February is the month when buds fatten and new underground growth accelerates. It is an ideal time to plant, move, prune, or divide permanent plants before leaf growth starts. It is a great time to weed, spade, or till the soil in preparation for later planting of vegetables and flowers.
Moss, Iron and Lime
Moss buildup has been extensive in many wet, shady areas in spite of the lower than normal rainfall. Iron sulfate (ferrous sulfate) is the natural ingredient in all moss control products for plants. This granular product is very effective in killing moss. I purchase straight ferrous sulfate from a landscape supply company. It has a higher iron content than other moss out products and is therefore more effective.
It is also desirable to apply lime at the same time as the iron, especially on lawns. Lime reduces the acidity of the soil, which is also a contributor to moss growth. Both iron and lime will also cause darker green turf. Avoid applying lime to rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, pieris, blueberries, and similar acid loving plants
Plant moss out products should be brushed off concrete immediately to avoid causing small rust colored stains. Moss Out for Roofs and Structures contains a natural zinc compound which is non-staining and non-corrosive to wood, concrete, asphalt, and metal, but should not be applied to plants.
We can apply both ferrous sulfate and lime to the mossy areas in your landscape at a very reasonable cost. Call or email for a free quote.
Dormant Spray Time
An application of Dormant Oil while woody plants are still dormant can prevent or greatly reduce later pest problems. If you have had problems with mites, aphids, scale, or other insects on some of your trees and shrubs, dormant oil will smother over-wintering insects and their eggs. Most other pesticides are not effective on insect eggs, but dormant oil is a safe, natural, non-toxic way to eliminate pests before they become active. We can apply dormant oil at a reasonable cost. Call for a quote.
Training Young Trees and Shrubs
Most homeowners assume that trees and shrubs do not need any pruning until several years after they are planted. However, a few selective pruning cuts on plants that have been planted only a year or two can greatly reduce problems in later years. For example, most trees are strongest and healthiest if they have only one trunk or central leader. When trees have multiple trunks some of the upright branches have weak, narrow branch angles, which are subject to later breakage and damage when the tree gets older. Shortening or removing branches which are about to grow past the main central trunk will restore central leader dominance. Begin shortening extra long branches of shrubs while they are small. Don’t wait until they have grown past walkways and windows before pruning. I am available for free consultation to help you determine which young shrubs and trees may need some early training.
Prune Fruit and Other Dormant Trees and Shrubs
February is an excellent time to prune fruit trees and other dormant trees and shrubs It is easier to see where to prune while the leaves are off the plants. We prune hundreds of trees and shrubs this time of year. If you would like to learn how to prune your own plants we can teach you at a reasonable cost. If you help us prune your plants it will not cost you any more than if we do the whole job and it may even be less. Besides, you will learn a very useful skill.
If you have not pruned your roses yet, February is an excellent time to prune them. For hybrid tea (cut flower) varieties, pruning is quite simple. Pick the height you would like plants to start at and prune all branches down to that level. My preferred height is about 2 to 3 feet. I also like to remove canes which are smaller in diameter than a pencil. They are too small to produce decent size flowers. Make cuts just above a leaf scar. Try to find a leaf scar facing in the direction you would like the new shoot to grow. Shorter floribunda varieties get pruned a little shorter and I do not remove the smaller canes. Landscape roses, like the Floral Carpet varieties are pruned primarily to shape them. I cut them down to a foot or so if they become too tall for the location. Standards and climbers need lighter, more selective pruning. Thin out some of the weaker growth and shape by shortening extra long branches. Plants that are taller than you want can be shortened.
Cold Hardy Flowers and Vegetables
Cold hardy annual flowers such as pansies and primroses can be planted now for early spring color. This is an excellent time to plant sweet peas from seed or transplants, although they can also be planted later. An excellent selection of high quality sweet pea varieties are available from www.reneesgarden.com.
Cold hardy vegetables such as asparagus, rhubarb, peas, lettuce, spinach, and various root vegetables can be planted early. Lettuce and spinach seed will sprout when soil temperature is as low as 40 degrees, and others mentioned at 45 degrees. You can check soil temperature with any bulb thermometer by sticking the bulb into the soil an inch or so. If you till or spade your vegetable garden in the fall, it will warm and dry faster so you can plant earlier.
Excellent Northwest seed sources are www.nicholsgardennursery.com and www.territorialseed.com. Both companies also have catalogs. You can request one from their web sites.
Bare Root Plants
Root wrapped and bare root dormant plants such as roses, berries, and deciduous trees and shrubs appear in garden stores in February. The sooner they are planted, the better they will grow. Don’t wait until they have developed long shoots. A bunch of 25 bare root strawberry plants will cost you less than a half dozen potted plants later.