February Gardening Tips
The weather in February is usually still quite harsh, and despite the frequent rainfall spells of dry freezing air are still possible. See our December tips sheet for tips on keeping your garden safe. Note that the information in our monthly tips and on the care sheets is intended for gardening in the Portland, OR area and may not be accurate for higher elevations or different climates.
Aside from winter protection, this is a great time of year to watch out for weeds. As temperatures slowly rise, more species of weed start growing. It may not sound fun, but weeding now significantly reduces the number of weeds in spring.
Depending on your soil, it may still be too early to plant new hardy plants. Many Portlanders have a base of clay soil, and it is not recommended to disturb it significantly if it is still waterlogged. You probably won't kill the plants if you do plant them, but it can compact the soil more than is desirable.
This is the time of year for purchasing mason bee supplies. Mason bees are small, non-stinging, native bees that are very useful for pollination of early flowering fruit trees. In lower temperatures, they are more useful than honeybees. They do not form a hive, and are not dangerous to people. We sell supplies and even bees themselves to ensure they will be helping in your garden. See our article about Mason Bees.
There is a lot of fresh, new plant material coming in throughout the month, so get ready to liven up those porch containers and, if your soil is workable, your garden beds as well. Primroses, cyclamen, and ranunculus all make their appearances on our shelves now. For those who missed the bulbs in autumn, we have potted crocus, hyacinths, and daffodils to help brighten things up. The earliest of the perennials are here, including hellebores, heucheras, and candytuft (Iberis spp.). Evergreen herbs and groundcovers are readily available as well.
The summer-flowering bulbs arrive inside the store towards the end of February. Begonias, dahlias, lilies, and many others will be available. Buying this way is less expensive than buying grown plants later, and there are many specialty bulbs that won't be available later. Note that it is still too early for starting most of these outside now, but you can store the bulbs for a few weeks until fairer spring weather.
All the new seeds are in good supply, and February is one of the best months for planning and shopping for your new garden. It may not be time to grow tomatoes yet, but this might be your best chance to find them if you prefer to grow from seed. It is time for planting peas; they enjoy the cold. Spinach, kale, and other hardy greens can go out now or soon (weather depending), and lettuce can be done now in a cold frame. Be sure to download our Veggie Planting Calendar. Our Vegetable and Herb page can link you to a number of Vegetable Culture Brochures.
Potatoes show up here in mid- to late February and we have a great selection. Some of our types you are very unlikely to find in a grocery store. Asparagus also makes it once-yearly appearance on our shelves now, so get it while you can. These should be planted between late February and late March for best results.
It is still just a bit early for renovating your patchy lawn, but proper timing is just around the corner. It is best to wait until March before digging in compost and adding new seed. It is also too early for any herbicides to work well, so continue to weed by hand as necessary.
Usually moss is a bigger problem now than weeds, and if this is true for you then continue treatments with a moss-killer as needed. The only fertilizer recommended this early would be a granular organic lawn food; more soluble types should not be used yet because many of the nutrients will wash away with rainfall.
We get our supply of roses only once a year. Depending on the weather, they might be available as early as the second half of February. Please call ahead to see if we have the rose varieties that you are looking for.
Now is the correct time for pruning most roses. This includes all shrub-style roses; hybrids teas, floribundas, and grandifloras. See our Rose page for more information. Cut roses back to about 18 inches tall, just above a bud facing away from the center of the bush. Remove any small, spindly canes or damaged canes. Note that climbing roses and ramblers are not necessarily pruned in this way; they should be trained to fit the spot you are growing them in, and pruned to maintain the training. Please inquire for more specifics if needed.
It is still an acceptable time to do renovation pruning on your shrubs. This means completely removing major limbs on established shrubs. Only renovate for a good reason, such as the limb is damaged, misplaced, or oversized. Minor sheering of shrubs is usually done after the flowering season so that you can still enjoy this year's blooms, or before growth is likely in the case of hedges.
Some fruit trees can be pruned in February, especially apples and pears. Some gardeners also prune cherries, plums, and peaches (collectively called stone fruits) now. Note that some sources, however, state that summer pruning is best for these. To help prevent the spread of diseases, make clean cuts in dry weather and sterilize your pruners between cuts. This is especially true of stone fruits. Please check with us about the correct way to prune your particular fruit type, as listing all the details for each type of fruit is beyond the scope of this text.
Speaking of fruit, February is when the vast majority of our stock for the year arrives. Late February to spring is when our selection is at its best for all types of fruit. Now can be your only chance to get some of the hard-to-find types. See our Fruit page for helpful lists.
February is the standard time for dormant spraying. This is defined as spraying your deciduous shrubs and trees that are disease or insect prone to help prevent infections later in the growing season. Dormant sprays will damage leaves, so that is why we use them when the plant is dormant and leafless.
Examples include copper, lime-sulfur (both for fungus), and horticultural paraffinic oils (for certain insects). Do not confuse this with neem oil. Check with us or a reliable source for which spray to use for the problems that infect your plants. Fruit trees, roses, and lilacs are examples of plants that benefit from dormant spraying. It is also a good idea to make sure there are no leaves still clinging to these plants, and to rake and remove leaves before spraying if you did not already do so last autumn.
Some of your plants may have thinned out over the winter due to lack of natural light, but at least the days are getting longer and the plants will start to recover. Supplemental lighting can always help, but is not necessary for most houseplants.
Continue normal care and be careful not to overwater, especially if you keep your house on the cool side. Repotting and fertilizing should probably be held off a bit longer except where it is obviously necessary.
Cyclamen, orchids, and rex begonias are often available now to liven up your living room, or as a great gift for Valentine's Day. We would be happy to help you select a flowering gift and dress it up with a new pot or wrap so it is gift-ready.
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