February Gardening Tasks
Vegetables - This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable or vegetable variety that you've never grown before; it may be better than what you are already growing. The new dwarf varieties on the market which use less space while producing more food per square foot may be just what you're looking for.
Use a soil or kitchen thermometer to help you know when to plant spring vegetables.
Some cool season crops such as onions, kale, lettuce, and spinach can be planted when soils are consistently at or above about 40 degrees. You can plant asparagus crowns in late January to early February and into late March. You can plant cabbage sets from mid-late-February. Garden Peas and spring potatoes are usually planted in early to mid-February and into March. Make sure you buy healthy seed potato pieces from a reliable nursery and plant 3” deep. Do not add lime to potato planting beds. Don’t forget to put in some mustard and turnips from mid-February to late February. Other things you can consider might be lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, and similar cool season crops.
Garden Seedlings - If you haven’t already done so, this is the time to begin sowing seeds for spring transplants. Most things need 5-8 weeks to get to transplant size so start early indoors. By starting seeds now, you can have marigolds, vincas, petunias, etc., as well as tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other warm-season seedlings ready to transplant in the garden in late March into April or May.
Flowers - Fertilize pansies and other winter flowers as needed – use a high nitrate fertilizer such as calcium nitrate. It's time to buy your summer and fall-flowering bulbs, such as amaryllis, dahlias, gladioli, cannas, and lilies. Order perennial plants now for cut flowers this summer. Particularly good choices are phlox, daisies, coreopsis, asters and lilies. Don't plant them yet, but wait for warmer weather (the soil temperature must be at least 55-65 degrees F).
Locate most perennials in full sun in well-drained soil. Check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any that are soft or diseased. The colorful hellebores will be in full bloom now and the leaves of the Italian Arum will be a nice contrast to the browns of winter.
Now is the time to cut ornamental grasses back to within 3 to 5 inches of the ground. Do this well before these grasses start sprouting back out!
Dividing Perennials - When an established perennial produces fewer flowers or the center of the plant looks sickly while the margins thrive, it could be time to divide the plant, but the best time to divide perennials varies with the different plant species. There is no set rule as to when to divide perennials, but there are some generalizations: Plants that flower in the fall are best divided in the spring, when there is about three inches of growth. Plants that flower in the spring are best divided in early fall (up to the last of September). Some may need division every 3-5 years, some 8-10 years and some would rather you not bother them at all. The general rule of thumb is to divide perennials every three years. However, this depends on the perennial and its location. Some perennials, like Chrysanthemums, like to be divided every year or so. Daylilies can be divided every 3-5 and up to years for good results.
Landscape Pruning - Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees and some shrubs. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.
This month is the best time to prune your repeat-blooming roses such as floribunda and hybrid tea roses, if you haven’t already done this earlier. Shape them up for spring blooms, remove dead canes and apply new mulch as needed. Do not prune your once-flowering climbing roses now, but instead prune them after the bloom.
Almost anything that blooms after June 1 (except oakleaf hydrangea and late-flowering azalea cultivars) can be pruned safely now. Now is a good time to prune crape myrtles, too. For best results, just prune to shape and try to avoid “crape murder” – topping crape myrtle trees and shrubs.
Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom – things like azalea, rhododendron, viburnum, forsythia and such.
Fruit Trees - After the worst winter cold has passed but before spring growth begins, prune fruit trees like apples, pears and cherries. Prune peach and nectarines just prior to bloom time.
Prune vines and brambles like grapes, raspberries, and blackberries. Fruiting pruning advice can be obtained by calling the Hall County Extension office.
Spray your fruit trees this month with a dormant oil (such as volck oil) to control mites and scale. The oil simply covers the tree and suffocates the insects, and it also helps inhibit sporulation of some diseases. (Note - do not apply dormant oil when the tree is not dormant. Doing so in the spring, summer, and fall will cause damage - the tree cannot transpire properly when covered with the oil during the wrong season.)
Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground warms a bit, but before blossom time.
Lawns - Mid-February is time for your spring application of fertilizer for tall fescue and other cool-season grass lawns. Use calcium nitrate in the cool season as it’s taken up more efficiently. Follow the recommendations on your soil test report for your lawn.
DON'T fertilize warm-season grass lawns at this time regardless of how warm the winter might have been! Avoid “weed-and-feed” products on warm-season grasses.
If you have not soil-tested your lawn areas in the past 12 months, now is a great time!
You can apply a pre-emergent herbicide for summer weeds from mid-February to mid-March. Crabgrass seeds starts germinating when the soil temperature gets to about 55F so apply before the soil gets this warm. Timing is critical for good control!
Henbit, dock, wild garlic, chickweed and annual bluegrass can be real problems if you didn’t use fall pre-emergent herbicides. All you can do now is spot treat infestations or use a broad leaf weed killer that is compatible with your turfgrass species.
Trees and Shrubs - Check for rabbit damage on young trees and shrubs. Apply dormant oil for control of scale and mites.
Cut twigs and branches of spring shrubs like pussy willow and forsythia and bring them indoors to add a splash of spring color.
“Arbor Day” in Georgia is celebrated on Feb. 15. Plant a tree in your yard, your local school or some other public area.
The winter months when trees are dormant are excellent times to plant. Be careful that you do not plant them too deeply or with too much soil amendment.
Many trees and shrubs will be in bloom in the latter part of the month and into March, including red maples, deciduous magnolias, forsythia, and such.
Don’t prune cold-damaged plants yet. Wait until warm weather returns to cut back plants. Use the “fingernail test” on twigs to see if the wood is green beneath the bark.
Branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom. Make long, slanted cuts when collecting the branches and place the stems in a vase of water. Change the water every four days. They should bloom in about 2-3 weeks.
Houseplants - By February, we will have passed through the darkest part of winter. Now, the days are longer and the sun is brighter. This is very good for houseplants. If you notice leaf yellowing and leaf drop on some of your houseplants it is usually a result of the low light winter conditions combined with over-watering. Most houseplants should be watered only when the top of the growing medium begins to dry out. It is always safer to slightly under-water than to over water houseplants.
Check plants for insects, mites or other problems and treat as needed. A variety of pests may attack houseplants and this can particularly be seen in late winter. You may have noticed honeydew, which is a sticky plant sap product secreted by sucking insects such as aphids, brown soft scale and mealybugs. Also, spider mites proliferate in the lower humidity indoors. Fungus gnats may be flitting around your houseplants too. Plants commonly affected are ficus, schefflera and jade plants. The honeydew is often first noticed as a sticky floor or carpeting under a plant.
Call the Master Gardeners at Hall County Extension for advice on dealing with these winter pests!
Withhold houseplant fertilization until spring arrives. Remove dust build up on plants by placing in the shower and washing off. Water as needed – keep most things dryish, avoid letting roots set in water. Keep plants out of hot or cold drafts.
Late February is a good time to start air-layer propagating such house plants as dracaena, dieffenbachia and rubber plant, especially if they have grown too tall and leggy. Check all five growing factors if your houseplants are not growing well. Light, temperature, nutrients, moisture, and humidity must be favorable to provide good growth.
Miscellaneous - If bird-feeding has been a favorite activity this winter, order trees and shrubs which provide cover and small fruits for your feathered friends. Consider species such as crabapple and hawthorn which can help lure hungry birds from cultivated fruits, if planted on the opposite side of the yard.
Repair and paint window or other planting boxes, lawn furniture, tools, replace or repair hoses and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use.