“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.”–   Gertrude S. Wister

winter trees It is still cold in February, but don’t let the weather keep you from getting outside and working in the garden. Now is a great time to take care of things so you are ready for spring because it’s just around the corner. Here are some helpful tips for things to do in the garden this month.

  • Start seeds for vegetables to transplant later. Check for watering needs regularly as flats and small pots dry rapidly.
  • Grow cool season vegetables such as onions, carrots and potatoes. Sow seeds or starters directly in the soil.
  • Work the soil in your bedding areas to aerate and reduce compaction. This will encourage a healthier root system and improve water efficiency. Add organic matter now before planting. A word of caution – be careful as to not work the soil when it is wet, especially if you have a heavy clay soil.
  • Deadhead or remove the spent flowers of cool-season annuals to encourage continued flowering.
  • Now is the time to dig, divide and transplant summer flowering bulbs. Most bulbs benefit from being divided every two to three years.
  • Plant trees and shrubs right now to establish a healthy root system before the hot temperatures arrive.
  • Prune fruit trees before bud break.
  • Prune damaged and dead limbs from those shade trees, but absolutely never “top” or dehorn a tree.
  • Do not prune oak trees right now! Unless we have another cold snap and our temperatures are below freezing, we are outside the time frame to prune our oaks. If you have to prune because of limb damage or breakage, do this. To reduce the risk of transmitting oak wilt, immediately seal the wound with a wound sealer or latex paint and sanitize your equipment with a 10% bleach solution before moving to another tree.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses before new growth emerges. If you already have new growth, trim to just above this.
  • Continue to maintain your mulch layer. Mulching helps to regulate soil temperatures, reduce soil erosion, prevent weed germination and reduce water loss due to evaporation.
  • Don’t forget about your overall landscape design. As we venture to our local nurseries and bask in the delight of newly-arrived plants, we are easily tempted. Go to the nursery with a plan and know what plants you want to add to your landscape.
  • Don’t forget about your houseplants. Now is a great time to repot, divide, prune and propagate those favorite indoor plants.
  • In a few weeks, prune those ground covers such as Asian jasmine and Mondo grass. Mow at the highest setting on your lawnmower. This will remove twiggy growth and maintain a dense canopy for your ground cover.

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