February is the short, topsy-turvy month, when the crocus sprouts in Monday’s warmth…and disappears in Tuesday’s blizzard. It is also the last month to anticipate our gardening needs before warm weather — and utter chaos — arrive. Here is my list of chores, for gardens within and without:
Branches, spring-flowering. A number of these can be cut now, and brought indoors to warmth and light. They will bloom for you in 2 or 3 week’s time.
Seeds. Order early, and you won’t be disappointed. Choice varieties usually disappear before March. My seed-money goes to these merchants.
Seed-sowing. Continue to winter-sow both perennial and hardy annual seeds in miniature greenhouses. It is particularly important to sow monkshood, candytuft, delphinium and certain other perennials now, since these require cold-stratification.
Plan Ahead for March. Order fertilizers, mulching material, stakes, plant ties, and tools if you need them. It’s so much easier to start equipped than to have to await some necessary item just when you need it most.
Raised Vegetable Beds. If soil has settled, top these off with shredded leaves. Add nitrogen (soybean or alfalfa meal) to hasten decay.
Save Your Wood Ashes. Either add them to the covered compost bin or spread them — as I do — beneath lilacs. Wood ashes are a terrific source of potash.
Garden Design. Work and rework your garden plans…on paper. This is a pleasant fireside activity.
Pruning. Some warmish day when you won’t hate the job, start pruning trees and any late-blooming shrubs. Prune with a purpose, such as: to get rid of dead or broken branches; to make plants more shapely; or to admit light and air to areas beneath. In other words, don’t just saw off tops!
African violets. If you suffer from dry skin and a scratchy throat during the heating season, just imagine how miserable your humidity-craving “violets” must be! Boost humidity by setting plants on trays of pebbles and water.
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; check the bulb for a green tip.
Bulbs. Bring the remaining hardy bulbs you are forcing out of cold storage, and give them a position in warmth and light. If you continue to feed and water after flowers fade, your bulbs can have fine futures in the garden outdoors.
Cyclamen. As some flowers fade and some leaves discolor, yank both out from the base of the plant. Remember to water from beneath.
Freesia. This is the big month for colorful, fragrant freesia. Water the bulbs daily.
Geraniums. Those you’ve grown from September cuttings are setting bud now. Pamper the plants with high-phosphorous food, at the rate of a 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of room-temperature water.
Petunias. Overwintered specimens, if placed in your sunniest window garden, will bloom with utter exuberance now. Provide food and water freely.
Primroses. Your florist will have enchanting primroses this month to freshen up the window garden picture. Why not send yourself a Valentine of three misty lavender P. malecoides? These “Fairy” primroses stay handsome for weeks, and in their blooming condition require only light, not sun.
Sweet Olive. If leaf tips turn brown, you are either overfeeding the plant, or your tap water contains too much fluoride. Feed no oftener than once each month, and use distilled water if your tap is suspect.
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