February 2014
Lawn and Garden Checklist

February Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist

PLANT

 

- Late this month and early next month are good times to start seeds indoors of summer annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables. Use a good sterilized soil to start the seeds. To sterilize potting medium, set your oven at 180 degrees. Place about five cups of potting medium in a large baking sheet or roasting pan and add one cup of water; mix thoroughly. Cover the container with aluminum foil, loosely affixing an opening so steam can escape. Insert a meat thermometer through the foil into the potting mix. The material should never get above 200 degrees. Try to keep the temperature constant for about 30 minutes to ensure safe and adequate sterilization. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

- If you bought pre-chilled spring blooming bulbs, there is still time to plant them.

- Most perennials can be divided and moved until they begin to show new growth.

- Before trees leaf out, take a good look at your property. Are there any eyesores such as a neighbor’s trash can you’d like to screen out? Now is the time to notice which evergreen trees or shrubs can transform your property into the private sanctuary it ought to be.

- Deciduous shrubs and trees are still dormant enough to transplant this month. Once the buds have begun to swell, it will be too late.

- February is a good time to purchase trees and install them in your garden while they are still dormant, as long as the ground can be worked. Exercise restraint and prudence when making your selection, and avoid buying a tree which will ultimately grow (sometimes very quickly) way too large for the space. You cannot prune a tree that wants to be huge and make it small. It’s a losing battle and the poor tree will suffer.

- Don’t let the calendar deter you from planting some vegetables. English and edible-pod peas, spinach, kale, onions and a few other cold-hardy crops can be planted in late February through March.

- February is the month to begin spring gardens with crops such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower (transplants only), Swiss chard, collards, kohlrabi, lettuce (leafy), mustard, Irish potatoes, radishes and turnips.

- If you have a cold frame and conditions allow, sow an early crop of spinach and lettuce in it. Don’t use potting soil to grow seeds; seed-starting mix is finer-textured and the right choice.

- Irish potatoes should be planted in February or early March. If planted too early the tops can be frozen off by spring frost. The soil temperature at four inches deep should be 50 degrees.

- Bonnie strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.

 

FERTILIZE

- Fertilize winter bedding plants such as pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and dianthus with a slow-release lawn fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound per 10 square feet of bed area.

- Feed iris with bone meal.

- Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs if not done in November. Don’t fertilize while they are blooming.

- Use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed roses. If you use a dry-type fertilizer, be sure to water it in thoroughly.

 

- Cool-season grasses need an application of a slow-release form of nitrogen fertilizer in February. Check labels before using fertilizers.

- February is the ideal time to fertilize healthy trees. A simple calculation is based on trunk diameter – use one pound of a high nitrogen fertilizer (slow-release type such as 19-5-9) per inch diameter of tree trunk … measure the distance around the tree about four feet above the ground and divide by three. Spread the fertilizer evenly throughout under the canopy of the tree.

- Mid to late February is the time to fertilize shrubs and evergreens. Use an acid-type rhododendron fertilizer to feed evergreens, conifers, broad leaf evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.

- Feed English peas, spinach, kale and onions.

- Perk up your garden with the addition of rotted manure or compost. Two to four inches spread over the surface and tilled to a depth of 8-12 inches will improve the spring garden.

- Houseplants may notice the longer days and begin growing. You can begin feeding them again, but use a diluted (50 percent) fertilizer mix until the growth is robust.

PRUNE

 

- Bush roses can be cut back to two to three feet in height and climbers can be cut to five or six feet.

- Cut back hybrid tea and repeat-blooming roses before the buds break.

- Deadhead pansies periodically to ensure more blooms. During active growth in the spring, fertilize them about once a month.

- Cut lirope (monkey grass) down with mower set on four inches or with string trimmer. Pull back the existing foliage to check for new growth. If you cut the new growth, your lirope will have brown tips when it matures during spring and summer.

- Lenten roses will begin unfurling new leaves this month into the beginning of March. Remove old leaves, cutting them off as close to the soil as possible.

 

- Cut down ornamental grasses before wind and rain causes them to shatter and litter your lawn or planting beds.

- Always prune trees and shrubs with a purpose such as to get rid of dead or broken branches, to make plants more shapely or to admit sunlight to areas beneath. In other words, don’t just saw off tops!

- Overgrown summer-blooming shrubs can be pruned in late February or March. These might include abelia, beautyberry, butterfly bush, rose of Sharon and crape myrtle.

- Prune your summer-flowering shrubs now, but be aware that spring bloomers produced their buds last fall and pruning them now will result in the loss of flowers. Forsythia, quince, spirea and other early spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned a little later, after they have finished flowering.

- Some trees bleed sap profusely if pruned in spring. It doesn’t harm the tree, but if you want to avoid the mess, wait to prune maple, birch and dogwood trees until early summer.

- When removing wayward branches from shade trees, make correct pruning cuts at the branch collar.

- Summer-bearing raspberries and blackberries should have all the canes that produced fruit last year removed.

