Take advantage of planting time before the end of winter | Home & Garden

February, the second month of the year, is an interesting month with only 28 days (unlike the rest of the months with 30 or 31 days). Every four years there is a leap year and we can celebrate the month for 29 days. According to internet sources, having the additional date allows the calendar year to be synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Our next leap year is 2024. Ever wondered what babies born on the 29th do for birthdays: once every four years, or just pick another date?

February takes its name from the Latin Februarythe ancient Roman celebration of purification and fertility on the last full moon of winter.

Despite its shorter length, February still has its share of special days: Groundhog Day (the 2nd), Valentine’s Day (the 14th — when flowers take an important place in everyone’s life), Presidents Day (the 21st ) and more than ten days devoted to one reason or another (National Love Your Pet Day). Sports fans all recognize February 13 as the Superbowl game that gained notoriety of its own.

February is a month that keeps gardeners on their toes. One day, I am gardening in a big coat; in a few days I could be in a short-sleeved shirt. His inconsistencies set him apart. Beautiful February days offer hours to weed the pansy bed and other areas of the gardens. Winter weeds can be harmful. I try to manage weeds all season to avoid getting overwhelmed in the spring.

February is the end of our second best planting time (the first being late fall) for shrubs and trees. There is still time to enjoy the cool days and the rain. Once spring arrives (when most people usually start planting), heat and dryness are right around the corner. Planting in cool weather gives our plants a better start in the life of our gardens. Remember the basics: Put the right plant in the right place. It helps to know where you want to put a plant before shopping, so you know what the growing conditions for the plant will be. Often we buy a plant because we like it, come home and wander around looking for the best home. This activity can lead to putting the wrong plant in the wrong place.

Catalogs, especially seeds, flood my mailbox and inbox. They are fun and a great source of information. Consider what you can and want to plant before you start ordering. Seed packets provide advice on how to plant. Seeds need a good garden to thrive. Check the online reviews of a company you plan to use as a source. Visiting the Garden Watchdog site will help you become a more informed buyer. I often hear gardeners talk about receiving plants in poor condition, an unfortunate experience (for the company and the gardener).

Do a soil test if you haven’t had one in the last two years or so. Throwing away handfuls of fertilizer when plants don’t need it is expensive and bad for the environment.

In February, daffodils and other winter flowers will bloom. What a happy event for gardeners.

Before those little buds start to open, add a layer of mulch. Walking through gardens with emerging bulbs can damage small plants and compact moist garden soil.

I try to finish spreading a layer of fresh long needle pine straw over the leaves in my gardens before the tiny February green shoots start to appear. Many gardening experts encourage gardeners to leave the leaves; I did. I figure it’s better for our native insects and not just a case of laziness. However, I remove the leaves from the lawn and from places where their mounds could be dangerous – driveways or paved paths. Safety first. I also discover shrubs that have been covered by the bounty of autumn.

I walk daily in my February garden. It’s camellia japonica season and surprises are everywhere. Frosts can destroy open flowers but tight buds will open in their place.

As you walk, take inventory of your garden’s needs. Check for dead, diseased, or dying branches on shrubs and deciduous trees; provide sensible solutions for these three troublemakers. This is a good time to shape deciduous trees if they need to because the gardener can see the structure of the tree.

February is the time to prune sun-loving hydrangeas, such as ‘Limelight’, which blooms in mid-summer. Mine has a strong haircut. Now is not the time to prune broomhead hydrangeas! Trimming them now will remove your summer blooms.

Knock Out roses also benefit from February pruning. Cutting them about 12 inches or less from the ground produces a beautiful rose with lots of blooms and sturdy stems.

When you’re getting ready to prune, it’s important to remember the “May rule” of pruning. If a plant flowers before May (azalea or forsythia for example), prune after flowering. If it flowers after May, prune it when it is dormant (February: butterfly bush). The exception to the second half of this rule is mophead or French hydrangeas. They should be pruned when they have finished flowering, around mid-July.

When pruning, safety is paramount. Larger limbs are best left to the professionals. For small pruning jobs, the sharper the tool, the easier the job will be.

Somehow the rumor has spread that all crepe myrtles should be pollarded (usually in February or even all year round), by viciously cutting them through the trunk and removing the beautiful branches. Germs regrow in place of limbs; these shoots struggle to support the weight of summer flowers. The trees don’t produce the beautiful bark and develop ugly joints, creating something that has nothing to do with the original tree. Gardeners call this pancake a murder. When owners ask why they commit pancake murder, the answer is that everyone does. Let’s start a movement to stop the cruelty to these magnificent trees and abandon the pancake killing. If you need a smaller crape myrtle, there are plenty available. Check adult size before purchasing. There are some great posts on extension websites to help you get your tree back to how it was before.

Check for adequate humidity, especially on recently established plants, if there hasn’t been much rain.

Some may use the colder months to spray dormant oil on plants that have been troubled by sooty mold or other problems. If you decide to use dormant oil, READ THE LABEL. Find out when and what to spray and if the product is the solution to your particular problem; Willy-nilly spraying any chemicals is never a good idea.

February is a good month to get power tools serviced before the spring rush. Many yards are overrun with winter weeds and it’s a good idea to mow them to keep lawns tidy. This second month is also a good time to take care of rusty or dirty tools. So when spring arrives, you’ll be ready.

Let’s take advantage of the bad days of February to do some research on the best gardening practices. Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Clemson Cooperative Extension Home and Gardening Center are excellent sources of correct gardening information. The more we can learn, the better our gardens can be. It is possible to subscribe to a weekly Clemson newsletter. The growing conditions and climate are about the same there as here.

Some of these extraordinary February blooms can be brought home; closed buds will open. Forsythia and quince are excellent choices for forcing flowering.

February should be officially called the month of the camellia (our state flower) because they are in their prime. The photographs are a tribute to the exquisite camellias and other winter blooms that bring joy to a gardener’s heart in cold, gray weather.

The wide variety of intriguing flowering and evergreen plants makes February fabulous. Include them in your garden design; so every month is beautiful.

Sherry Blanton, “The Southern Gardener”, writes about gardening for The Anniston Star. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Facebook at Southern Gardener-Anniston Star.

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