• Sow seeds in flats or containers to get a jump on plant growth before hot weather arrives. Warm temperature plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, and periwinkles, can be sown in early February.
• Now is an excellent time to transplant mature or established trees and shrubs while they are dormant.
• When buying trees, the biggest is not always the best, especially when dealing with bare-root plants. The medium to small sizes (4 to 6 feet) are usually faster to become established and more effective in the landscape than the large sizes.
• Now is an excellent time to select and plant roses to fill in those bare spots in your rose garden. If you purchase bare-root roses, soak roots overnight in water. When planting, add organic matter to help the soil retain moisture as new roots become established.
• Plant dahlia tubers in late February and early March.
• Later-blooming bulbs like amaryllis, cannas, gladiolus, etc. in South Alabama; delay planting for a few weeks in North Alabama.
• (Northern and cooler Central areas) Start tuberous begonias indoors late this month for summer-long flowering outside.
• It is not too early to begin planting and/or dividing perennials.
• Plant cool season crops such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes, beets, carrots, chard, collards, mustard greens, kale, turnips, Irish potatoes, onions and strawberries.
• Plant dormant asparagus crowns without any green shoots in bed enriched with organic matter such as compost, manure or shredded leaves.
• Graft camellias in Central and South Alabama.
• Apply a light application of fertilizer to established pansy plantings. Use one-half pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet of bed area. Repeat the application every 4 to 6 weeks, depending on rainfall. Dried blood meal is also an excellent source of fertilizer for pansies.
• Don’t fertilize newly set out trees or shrubs until after they have started to grow, and then only very lightly the first year.
• Wait to fertilize the lawn until it greens up so that you get the most efficient use of the fertilizer.
• As the new green foliage of spring blooming bulbs pokes up in the garden it is time to fertilize. These plants are dormant during the summer months when most fertilizer applications are made. An application of 10-10-10, or any general fertilizer, provides these plants with the nutrients they need to increase in size providing more flowers next spring.
• Apply half of the fertilizer recommended for grapes now; apply the other half soon after fruit sets.
• Houseplants should be fed with a liquid of soluble fertilizer according to manufacturer’s directions when signs of growth appear.
• Feed indoor-grown annual transplants with a water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer at half strength every other week.
• As winter begins to give way to spring, it is time to prune summer blooming shrubs such as crape myrtle, butterfly bush, summer blooming spireas and evergreens, if needed. Summer bloomers produce flowers on new growth. Pruning in late winter gets the job done before the new growth begins and flowering is not delayed.
• Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as quince, azalea, forsythia and spirea after they finish blooming.
• When pruning shrubs, first prune out any dead or damaged branches; then thin out by removing about one-third of the canes or stems at ground level, removing the oldest canes only; and last, shape the rest of the plant, but do not cut everything back to the same height.
• Before new growth begins, remove the old dead foliage of ornamental grasses in the landscape. Once growth begins, this becomes almost impossible without damage, so put this gardening chore on the top of your to do list. Even though not a true grass, the old foliage of liriope or Monkey grass can be removed. For large areas use a string trimmer or lawn mower. Removing the old growth is not essential, but removing the old damaged foliage does insure that the plants will look their best throughout the season.
• Fruit bearing trees such as apples, peaches, plums, pears and grapes, unlike ornamental trees and shrubs, need to be pruned every year. Opening up the canopy increases air circulation and is important in helping to reduce diseases. It also increases light penetration, which is important for ripening and fruit quality.
• If over wintered coleus have become leggy and gangly-looking, clip off the ends to take cuttings, and root them to produce short, stocky plants for planting in the spring.
• Take cuttings from indoor over wintered geraniums to root.
• Hanging baskets of philodendrons, piggyback plants or pothos may have leaves clustered at the ends of their stems. Cut them all the way back to the rim of the pot. During the new growth they will trail back down the sides of the pot. Use the trimmings to root new plants.
• Water foliage plants as well as other containerized plants only when needed and not by the calendar.
• Winter annuals and dry soil areas should be given a drink as needed.