- Mature apple and pear trees can be pruned, but do not prune young fruit trees, peaches or plums before March.

- Kiwis and grapes must be pruned by Valentine’s Day to prevent sap "bleeding."

- Prune back leggy houseplants. Many will root easily from the cuttings.

WATER

- Water outdoor plants well a few days before the arrival of a cold front, but not just before.

- Once you plan your plantings, pots and beds, you can design an irrigation system that can save time and money in more efficient watering for a maximum yield.

- Keep misting your indoor plants. Winter is long and dry for them, but be careful not to overwater. Check soil for dryness before watering.

PEST CONTROL

- Apply broadleaf weed killer on warm days to eliminate henbit, chickweed, dandelions, clover and non-grassy weeds.

- This is a good month to apply pre-emergent herbicides to prevent warm-weather weeds.

 

- Beat cane fruit diseases by spraying liquid lime-sulfur on berry crops such as raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Spray before buds begin to swell.

- February is the month to make the last application of winter dormant spray. Wait for a time period that will ensure temperatures above freezing for at least 48 hours to apply a dormant oil spray to euonymus, hollies, oaks, pines, pecans and fruit trees which are prone to scale. To prevent damage, cover any actively growing flowering annuals or overseeded lawn areas to avoid contact with the dormant oil spray. Follow label directions carefully to ensure good results without damage.

- Spray for peach leaf curl before the middle of the month.

- You should take a walk around the garden to check for damage caused by rabbits and rodents. Install hardware cloth around stems to protect against further damage.

- Continue to pick up fallen camellia flowers to prevent the spread of camellia petal blight.

- Keep an eye out for signs of houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. If tackled before they get out of hand, nonchemical methods are usually successful: a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray (as directed on label) or with the most tenacious (like mealybugs) sometimes an alcohol swab and Q-tip.

 

ODD JOBS

- February is one of the two coldest months of the year. Don’t let unseasonably mild temperatures dictate what you do in the landscape.

- Start planning this year’s garden. Sketch the garden and fill in the rows for rotating crops and planning space.

- You’re going to be using your pots and seed trays next, so this is a good opportunity to wash out and sterilize them with 10-parts water to 1-part Clorox so your seedlings will get off to the best possible start.

- Put bluebird boxes out in February.

- Purple martins usually start arriving in North Alabama the last week in February. Get your houses ready!

- Avoid the spring rush and take soil samples. Your local Co-op has kits available. Follow soil-test recommendations for the proper amendments to your soil and the plants you wish to grow.

- It’s time to turn the compost pile!

- "Scalp" the warm-season lawn late in the month to remove winter-killed stubble. Set the mower down one or two notches.

- Brighten things up in your home by forcing branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as forsythia, flowering quince, flowering almond, peach, spirea, dogwood and crabapple. It’s simple. Just cut the branches, place them in a bucket of warm water and recut the stems to enhance water absorption. Then sit back and let nature take over. In a few days, the branches should produce flowers.

 

- Build something for the garden. Do you want a raised bed, trellis, cold frame, arbor, tool shed, fencing or screen?

- Check your over-wintered plants such as fuchsias and geraniums and verbena.

- Don’t wait ‘til the spring rush to get your mower and tiller back in shape!

- Get cutting and digging tools sharpened now. For sharpening jobs that you can’t handle, take tools to a local hardware store that advertises blade sharpening.

- Help cure spring fever on a pleasant winter day by cleaning out and tidying up the garden shed.

- If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month.

- If you potted bulbs for forcing last fall, check their progress. Soil should be barely moist. If tips have sprouted and have a few inches of growth, bring the pot into a cool, bright room (50-60 degrees). Gradually expose the plant to increasing warmth and indirect sunlight. Increase waterings. Feed once a week with half-strength houseplant fertilizer. To help the stems grow straight, turn the pot every day. When buds and foliage are fully developed, bring into full sunlight, and enjoy the early spring show!

 

- Stored summer-flowering bulbs may try to start to grow if they are subjected to heat. They should be kept very dry and stored at 45 degrees. If they are shriveling, put them into slightly damp peat moss, but keep them cool!

- Test leftover garden seed for germination. Place 10 seeds between moist paper towels. Keep seeds warm and moist. If less than six seeds germinate, then fresh seed should be purchased.

- Weather permitting, February is the month to begin tilling or spading the soil. Do not undertake this project until the soil is dry enough to work.

- One of the best ways to test the soil is to simply take up a handful of earth and squeeze it in your hand. If water oozes out, the soil is still too wet to till. Compost, well-rotted manure and any other organic matter are excellent additives to mix into vegetable garden soil as you prepare it for planting. This is also the time to turn under your cover crops.

- Continue feeding our feathered friends, you’ll want them to stick around to help with insect control when the weather warms again. Locate feeders out of the wind, positioning them near natural cover and perches. For ground feeding, provide an area near cover with a clear view of the surroundings.

- Suet is an essential source of energy for birds during winter. Your local Co-op should have a variety to choose from.