February is a good month to catch up on work you should have done to prepare your garden for winter. It is also the time to plan your spring garden.
If you are like most of us, you spent last fall yanking leaves and cleaning gutters. However, you may have overlooked some things that should have been done before you put your garden to bed for the winter. It is not to late to go outside and do some catch-up work. What about those potted plants that are dead? They should be emptied into the compost pile. Be sure to chop the dirt and plants up to allow for faster decomposition. In the spring, you’ll have rich organic material to use in planting.
Those clay pots you left outside need to get out of the weather. Empty them, clean them with a solution of 1 part each of water, bleach and vinegar and to keep them from cracking, make sure they are kept out of freezing temperatures.
Check to make sure you have disconnected and drained hoses. Remove them and put them in the garage and, shut off water to all outside faucets. To avoid damage from freezing water in pipes, leave the faucet on and let any remaining water drain.
Salt is poison for plants. Make sure not to pile snow from salted areas on top of plants and shrubs. Also be sure to brush snow off the tree branches after a heavy snowfall to keep them from breaking. Also don’t forgot to fill the bird feeders. Birds need a regular supply of food in the winter months.
February is a good time to prune your deciduous trees. Remove dead or damaged bushes. You can also prune back roses. Take advantage of the time you have now to get things done before you are overwhelmed by spring garden work. Repair window boxes, oil and sharpen the tools and mower blades and paint the patio furniture. Look over your rakes, shovels and other implements and see if any are in need of repair or replacement.
Most importantly February is the time to think about your spring gardening. To begin, you should plan your garden. A simple piece of graph paper and a pencil are all you need to start. Draw a diagram of your garden. Lay it so that it accurately reflects all planting areas. Once you have completed your diagram, put on your coat and walk around your garden to see what is there and to note the empty spaces. Consider past experiences. What worked in your garden? What didn’t? Consider removing plants that don’t do well and replace them with ones that will.
Put all this information on your garden plan. It is a good idea to keep a record of each year’s garden. It helps you in planting the following year. This is especially true of vegetable gardens. You will want to rotate your vegetables to other parts of the garden for best results. Take a “before” picture of your garden so that you can admire the “after” results.
Once you have a diagram, you are ready to select what will go into your spring garden. Think about what kind of garden you want to have. Is your garden shady, sunny, or perhaps both? Do you want vibrant colors? An herb garden? Are you interested in attracting butterflies? All these kind of questions should be considered in planning your space. All remember that if you want blooms until the fall, you will need to plant accordingly. Now comes the next step, selecting seeds, bulbs, and plants.
Seed catalogs abound on the Internet and order forms can also be found in gardening magazines. You can order seed for starting plants inside and transplant seedlings into the garden when the danger of frost is gone. Many varieties that are available in seed, especially new cultivars, are not available as plants in your local nursery and seeds are cheaper than live plants.
You can also order a variety of live plants and bulbs from catalogs and garden centers. Summer flowering bulbs such as gladiolus and daylilies can be purchased now for spring planting. Keep them inside and plant them once there is no danger of frost. If you took bulbs inside for the winter, go through them before planting. If any seem soft, toss them. Also look for signs of mold and disease and discard any affected bulbs. Another option available for bedding plants is cuttings from indoor plants. Coleus, which come in a variety of colors and shapes, are a common house plant. Take several cuttings and root them in a container filled with water. They will thrive as annuals in your flowerbed. Be Bold! Try something new in your garden.
Once you made your seed choices order them and be ready to plant them upon arrival. Start them so you can transplant them once spring begins. Make sure that the containers you use allow for drainage of excess water from the bottom so they do not stay so wet. Soil-less mixes make a better planting medium for seeds because there us no risk of contamination from weed seeds or bacteria as you would find in soil. Make sure the seeds have sufficient light for germination. Also, keep the seeds in an area where the temperature is at least 50 degrees. Enjoy watching your seeds germinate and grow for the next several weeks.
Lastly, just as accessories compliment clothes, you may want to consider looking for garden stationers and ornaments now so that you will have them ready in the spring. The ideal garden consists of many things. Color, placement, variety and longevity make for seasons of delightful viewing and enjoyment of your garden. Plan it now and enjoy the results.