February Gardening To-Do List | Clay County Master Gardeners

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By: Eleanor Moyer

I was all set to work outdoors, when Mother Nature threw another curve ball. She has been busy with those curve balls this winter, hasn’t she! A cup of tea and a good book cannot be on my new agenda however, as there is much to be busy about this month.

I am sure you are as depressed as I about the drastic winter damage on broadleaf evergreens, perennials, and needle-type foliage. My acuba in which I took great pride looks devastated. Ahh, pride does cometh before the fall. Maybe you want to rush out and cut it all down, but WAIT! That is the advice of numerous Extension Directors in our area. You may cut too little or too much. The advice is to wait until the plants leaf out (or not) in April, May, and even June at least as far as shrubs and evergreens. Alison Arnold, extension agent in Buncombe County, offered a You Tube© program from Volunteer Gardener “Dramatic Winter Damage’ that gives an excellent explanation of what happened and what to do about that Christmas freeze at the end of last year. Hopefully we will be pleasantly surprised, but if not, that is what plant nurseries are for! Consider replacing those dead soldiers with native specimens that may weather fluctuations better. For the most part, perennials should weather the freeze. My hellebores are leafing out and blooming. This is the time of year to cut back their tattered old leaves anyway, so first on your list is to clean up and cut back dead perennial foliage. It’s best not to put the debris in your compost pile as it may harbor diseases. Ornamental grasses, liriope and mondo grass should be cut back this month before new growth starts.

Plan the summer garden. Check your seed supply, plan your layout and order what you will need from catalogs. Perusing catalogs always gives me a shot of enthusiasm and lots of good ideas. Try The Whole Seed Catalog at www.rareseeds.com for some exotic form interesting choices. Seeds can be started under grow lights. Peas, onion sets, radishes, kale and spinach can be planted at the end of the month as long as the soil is dry enough to work. Generally speaking, it takes a year to develop the soil for an asparagus bed which is in a permanent location. Reading “Growing Asparagus in a Home Garden”, an
NC State Extension publication is a great place to start. Clean and sharpen garden tools.

The lawnmower should be tuned up and the blades sharpened regardless of what type of grass you grow. Apply a slow-release lawn fertilizer. Getting a soil test is always the right idea, but a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet is a good rule of thumb.

Stay ahead of winter weeds before they flower, though those dandelion and creeping Charlie flowers provide food for pollinators so be judicious!

Clean out birdhouses if not done in autumn. Dispose of the liter away from the
birdhouse. There are lots of posts online about cleaning them.

Happy Gardening!