It is with excitement and pleasure that I introduce another guest blogging from the Billerica Garden Club – whether you have a green thumb or not, owning a home means when that we want, when someone drives by our home, to get noticed. It is not always about the paint or fancy lawn item. It could be that well manicured lawn or beautiful shrubs and flowers. It’s an expression of you. Let’s get started. And if you like what you read, visit their website at http://www.ilovebillerica.com/GardenClub.html
Gardening in February? Yes, you can dream up a great garden this time of year and lift your spirits up. Now is a great time to look at books and garden magazines and plan your gardens out whether it is a flower garden or vegetable garden that you are planning on doing. Take a section at a time and work out a design plan then put in on paper and take the time to decide what flowers or vegetables you want to have there. Books and magazines give you a great list of flowers and descriptions of best places to plant them in your yard. Start a garden journal for the new growing season and jot down your ideas, hopes and goals for your great outdoors. Garden journals become excellent references year after year, helping you keep track of how and what you grow, as well as reminding you of your planting successes – and failures. If you took pictures of your garden last year look at them again and see if you need to make any changest to your garden this year.
Plants from last year
Did you take in some plants from last summer? I took in a few Geraniums and they are doing beautifully (to my surprise!) blooming profusely and it is a pleasure to see this in February of course I have them in a sunny window and I also make sure I water them often. Did you take any plants in last fall how are they doing? Now is a good time to add fertilizer to your plants to get them ready for when you put them outside. You could purchase a orchid to put in your house or drop by a garden center to see what plants are available. Check out this website for African Violets: http://blog.chron.com/lazygardener/2011/02/got-a-northeast-window-get-an-african-violet/. I just love African Violets inside the home and I also enjoy planting Pansies outside they are one of the earliest plants and can tolerate the cold weather. Check out this website on Pansies: http://www.ehow.com/info_8080166_plant-pansies.html
If you planted bulbs last fall soon the Crocuses will be starting to show up soon as well as violas and inside a Christmas cactus might bloom again. Consider making a plant Terrarium to test out plants see this website on making one: http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/
Check out this wall Terrarium at Modern Living: http://www.ahamodernliving.com/store/pc/Roost-Recycled-Glass-Wall-Terrarium-62p385.htm
Those feathered friends
The first bird to signal that spring is near is a Red-Breasted Robin and they have colorful reddish-orange feathers on their breast. Did you know that as songbirds, the American male robins can often be heard singing a lovely tune late into the evening. It has been said when night starts to fall, the last birds you will hear singing will be robins. They are usually the first to begin singing in the morning as well, when they get up to start their very active day. In terms of food, their diet consists of mainly of beetles, fruits and berries. Check out this website on Robins it is a great read: http://www.vivaboo.com/the-red-breasted-robin-is-the-first-sign-of-spring/ Have you ever noticed what birds are in your back yard?
Flower Shows, Farmers Markets and Garden Centers
You can also check on indoor farmers markets and previous summer farmers markets like: http://www.billericafarmersmarket.org/ and flower shows like the Connecticut Flower Show: http://www.ctflowershow.com/pages/tickets.asp and the Boston Flower Show http://www.masshort.org/Blooms-and-the-Boston-Flower-&-Garden-Show there is also a Vermont Conference check this out: http://nofavt.org/programs/gardener-education take a class on gardening there are plenty out there to take check out this one from the New England Wild Flower Society http://www.newfs.org/learn/adult/all-classes and how about this one at Tower Hill Botanic Garden http://www.towerhillbg.org/ Visit garden centers to get ideas on how to set up your garden.
Winter Sowing is a great idea at this time of year what you do is make mini-greenhouses which can be made from recyclables; there are no heating devices, no energy wasting light set-ups or expensive seed starting devices. Check out this website on Winter Sowing: http://www.wintersown.org/
Here are more ideas for February:
*Order perennial plants and bulbs now for cut flowers this summer. Particularly good choices are phlox, daisies, coreopsis, asters and lilies. Send off seed orders early this month to take advantage of seasonal discounts. Some companies offer bonus seeds of new varieties to early buyers.
