February kicks off the serious beginning of the garden season. In most places, by the end of February, the average daytime temperature climbs to above freezing. Although winter is still solidly with us, hope springs eternal and gardening fever can strike.
To get you even more motivated for gardening in February, check out Wisconsin Public Television’s Garden and Landscape Expo, which runs Friday, Feb. 8, through Sunday, Feb 10, at the Exhibition Hall, Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Highlights this year include visits by celebrities in our garden world, seminars and workshops on an assortment of topics, and a farmers’ market, featuring farmers, food artisans and local food retailers and their products. For more information and a schedule of seminars and workshops, see www.wigarden expo.com.
February is a good month in which to get organized. Do you have enough seed starting medium on hand? Do you have enough clean cell packs or peat moss packets in which to start seeds? How about liquid fertilizer or decent lighting? Fluorescent bulbs lose strength over time and should be replaced periodically. LED fixtures are also available these days but fluorescents still work. Have you planned to make new tomato cages or build a cold frame? Now is a perfect time.
If you haven’t yet done so, order seeds. Every year there are a few new introductory varieties that sell out quickly and if you are interested in them, act quickly. And speaking of seeds, it’s time to start some! While the majority of indoor seed sowing should wait a while, onions, celery and leeks benefit from an early start. Check your flower packs for those seeds that require special treatment or that should be started 10 or more weeks ahead of the last frost.
Check the last frost date for your area here: https://tinyurl.com/y8xjkzbl. Then go to https://tinyurl.com/y8oufb45 and calculate when to start most of your seeds. Both of these sites individualize the results based on your location and are a valuable asset. We always seem eager to start seeds, but many plants don’t do well when trapped in a cell pack for too long. Likewise, tomatoes started too early and without adequate light can get tall and leggy. Be cautious with your seeds.
It’s time to prune. Although it may seem counter-productive, pruned fruit trees and vines will produce a better harvest than those left to grow with abandon. Much of the new growth consists of water sprouts which will do nothing to enhance your trees. Any dead, diseased or crossed branches should also be removed. Grape vines seem to thrive with severe cutbacks each season (https://tinyurl.com/mnpu2tp). Take advantage of this dormant time and prune away. For instructions on proper pruning, see https://tinyurl.com/y8e2c5rt for publications on pruning apple trees, shrubs and evergreens.
Late February is also a good time to cut back evergreens damaged by the snow. And don’t forget any overhanging branches of deciduous trees. If your once sun-drenched garden is becoming a shady oasis, you may want to remove a limb or two from nearby trees (https://tinyurl.com/y7l8xdqm).
Remember bulbs and nursery plants. Nurseries won’t ship these items until it is time to plant them and they tend to sell out quickly. When purchasing locally, I prefer to buy early and take care of the plant myself while waiting for the weather to warm.
While the weather is still wintry, sketch out plans for your existing garden and perhaps plan a new plot. Is this the year for a small water garden or pond? Do you have a shady spot that could use a burst of color? Plan now and be prepared for the rush of spring.
Beverly Carney can be reached at email@example.com.