February: Thinking of Flowers
Now wind torments the field,
turning the white surface back
on itself, back and back on itself,
like an animal licking a wound.
Nothing but white–the air, the light;
only one brown milkweed pod
bobbing in the gully, smallest
brown boat on the immense tide.
A single green sprouting thing
would restore me. . . .
Then think of the tall delphinium,
swaying, or the bee when it comes
to the tongue of the burgundy lily.
Are you itching to get your hands in the dirt?
I certainly am!
Which brings me to the first gardening task for February…
- Repot houseplants. They’ve been in that same container for a year. They need room to grow and expand their root systems. Usually you can gently spread and open the roots if they have just begun to wind around the pot, but if those roots are wound tightly around the sides of the pot, you’ll need to make 2-4 cuts in them with clean scissors to encourage them to spread out. If you don’t, your plant will remain root bound even in its new, larger pot.
- Once your repotted houseplants begin to show signs of new growth, give them a shot of good quality fertilizer.
- If you haven’t already done it, this is a good time to find a bit of kitchen space to put a few potted herbs in. Fresh herbs are absolutely THE BEST for cooking! In addition, they help make the kitchen smell nice, and, if you plant the right ones (think lemongrass and Italian seasoning) they can help deter the insects that will be attracted to your kitchen when summer breezes blow. If your kitchen herb “garden” isn’t by a window, it will probably need a good full spectrum grow light. The LED variety ones are pretty easy on the pocketbook, both to purchase and to run. Additionally, by starting some herbs in your kitchen now, you and they will have a head start on spring planting. Win-win!
- On a day when it’s not stormy, take a walk around your yard, pencil and paper in hand. Look for and make note of good locations for planting new flowers and shrubs, containers of flowers (or pretty vegetables), trees or shrubs that need some pruning, locations for new bulbs, etc.
- Speaking of new trees and shrubs, do you know that the Upper Sevier Conservation District does a spring purchase of many trees and shrubs that are well adapted to this area? You do have to order a minimum of 5 of any varieties you want, but you can certainly share with friends and neighbors if multiples of 5 are too many for you! And the price is fabulous at just $4 each. Look for the fliers in your local farm/feed store, or, if you cant find any, call 435-676-8189 and request a copy. Supplies are limited though so you’ll want to get your order in as early as possible. The deadline for ordering is March 27, and pick-up is April 17 in Panguitch at the Triple C, or in Cedar City.
- It’s time to finalize your garden plans on paper or computer.
- Finish ordering any bulbs or vegetable seeds you still need, although, I have to admit, I received a new seed catalog in the mail today from a company I’ve not heard of before that offers several cover crop seeds I’ve been hunting unsuccessfully for (including asking at the local farm stores). It’s just possible I might have gotten a little bit excited, and I might be trying to figure out how to squeeze in a few more dollars to my spring gardening budget. Oh my!
- If you have been storing any bulbs for spring/summer planting, please check them to make sure they aren’t damaged and make sure none are starting to show signs of rot. You know the old saying, one bad apple can spoil the barrel. It applies to stored bulbs also. If any of them show any signs of damage, either throw them out or at the least, put them in a separate storage container well removed from the undamaged ones.
- If you plan to start seeds in March you’ll want to get your containers and growing medium ready. Wash and sterilize those containers in 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, then air dry.
- This can be a very good time (when it’s not storming) to begin pruning fruit trees, grapes, and blueberries. And don’t forget your roses while you have those pruning shears out! (image source shutterstock.com gorillaimages) Begin pruning by removing any dead, decayed, or broken branches. Then check the overall shape of the plant. Make sure air can circulate easily to prevent mildew and mold when it’s damp. Besides, all of the leaves that will be coming need sunlight. Let them get it.
- Cut your autumn fruiting raspberries to the ground to encourage new growth and abundant fruit this year. Summer bearing raspberries and blackberries should have all of the canes that produced fruit this year cut down.
- Currant trunks that are over 3 years old should be removed.
- Cut dogwood and salix down to about 2” from the ground to encourage new colorful growth for next winter.
- Trim deciduous hedges before the birds start nesting, and speaking of birds, don’t forget to keep feeding and watering those who have grown accustomed to dining at your yard.
- Start begonia tubers in small pots or trays of compost. They can be planted in their final places after all danger of frost is past.
- Speaking of compost, if you have a compost pile, keep feeding it, and don’t forget to turn it.
- Trees and shrubs will appreciate a mulch of well composted manure to help build the nitrogen supply in the soil and get them greening as soon as it warms up.
- Mid- to late February is generally a good time to fertilize evergreens and shrubs. If you use a granular fertilizer, be sure to water it in well.
- Do another check for any bulbs that may have been pushed up by frost heave. If they have, gently but firmly push them back in and make sure they have a good covering of mulch still. The wind tends to blow it away, at least in my yard.
- Build PVC pipe covers over some of your garden area and cover with greenhouse plastic to begin warming the soil for early spring transplants. When snow falls, brush it off of the plastic to keep it from collapsing your covers. Hmmm, that reminds me…I need to get the fence up around my covered areas to keep the tiller chickens from shredding my greenhouse plastic.
- If you have a greenhouse, you can begin starting seeds now for it. Tomatoes can be started from seed this month as well. Be careful not to over water though as tomato seedlings are very prone to damping off.
If you want to grow a good portion of your family’s vegetable needs, but you aren’t sure how much to plant, the following GENERAL guidelines (historical, from a time when families were expected to produce all or most of their own food) are for a year’s veggies for a one person – but tastes and ability to grow in any given area can have a significant impact on these GENERAL guidelines so adjust them accordingly:
Asparagus – 10-12 plants Bush beans – 10-20 plants
Beans, Lima – 10-20 plants Beets – 10-20 plants
Broccoli – 5-10 plants Brussels sprouts – 2-8 plants
Cabbage – 3-10 plants Carrots – 10-40 plants (I eat that many every month!)
Cauliflower – 3-5 plants Celeriac – 1-5 plants
Celery 3-8 plants Corn – 10-40 plants
Cucumber – 1 vine or 2 bushes up to 5 Eggplant – 2-3 plants
Kale – 5’ row Leaf lettuce – 24 plants
Melon – 2-6 plants Onion – 12-80 sets
Peas – 15-60 plants Pepper – 3-5 plants
Potato – 10-30 plants Pumpkin, cooking – 1 plant
Rhubarb – 2-3 crowns Spinach – 30-60 plants
Summer Squash – 2-4 plants Winter squash – 2 plants
Sweet potatoes – 5 plants Swiss chard – 10-20 plants
Tomato – 2-5 plants Zucchini – 1-2 plants
If you are planning a vegetable garden w/o a plan, you are guaranteed to have a garden that is an expensive luxury that will not give you and your family what you need. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Almanac.com has a wonderful garden planing software available, but pencil and paper work very well also with a little research into plants’ needs for space, etc.
One example of a garden plan – this one done on almanac.com not only shows a lovely layout, but also lists how many of each plant can go in a square foot and planting dates for all of the veggies, including whether to start indoors, under cover, or outside, based on my entry of last spring frost and first fall frost.