Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print
Wednesday might be “hump day,” and that’s all well and good, but February is “hump month,” which I just made up.
For gardeners counting down to spring, this is great news: the beginning of this month marks the exact middle of winter, so we’re over the “hump” of the dreaded offseason and headed toward crocuses. And roses. And tomatoes. We’ll see the earliest hellebores emerge in February, and even get to wear our gardening gloves and dust off the pruners. Here’s a chore (or reminder) for each day of the month:
1) Place catalog orders now; favorites are likely to sell out quickly.
2) If the groundhog sees his shadow today, spring will arrive in six weeks; if not, it will arrive in a month and a half.
3) Cut back dead hellebore foliage before new growth begins.
4) Check fruit trees for tent caterpillar egg masses, which look like wads of brown chewing gum. Remove them by hand and dispose of in the trash.
5) Inspect flower beds and use your foot to push back bulbs or crowns that have heaved up. Protect with mulch.
6) Inspect tree wrappings to ensure protection from hungry rodents and other critters.
7) Use a broom to gently brush snow from evergreen branches or they’ll buckle and possibly break.
8) Check on stored tubers and bulbs, and mist with water if they appear to be drying out. Discard any that have shriveled or rotted.
9)Avoid walking on frozen turf. Foot pressure can damage icy blades, which will become apparent as grass begins to grow in spring.
10) Opt for de-icers made from calcium chloride (or simply sand) to minimize salt damage to nearby plants.
11) Inspect dormant orchids and repot now, if necessary.
12) If the ground is dry and unfrozen, water evergreens, especially those planted during the past year.
13) Bring forsythia, pear, pussy willow and quince stems indoors, and place in a vase of warm water for indoor blooms.
14) Cut roses fade after a week in a vase, but a rosebush is forever. A real Romeo would offer to plant it, too.
15) Although you may be home for Presidents Day, resist the urge to start tomato and other warm-weather seeds. It’s too early.
16) Check hemlocks for the presence of the dreaded woolly adelgid, whose egg sacs look like cotton swab tips. Remove, destroy and dispose.
17) Prune diseased rose canes, taking care to disinfect pruners between cuts.
18) Sow ageratum, sweet alyssum, geranium, petunia, snapdragon, lobelia and verbena seeds indoors. Use only sterile seed-starting mix.
19) Prune trees and summer-blooming shrubs now, while they’re still dormant.
20) When the mercury rises above 40 degrees, reapply anti-desiccant to broad-leaved evergreens and rose canes.
21) If your lawn mower needs servicing, bring it in now, while business is slow. Sharp blades make for a healthy lawn.
22) Start slow-germinating herbs like lavender and thyme indoors.
23) Prune and groom grapevines.
24) If fish ponds freeze, hold a pot of boiling water over their surfaces. The steam will melt ice to release trapped gasses.
25) Turn the compost pile; it’s still cooking and requires periodic redistributions of heat.
26) Give houseplants a boost with a shot of water-soluble fertilizer when they begin to show signs of new growth.
27) Start beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and celery indoors.
28) Water houseplants with room-temperature water to prevent leaf drop.
29) Don’t remove winter mulch from beds yet. Remember, March can come in like a lion.