February: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Well, there you have it—our annual snow.  Came and went in the same day.  Mother Nature put it here and she took it away.  Perfect.  Way better than the experiences of my youth in upstate New York.  So, now we can have Spring, right?  No??  Oh.  The seeds you ordered from the catalogue haven’t  A) arrived, B) sprouted, C) grown to transplant size, D) all of the above?  Pick one?  Unfortunately, the deadline for this is before February 2, so I am unable to say how much longer winter will last.  The prematurely plucked from hibernation prognosticator has not yet “spoken.”  However, it is supposed to be sunny on Tuesday.  Draw your own conclusion.

While we are all waiting for whatever there are a few things we can do to remind us that we are all gardeners after all and Spring isn’t nearly as far away as it was at the winter solstice.


Time for the 2nd most important fertilizer application for cool season grasses (tall fescue & bluegrass).  Apply a slow-release product as per the recommendation of the SOIL TEST I know you took in the Fall.

Late this month or early March is the ideal time to apply preemergent crabgrass control to all lawns.  Do it before the dogwoods (Cornus florida) bloom to achieve optimum control.  Accuracy is important.  Read the label and calibrate your spreader.  Too little product will not give good control.  Too much may damage the turf.


See LAWN CARE above & PLANTING below.


Here we go!  The long wait is over.  Get your hands dirty (muddy, frozen?).  Work that soil.  At least be ready in case it dries out.  Stick some salad greens and root vegetables in the ground.  Things that will tolerate early planting include (in alphabetical order, no less) cabbage, carrots, leaf lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips.  For sure you tested the soil in the Fall when it was free and added the lime recommended by NCDOA.  Now add the fertilizer.


Last call for pruning fruit trees and bunch grapes.  It is also a great time to trim summer flowering shrubs and trees e.g. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus seriatcus), crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia sps) (Please avoid severe pruning of crape myrtles otherwise known as crape murder.  It isn’t good for the tree and it certainly messes with its aesthetics.), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and hydrangeas that  bloom on new wood (H. arborescens & H. panniculata).

Ornamental grasses should be cut back this month before the new growth emerges.

This is also the best time to do any major remedial pruning of broadleaf evergreen shrubs.  If they are way overgrown go for it.  They can be cut back to 12” t0 18” and not only survive, but thrive.


Those of you with fruit trees it is time to break out the sprayer.  Peaches and nectarines need a fungicide application to control leaf curl.  Shooting your fruit trees with a dormant oil now will help control several insects later in the year.


Do some hardwood cutting propagation.  This time of the year you can take cuttings from plants like crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia sps), flowering quince (Chaenomoles sps), Junipers (Juniperus sps), spiraea (Spiraea sps), and weigelia (Weigelia sps).

Perennials can be divided.

Make the bluebird of happiness happy by cleaning out her house.  She and her mate will reward you by moving in in the Spring.

One last thing.  There’s this sorta special holiday that we usually celebrate with plant material of some sort in the middle of the month.  Order it now or sleep on the couch on the 15th.  FYI; flowers as a gift are gender neutral.  Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

*Resources & Further Reading

Organic Lawn Care Guide

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

**Want to learn how to start your own warm season vegetable garden? Check out our upcoming seminar!

General Pruning Tips

North Carolina Pruning Calendar

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox