Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print
February brings us to the halfway point of winter, with spring in sight and springtime chores kicking in by month's end. We'll see the earliest crocuses and hellebores emerge, and even get a chance to pull on our gardening gloves and dust off the pruners. Soon, signs of new life will be everywhere.
1. Place seed orders before retailers run out of your selections.
2. Today a groundhog will determine how long it will be before we can enjoy springlike weather in the garden.
3. Cut back last year's hellebore foliage before new growth begins.
4. Start seeds of slow-growing annuals (ageratum, sweet alyssum, geranium, petunia, snapdragon, verbena) indoors in sterile seed-starting mix.
5. Turn the compost pile; it's still cooking and requires a periodic distribution of heat.
6. If the ground is dry and unfrozen, water evergreens, especially those planted during the past year.
7. Do hemlocks look like they have cotton swab tips hanging off them? Those are woolly adelgid egg sacs. Remove them by hand and destroy.
8. Mist stored tubers and bulbs that appear to be drying out. If any have rotted, discard them.
9. Inspect tree wrappings to ensure protection from hungry critters.
10. If orchids are outgrowing their containers, replant into a slightly larger pot now, while they're still dormant.
11. If hollies appear to be declining, rejuvenate them with a hard pruning.
12. Start lavender and thyme seeds indoors on a sunny windowsill.
13. Don't remove winter mulch from beds yet. Remember, March can come in like a lion.
14. Happy Valentine's Day! Fake spring by force-blooming flowering shrubs like forsythia or quince. Just cut branches and place into vases of water indoors.
15. Perform maintenance on garden tools and equipment, paint window boxes and spruce up lawn furniture now so it will be ready when you are.
16. Want more houseplants? This is a good time to "air layer" rubber plant, mother-in-law plant and dracaena.
17. Although you may be home for Presidents Day, resist the urge to start vegetable seeds. A too-early start will result in leggy plants.
18. Water houseplants with room-temperature water. Using cold water could lead to leaf drop.
19. If your lawn mower needs servicing, take it in now while business is slow, and you won't likely be kept waiting. Be sure to get blades sharpened, too.
20. Prune summer-blooming trees and shrubs.
21. Wipe foliage of large-leaved houseplants like philodendron, ficus, etc., so they can "breathe" and photosynthesize properly.
22. Prune diseased rose canes, disinfecting pruners between cuts to avoid cross-infecting plants.
23. Start pruning all deciduous trees -- except maple, beech, dogwood, elm and sycamore. Those "bleeder trees" should be in full leaf before they're trimmed.
24. When the temperature rises above 40 degrees, apply anti-desiccant to broadleaf evergreens like rhododendron, azalea, pieris and laurel to protect against winter damage.
25. Prune grapevines to four or fewer fruiting canes, leaving seven to 10 buds on each.
26. Fertilize spring bulbs as soon as green sprouts emerge from the soil.
27. Start seeds of beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and celery indoors.
28. To avoid removing precious buds, hold off on pruning spring-flowering plants like lilac, crabapple and forsythia until after they've bloomed.