*Check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any that are soft or diseased.
*Don’t remove mulch from perennials too early. A warm day may make you think spring is almost here but there may be more cold weather yet to come.
*Branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea, and dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom. When collecting the branches from forsythia, quince, redbud, pussy willows, and other spring-blooming shrubs and trees to force indoors make long, slanted cuts. Simply cut branches of flowering woody plants once you can spot the tiny developing buds. Submerge the branches in cold water (like the tub) for a couple of hours or up to a full day. Then stick just the ends in a bucket of cold water about a foot deep for a week in a cool (no warmer than 60 degrees F) spot. Arrange in a vase, put in a warm room, and watch the buds open over the next few days.
Change the water every four days.
*Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees. Look over your plants now and remove dead, dying, or unsightly parts of the tree, sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.
* If bird feeding has been a favorite activity this winter, order trees and shrubs which provide cover and small fruits for your feathered friends. Consider species such as crabapple and hawthorn which can help lure hungry birds from cultivated fruits, if planted on the opposite side of the yard.
*Check any vegetables you have in storage. Dispose of any that show signs of shriveling or rotting.
*This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable that you’ve never grown before; it may be better than what you are already growing. The new dwarf varieties on the market which use less space while producing more food per square foot may be just what you’re looking for.
*Don’t start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Six weeks ahead of the expected planting date is early enough for the fast growth species such as cabbage. Eight weeks allows enough time for the slower growing types such as peppers.
*Prune fruit trees and grapes in late February or early March after the worst of the winter cold is passed but before spring growth begins.
* Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground thaws but before blossom time.
*Late February is a good time to air layer such house plants as dracaena, dieffenbachia and rubber plant, especially if they have grown too tall and leggy.
*Check all five growing factors if your house plants are not growing well. Light, temperature, nutrients, moisture, and humidity must be favorable to provide good growth.
*Repair and paint window boxes, lawn furniture, tools and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use. This is also a great time to clean your garden tools and garden equipment. Check out this video on cleaning garden tools: http://www.5min.com/Video/How-To-Clean-Garden-Tools-5000027
Top “to do’s” for February
- Think about last year’s garden so you can look ahead to the new season. One of the things you will want to do is collect those beautiful seed catalogs, find those “must have” annuals and select some unusual varieties of veggies.
- Check your tools inventory to see if you need any new ones. It is worth spending a few months talking to other gardeners, checking catalogs, and surfing the Internet before buying so you will know exactly what you want and need.
- Send for plant catalogs. It is a good idea to order early because nursery inventories are usually in limited supply.
- Start indoor seeds of annuals that require a long growing season, e.g. lobelia, petunia, vinca, snapdragon, verbena, etc.
- Prune away storm-damaged branches promptly from trees and shrubs in order to prevent tearing the bark and other damage.
- Unfortunately, a few warm days can stimulate plants into new growth. If you are beginning to see life in your dormant shrubs be prepared to protect them for when another cold snap occurs. Tender new growth is much more sensitive to cold than their dormant counterpart. Covering large plants is difficult, but you can throw on some extra mulch or even a cardboard box over a small shrub.
Zone Maps and Frost
As a rule of thumb, start most seeds six to eight weeks before your region’s last frost date. Get general ideas of your last average frost dates from a garden map, but to be sure, give any local garden center a quick call. Check out the Zone Map at the National Gardening Association’s web site: http://www.garden.org/zipzone/
Now is an excellent time to start some of those garden hammer-and-nail projects you’ve wanted to do — window boxes, planters, arbors, and more. Check out BHG.com for a list of dozens of garden projects.
Well I think that will keep me busy for the rest of February since I haven’t started yet to do any of these suggestions but it will be great to start thinking of gardening again and the warm spring weather I can already feel the warmth of the Sun and hear the birds singing. So I’m off to start looking at my garden catalog for ideas!