This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable or vegetable variety that you’ve never grown before; it may end up being the tastiest thing in the garden! Go to bonnieplants.com for ideas.
Last half of the month, plant asparagus, onions, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and early peas.
Strawberries can be planted as soon as they become available.
Because cool-season annuals/biennials tolerate frost, they can be planted. Balsam, calendula, coneflower, four o’clock, hollyhocks, annual phlox, California poppy, nasturtium, lobelia, pansy, dianthus and snapdragon are good options.
Place a heating mat under your seed trays and begin planting your open-pollinated, tender heirloom and other hard-to-find seeds indoors. Keeping the soil warm will assist with faster germination and plants will develop a stronger root system. Use a good, sterilized soil to start the seeds.
Don’t be tempted to sow too many seeds this early in the season – they may become leggy due to low-light levels. Later sowings will catch up and grow just as fast.
Get roses in the ground so they’ll be established before hot weather arrives.
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.
Repot your holiday cactus if needed, but remember they like to be pot-bound.
Get ready to fertilize everything! Let the staff at your local Co-op store advise you about the best fertilizer for the type of plants and lawn in your landscape and garden. Unlike many retail establishments, they actually know what they’re talking about.
Feed English peas, spinach, kale and onions.
If you have not soil-tested your lawn areas in the past 12 months, now is a great time. DON’T fertilize warm-season grass lawns in the winter; wait until they begin to green-up early to mid-spring.
Trees not fed last fall should be deep fed by punching a series of 1-2-inch holes 2 feet apart around the drip line and filled with an appropriate food.
For folks in the Florida panhandle and south Alabama, and you adventurous gardeners in north Alabama who have found hearty cultivars, fertilize palms late this month. Use a product labeled specifically for palm trees. It should contain manganese, iron, potassium and, possibly, a systemic pesticide.
Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs if not done in November. Don’t fertilize while they are blooming.
Continue feeding pansies every 10-14 days with liquid fertilizer. Fertilize perennials to supply nutrients. Feed iris with bone meal. Avoid getting fertilizers directly on foliage.
Give your potted herbs a dose of nutrition by replacing the top inch of soil with fresh compost.
Your houseplants may notice the longer days, and begin growing. You can begin feeding them again, but only use a half-strength solution of houseplant fertilizer until the growth is robust.
Now is a great time to prune most trees and shrubs. However, do not prune azalea, quince, Carolina jessamine, spirea, dogwood, Peegee hydrangea, forsythia, redbud and rhododendron – they should be pruned after they bloom, since they set blooms in the fall. Almost anything blooming after June 1 (except oakleaf hydrangea and late-flowering azalea cultivars) can be pruned safely now.
Always start your pruning by removing all dead, decayed or broken branches. Pruning should be done to improve the shape of the plant, as well as to open up the center of the plant to good air circulation and sun exposure.
When pruning limbs on a tree, never cut flush to the trunk; the collar or enlarged base of a branch produces hormones to help heal wounds.
Cut crepe myrtle branches that do not add to the beauty of the plant. NEVER top (or crepe murder) them; that will ruin their natural form forever. If someone has done this to your trees, cut the plant off at the base (near ground level) and, in a few years, they will regenerate themselves.
Blackberries should have all the canes that produced fruit last year removed.
Kiwis and grapes must be pruned by Valentine’s Day.
Prune established tea and floribunda roses around the 25th of the month. Cut ANY rose canes that are diseased, damaged or dead. Remember to place cuts about one-quarter inch above an outward-facing bud. Always wipe down your pruners with Clorox or Lysol disinfectant wipes or dip them into a mixture of Clorox and water before pruning the next rose bush.
Prune liriope (monkey grass) in February 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. A string trimmer also works well.
Cut down ornamental grasses before wind and rain causes them to shatter and litter your lawn or planting beds.
Deadhead pansies periodically to ensure more blooms.
Turn and prune houseplants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants. Many will root easily from the cuttings.
Your warm-season lawn might need a little water this month. If there is an extended dry period during the winter (four or more weeks), adding one inch of water (on a warm day, of course) will help the soil retain heat and may help prevent injury to cold-sensitive grasses.
Irrigate established trees and shrubs 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 you time and money by more efficient watering.
Apply a pre-emergent weed killer 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.
Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control when soil temperatures have reached 55 degrees for four or five consecutive days.
If you haven’t yet applied dormant spray to fruit trees, DO IT NOW!! It should only be used on deciduous trees and shrubs such as fruit, flowering and shade trees. Apply before leaves appear, when the wind is not blowing and when temperatures will not dip to freezing within four hours of spraying. The oil smothers overwintering insects, eggs and disease spores.
Stay on top of any slug problem you may have! Baits can be used for effective control. If you have pets, look for slug baits safe to use around them.
Some of the extended-protection, broadcast, fire ant treatments require 2 inches of water to be activated, then a two-week period afterward to begin protecting your lawn. Applying those products mid-February will have them active and ready for the ants by the time they begin to pop up in March.
Check all houseplants closely for insect infestations.
ODDS AND ENDS
There are many, many good reasons to start your own vegetable garden in 2017 – it’s healthy, you can save money, the taste of fresh vegetables is so much better than vegetables grown a thousand miles away and exercise just to name a few. Start planning and, when the time comes, make a short trip to your local Co-op store for the widest selection of seed and Bonnie plants.
First half of the month, if weather permits, prepare your vegetable garden soil by turning under your cover crops and/or tilling in compost or composted manure. This allows the weather to aid in breaking up the dirt clods.
Plan your vegetable plot to ensure good crop rotation to prevent problems in the soil. For example, don’t plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes in the same spot, year after year. They are all from the family Solanaceae (nightshade) and are affected by the same pests.
If you garden in heavy-clay soil but want to make an early start in the garden, build raised beds before the growing season gets under way. The soil will warm up faster and raised beds drain quickly, too.
If you’ve started plants in a cold frame, be sure to ventilate it on warm days.
Feb. 2 marks the official midpoint of winter, but, remember, in many years past, the coldest weather of the entire year occurs between Feb. 1 and March 1. If exceptionally cold weather is forecast, you can provide some protection to early-flowering or tender plants by covering them with some type of cloth material. Remove the covering as soon as the weather moderates again.
Check stored fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and apples for bad spots that may lead to decay. Remove and use those with signs of spoiling. Separate others into slotted trays or bins to increase air circulation and reduce decay possibilities.
Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost, taking care not to mound mulch up around the trunk.
Refresh the mulch layer around azaleas to protect their shallow root systems from drying out.
Avoid heavy traffic on the dormant lawn. Dry grass is easily broken and the crown of the plant may be severely damaged or killed.
Bring lawnmower and other garden equipment in for repairs and tuneups, before repair shops are overwhelmed by the spring rush.
For the longest vase life, gather daffodil blooms for bouquets just as buds start to show color.
Valentine’s Day flower arrangements will stay fresher if kept out of strong sunlight.
Turn the compost pile!
Continue feeding the birds. You’ll want them to stick around to help in insect control when the weather warms again. Birds like suet, fruit, nuts and bread crumbs as well as bird seed.