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February Gardening Calendar

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.

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November Gardening Calendar

November Gardening Calendar

November sees the waning days of Autumn. Most of the leaves are down, most of the perennials and roses have finished blooming. The chilly days and nights are here, and often rainy days abound. Flurries to full-fledged snowstorms often arrive in November. Nature is slowly putting things to rest for a long winter nap. Football games and hayrides, bonfires and late November holiday gatherings rule.

The wise homeowner takes advantage of the few balmy days that November offers to set up the outdoor Christmas display for the coming season, thus avoiding the unpleasant task of putting up lights and holiday displays during the blustery and damp days of December. The enterprising gardener takes advantage of those same balmy days to finish this season’s tasks of winterizing the garden and taking care of other gardening chores:

1.  Finish planting bulbs for next spring’s flowers.

2.  Continue to water broadleaf evergreens and young or newly planted trees, shrubs, and roses.

3.  If you haven’t had a soil test, get one done now. Add amendments, as recommended. pH takes three or more months to adjust, so now is a good time to add sulfur or lime, as recommended, to adjust your pH.

4.  Remove all leaves from rose bushes and any leaf litter from the ground around your roses. Later in the month after a hard freeze, mound up soil, leaves, and mulch around your roses to help them survive the winter, particularly for the less hardy ones or roses that were planted in the past two years. Spray the exposed parts of canes with an anti-dessicant to prevent them from excessively drying out this winter. Do this when daytime temps are in the 40’s or above.

5.  After they reach dormancy, give deciduous trees and shrubs a good balanced feeding of organic based fertilizer for start-up growth in the spring. They will take the feeding in as they awaken in the spring.

6.  Add burlap and stake plant guards around your broadleaf evergreens after you have applied extra mulch around the plants and have sprayed them with an anti-dessicant, again when daytime temps are in the 40’s or above. Secure the stakes into the ground about 6 to 12 inches to anchor the screening. Leave three or four inches of gap between the ground and the bottom of the burlap for air circulation and to allow a space for you to set the hose around the plant for late season watering.

7.  Cut the dead foliage of perennials back to within 4 to 5 inches of the ground. Do leave some seed heads of plants on for winter interest. Rake up or remove any damp leaves to prevent them from matting around plants. These can cause your plants to smother or rot.

8.  Continue to shred leaves and use as mulch, soil conditioner, or compost pile material.

9.  If you have a hydrangea macrophylla, now is a good time to add extra winter protection to it. One good way is to mound mulch or shredded leaves over the plant and apply burlap covering over the top. If the bush is small enough, cover with mulch or leaves, and invert a bushel basket over the top. Secure these firmly to the ground so they will not blow away. A brick or heavy stone or two on top will work if you are using a bushel basket. These bushes set buds this year for next year’s blooms, and you do not want to lose next year’s flower display to rough winter and early spring weather.

10. Continue to add root crops to a coldframe storage area, or in a cool area such as a basement or unheated garage. For crops that you will be leaving in the ground, add a thick layer of mulch and a tarp that is secured to the ground. You can extend the harvest of cold-tolerant crops into winter by doing this.

11. Set your mower down for the last mowing of the season. Cut the grass shorter than before.

12. Drain fuel or add a fixative for that purpose to mowers, tillers, and other gas-powered tools that will sit idle during these cold months. This is also an excellent time to get mowers and power tools in the shop for tune-up and other maintenance chores.

13. Continue to keep bird feeders full. Word will get around, and you will be amazed at how many visitors will come to call during the winter months if you provide a steady supply of suet and seed!

14. Continue to keep houseplants watered as they need it, and withhold fertilizer as their growth rates slows.

15. Assess your trees and shrubs for crossed branches and weak stems. Only prune those storm damaged branches and weak stems at this time that you missed while they were in leaf. Make a mental note of what trees will need to be pruned in late winter to early spring.

16. If you want to get one jump on spring, empty the soil from your container plants. Add the soil to your garden beds or to the compost pile. Clean the pots and sterilize them, put them away in storage. They will be ready to plant next year.

17. Disconnect hoses from faucets to prevent damage to your plumbing. Only reconnect them if your are going to do watering during above freezing weather. Drain hoses after use to prevent damage to them from freeze-thaw cycles.

18. Later this month, visit an indoor conservatory or greenhouse to enjoy the plants. Or, purchase a few plants to add to your indoor collection!