame for conditioning before you plant outdoors.

9. Order your seeds.

Next month you will want to sow sweet peas, edible peas, radishes, onions, beets, tomatoes, marigolds, zinnias, lobelias and a whole host of other plants, so get seed orders in quick.

10. Forcing potted bulbs.

If you have planted bulbs in pots, start bringing them indoors for early forced bloom.

Even if you haven’t planted bulbs in pots, dig up a few from the yard and carefully place them in a pot, water thoroughly for a few days and then bring them inside.

Pot forcing is a great child-parent activity, just like sowing seeds.

11. Drain your lawn.

Rains are still going to be coming strong for the next few months, so take this opportunity when the ground is saturated to fix the puddle problems.

Remember, moss can only grow in damp places, and sometimes just aerating the lawn allows water to drain.

Digging ditches and placing drain rock also is good, and the damage from equipment is repaired naturally by June.

12. Wash indoor plants.

Your indoor foliage plants have been in a dry, dusty, stale air all winter — give them a shower.

Now is the time to pinch or prune them; place them in the shower and wash off their leaves with lukewarm water.

Let them drip dry, cultivate in a new layer of rich potting soil and fertilize.

13. Oil your fruit

We are in the time period when you should spray your ornamental and edible fruit trees with a dormant oil spray.

This highly refined oil (get 92 percent or greater purity) kills overwintering scale, mites and aphids by suffocation.

It does not harm the good bugs because they are not yet out.

Spray two or three times, seven to 10 days apart.

Start this as soon as possible on a day that is above freezing for 24 hours and with no rain.

There you go, enough chores to keep you busy for a month —but for today, snuggle up as the weather definitely changes.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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