February 2008
Featured Articles

February Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist

PLANT

February is a great month for planting trees. Remember never to plant deeper than the plant was growing in the container.  Dig the planting hole only as deep as the root ball.

If you are planning to add shade trees to your landscape, here is something you should know. Some types of trees have roots that may invade field drains, crack walks and pierce foundation walls, so carefully plan the placement and species of trees to avoid problems. For instance, poplar and ash are known for cracking walls and should be planted at the perimeter of the yard. Maple roots can raise heavy concrete sidewalks, and willow and crabapple trees can invade drainage fields with their fibrous roots.

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

Plant daylilies, bleeding hearts and plantain lilies.

Most perennials may be divided and moved up until they begin to show new growth.

Now is the time to concentrate on the cool-season vegetables.  Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other cool-season vegetable transplants are or will soon be available at your local Co-op.  Spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes and mustard can be seeded late in February.  Sometimes they make it and sometimes they don’t.  It all depends on our unpredictable early spring weather that can be typified by a 40-degree drop in temperature in just a few hours. To be safe, you can wait until late February or the first of March to get your cool-season vegetable garden started.

Asparagus, English peas, Irish potatoes and onion sets or transplants can be put in the ground now.

Plant fruit trees and grape vines while dormant, before buds open.

Strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.


FERTILIZE

This is a good time to have your soil tested. Visit your local Co-op for instructions and supplies.

Mid to late-February is the time to fertilize trees, shrubs and evergreens.

Shade trees not fed last fall should be deeply fed by punching a series of 1-2 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.

Nearly all spring bulbs should be up and growing (even blooming) sometime this month. When you see the flower stalk emerging from the foliage, it’s a great time to fertilize. Use a complete fertilizer such as 13-13-13 or 20-20-20.

Pansies, violas and other winter color should be bouncing back from any slowdown in winter color. Fertilize, deadhead and clean up any damage. As the days lengthen and we get some warmer days, they should really be blooming.

Very lightly spread wood ashes around the vegetable garden, flowering bulb beds and non-acid loving plants if the pH is below 6.0.

Houseplants may notice the longer days and begin growing. You can begin feeding them again, but use a dilute 50% fertilizer mix until the growth is robust.


PRUNE

It’s easy to know when to prune winter- flowering shrubs like camellias and winter blooming honeysuckle, just do it as soon as the flowers have died down. The same applies to early spring-flowering shrubs and climbers like forsythia, spirea and quince.

Know what type of roses you have before you begin the job of pruning. Hybrid tea roses need severe pruning each year in February. These bushes are pruned back to within 8-18 inches of the ground each year. Choose three to five main stems and prune to an outward facing bud. Be aware the top bud or sprout will be your rose cane for the season. We want them all to grow outward, keeping the center of the rose bush as open as possible. This will ensure better airflow and sunlight penetration, helping with more flowers and less disease problems. Climbing roses often need some annual pruning as well, but wait until after they bloom in the spring. Shrub roses, antiques and ramblers should be pruned in accordance with their growth habit and their bloom season. If they bloom only in the spring, prune after bloom. You don’t have to be as harsh in their pruning.

Wisterias are a bit of a law to themselves as far as pruning is concerned. They need pruning twice a year to keep them in tiptop shape. The first pruning should occur in August with a second pruning in the winter, any time between December and February. In winter, each of the shoots should be cut back to two healthy buds from the main stem. Don’t prune any shoots you are training over a support. If you forgot pruning in August, still do as described above.

Prune fruit trees, like apples, cherry, nectarine, peach, pear and plum while dormant, before buds open.

Trim ornamental grasses like liriope, mondo grass and pampass grass.

Always start your pruning by removing all dead, decayed, storm damaged or otherwise broken branches. Water sprouts, suckers and crossed branches can also be removed to improve the appearance of the plant and encourage a better shape. While pruning, remove leaves and clippings to prevent disease problems.


WATER

Check evergreens for sign of desiccation.

Water landscape plants underneath wide eaves and in other sites shielded from rain.

Check your stored plants like fuschias and geraniums. If they are shriveled, water them lightly.


PEST CONTROL

February is the month to make the last application of winter dormant spray. A combination of lime- sulfur and oil is the mix generally used for dormant spraying. It should only be used on deciduous trees and shrubs like fruit, flowering and shade trees. Spray at a time when the wind is not blowing and when temperatures are above freezing. Lime sulfur is apt to burn leaves and needles, so keep the spray off the foliage of evergreens. 

Peach and nectarine trees need to be sprayed with a fungicide to prevent leaf curl.

If moss and lichen on trees and shrubs are objectionable, treat with copper fungicide.

If nematodes were a problem last year, make plans to plant another crop less susceptible to nematodes in the infected area.

Control wild onion in your lawn with spot sprays of a recommended herbicide.

Winter weeds got a quick start this past fall and are plentiful. Try to kill the broadleaf weeds as early as possible. Look for an herbicide containing 2,4-D.

A combination spray containing mecoprop and dicamba will give good control. Be sure to apply according to label directions and avoid spraying on a windy day. The goal is to kill the weeds before they begin blooming. Bloom set is not far away, and if they bloom they quickly set seeds, causing you more problems next year. Later this month you can also apply the pre-emergent herbicide to prevent summer weeds. Try to find a stand-alone product without fertilizer. It is a tad early to be fertilizing warm-season grasses, so weed and feed products really don’t benefit the lawn much with nitrogen. It is best to begin fertilizing lawns after spring green up.

Moss appearing in lawn means too much shade or poor drainage.

Keep an eye on houseplant pests: Watch for signs of aphids, scale and other pests. If you spot problems, take action immediately to keep them from spreading to other plants.


ODD JOBS

Don’t forget to send flowers or a live plant to your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.

Be patient. Don’t get carried away when it gets warm for a few days this month. Remember last Easter!

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 F. If they are shriveling, put them into slightly damp peat moss, but keep them cool!

Cane fruits (raspberries and blackberries), with the exception of everbearers should have all the canes which produced fruit last year removed.

Hardwood cuttings of many landscape plants like Crape Myrtle, Flowering Quince, forsythia, hydrangea, juniper, spirea and weigela can be taken this month.

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. Do not undertake this project until the soil is dry enough to work. 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. 

Did you check your garden tools yet? Don’t wait ‘til the spring rush to get your mower back in shape.

Clean out bird nesting boxes, houses and gourds.

Develop a vegetable and landscape plan for your home grounds.

If you prune your forsythia, winter honeysuckle, spirea, quince or other flowering shrubs, bring a few stems indoors to force flowers into bloom. Slit the ends of the stems and place the branches in warm water. Place the container in a cool place. When the buds show color, move them to a warmer location.

Plant a raised bed for better drainage and earlier soil warm-up.

Replenish the mulch on strawberries.

Propagate split-leaf philodendrons and other leggy indoor plants by air-layering.

Prepare and store potting soil in clean containers.

Don’t install a plant in a lighting situation it can’t handle. Judging light exposure in the garden is not a simple task, as you need to take into consideration the source of the shade and the time of day. A sun to part shade plant will usually tolerate anything but full shade, although blooming may be increased in more sun. And most shade plants are perfectly happy receiving morning sun, but would prefer to be in more shade during the hot midday and afternoon sun.

Full Sun means 6 to 12 hours of sun per day

Part Sun or Part Shade means 4 to 6 hours of sun per day

Shade means 2 to 4 hours of early or late sun per day.

It’s time to turn the compost pile!

Continue feeding our feathered friends, you’ll want them to stick around to help you in insect control when the weather warms again.

Do the earth a favor; grab a young person and share the joy of planting a tree on Arbor Day!