February is a preparing and monitoring month. We’re finally seeing some snow to blanket our gardens, yet there’s still plenty of time to dream and plan. Decide now how you will design your gardens and where new plants will go. Stay warm and have a cup of cocoa as you make your plans.
Planning—Finish ordering seeds, plants, shrubs or trees. Once your seed packets arrive decide how many seeds you will use. If you have many more than you need share those extras with family or friends. Finalize your garden and container plans on paper so you will know exactly where everything goes.
Seed Starting—Begin preparing your seed-starting equipment (containers, light systems, light timers, soil, trays) so you’re ready to plant. Wash and sterilize seed-starting containers in one part bleach to nine parts water. If you plan on using seeds from prior seasons run a germination test on them. Once you test those seeds you must plant them as soon as possible, so wait until you are ready to plant. You can put a few seeds in a container of water and if they sink they’re good, but if they don’t sink they are bad. The best method is to use a damp paper towel and place seeds on half the towel and cover with the other half. Put the towel in a zip bag; place it in a warm temperature area. Check daily to keep moist and after three to four days begin to lift towel gently to look at progress. Within 10 days you will know if your seeds are viable.
Monitoring your Garden—Continue to take walks around your garden throughout the winter even when there is snow on the ground. You can then see if there are any signs of damage from animals such as rabbits or deer. A sure sign of voles is tunnels in the snow, which means the voles are eating the base of your plants. Gently clear off heavy snow on evergreens and shrubs so branches don’t bend so badly they break off. Also clear away any broken or fallen branches in the yard.
Pruning—Make sure we’ve had enough freezing temperatures so your trees and shrubs have gone dormant. Pruning of your trees and shrubs can be done in late February and March. When pruning make sure your pruning tools are cleaned regularly so you will not spread diseases. When you’re pruning, cut some branches from early flowering shrubs or trees so you can enjoy the blooms inside. Good choices are serviceberry, magnolia, flowering quince, forsythia, crab or apple trees, flowering pear, flowering cherry, honeysuckle, witch hazel and redbuds.
Indoor Plant Care—Houseplants can use a monthly shower which cleans off their leaves and sometimes eliminate pests. Monitor your plants often for gnats, whitefly, spider mites, scale and mealybugs. If you don’t eliminate the problems you risk a full-blown infestation. Houseplants also require less water and very little fertilizer due to slow growth during this semi-dormant season. You will notice when it’s time to water by putting your finger into the soil to test for dryness or the leaves may droop. Don’t overwater or allow plants to sit in water. After watering thoroughly allow time for dripping and throw away any excess water in the trays.
Something New—Herbs make great houseplants. Enjoy their scent and use them to perk up many recipes…great additions to those hearty soups which warm up your tummy!