Gardening Notes For February

The month of January was warmer than average, but fortunately, we had a sufficient number of cold days to convince plants to continue winters’ slumber!   February is the month to finalize design considerations for the year ahead and to finish ordering seeds, since many of the more popular varieties soon become sold out.  On warmer days, make it a point to walk through your garden, enjoying its beauty and giving thought to those design changes.  Reread your journals from last year, and focus upon how to improve those parts of the garden that performed poorly or on how to repeat last years’ success stories! 

Things to do:

  • Sharpen pruners and handsaws in preparation of the many pruning chores to come.
  • Clean and sharpen spades, as well as make certain wheelbarrows and other tools are in good shape for the season to come.
  • Start to prune fruit trees, including apple, pear and quince as well as grapevines.  For budded fruit trees, including Pawpaws, make certain to remove root suckers, since they are actually the understock and are not the plant/fruit variety that you wanted. 
  • Prune winter damaged branches.  When pruning back to a trunk, be certain to leave the branch collar.
  • Should it snow, knock the snow off of shrubs to reduce limb breakage.
  • Begin to prune multistemmed shrubs, such as Forsythia, Lilac, Deutzia and Weigela.  These plants flower best on younger stems necessitating the removal of 1 to several of the oldest canes in order to provide light for new canes.  For Lilac, if the plant only has one or two large trunks and it is not suckering, it is most likely grafted onto privet understock.  In these cases, it is safer not to prune the plant back harshly, since it will not sucker from the base.
  • Bring Forsythia, Quince and Witchhazel branches into the house for forcing or to enjoy their flowers should they be in bloom.
  • Sow seeds indoors for cool season crops such as Broccoli, Cabbage and Leeks and for warmer season crops or ornamentals, such as Begonias and Eggplants.
  • Check on the bulbs that you have brought into the garage for forcing.  The Crocus and Snowdrops should be ready to bring inside for you to enjoy. 
  • Check on stored tubers and corms.  Discard any that are showing signs of decay.
  • With the days becoming longer, begin to fertilize indoor plants and water more frequently – but do not saturate, since that will encourage fungus gnats & root rot.
  • Finish ordering seed for spring.  Go through your stored seed and discard packages that are over 2 years old.  Organize them by sowing time.
  • Clean-up the greenhouse, heat mats or grow lights to make certain everything works and is clean.
  • Cut back Lenten Rose (Hellebore x hybridus) foliage and watch areas where early spring bulbs are planted for the some early color (and to avoid stepping on them!) 
  • Do not remove any temporary winter mulch on Perennial beds, unless it is around those early spring blooming bulbs.  Late February and early March can still be bitterly cold.
  • Continue to apply anti-desiccant sprays to recently planted Rhododendrons, Hollies, Camellias or other evergreens that are in an exposed location on days with above freezing temperatures.
  • Watch for deer predation and set up fencing if needed.  The general lack of snow cover will prevent the deer from eating a broader array of plants as they did over the past two years.
  • Since there is little frost in the ground this year, get a head start on edging those bedlines and spreading mulch.  Every day that you can complete a springtime chore will relieve some of the burden of the April panic to get everything done.