February Gardening Tips

— Written By

February is a good month to start preparing our gardens for spring with one of the biggest chores being pruning plants. Below are gardening tips for your landscape, lawn and vegetable garden.


  • Do not apply “weed and feed” products. These contain both fertilizer and weed killer, but it is too early to fertilize warm season lawns such as Centipede, Bermuda, Zoysia and St. Augustine grass.
  • Late February is the best time to get out early applications of preemergence herbicides for crabgrass (aka crabgrass preventer). Many products are granular allowing easier spread.
  • Tune up your lawn mowers and other lawn equipment to be ready for spring by sharpening, replacing blades and changing oil.

Trees, Shrubs and Flowers

  • Late February is the time to be pruning crape myrtles and other summer blooming shrubs (butterfly bush, lantana, gardenia, nandina, abelia) as these plants produce flowers on the new growth that occurs in the spring.
  • Rose pruning should be done as leaf buds begin to swell in the spring. Prune shrub roses (knock-out roses) back to 3 to 5 finger sized canes 18 to 24 inches long.
  • February is a good time to cut back ornamental grasses. For shorter grasses cut to 4 to 6 inches in height. For pampas grass cut to a 6 to 12 inch height. Avoid cutting any new growth. Remember to wear gloves when cutting pampas and you can pull back the top with a rope to allow for easier cutting.
  • Do not trim hydrangeas. Their stems may look dead but they contain this spring’s flower buds.
  • Interested in propagating some plants. Now is the time to take hardwood cuttings from shrubs. Crape myrtles, viburnum and figs are very easy to root this way.
  • Fertilize trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers with a slow release fertilizer that has a 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 analysis.

Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs

  • Remember to prune fruit trees just before the buds begin to swell. Remove all dead and diseased branches. Prune out branches that are crossing or overlapping other branches and will shade out other branches, thus reducing fruit production and quality.
  • Start pepper, tomato and eggplant seeds indoors to have transplants ready in mid-April. These crops need direct light and warm temperatures above 60°.
  • Onion sets can be planted in the garden in February for harvest in May and June. Bee sure to plant short day varieties such as Candy, Granex (white), Stockton Sweet Red, Texas Early Grano and Yellow Granex.
  • Plant seed potatoes in the garden for harvest in late May-early June.
  • Start growing your own salad garden! Direct sow loose leaf lettuce, arugula, spinach, mesclun mixes, carrots and radish in the garden.
  • Direct sow other cool season vegetables such as beet, rutabagas, swiss chard, kale, mustard and turnip seed. Broccoli plants can also be set out during this time.

Learn More!

  • Subscribe to Wayne County Gardening e-newsletter and receive timely gardening information and announcements of upcoming extension gardening events.
    • To subscribe: Visit: http://go.ncsu.edu/subscribewcg. Scroll down to enter your email address in the “address” box and click on the subscribe button. You will then receive an e-mail which will direct you to a website to accept the subscription.
  • Visit our websites at waynecountyag.com and http://wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/
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Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. Horticulture program information can be found at http://wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/. Forward any questions you would like answered from this week’s column to Jessica.Strickland@waynegov.com.