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.
Most perennials may be divided and moved up until they begin to show new growth.
Get roses in the ground now so they’ll be established before hot weather arrives. Choose bare-root roses for all but the warmest parts of the South. In the warmest areas, select container-grown plants.
Plant Irish potatoes and onions. It’s also time to plant asparagus.
Bonnie strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.
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 that 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.
Trees that weren’t fed last fall should be deep fed by punching a series of 1- to 2-inch holes two feet apart around the drip line and filled with an appropriate food. A mulch of well-composted manure is also an excellent treat for your tree.
Fertilize spring flowering bulbs if not done in November. Don’t fertilize while they are blooming.
Feed English peas, spinach, kale and onions.
Fertilize camellias and azaleas. Refresh the mulch layer around azaleas to protect their shallow root systems from drying out.
Fertilize palms late this month. Use a product labeled specifically for palm trees. It should contain manganese, iron and potassium.
Continue to feed pansies every 10-14 days with liquid fertilizer. Fertilize perennials now to supply nutrients. Feed iris with bone meal. Avoid getting fertilizers directly on foliage.
Use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed roses. If you use dry-type fertilizers, be sure to water it in thoroughly.
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.
Many trees can be pruned now. Wait to prune spring-flowering trees until after they flower. For fruit trees, contact your local cooperative Extension office to learn how to prune to enhance fruit yield.
Choose early summer to prune maples or birches; if pruned now, these trees bleed sap profusely. Also hold off on pruning oaks and walnuts until early summer to avoid wilt disease.
Give shrubs a late winter shape-up. Prune branches to reduce height or direct growth. Thin the twiggy growth from the interior of shrubs. Prune spring-blooming shrubs after flowering.
Prune liriope (monkey grass) before new growth appears. Use a lawn mower to make quick work of this task, adjusting the height to remove old growth. Add a grass catcher attachment to eliminate raking.
Complete winter pruning of dormant plants such as cane berries, blueberries, fruit trees, grapes and roses. Pruning stimulates new growth and increases flowering and fruiting.
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 to save time and money in more efficient watering for a maximum yield.
Apply a pre-emergent weed killer to existing planting beds this month. This type of weed killer interferes with seed germination. Do not use it in areas where you plan to sow seed. Use it only around established planting areas.
Moss will start growing on lawns before the grass, so now is the time to start killing it with ferrous sulphate.
Spray horticultural oil on fruit trees and other landscape plants prone to disease and insect attack. Apply before leaves appear and when temperatures will not dip to freezing within four hours of spraying. The oil smothers overwintering insects, eggs and disease spores.
Ventilate your glasshouse or conservatory on mild days to help prevent fungal problems.
Weeds will be readily apparent in dormant, warm-season lawns. Dig or spot spray offenders with an herbicide that won’t kill grass.
Keep an eye out for signs of houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects. If tackled before they get out of hand, non-chemical methods are usually successful: a simple shower, insecticidal soap spray (as directed on label) or, with the most tenacious (such as mealybugs), sometimes an alcohol swab and Q-tip.
Keep misting your indoor plants. Winter is long and dry for them, but be careful not to overwater.
The vegetable garden should get its first tilling (if weather permits) to allow the weather to aid you in breaking up the dirt clods. Exposed weeds and seeds hopefully will perish. Preparing the seed beds now also spreads out the work to where you aren’t so pushed in the early spring.
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.
Check stored fruit and vegetables, and remove any damaged or moldy produce to avoid spoiling the rest.
Consider moving or replacing damaged, overgrown or badly placed shrubs.
Hellebores may show distorted foliage that is the result of stop-start growth caused by lower temperatures. New shoots should now grow normally.
If you haven’t already, put up bird nesting boxes this month.
If you’ve been feeding birds, continue to do so. Birds become reliant on certain food supplies in the fall so if that supply disappears, they can go hungry. Locate feeders out of the wind, and position 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 Quality Co-op store should have a variety to choose from.
You’re going to be using your pots and seed trays next, so this is a good opportunity to wash and sterilize them with 10 parts water to 1 part Clorox so your seedlings will get the best possible start.
Force branches of spring-blooming shrubs and trees such as forsythia, apple and cherry once buds have begun to swell. Cut on an angle or, better yet, hammer the ends of stems to make for better water uptake and put indoors in water.
Get your lawn mower serviced. 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 it otherwise needs service. It’s your last best chance to get your implements in prime working order this month. Waiting could result in longer wait times as other procrastinators discover the same thing.
Prepare hand tools for spring use. Wire brush and sharpen tools with cutting edges such as shovels, spades, hoes, pruning shears, hedge trimmers and trowels. Apply a light coat of oil to the cutting edges.
Now is the time to build the trellis for your squash, gourds and indeterminate tomatoes, so purchase materials this month.
It’s time to turn the compost pile!
If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month.
Build frames for new raised beds.
Summer-flowering bulbs may try to start into growth 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!
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.
If you haven’t already, start a garden journal. If you have, continue to update it. Some things to include are:
An inventory of your plants, including their current size/ health/ age/ flower color/blooming season.
A diagram of your current garden.
Notes regarding work you’ve done in the garden such as planting, seeding, fertilizing and pruning.
A list of gardening tasks you want to accomplish, including seasonal gardening chores.
Lists or photos of plants you want to include in your garden.
Photos of the gardens of your dreams.
Sketches of your ideal garden.
Notes from garden lectures and books.
Photos from garden tours.
Notes on the weather and how it is affecting your garden.
As your garden grows and evolves, take photos.
Anything about the garden that pops into your mind and would be fun to read months or even years from now.