February Gardening Calendar
February is a month that can vary widely from year to year in the Southern Great Lakes Region. Some years, February is an extension of January, merely a flip of the calendar page. Other years, February is a preview of spring, with rainy days and a few pop-up flowers. It is really a roll of the dice; one never really knows what February might bring, or the March that follows.
Just when winter starts to wear thin, Valentine’s Day comes to the rescue. Young and old alike participate in the exchange of Valentine cards, gifts, dinners, and nights out on the town. Whatever it might mean to an individual, this little holiday offers a mental break from the sameness of routine that winter brings.
Many of the same gardening chores of January follow into February. But, this is also the time of year when the tide starts to turn for the gardener. Some plants can be started for the upcoming spring season, and there are some other chores that can be tackled towards the end of the month. Let’s see what the short month of February brings:
1. Continue to order early from mail order sources. Many choice plant items sell out quickly, and many early ordering bonuses end in February.
2. Continue to bring in pre-chilled pots of spring flowering bulbs for early season floral displays.
3. If the snow melts and the lawn in matted, gently rake up the lawn to help get air circulation down to the crowns of the grass plants.
4. Continue to fill bird feeders and maintain an open-water source of drinking water for the birds.
5. Inspect flowerbeds during the thaw cycles for signs of frost heave. Place the plants back into the ground, and when the ground refreezes, apply mulch.
6. Remove any storm-damaged branches from trees and shrubs, pruning away cleanly.
7. Towards the end of the month and into March, pruning can begin now on deciduous trees, fruit trees, and grapes.
8. Reapply anti-desiccant to broadleaf evergreens and exposed rose canes one more time. Do this when the temperature is above 40 degrees.
9. Continue to inspect young trees for rodent and rabbit damage. Make sure tree wraps and tree guards are holding up to winter weather. Inspect windbreaks as well.
10. Crack open coldframes on sunny, warm days to vent. Again, check for any signs of trouble such as too wet, too dry conditions, diseases, etc.
11. Continue to check tubers, corms, and other summer “bulbs” for disease and excessive drying out. Mist the holding medium and bulbs if they are becoming too dry.
12. Towards the end of the month, branches of many early flowering shrubs such as forsythia and pussy willow can be taken indoors for forcing.
13. Check houseplants for heat stress. Maintain adequate humidity and light levels. Water appropriately.
14. Continue to remove newly fallen snow from evergreen branches and other shrubs and trees that can suffer breakage from the weight of the snow.
15. Some seeds of early plants or those plants that require a long indoor growth period can be started. These include pansies, seed geraniums, and seed-started begonias. Get a book or magazine with a timetable to help determine when to start seeds. For example, if your average last frost date is April 20 and a plant requires twelve weeks before the last frost date to reach transplant size, count back those twelve weeks from April 20 to determine when to start seeds.