Warm weather, but winter isn't over...
January makes one realize that it's winter...February makes one realize that it's not over.
To do list for February for zones 4-6:
-Winter aconite (Eranthis sp.) and snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) are hardy bulbs for shady gardens that frequently push up through snow to bloom now.
-Water evergreens if the soil is dry and unfrozen.
-Inspect summer bulbs in storage to be sure none are drying out. Discard any that show signs of rot.
-Enjoy the fragrant blooms of the Ozark Witch Hazel flowering in shrub borders or wooded areas on warm sunny days.
-Take geranium cuttings now. Keep the foliage dry to avoid leaf and stem diseases.
-Sow seeds of larkspur, sweet peas, Shirley poppies and snapdragons where they are to grow outdoors now. To bloom best, these plants must sprout and begin growth well before warm weather arrives.
-Seeds of slow-growing annuals like ageratum, verbena, petunias, geraniums, coleus, impatiens and salvia may be started indoors now.
-Dormant sprays can be applied to ornamental trees and shrubs now. Do this on a mild day while temperatures are above freezing.
-Start tuberous begonias indoors now. "Non-stop" varieties perform well in this climate.
-Season extending devices such as cold frames, hot beds, cloches and floating row covers will allow for an early start to the growing season.
-Start onion seeds indoors now.
-Run a germination test on seeds stored from previous years to see if they will still sprout.
-Don't work garden soils if they are wet. Squeeze a handful of soil. It should form a ball that will crumble easily. If it is sticky, allow the soil to dry further before tilling or spading.
-Sow celery and and celeriac seeds indoors now.
-Sow seeds of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage indoors now for transplanting into the garden later this spring.
-If soil conditions allow, take a chance sowing peas, lettuce, spinach and radish. If the weather obliges, you will be rewarded with extra early harvests.
-Check fruit trees for tent caterpillar egg masses These are laid on twigs in tight clusters that resemble an oblong brown lump of gum wrapped around the stem. Prune off these twigs or destroy the eggs by scratching off the clusters with your thumbnail.
-Inspect fruit trees for tent caterpillar egg masses. Eggs appear as dark brown or gray collars that encircle small twigs. Destroy by pruning or scratching off with your thumbnail.
-Collect scion wood now for grafting of fruit trees later in spring. Wrap bundled scions with plastic and store them in the refrigerator.
-Grapes and bramble fruits may be pruned now.
-Begin pruning fruit trees. Start with apples and pears first. Peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom.
-When pruning diseased branches, sterilize tools with a one part bleach, nine parts water solution in between cuts. Dry your tools at day's end and rub them lightly with oil to prevent rusting.
-Established fruit trees can be fertilized once frost leaves the ground. Use about one-half pound of 12-12-12 per tree, per year of age, up to a maximum of 10 pounds fertilizer per tree. Broadcast fertilizers over the root zone staying at least one foot from the tree trunk.
-To avoid injury to lawns, keep foot traffic to a minimum when soils are wet or frozen.
-When sowing seeds indoors, be sure to use sterile soil mediums to prevent diseases. As soon as seeds sprout, provide ample light to encourage stocky growth.
-Repot any root-bound house plants now before vigorous growth occurs. Choose a new container that is only 1 or 2 inches larger in diameter than the old pot.
-To extend the vase life of cut flowers you should: 1. - Recut stems underwater with a sharp knife. 2. - Remove any stem foliage that would be underwater. 3. - Use a commercial flower preservative. 4. - Display flowers in a cool spot, away from direct sunlight
-Now is a good time to learn to identify trees by their winter twigs and buds.
-Branches of pussy willow, quince, crabapple, forsythia, pear and flowering cherry may be forced indoors. Place cut stems in a vase of water and change the water every 4 days.
-Watch for squirrels feeding on the tender, swollen buds of Elms, Hickories, Oaks and other trees as spring approaches.
-Maple sugaring time is here! Freezing nights and mild days make the sap flow.
-Begin to fertilize house plants as they show signs of new growth. Plants that are still resting should receive no fertilizers yet.
-Now is a good time to apply appropriate sprays for the control of lawn weeds such as chickweed and dandelion.
-Tall and leggy house plants such as dracaena, dieffenbachia and rubber plants may be air layered now.
-Save grape vine prunings for making into attractive wreaths and other craft objects.
-Late winter storms often bury birds' natural food supplies and a well stocked feeding station will provide a life-giving haven for our feathered friends.
-Encourage birds to nest in your yard by providing water and by putting up bird houses. Planting suitable shrubs, trees, vines and evergreens will provide wild food sources and nesting habitat.
Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do - or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so. ~Stanley Crawford