by Gary Crispell, EMGV
Welcome to the newly minted month of ‘Febril.’ Seems like we did this last year. Therefore, beware, lest you let your guard down and get caught by the other new month—Maruary which could easily be just around the corner, lurking, waiting to zap your saucer magnolia blossoms and any other non-cold hardy vegetation. And, it ain’t snowed yet neither. So, as tempting as 70 degrees might be, be smart. Just for the record, I didn’t just pull this stuff outta the air. I done researched it like them professors learned me to in Horticulture (yea, I can spell, too) School on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Pay attention, y’all. It’s real stuff.
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 to prevent crabgrass. 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.
See Lawn Care above and Planting below.
And so it begins: the vegetable garden. The reason for 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. Vegetables you can plant now 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.
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 crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia species), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), and hydrangeas that bloom on new wood (Hydrangea arborescens & H. paniculata). Blueberry bushes will also benefit from a February pruning.
While you’re out there whack back the ornamental grasses, also. 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 also 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 to 18 inches, go for it. Chances are you and the plant will be glad you did.
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 species), flowering quince (Chaenomoles species), junipers (Juniperus species), spiraea (Spiraea species) and weigelia (Weigelia species).
Bluebirds will be most appreciative of a through 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!
Think positive thoughts about an early Spring and no late freezes.
Additional Reading from NC State Extension
Carolina Lawns: A guide to maintaining quality turf in the landscape
Planting calendar for annual vegetables
Pruning trees and shrubs
Plant propagation by stem cuttings