Garden Tips for February

Do take the time to take a peek at your gardens. There is activity out there even at this time of the year. If you take a look at your garden in mid to late winter you may see the tiniest of plants emerging. They could be dill, hollyhocks, poppies, cilantro or parsley, which reseeded in the fall. Don't disturb them until later when you may wish to thin the plants (yum!) or pull out emerging weeds that are competing with them.

Be thankful for snow! Snowless winters expose soil to temperature extremes and drying that may damage roots. Perennials have a greater chance of heaving in a dry winter. As you take your winter garden walk, gently press any heaving plants into the soil. The roots will thank you!

Is there an area in your gardens that is dry even in winter? The plants living there still need water, even though it is cold, due to drying from the wind. It would be a good idea to water that area.

On your walk pay attention to the structure and form of your trees and shrubs. Prune grape vines and forsythia in February. Prune fall flowering shrubs and most trees in March.

It's now time to bring in the bulbs you have forced for bloom indoors. The cooler you keep these forced plants, the longer the bloom will last. Garden sources always suggest returning flowering forced bulbs to a cool garage at night which I am sure works but which I never do! If you have never forced bulbs you may purchase some at local nurseries and supermarkets. Buy them when the buds are showing but are still tightly closed so the bloom lasts longer in your home.

It is now time to repot pot bound indoor plants or to repot plants that need new soil. Fertilize any plants that you have over wintered. Take the time to thoroughly examine these plants for form, insects, intertwined roots, or the need for division.If a houseplant is not thriving check the light, temperature, moisture, and the humidity. You can change these! And give those houseplants a washing. Dust clogs the stomata (pores) and makes your plants look unkempt.

This of course is the time to purchase seeds either locally or from catalogs.Be sure to handle seed packets with care. Don't rub the outside to determine how many seeds are present as this can break the seed coats and reduce germination later.

Be careful using insecticidal soaps on the leaves of your plants. They can cause browning along the margins of the leaves. It is best to test just a small area of the plant first to make sure the plant can sustain the treatment.

To make the planting of tiny seeds easier, mix them with some of the planting medium you are using. Then distribute this mixture evenly over the rest of the medium.

Plant your seeds in soil or planting medium that is at least room temperature. This increases the germination rate and shortens the germination time. Plant pads and heater cables are a wonderful help. I have to confess to being resistant to their use but my husband bought me cables one year. I converted really fast when the first seedlings emerged in a few short days. Just keep an eye on the moisture of the plant medium so newly emerged seedlings don't die from drying out.

Don't cut the leaves off that amaryllis! Cut off the flower stalks however as the blossoms fade. Keep the amaryllis in light and watered until July. Then put the plants away from water and light so the bulb rests. In November add a bit of fresh soil, water, and light, and you should have blooms next winter.

Forever Young Magazine February 2005