February feels like the eye of the storm for us gardeners – there’s just enough time between the winter pruning rush and the flurry of spring to take a deep breath, and begin thinking back on what worked especially well last year and what projects we might like to tackle this year.
Most of my February days are spent indoors, planning, but there’re still some outdoor things to do if you’re feeling resistant to frostbite! Which brings me to:
What’s goin’ on in the garden for February?
Planning and design
It’s too dashed cold out to enjoy much work outside, and all the best plants will be arriving soon in the nurseries, so why not take a bit of time to plan out what veggies you’ll grow this year, or think on that difficult patch which hasn’t quite shown its potential?
I find it easiest to plan when I’ve drawn up a quick measured sketch on graph paper – I can look at how big plants are supposed to get and make sure to give each one enough room. They always look so dinky in their pots, and it’s easier to have willpower and space them properly if I’ve drawn it out beforehand.
Sometimes I’ll make an inspiration board by printing out pictures of plants from the internet and collage-ing them over a photo of my space to get a feel for how things will look. You can do that without wasting paper, too, by opening up a bunch of photos on your computer screen, making each window smaller, then moving them around to see what foliage and flower combos work best.
Hurrah! It’s finally time to drool over the seed packets!
If you are in the Pacific Northwest, soon it’s going to be time to sow veggie and flower seeds (find out when to sow for your climate here). Fern, over at Life On The Balcony, has some wonderful tips for growing plants from seeds which will get you started.
I admit I usually buy my plants as starts, but after reading the amazing Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Catalogue, I’m all inspired to start my own! I got this beaut of a booklet yesterday and was immediately captivated. Look at the pics online now, and sign up to get next year’s catalogue free.
Summer bulbs are in!
My local nursery just got the Dahlia tubers in (yay!), and soon there will be:
Gladiolus – Acidanthera or Peacock Orchid is my favorite – even the name is cool! They usually only bloom well the first year, but they are so elegant (and fragrant!) that I don’t mind replanting.
Crocosmia – the regular old orange ones are terribly invasive, but the politely clumping varieties ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Emily McKenzie’ (at right) are wonderful in the garden.
Also coming soon at the nursery are the usual Cannas, Callas, Tuberous Begonias, Anemones, and Ranunculus…
If you want to try something new, I love the easy-to-grow Zephyranthes, which spreads just fast enough that you have gifts to give your favored friends, or Sparaxis, a sturdy South African clumper which seems to be fairly drought-tolerant.
Get in one last dormant spray!
As soon as your fruit tree’s buds begin to swell and break, but haven’t actually opened, get in one last organic dormant spray (using lime-sulfur and dormant spray oil) to prevent fungus and insect problems this year.
Fertilize acid-loving evergreens like Rhododendrons, Conifers and Heathers
The best times to fertilize Rhododendrons are Valentine’s day, Father’s Day, and then a light application in November, and I usually keep my other acid-loving evergreens (conifers and heathers) on the same schedule.
Choose an organic fertilizer for acid-loving plants, which will support the soil’s natural micro-organisms and will break down slowly. Sprinkle it around the base of the plant, starting 6” away from the trunk and moving to the edge of the plant’s foliage. Scratch it into the soil or mulch, then water it in (or let the rain take care of that for you!).
One warning about organics is that dogs love them and will often go and roll in your fertilized areas. Watering them in helps reduce the scent, or you can topdress with some mulch after fertilizing.
Remove Hellebore foliage to let the blossoms shine
Frances over at Fairegarden has a great pictorial post on how and why to prune back the foliage on your Helleborus orientalis, the basic Lenten Rose. They are just beginning to bloom now and it’s always a pleasure to go out and remove the tatty leaves on them so you can better appreciate the flowers.
The fresh foliage on Hellebores comes out just as the blooms are at their best, and it’s so much easier to take out the brown old leaves now than to selectively pick out the old ones among the delicate new shoots.
I hope this gives you some inspiration to get out in the garden and do those few seasonal tasks that are left, and to go give your local independent nursery some business if you are so inclined! They are likely feeling dejected with the cold weather and slow business and would be very happy to see you.