February Gardening Tips
During the winter season, we gardeners are usually not spending much time outside in our gardens. However, it won’t be long before warmer days arrive so use some time in February to prepare for spring!
- 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 lawnmowers and other lawn equipment to be ready for spring by sharpening, replacing blades, and changing oil.
Trees, Shrubs, and Flowers
- Now is the time to buy your summer and fall-flowering bulbs, such as dahlias, gladioli, cannas, and lilies. Don’t plant them yet, but wait for warmer weather (the soil temperature must be at least 55°F).
- 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.
- 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
- Spray your tree fruits this month with a dormant oil to control mites and scale. The oil simply covers the tree and suffocates the insects. (Note- do not apply dormant oil when the tree is not dormant. Doing so in the spring, summer, and fall will cause damage.)
- Remember to prune tree fruits 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.
- By late February, 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. Be 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.
Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.