February: Time to start seeds, and more garden chores • Stephanie Hudak
As I sit here writing this the summer-like temperature and sunny day are calling me to come outside and plant something. We all know that this is just Mother Nature’s way of teasing us– cold, rainy days are ahead. But there are still things we can do in the garden. After the rains have softened the soil enough tilling and amending can be done – but please wait until it has dried out a little or you will have created a substance worthy of making bricks. Add some of that compost you have been making, put in fertilizer and/or manure, sand if necessary, and till it to a depth of 12 inches. Then everything is ready for those plants or seeds that you have waiting.
If you ordered seeds you may be anxious to get them started, but be patient– not all seeds need to be sown at the same time. Are you a “plant by the moon” person? Some swear by this method: Above-ground crops are planted during the light of the moon (new to full); below-ground crops are planted during the dark of the moon (from the day after it is full to the daybefore it is new again). Planting is done in the daytime; planting at night is optional. Check out these websites for the best dates. This Farmer’s Almanac site gives dates for seeds and in-ground plants along with moon dates. http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/zipcode. Another good site is: http://allthingsplants.com/apps/calendar. Both sites allow you to search by zip code. And there is always: http://www.johnnyseeds.com.
It is still a good time to divide or move perennials this month. Provided the ground isn’t soggy or frozen, get those shrubs and trees planted so their roots have a chance to grow. The prevailing advice is to prune roses just as new growth emerges, but there are so many different kinds it is best to investigate your particular type; but my rosarian friends tell me that they use Feb. 14 as the date to remind them to complete this project. Definitely safe to cut out the deadwood of all flowering shrubs before the end of the month, and prune shrubs that bloom on new wood.
I will never be a guru about lawn care, but I am told – and nursery advertisements confirm this – now is the time to put out pre-emergent crabgrass killer. Some crazy person has suggested “digging out the wild onions” in your yard. He apparently hasn’t seen my yard. Yes, “carefully” digging out the onions is a suggested method, provided you don’t have a half acre of them. And note that I said “carefully,” because if you leave just one little bulblet in the ground, it will come back with a vengeance. There are things out there that will kill onions and that other mean-spirited plant nutsedge, but whatever you use, be prepared for a long hard battle.
Feed everything late this month – except those warm season grasses, please. Keep in mind that rhododendrons and azaleas have lower nutrient requirements so they would be better served with several light applications throughout the growing season. If the temperatures remain above 40 degrees, you can use dormant oil spray to control insect larvae.
I would tell you what is blooming at this time of the year but that would look like a lie since the weather has been so benign and February bloomers did their thing in January. So my advice is just look around, enjoy what is struttin’ their stuff and remember that more cold days are ahead.
“In a way, I guess, it doesn’t matter what you grow, but, indeed, that you take the time to plant the seed. Watching it grow, you never lose the childlike wonder that is a part of each of us.”
Printed in the February 7, 2013 edition.