• If a freeze is forecast, water outdoor plants. Well-watered roots are less susceptible to freeze damage.
• Lightly water forced bulbs to keep potting mix moist.
• Water houseplants more frequently now and watch for onset of new growth.
• Newly set trees, shrubs, vines and roses should be watered at planting, keeping the soil moist but not excessively wet.
• Check junipers and other narrow-leaf evergreens for bagworm pouches. The insect eggs overwinter in the pouch, and start the cycle again by emerging in the spring to begin feeding on the foliage.
• It may seem early to begin controlling summer weeds, but crabgrass and other warm season weed seeds begin to germinate as soil temperatures rise. By applying pre-emergent or preventative herbicides mid to late February, these weeds are killed as they emerge. Wait too late and these products are no- longer effective.
• Toward the end of the month as temperatures rise above 40 degrees for several days at a time, but before buds begin to burst, an application of horticulture oil will safely kill over wintering soft-bodied insects such as scale, whiteflies and aphids. Since horticulture oil is not a poison and works by coating insects, good cover is important. Make sure the spray covers both the upper and lower surface of leaves and gets into bark cracks and crevices. As with any spray read and follow label directions.
• Watch for aphids, scale insects and mites on forced bulbs and houseplants.
• Treat bulbs that were removed from a fungus infected bed before replanting in new bed or treated bed (if not too badly infected).
• Make flower and vegetable garden plans now before the rush of spring planting.
• Start or use a gardening journal to help plan the landscaping of your garden.
• Once you plan your plantings, you can design an irrigation system that can save you time and money.
• Build frames for new raised beds.
• If you’re planning a colorful garden, think of the variety of pollinators out there and which colors they prefer. Moths tend to feed at night on white flowers. White flowers reflect the most light, and therefore are most visible to night-time feeders. Butterflies have a keen sense of color. They flock to bright colors from yellow to blue to red. Hummingbirds like red and orange flowers; hence feeders are usually made in this color. Red is the least favorite color of bees, however. Just like UV light and infrared light that is out of our human range of vision, the red spectrum of light is not visible to bees. They tend to favor purples and blues.
• Winter is the perfect time to inspect the underlying "bones" of the garden and make any necessary changes to enhance its appeal. This structure includes permanent architectural elements such as walls, arbors, trellises and fences, but also trees, shrubs and woody perennials which add form, texture and color when deciduous plants are bare of leaves.
• Good time to look over your work area and supplies in preparation for work later in the month and following months. Organize and take inventory of garden tools, seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, etc.
• If you have a garage or workshop, repair and repaint garden furniture this month. You can also take this time to build trellises for your indeterminate tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, gourds and vining flowers.
• Change oil in mower and sharpen blades for cleaner cut. (Improves health of grass.)
• Calibrate your spreader to insure proper disbursement.
• When soil can be worked, turn under last fall’s cover crops. Never work wet soil — this causes hard, compacted and unproductive soil.
• Solarize (process of covering with clear plastic in order to smother existing weeds) beds that are freshly tilled.
• Add compost and top-dressing mulch to all unhealthy soil areas.
• Turn the compost pile regularly.
• It is not too late to do a soil sample! The sooner the sample is submitted, the better.
• Purchase or order gladiolus corms for February/March planting. Plant at two- week intervals to prolong flowering period.
• Bring forsythia, quince, spirea, peach and redbud branches indoors for an early blooming bouquet. Cut stems that have swollen flower buds at an angle, and place them in a container of tepid water in a cool place out of direct sunlight until blooming begins.
• Continue to cleanup any remaining leaves, frozen plants, debris, etc. (including those in the water garden).
• Install a water garden when ground can be worked.
• Check the tender aquatic plants over wintered indoors. Make sure they are still covered with water.
• A potted plant, tree, shrub or cut flowers make excellent non-fattening Valentine gifts.
• Feed the birds. Keep in mind that some feed almost exclusively four feet or more above ground level on elevated feeders. Others feed on the ground or on a slightly elevated platform. Still others will feed wherever they can find food. In general, birds attracted to elevated feeders prefer sunflower seed, while ground feeders prefer millet.