February has arrived and it is and has been cold, and no doubt you're eagerly envisioning and awaiting springtime and planning what work you'll do to invigorate the solid earth and wake up your property for the growing season. In fact, you may even see a few buds during warmer days (and if you do, cover them and protect them). None of the above foresight is a mistake, but ignoring the benefits of winter gardening and preparation just might be. This being said, below are some mid-winter basics to get an early jump on the spring.
* How are your tools? Steady use and overuse during the growing season, and laying on the ground or propped against a wall for storage during colder months = unusable rusty tools. Okay, maybe not literally rusty, but check out your tools and make sure all are ready for use, you'll need them soon. Clean them off, sharpen dull blades, and replace what needs to be replaced. You'll be glad you did, and not just to render them operational. Using tools that are in bad shape could cause injury.
* Order your year-round seeds now. Yes, year-round. Early purchase means more to choose from, there may be bonuses and discounts available, and shopping time is saved (one trip instead of two or more).
* If the winter has been a dry one (aka low snowfall, especially), irrigate your garden area. If there are restrictions that must be followed in your area, adhere to them, but water your garden bed and lawn as well as you can.
* Start thinking about replacing your mulch.
Okay, now to your shrubs and soil
* The key word right now, of course, is preparation, and sometimes that means paring away dead branches and other former growth from outdoor plants and shrubs. The expectations here are plants and trees that will soon blossom. Be careful: cutting the wrong thing will eliminate the bloom in spring. Forsythia is one shrub that should be pruned later in the season. Also, when pruning bear in mind that the process is not only to remove dormancy but also for proper plant air circulation and reception of sunlight.
* Transplant and feed deciduous shrubs and trees, maybe even placing fresh mulch around the base. Fertilization would be wise here as well, especially for Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Conifers, and Evergreens. Read instructions carefully on the package. There are different types of fertillizer for a variety of shrubs and trees.
* Plant seeds and vegetables so they'll be ripe and ready for the season, but do so under covering to protect the planting from the still what-should-be-harsh climates of winter.
What to plant
* If you're growing vegetables, the list of eligibles may be bigger than you think. Broccoli, lettuce, onions, peppers and tomatoes are a go, and so are fresh herbs like basil and oregano. For the tomatoes and peppers, you may wish to plant initially indoors and, when the weather warms, move what has grown to an outside spot you've reserved just for them. Also, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are a good bet for planning outdoors. Eliminate any canes from last year and start fresh.
* As for plants, the bulbs you plant will bear summer and fall blossom. Perennials include canna, spider and white calla lilies, gladiolas and more. From seeds, you can start both in and outdoors and popular choices here includes chrysathemums and delphiniums. If planting annuals, start seeding in February and see them bloom in April or May. Soil conditions is very important. If solid, plant inside first and transplant when thaw occurs. Carnations, marigolds, larkspurs should be high on your list.
Aesthetics and extras
* Begin to repair and paint window boxes.
* If you've been feeding birds or wish to start, continue feeding them or start anew by buying a feeder. A birdhouse is optional, but it would be a nice addition. Birds bring a little color and activity to your placid parcel of land and, perhaps more importantly, will feed on insects prior to insects feeding on your veggies and plants, which would negate your hard work.
* February does have an occasional warm day, so be prepared to head outside if need be.
Your prosperous garden a few weeks hence will thank you!