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February Lawn & Garden To-Do ListBy: Julie Day
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight,
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,
Then Winter will not come again
-Old English Proverb
February 2nd marks the official midpoint of winter, and on this day many cultures look to folklore and tradition for signs of the coming spring. Both Groundhog Day and Candlemas predict how long winter will last based on the weather on that day. If skies are clear, it’s taken as a sign that winter will remain for six more weeks while cloudy weather is believed to herald an early arrival of spring.
In mid-February, Zone 9 will be approaching the last frost of the season, and frost-free zones can look forward to all the chores that mark the beginning of the growing season. Watch the forecasts closely to protect new plants from surprise late frosts – February is known for unpredictable weather and seasonal indecision.
For the rest of us, February remains a winter month, with most plants either still dormant or just beginning to stir. Many of the chores from the January To-Do List can be continued along with the following items.
Trees and Shrubs
- Continue to protect tender trees and shrubs before a freeze.
- Prune roses as soon as the buds begin to swell.
- If your roses are winterized, leave them covered until all danger of hard frost has passed.
- Prune trees or shrubs that have been damaged by winter storms.
- Zones 7 and warmer can plant bare-root trees and shrubs, and zones 8 and higher can plant bare-root roses.
Perennials and Bulbs
- Check stored tender bulbs every two weeks, discarding any rotten ones. If they look withered, lightly mist the packing medium with water.
- Look for early bulb sprouts as a sign of spring!
- Prune Group B and C clematis vines, but don’t prune Group A since they bloom early on buds produced at the end of last season.
- Prune or mow ornamental grasses if desired.
- Zones 8 and warmer can start planting ornamental grasses while Zones 9 and higher can plant summer-flowering bulbs and perennials outdoors.
Annuals and Containers
- Continue protecting tender container plants from freezing temperatures, and don’t forget to water!
- Fertilize winter-blooming pansies with a bloom-boosting fertilizer.
- Plant poppy seeds by spreading the seeds on top of the last snow of the season.
- Zones 9 and warmer can plant spring annuals outdoors following the last frost.
- Address growing weeds using a post-emergence herbicide.
- Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control when soil temperatures have reached 55° F for 4 or 5 consecutive days.
- Remember not to walk or drive on frozen grass!
Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs
- Inspect stored fruits and vegetables and discard any that are spoiled.
- Fertilize winter vegetable plants if needed.
- If you haven’t already done so, prune dormant fruit trees and grape vines.
- Give your potted herbs a dose of nutrition by replacing the top inch of soil with fresh compost.
- If you haven’t already, apply dormant spray to fruit trees before new growth begins.
- If you’ve started plants in a cold frame, be sure to ventilate it on warm days.
- Zones 8 and higher can plant cool-season vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and kale.
- Protect houseplants from drafts and cold temperatures, and make sure plants don’t touch cold window glass.
- Increase humidity around tropical plants.
- Water regularly, but less often, and reduce fertilization.
- Prune house plants if needed.
- Repot your holiday cactus if needed, but remember they like to be pot-bound.
Cleanup and Maintenance
- If the ground isn’t frozen, till your garden and work in amendments.
- Avoid using salt on frozen driveways and sidewalks – use sand, organic kitty litter, or sawdust instead.
- As you prune, look for brown praying mantis egg cases, and replace them gently back into the plant since praying mantises eat other garden pests.
- Do a late winter maintenance of all your garden tools. Sharpen blades, replace broken tools, repair handles, and oil moving parts to get ready for spring.
- Start up your power tools, such as your lawn mower, chainsaw, or weed trimmer. If needed, you can drop them off at the repair shop before the spring rush.
- Even during the winter, remember to water your plants. Cold air removes moisture from plants faster than they can absorb it, and newly planted trees and shrubs are particularly vulnerable.
- Go out on a nice day and turn your compost pile.
- Keep those bird feeders filled!
- Make out your garden calendar, including planting dates and seed germination times.
- Place orders for seeds, vegetables, and ornamental plants.
- Start seed flats indoors, in bright indirect light or under a grow-light, for spring planting outdoors.
- Valentine’s Day flower arrangements will stay fresher if kept out of strong sunlight.
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