February Garden Chores and The Great Backyard Bird Count (Start Counting!)

February Garden Chores 2016 List

Hello February and longer days. My calculated daylight hours for this Superbowl Sunday is 10 hours and 37 minutes. By the time we've leaped over to March 1st, I'll enjoy 11 hours and 24 minutes of daylight, but who's counting?  (Want to calculate your daylight hours? Click here.)

Gardening boots by the door, waiting for Spring

Gardening boots by the door, waiting for Spring

These longer days have you itching for a trowel in your hand? Me too. Here are a few chores to help scratch that itch before the big season descends. On your mark, get set, but not too ready, yet.

Spring grass 

Spring grass 

1. Is your lawn your love? Then you'll want to test the pH now. We carry pH test kits (ranging from 6 to 15 dollars). These DIY kits can be done at home with instant results, or you can bring in soil samples for Ian Farthing, our lawn specialist, to test for you. Contact Ian for details. If you need to raise the pH, try Bonide Turf Turbo High Efficiency Lime. It buffers the pH, helps with nutrient uptake, and develops a stronger root system. It also breaks down within 30 days, perfect timing since March is when you'll start fertilizing or seeding the lawn. 

2. Sharpen your pruners, because it's time to prune, but not everything. For a detailed calendar of what to prune when, refer to the N.C. State Extension Calendar here, Below is a brief summary of what you'll focus on now, but when it comes to fertilizing your trees and shrubs, wait for the warmer weather of March.

  • Grape vines and fruit trees.
  • Summer flowering shrubs such as butterfly bush, crape myrtle, peegee hydrangea, and rose of sharon.
  • Overgrown shrubs can be severely pruned. 
  • Trim ornamental grasses like liriope, mondo grass, and pampas grass.
Sowing spring seeds

Sowing spring seeds

 3. If you've been enjoying the snow and you forgot to buy seeds, do so quickly. Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower plants can be started indoors now. The last week of the month you can plant peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, kale and asparagus, but wait until the soil is dry enough to work. Mucking around in wet, soggy soil tracks mud in the house, but even worse, it's not good for your soil's compaction.

4. How about the last season's perennials? Did you forget those in your fall clean-up? Do it while you can, before those herbaceous lovelies start poking up new foliage. It's a good time to start dividing perennials, too. Rule of thumb: If it's a late-summer-to-fall bloomer, divide in spring. If it's a spring-to-early-summer bloomer, divide in fall. Day lilies are always a good place to start.

5. The birds! Have you been enjoying a winter of bird TV? Me too. Keeping the bird feeder full has been a challenge. Don't forget to clean and sanitize it. Use a gallon of water to 4 cups of vinegar, take the bird feeder apart, and soak it for an hour in the mix. And, while we're talking birds, why not use this downtime, before the madness of spring descends, to count your birds. Join the Great Backyard Bird Count here, and take 15 minutes during a 4 day period (Feb. 12-15th) to count birds. This fun activity started in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society is the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds, then display the results in near real time. Visit the store for extra bird food to lure them near, and get ready to count!

6. Lastly, don't forget the houseplants.They're probably in need of a shower to wash off winter's dust, and any aphids or spider mites that showed up while the heat was blasting. Did you know houseplants are great at removing toxins from our home? Here's how.

7. And, oh yeah. Valentine's Day is a week away, just in case you forgot.♥

 Written by Cinthia Milner, OSA, Garden Coach, and blog writer.