February is a month where the weather can vary greatly.
Even though it may still be cold, damp, snowy and sometimes miserable outdoors, occasionally Mother Nature will bless us with a day or two of sunshine, which inspires us to go outside and work in the yard.
Pruning and clean-up are always important jobs for February.
Remember, regardless of what the groundhog says, spring is still more than six weeks away!
• Keep the water flowing or provide a heated birdbath for the birds during these wintry days. Placing a few small rocks around the rim of the birdbath will allow the birds to drink without freezing their feet.
• To clean crusty clay pots, add one cup each of white vinegar and household bleach (use half as much concentrated bleach) to a gallon of warm water and soak the pots.
For heavily crusted pots, scrub with a steel wool pad after soaking for 12 hours.
• You may notice leaf yellowing and leaf drop on some of your houseplants. This is usually a result of low light conditions or over-watering. Most houseplants should be watered only when the top of the growing medium begins to dry out.
Cut back or stop fertilizing houseplants unless they are grown under supplemental lighting.
• Clean any gardening tools that got missed in the fall clean up. Consider painting the handles with bright colors or dip the handles in rubber or plastic so you will not lose them in the garden.
Not only will they stand out in the garden, but the rubber provides a softer surface to hold onto.
• Monitor your bulb gardens. As soon as you see the tips of the plants starting to show, water weekly with water soluble fertilizer at half rate. Continue to provide weekly fertilization until the bulbs come into bloom. This will provide the nutrients needed for the best flower show. I suggest Jack’s Classic blossom booster for these feedings.
• Over seed thin or bare areas in lawn from February through March. The freezing and thawing of the soil helps the seed get good soil contact. Snowfall over top of seed will not harm it.
• Raspberries and blackberries require pruning to be productive.
By removing old canes, your plant will be constantly stimulated to produce newer, more productive wood which will produce fruit.
Over-fertilization will not increase fruit production, but rather force lots of vegetative growth, which is why good pruning is important.
Remember, when pruning small fruit, discard or burn the canes and vines. Dead wood can host many insect pests and diseases, so do not compost the debris.
• Check and adjust the soil pH in the beds of shrubs, especially any that aren’t performing well.
Azaleas and Rhododendrons and other acid loving plants all benefit from garden sulfur being added to the soil. PH should be between 4.5 and 5.5.
• Get out and prune branches when your soil is frozen and before the buds swell on your trees.
Deciduous trees benefit from a late-winter cleanup. Some species, such as maple, walnut, and birch, may “bleed” — when the sap begins to flow. (This is not harmful to the tree. It is more of a cosmetic issue).
• Rose care begins now (four to six weeks before they begin their spring growth).
This week, check and adjust pH, roses prefer pH factor of 5.8 to 6.8. To raise pH mix 5-10 pounds of lime per 100 square feet.
If pH is high, lower with Soil Acidifier at rate of 5-10 pounds per 100 square feet.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)