February Gardening Tips

Narcissus blooming in February are heralds of springtime in Northeast Texas

Narcissus blooming in February are heralds of springtime in Northeast Texas

February is a busy month for gardeners, with both indoor and outdoor activities. Indoor activities include three educational programs coming up this month, presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The East Texas Garden Lecture Series kicks off on February 16 at the Tyler Rose Garden Center with “A Morning with Scott and Lauren Ogden”. The Ogdens are nationally renowned authors, garden designers and horticultural consultants, designing both public and private garden spaces around the country, spanning many climate zones.

Latest book by Scott and Lauren-Springer Ogden, and will be subject of one of their presentations at the East Texas Garden Lecture Series.

Latest book by Scott and Lauren-Springer Ogden, and will be subject of one of their presentations at the East Texas Garden Lecture Series.

The Ogden’s latest book, “Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens that Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit”, is the basis for their first of 2 talks that morning. They will share their unique approach to designing gardens, and will inspire you to look at your own garden space in a new way. They have each authored three other books. Scott Ogden’s “The Moonlit Garden” is the subject of the second lecture that morning. The Ogdens will be available to sign books, and there will be copies of several of their titles there to purchase.

Gardening-related businesses and organizations will be exhibiting their services and selling garden products. The morning-only Lecture Series replaces the all-day conference of past years. There is a $25 fee (cash or check, registration at the door only, starting at 8:00 a.m., and the lectures begin at 9:00 a.m.). Check out the Facebook page: (facebook.com/ETGardenConference) for updates, posts and reminders.

The East Texas Garden Lecture Series continues this spring with two more programs. On March 16, “Creating Creative Container Gardens” will feature three local garden experts designing various styles of containers. On April 13, Janet McKinney of Flower Hill Farm, a local cut flower grower, will share about Growing and Arranging Cut Flowers for home use. Mark your calendars, and follow us on Facebook.

On February 26, the East Texas Fruit & Vegetable Conference will be at the Tyler Rose Garden Center. This all-day program focuses on commercial fruit and vegetable production. Topics for the morning session include: “Ag Exemption 101”; “High Tunnels for Vegetable and Strawberry Production”; “Managing Weeds and the Orchard Floor”; “ Water Requirements for Fruits and Vegetables”; and “ Sustainable vs. Organic Production”. Following a catered lunch, the afternoon session topics are: “Developing a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan”; “Managing Texas’ Most Common Fruit Problems”; “Honey for Home and Profit”; and “Do’s and Don’ts in a Raised Bed Garden”.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m. with the program to follow at 8:30 a.m. The cost is $30, payable at the door with cash or check and includes lunch. Attendees with TDA pesticide licenses will receive 2 hours of continuing education credits.

What’s going on outdoors? February is a good time to prune.  But, do not prune spring-flowering plants such as bridal wreath, azalea, forsythia, quince or hydrangea until after they finish blooming.

Finish pruning peach and plum trees this early this month. These fruit trees are not pruned for looks but for better harvests and easier picking. Pruning peaches regulates tree height, opens the center up, and stimulates new growth for next year’s crop.

An unpruned hybrid tea rose (left) compared to a pruned rose (right) in the Tyler Rose Garden.

An unpruned hybrid tea rose (left) compared to a pruned rose (right) in the Tyler Rose Garden.

Prune roses in mid-February to induce new growth and spring blooms. Postpone pruning of climbing roses if necessary until after their major flush of spring bloom.

Don’t whack your crepe myrtles!  It is not necessary and ruins the graceful form of these beautiful, all-season, well-adapted plants.

Check out what’s new at your local nursery. New plants are arriving for late winter and early spring planting. By planting now, plants will be off to a good start and be more ready to face the summertime stresses of drought and heat than if planted later in spring. Shrubs, roses, shade, fruit and nut trees can all be set out now. Have a plan and goal in mind before making your purchases, or you may end up impulse buying plants you don’t need or don’t have space for.

Early to mid-February is vegetable planting time for cool season crops including onion transplants, lettuce, Irish potatoes, radish, greens, collards, spinach, Swiss chard, sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli, beets and turnips. Early planting assures a good harvest prior to summer heat. Don’t be in a hurry to plant summer vegetables such as tomato, peppers, squash, etc. A late frost or freeze will result in repeated plantings. Summer vegetables require warm days and warm soils to quickly establish.

Never work the soil when it is wet or saturated. The structure of wet soil is easily destroyed when cultivated, forming clumps, clods, and slick surfaces that impede air and water movement.  Wait until the soil dries so it is only moist, but not wet.

February is the month to apply fertilizer for peach trees. A suggested rate is 1 pound (2 cups) of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) or other high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter for established peach trees applied at and slightly beyond the edge of the tree canopy, never against the trunk. Do not fertilize pears – the overly vigorous growth can make the trees more susceptible to fireblight.

Fertilize pansies every few weeks to encourage strong growth and a long blooming season.

Mid to late February marks the time to apply a preemergence herbicide for lawns that had a summer weed problem last year. Grass burs are one weed that sticks in people’s memory; crabgrass is another pesky weed that invades thin spots in the lawn. Treat this month or in early March to prevent those weed seeds from germinating if you had a problem with these last year. A second application may be needed in late May or early June.

However, if your lawn is thick and healthy, and didn’t have weeds last summer, it is better to not use a pre-emergent herbicide at this time of year. Grasses are coming out of dormancy, and some of these products can unnecessarily stress your lawn. The very best defense against lawn weeds is a healthy, well-managed, thick turf. Frequent mowing, adequate fertility and timely irrigation are the keys to good turf. Don’t rely on chemicals alone.

It is much too early to fertilize the lawn. Wait until the lawn has begun to green up and actively grow before making the first application of fertilizer, which is typically in early April, depending on the weather. Therefore, do not use a weed and feed type product in February.

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