By Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners – Compiled by Amanda Steves and Ann Smith
February is a month of transition for Coastal Bend gardeners. Our winter runs from mid-December through mid-February when spring starts, until the heat arrives in April. So in February it’s time to get moving on your spring yard and garden tasks while the weather is still cool and the chance of a freeze is reduced.
TAKE STOCK – Time to check your landscape for plants that are spent or in decline. Some may have reached the end of their natural lifespans; others could have been badly damaged by cold weather. Or more likely, some plants might have grown too fast and too large and need to come out. Plan now for replacement plants or a garden re-design. Try to choose varieties that are drought-tolerant, cold-hardy, and slow-growing. Native species are often the way to go. Then take out the old plants, and in March put in new ones – don’t miss our March 20th annual spring plant sale, featuring 100’s of native and adapted plants for your garden. (see events on this page for details) Falling oak leaves make a great mulch in the garden or add them to your compost pile.
PLANT A FRUIT TREE – This is a good month for planting fruit trees, as long as they are not tropicals and fertilizing trees that are three years old or older. Find a sunny, well-drained spot for your citrus, fig, hard pear, or plum tree. Choose a medium- or small-sized tree, because they are able to establish themselves more easily than large specimens. Plant the tree in a hole that’s as deep as the pot or root ball, and pack it in with your foot. If you do this, there’s no need to stake the tree, which will need to develop its own strength in the wind as it grows. Top the ground with 3-4 inches of natural mulch or compost pulled a few inches away from the trunk, and water it well. Then water your new tree deeply once a week for the first couple of months. After that, taper off a bit, checking the soil a couple of inches down with your finger to see if it needs water every week.
ROSES – February is when rose gardeners shift into high gear. Now is the time to plant them in a sunny, fertile, well-drained spot. Consider the Texas Superstar varieties, which are particularly hardy, beautiful, and easy to grow: Marie Daly, Belinda’s Dream, Knock Out, and Grandma’s Yellow Rose. Valentine’s Day is pruning time for established hybrid tea roses (ever-bearing). Climbing roses should be trained but not pruned at this time. It is always appropriate to remove dead or weak canes. Weave long canes through openings in trellises or arbors and tie them with jute twine or plastic or other plant ties. Securing canes now prevents damage from spring winds, and contributes toward a more refined look to the garden when roses are blooming. Wait until after the spring flowering period to prune climbing or once-blooming shrub roses. Old-fashioned roses rarely need pruning. To prune a tea rose bush, take out dead or weak canes, leaving four to eight healthy ones. Remove from one third to half of the upper part of the bush, making angled cuts above outward-facing stem buds. Fertilize newly planted rose bushes with a one percent seaweed solution and give established bushes rose food or slow-release fertilizer. Fertilize established bushes 1x/ mo through Sept. then water
deeply after each application.
TIME TO PRUNE – February is the month to prune many types of trees and shrubs, especially woody, dormant varieties. Herbaceous perennials and hardy ornamental grasses may be cut back at this time. However, it’s not time to prune palms or tropical plants and trees because it may be difficult to assess the extent of freeze damage until warm weather arrives. When new growth begins damaged material can be removed. If you have trees and shrubs that bloom continuously through the spring and/or summer, prune them this month before they start flowering. But for those that bloom only once in spring or early summer, wait to prune until they have finished blossoming. The exception is fruit trees. This is a good time to prune them before they bloom and set fruit. But remember, with most fruit trees, the branches you trim won’t give you any fruit this year, so don’t go nuts with shaping the tree or you’ll cut off most of the wood that will produce fruit. Do not prune live oak trees.
VEGETABLES – You can still sow cool season crop seeds such as radish, lettuce, turnip, spinach and peas. Put some in the ground every two weeks through March to get an extended harvest. Also, set out transplants of broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi on the same schedule. In late February or early March, you can sow seeds for cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, and melons, but remember the plants must be kept above 55 degrees F. Buy plants for warm weather veggies like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and okra as soon as they appear in nurseries. Either put them in the ground and protect them from the cold, or “pot them up” to one-gallon pots and keep them in a sunny place indoors until March.
LAWN – This is still not the time to fertilize or to use weed killers – wait til early March. Do not use weed-and-feed products. You can, however, on a warm day apply a pre-emergent herbicide to get the jump on weeds such as sandburs. It’s also okay to top-dress with compost this month. Established lawns only need water every couple of weeks, provided we don’t get rain.
GET A SOIL TEST – Winter is a good time for a soil test before you embark upon spring planting and fertilizing. The results will tell you if your soil is acid or alkaline, salty, lacking in nutrients, and what to do about it. You can pick up soil sample bags and instructions at your local County Extension
DON’T MISS our Annual Spring Plant Sale – March 20th, 2021 9am-1pm.