Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Garden Clippings: February Gardening Tips

--By Pat Kriener, Village Interpreter and Master Gardener

February is for pruning! Sharpen those tools and give your yard a massive haircut by following the helpful tips in this month’s guide. Since you are in the pruning mood, don’t forget to remove dead trees, limbs and plants near the house to help "Firewise" your landscape for the upcoming wildfire season. For more information about Firewise Landscaping, wildfires and how to prevent them contact the Texas Forest Service.

  • Annuals – prune back any damage and deadhead to encourage new growth and flowering. We still have a few months that cool weather plants will thrive, but keep a look out for some of the hardier spring annuals to arrive. Dianthus, pansies, snapdragons and violas are some of the hardiest for winter.  Plant by seed into the ground alyssum, annual phlox, calendula, and nasturtium and stock.
  • Bulbs – Plant gladiolus now, and in mid to late Feb. plant caladium bulbs. If you find spring bulbs on sale at this time, remember they will not do well if planted so late; but if you come across some amaryllis or paper-whites that look good and haven’t started to sprout, snap those up and plant. Early Spring Bulbs are up & growing in the beds; watch for the early bloomers such as paper-whites and daffodils. Start planning for next month when it’s time to divide your summer bulbs.
  • Compost Bin – Throw all clipping, leaves, vegetable and garden waste in the compost. Top-dress all beds & trees with compost:  it’s a wonderful slow release fertilizer.
  • Container Plants – Prune and reshape evergreens, deadhead and trim back winter flowers to encourage new growth & blooms.
  • Fruits & Nuts- Prune Fruit trees now, plant B&B, bare root and container grown trees. Start looking for bush fruit: blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries and vine fruit (grapes & muscadines.For more information on Fruit & Nut growing in Texas, check out
  • Greenhouse - Check all over-wintering plants for winter damage, disease, fungus and pests. During this time of year temperatures can fluctuate severely outside of the greenhouse, so make sure you keep a sharp eye on your temperatures and airflow inside the greenhouse. Start spring annual plants & vegetables by seed for planting in 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Herbs – Want an easy to grow landscape plant that mounds up to 2 feet tall and wide, drought tolerant, tolerates poor soil, full sun and blooms white?   Look no further than Mother of Thyme!
  • Lawn – Mow or cut back winter grass & weeds to keep them under control. Talk to your local garden center about additional ways to control them (hopefully organic!)  Don’t bag those leaves--mulch them for fertilizer or place in compost
  • Mulch now to protect your plants from the summer heat without getting heatstroke.
  • Perennials – At the end of Feb. or after we have had at least 2 hard freezes, prune back all dead material. This is still a great time to move them and to top dress with compost and mulch.
  • Problems - To learn more about plant diseases and pests, contact your local Extension Agent, Master Gardener or Garden Center.
  • Roses – Tea roses--prune on Valentines Day to about 15 inches tall. EarthKind Roses do not need pruning other than to remove dead or damaged limbs.  Top dress and mulch existing roses.
  • Tools – this is the time to do tune-ups on mowers, tillers, shredders, chainsaws and any other garden equipment. All hand tools need to be oiled and cleaned--especially your pruning equipment--to get ready for February pruning.
  • Trees – Prune back dead limbs and low hanging branches. Do not prune oaks unless it is around 30 degrees or above 100 degrees to keep Oak Wilt from spreading. Plant trees, trees and more trees
  • Vegetable Garden –Plan your Spring Garden NOW! Get your materials ready for seed propagation; seed mats, pots, soil and seeds. Start cool weather and spring seeds inside to be planted in 6 to 8 weeks. Plant transplants of beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, English & snow peas, Irish potatoes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mustard, onion sets, shallot sets, spinach & turnips. Cleanup beds, add compost, and cover with mulch.  I am planting like crazyI have my seed potatoes cut and drying to harden off which is how my Dad always did it.  I also have to dust them with ash before I plant because that’s the way my husband's family planted potatoes. Sometimes gardening is simply remembering times past with family. 
  • Watering – Water in a 7-day cycle if we do not get any rain.
  • Wildlife In the Garden - Bats & bluebirds will be looking for spring homes soon so get those houses up now. If you don’t have a house already, go to the following websites and they can give you detailed instructions on how to make them. The best reason in the world to encourage bats & bluebirds to your yard is one little brown bat can eat 1000 mosquitoes in a night & bluebirds are simply ravenous for grasshoppers.  &