To Do in February

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

It’s February!! Those of us who are die-hard just-can’t-help-ourselves gardeners are

bluebird and box
male eastern bluebird and bluebird box. photo credit: Patricia Pierce on Flickr

nearly beside ourselves—right? I mean, we can do stuff! We can dig in the dirt (well, at least the dirt that isn’t moisture-saturated or frozen)! YEA!! Besides, it is almost March when we really get to do stuff. In addition to breaking out the shovels, rakes and hoes the chem-heads out there can start spraying and fertilizing. So, here goes. A prelude to Spring in the key of D# major.

Lawn Care
Cool season grasses (i.e. fescue and bluegrass) should be fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer following the recommendation of your SOIL TEST.

Late February/early March is the best time to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer. There are several easy to use granular products on the market. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label for safe and proper handling and application. Calibrate your spreader to ensure accurate application amounts; Too little will not give you effective control and too much may damage the turf.

Fertilizing
See Lawn Care above and Planting below.

Planting
And so it begins: The vegetable garden. The reason for some gardeners’ existence, for frozen fingers in February, summer sunburn and the endless supply of liniment in the medicine cabinet.

It is time for root vegetables and salad (and beef Bourguignon—which you can’t grow in the garden).  Plants that can go in the ground in February include cabbage, carrots, leaf lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips. Work a little fertilizer into the soil that was tested in October (while it was still free to do so) following the recommendations of said SOIL TEST.

Be cognizant of soil moisture levels. It appears that Mother Nature is going to maintain that for now, but she can be really fickle.

Pruning
If you have been ignoring previous posts, now would be a good time to prune bunch grapes and fruit trees. Also due for judicious trimming are summer flowering shrubs and small trees.  That list includes Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus seriatcus) crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia species), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and hydrangeas that bloom on new wood (Hydrangea arborescens & H. paniculata).

While you’re out there, whack back the ornamental grasses, too. The new blades haven’t emerged yet and the plants are looking a bit tired anyway.

Got some overgrown shrubs that you’ve been meaning to (or reluctant to) prune heavily? Go for it now.  I understand that if you’ve never done it before it can be a bit intimidating, trust me. The plant will almost always not only survive, but thrive. I am aware of the never-more-than-a-third rule, but sometimes that is not enough. If it needs to go back to 12”-18” … go for it.  Chances are, you and the plant will be glad you did.

Spraying
The orchard needs attention. Peaches and nectarines should be sprayed with a fungicide to prevent leaf curl. Spraying a dormant oil on the fruit trees will help control several insects later in the year.

Other fun stuff to do outside in February
– Perennials can be divided if the soil ever gets dry enough.

– Many landscape plants can be propagated via hardwood cuttings this time of the year.  Some of the plants in the category are crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia sps), flowering quince (Chaenomoles sps), junipers (Juniperus sps), spiraea (Spiraea sps) and weigelia (Weigelia sps).

– Bluebirds will be most appreciative of a thorough house cleaning before the spring nesting season. Remove all the old nesting materials and let them start afresh. It’s like clean linens for them.

Oh, yeah. Lest we forget … order flowers or other living things from the plant kingdom for your significant other. Just for the record, guys like flowers and plants, too. Happy Valentine’s Day y’all! Think positive thoughts about an early Spring and no late freezes.

 

Photo credit
Creative commons, copyright Patricia Pierce,  https://www.flickr.com/photos/47602497@N06/26758856348

 

September is the Time to Seed Tall Fescue

by Carl J Boxberger, EMGV

September 1 to 15 is the correct time of year to seed tall fescue in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina. Here are seven important steps to follow:

1) Soil Test:  Have your soil tested to determine lime and fertilizer requirements for your lawn area. Soil test kits are available at the Cooperative Extension Office.

2) Site Preparation:  Break up the soil in the area to  be seeded with a rake for small areas or use a lawn coring machine for larger areas.

3) Fertilization: Apply the recommended fertilizer to your lawn. If you have not completed a soil test  then apply a complete N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) turf grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (12-4-8 or 16-4-8) at a rate of one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

4) Seeding:  Seed with a quality tall fescue blend for sun/shade depending on how much sun and shade your lawn receives. Seed at a rate of six pounds per 1,000 square feet. Stay away from Kentucky 31 tall fescue as there are much better tall fescue blends available. Things to look for are a high percentage of seed germination and a low percentage of weed seeds in the mixture.

When buying grass seed, also make sure the weight of the bag is equal or close to the actual amount of seed in the bag. Some companies add a coating to the seed which is unnecessary and can be misleading. Look closely at the label on the bag to learn what you are buying.

Do not hesitate to ask the personnel at a nursery or other quality garden center for help in choosing the proper seed for your yard’s conditions. The single most important investment in ensuring high quality turf is the purchase of high quality seed.

5) Mulching: Spread straw (without weed seeds) over the seeded area at a rate of one to two bales per 1,000 square foot area.

6) Irrigation:  Keep the top half-inch of the soil moist after seeding. Water the newly seeded lawn lightly two to three times a day for 15 to 20 days as the seed germinates. As the seedlings grow and root, water less often but for longer periods of time which will encourage stronger root growth.

7) Mowing:  Once the newly seeded grass reaches a height of four-and-one-half inches tall, mow the tall fescue back to the proper mowing height of three inches

Suggested Maintenance Fertilization Schedule for Tall Fescue:
September: One pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet
November:  One pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet
February:  Half to one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet

References:
Carolina Lawns: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/carolina-lawns

Understanding a Turfgrass seed label
https://ag.umass.edu/turf/fact-sheets/understanding-turfgrass-seed-label