February Gardening Fun

FEBRUARY brings Valentine’s Day…boxes of chocolate…and lots of fun gardening jobs. For instance, winter-sowing continues outdoors no matter the weather. Then there are African violets to propagate, old seeds to test, and branches (including crabapple, pictured above) to force into glorious indoor bloom.

To keep your strength up while you read this list of chores, I suggest you try a slice of this Chocolate Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting. It’s so…energizing.

Winter-Sowing: If you haven’t already sown your perennials outdoors in milk jugs or other containers, better get hopping. Some require a number of freezes and thaws, or “stratification,” in order to germinate. New to this nifty method of seed-sowing? Check out Winter-Sowing 101.

Seeds: Order these from catalogs now, especially if you have specific colors or varieties in mind. I learned the hard way that choice varieties often sell-out by March. My favorite seed-sellers.

Seed-Testing. Got left-over seeds from last year? Or the year before that? Make sure they are viable before you plant them. My easy seed-testing guide.

Flowering Branches: Need colorful bouquets for the house? Then do what I do, and clip the branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs. Witch hazel, crabapple, and forsythia will all bloom in the warmth and light of your windows now. I force the branches this way.

Plan the Kitchen Garden. Before spring (and utter chaos!) arrives, determine which veggies you’ll plant, and where. I rotate the crops in my Kitchen Garden each year, in order to thwart certain pests and diseases.

Save Your Wood Ashes. If you use fireplaces to heat your home — I do — your wood ashes will provide a valuable soil amendment called Potash. I’m convinced that regular ash-applications are the reason my lilacs and peonies bloom so well each spring. More details about this natural soil-sweetener.

Screening. Before trees leaf out, take a good, long look at your property. Are there any eye-sores (like a neighbor’s trash can) you’d like to screen out? Now is the time to notice which evergreen trees or shrubs can frame your property, and transform it into the private sanctuary it ought to be. I used Thuja ‘Green Giant’ to make my neighbors disappear.

Houseplants need attention, too:
African Violets. Now is a great time to propagate this beautiful Saintpaulia ionantha. A single leaf potted in February will give you at least 8 clones of blooming-size by October. Details and pictures.

Amaryllis. Cut away the faded flowering stem if your new plant has bloomed. Continue to tend it in the window. Feeding goes on until late in August. Your older plant might be ready to emerge from the cool, dark cellar now; check the bulb for a green tip. And by sure to read my amaryllis growing-guide.

Bulbs. Bring the remaining hardy bulbs you are forcing out of cold storage, and give them a position in warmth and light. If you provide food and water after flowers fade, your bulbs can have a fine future in the garden outdoors.

Freesia. This is the big month for colorful, fragrant freesia. Water the bulbs daily, and be sure to visit my freesia forcing-guide.

Geraniums (Pelargoniums). Those you’ve grown from September cuttings are probably setting bud now. I pamper mine with Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster (10-30-20), at the rate of one 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of room-temperature water. How I prepare my geraniums for winter-bloom.

Petunias. Overwintered specimens, if placed in your sunniest window garden, will bloom with utter exuberance now. Provide food and water freely. How I propagate petunias for winter-bloom.

Are my monthly lists of chores helpful to you in some small way? Perhaps you can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love hearing from you.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s email updates.

Related Posts:
My Garden in Mid-April
A (Virtual) May Garden Tour
A Snow-Cloaked Garden Tour


  1. Love your news letter and post yes this list is helpfu.

  2. I’ll be pruning my dwarf apple trees soon, and wondered I could force those branches even though they bloom in late spring. I scanned through the comments on the forsythia post and didn’t see any mention of apple blossoms. Thoughts?

  3. Hi Susannah – It’s not too early to force the pruned branches of dwarf apple trees. Place them in a vase of water in a sunny but cool window, and they will bloom for you.

  4. Terry Meyers says:

    Such great advice-thank you. Our fireplace is woodburning, but we use the store bought starter logs to get the fire going. Do you know if they have anything in them that might be harmful to plants?

  5. Hi Kevin – I made the Challah bread yesterday, It was sooooo good. My husband and I finished it today. Bread in my house never stand a chance. Thank you for that wonderful recipe

  6. After looking at your violet collection, I am really missing the bay window in my previous house. The current house is not plant friendly and I miss seeing those violets and an orchid in the window. I need to find a way to grow plants in my “new” small ranch home. Hopefully we will eventually be able to put a sun room on the back of the house and then I should be able to have plants. Meanwhile, I live vicariously through you. Your newsletter is so informative and fun to read.

  7. Hi Terry Meyers – I don’t use them, but from what I’ve read, the artificial wood “starter” logs contain petroleum. Petroleum is a garden no-no.

  8. I have two lovely orchids that I received for Mother’s Day and they held their blooms till almostA. Dec! I have used the 3 ice cubes per week method i read about and the leaves are healthy. What can i do to get it to bloom again. I have never had success at this? They are in a happy warm place, sunny but not too much.

  9. Thierry SPITZ says:

    We live in France near Fontainebleau (50 miles south of Paris) and are enjoying your newsletter, there is no frontiers in the pleasure of gardening. What you need now is a French edition…Merci !

  10. I just signed up for your newsletter and find it VERY HELPFUL!! Wow, I would never have thought to start seeds now, have several I am going to try winter sowing 101. I have an ornamental peach and will try to force it to bloom, it is so beautiful in the spring so think will get a head start. Thanks for the great and interesting information.

  11. Loved your post on geraniums! I’m definitely going to try this technique this summer with the Martha Washington geraniums I usually have to buy each year as annuals. I really appreciate the information you provide and your wonderful sense of humor!

  12. Anne in Vermont says:

    Tried growing Thuja Green Giant to screen a road, but the first winter the deer ate every last bit of green on them. The sticks did not regenerate. And I thought yews were the deer candy.

  13. Cindy Marino says:

    Are those purple zinnias???

  14. Hi Marrion – I propagated Martha Washington geraniums from cuttings one spring, and they bloomed and bloomed the following February in my window garden. What a sight they made against the backdrop of snow! And the flowers lasted well into May. Well worth your while!

    Anne in Vermont – Bummer that deer ate your Thujas. I have oodles of deer here, but in 9 years they have not touched these stately shrubs.

    Cindy Marino – Yes, purple zinnias, an heirloom variety obtained from D. Landreth. They grew to an enormous height last year, and required staking. But the flowers were magnificent.

  15. Great tips for keeping us with bad cases of cabin fever from going completely bonkers! I have an eyelash Begonia coming into bloom, a gorgeous ruffled Cyclamen persicum in bloom and a hardy Cyclamen just now budding up. The light stand is full of seedlings of Primula and my trays of winter sown perennials are biding their time outside!
    I really want to try the challah soon, it looks so scrumptious!

  16. I keep reading about and seeing your amazing garden( incredible pics)but can’t figure out how your low fence keeps out the deer—mine is several feet high and those critters just jump right over—and sometimes one or more just lie down for awhile–in front, I spray the hostas w/ that stuff that mostly keeps them away, but in back, I can only grow veggies on the deck, which doesn’t get enough sun. I’d love a huge fence to keep them out, but you can’t do that—I’d love raised beds like you have, only then, I’d be feeding only them—-when I want to feed us!

  17. Oh what beautiful pictures! Your plants are lovely! I am winter sowing for the second year, and love it. It gives me something to do when my hands get itchy to plant something. And I love your recipes. Everything I’ve tried has been

  18. Kevin hi… you’re such a cheery soul; what a tonic! Thank you Yesterday I accidentally snapped off a sprig of flowering Winter Box in a friend’s garden in Glastonbury, UK & I’m wondering if you have any tips to help propagate it please xx

  19. Hi Katy – From what I’ve read, the time to propagate winter box, Sarcococca confusa, is in early autumn. Take semi-mature cuttings, and root them in pots of good compost. Meanwhile, enjoy the piece of stem you have — the scent of flowers is extraordinary!

  20. Amanda Groh says:

    Hi, I would love to start indoor gardening and stop buying cut flowers. I recently purchased forcing vases, two medium and one large. From what I’m reading, Paperwhites and Amaryllis are my best bet. Would you consider ordering bulbs online this time-of-year a waste of money? Most sites seem to be sold out or nearly. Thanks!

  21. Always I’ll forward to seeing what’s going on. You are amazing.


  23. Hi Martha – The beds are 12 inches deep, and the soil is a mixture of top soil, composted manure, and sand. Great for onions…and everything else! More details on beds and soil in my article Creating a Raised Bed Garden.

  24. Hello Kevin Lee, Here in NC we have enjoyed (NOT) very cold temps. this winter season. For that reason, one of the bushes in a natural area in our front yard got frost bitten and the top branches have turned brown. Down into this bush (it is like an evergreen holly but not-I have forgotten it’s name) I can still see green that goes all the way down to the ground. Question: do I trim off the dead part now or wait until a little later in the season ? It has been planted there for at least four or five years and has grown so well up until this happened to it. Help Please !!
    Thanks Kevin Lee, BjT

  25. Hi Bj – I’d wait until the weather settles to cut off the damaged part of the shrub. Otherwise, you might stimulate new growth too soon. Quite a winter, right?

  26. I found your winter-sowing guide last month, and finally got my first batch sown today. So happy to have gotten that far (I’m an on-again-off-again brown thumb aspiring to turn green), I returned to check out your chore guide. The pictures you have posted here are beautiful and inspiring, but you had me at the chocolate cake. :) Thanks for all!

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