January has come and gone, so wondering what jobs to do in the garden in February is a common query. Spring will be upon us sooner than we think, so that means it’s time to stop with all the procrastinating! Winter usually gets me into a lull of warm cups of cider and snuggling by the fire instead of bundling up and getting out in the garden like I ought to.
Sit Down to Plan
One of the best ways to reduce unnecessary or unintentionally redundant work is to plan. If new to the area or are picking up a new area of interest, it’s always a good idea to pick up a few books or read a few articles on related topics. The library will often have titles based on the local gardening trends. Local co-ops will most likely have recommendations for literature that will be helpful as well.
Co-ops will also have good recommendations on catalogs and companies to order seeds or bulbs from that will do well in your area. February is a good time to place orders (if not done so already) to make sure they arrive in time for planting.
The research will be helpful to make sure that a planting calendar is put together and followed. Succession sowing and crop rotation will help to extend the harvest and keep the garden healthy. With the research, consultation, planning and allocation of planting materials, the organization of seeds and bulbs by sowing date will help keep everything in order and easily accessible.
Seeds and Bulbs
Once seeds and bulbs have been ordered, a few other things need t o be done in order to make good use of them. If starting plants indoors is part of the plan, then preparing the seed-beds for germination is essential. Most of the time, a seed starting mix is best, as it often has little to no organic material, which helps the seeds stay moist, but also helps to prevent the development of mold or fungus. Grow lights are often needed as well to provide the proper amount of light for growing seedlings.
Starting seeds outdoors by direct sowing is more common in the southern zones. With the use of cold frames, some more northern areas can get some of the cool season veggies or long growing plants going with little to no issues. If there is any confusion as to what hardiness zone you are in, and what seeds to start in February, this article can help with both!
There are some things that have been put in storage, like tubers or corn, or other harvested seeds from the past year, that are ready to go in the ground. There are also different plants in the local nurseries or garden centers that are available as early as February. Some of these include fruit trees and bare root roses. As long as you are beyond the danger of a late frost, these are a good idea to get put in the ground! To check your hardiness zones last expected frost date, check the third section of this article.
There might be some cool season veggies that need to be harvested at this point, depending on what zone you are in. If located in a zone where starting seeds in February is a good option, make sure to utilize a succession sowing plan. This allows for continual harvest throughout the appropriate season, instead of a huge influx of fruits or veggies all at once, and then nothing for weeks afterward.
Prepare Garden Beds
The more northern hardiness zones often experience frost heaves- the upward thrusting of the soil due to the formation of ice in the soil- and sometimes the garden can suffer. Depending on if this is a common occurrence, and the location of the frost heaves, there is the potential of damaging exposure to roots or crowns of dormant plants. Throwing some mulch on top of these areas to protect the exposed garden bed areas.
At this time of year, food is scarce for our garden friends. This is a good time to check for any bark damage on trees, shrubs or other wooded plants. Voles, deer and rabbits are the most common culprits, and taking measures to humanely remove them can keep your garden from suffering too much. While we love our garden friends, we also love our plants!
With the warm growing season close, but still a way off, now is the perfect time build raised garden beds. Check out our article on what to build garden beds from here. If late winter planting is an option, now is a great time to build row covers.
In some places the ground is still frozen, but if it’s workable, tilling up the soil is a good plan right about now. If compost or other soil amendments are needed, work that into the soil after a good tilling in order to ensure nutrients are evenly dispersed. If a soil test has been done, and the garden bed soil is too acidic, raking lime into the soil can help make it more alkaline.
Pruning and Weeding
Depending on the variety of roses and fruit trees, now is a good time to finish up any winter pruning. The end of winter is often a good time to prune because while dormant, there is less energy lost by the cutting. With spring right around the corner, energy is about to come rushing back to the plant in order to help heal the wound and have energy directed where desired. For more information about pruning fruit trees and when to prune which, check out our article on the subject here.
Cut back ornamental grasses to within a couple inches from the ground if the time is right in the zone. Wisteria and rhododendron can be pruned at this time as well. Towards the end of the month, climbers can be cut back too (including clematis). Autumn fruiting raspberry canes can be pruned down to the ground in order to stimulate new growth. Summer fruiting raspberry canes that have grown too far beyond the tops of their supports can have their tips cut just above the bud. Jasmine can be cut to about 5cm from old wood.
Not all zones will be ready for this, because many of the more northern zones will have a few months of hard freezes left. In the southern zones, if the danger of frost has passed, check cacti for frost damage and trim away. Don’t forget to pull any winter weeds too!
Trees and Shrubs
Any birds that nest in deciduous hedges will start soon, so make sure to trim these back before the nesting begins to avoid disturbing the nest. It’s a good idea to do any dormant oil spray to protect from disease and pests at this time too. New growth is nearing and with that, come all sorts of critters and the potential spreading of frustrating diseases.
Some fruit trees start producing blossoms before the beginning of spring. Protect these blossoms from frost, but make sure to use appropriate materials so that pollinators can still reach the blooms! Mulching fruit trees at this time is also a good idea. Make sure the mulch is not mounded up against the trunk, as this can lead to mold, fungus and disease.
Tend and Clean the Garden
Divide perennials like snow drops and continue to harvest cool season veggies before warmer weather makes them start to bolt. Dead-head pansies, and cover outdoor strawberries with cloches to encourage earlier crop. Make sure to keep feeding birds, it is still very cold and their natural food sources are not yet available for harvest, or are still hiding from the cold themselves.
Tidy garden shed, ensure all tools are in good condition. This includes cleaning, oiling, repairing and perhaps replacing some tools. Wash and rinse any empty pots to ensure they are ready for spring planting. Remove any plant debris from beds if the end of frost danger is near. This will remove the hiding places of some of the pests that have been taking shelter during the cold winter months.
Stay off the lawn while there is frost, blades are more susceptible to damage. Now is a good time to install any lawn edging that you’ve had your eye on before the grass comes out of dormancy.
What Jobs to do in the Garden in February no Longer a Mystery
The cold weather still has a hold on the majority of us. With late winter cold snaps and lingering low temperatures, getting out in the garden in February may not be what many of us might look forward to; yet it will pay off in the spring. Whether it’s starting seeds, cleaning things up, or simply sitting down to put together a good plan, a little bit goes a long way. Don’t spend any more time wondering what jobs to do in the garden in February, get started and trust me, it will be worth it!
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