February in the yard

February in the yard

Well, I hope you’re well rested because February should be a busy time for gardeners. This is a time when we here in the South can plant a lot of our veggies. We also use this month to fertilize cool-season grasses and treat our lawns. We begin planning what new items we may try in our gardens and yards this year. And we can use this time to prune and clip and strengthen growth patterns of existing plants. Have a limb heading off in the wrong direction? Now may be the time to clip it.

I like to trick myself into starting on February tasks with something like, “I’m just going to go out and trim for 15 minutes, just to get it started.” Usually those 15 minutes turn into at least an hour after fertilizing, trimming, cleaning up and watering and enjoying a cup of coffee to celebrate.

It’s not glamorous, but trimming and pruning is something that we have to take care of whether we want to or not. Think of it as that special haircut you get to be ready for spring weather. Most of our shrubs and trees have no leaves or fewer leaves than they will in a few weeks. Now you can see the true shape of your plants.

When pruning, remember that branches that need to be removed are weakened, crossing, rubbing, broken or diseased.

Important tips: Remember to have your pruners sharp and clean before you begin. You should have oil on hand to put onto the metal to keep it from rusting when you finish for the day. I use a simple spray of WD40. Have a disinfectant nearby for your clippers if you think some plants may be infected. Prune on a mild, dry day.

It’s important to know the general shape your plants should be or the way you want them to look. A few plants don’t like to be trimmed right now, so be armed with knowledge and avoid those. Azaleas, for example, shouldn’t be trimmed now; wait until they bloom. Remember that anything that blooms in the spring already has formed its buds and shouldn’t be pruned until after it flowers.

Prune fruit trees and bushes because moderate annual pruning encourages consistent fruit production. Roses need to be trimmed now, too. Hybrid tea and shrub roses are great trimmed to 12-18 inches. Trim 1/4 inch above good buds and make these cuts on a slant. Even decorative grasses usually need a haircut right about now. With our freeze this year, trim back any dead branches, and add the cuttings to your compost pile.

Aside from trimming up existing plants, February is a good month to continue to plant evergreen shrubs, fruit trees and shade trees. Gardeners can put in asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, collards, onions, potatoes, radishes and spinach. Cool season grasses like ryegrass can be fertilized now. If you use pre-emergent herbicides, now is the time to use that on lawns to control warm season weeds. Keep your eye on the weatherman because late freezes are still possible.

For your calendar
Saturday, March 4, from 8 a.m. – noon at the Master Gardener Test Garden at Jack Brooks Regional Airport will be the Jefferson County Master Gardener Vegetable and Herb Plant Sale. I will have more on this super fun event later.