Garden Detective: February chores

Surprise your Valentine with a lawn heart attack: Surprise your Valentine with a lawn heart attack: Cut a heart stencil out of cardboard and sift flour through it to create white hearts all over the lawn. Photo Credit: Handout

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Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print ...

Are you getting cabin fever yet? There comes a time every year -- and that time is right about now -- when green thumbs get itchy. Fear not, intrepid gardeners: I can keep you busy. February will have you bundling up for a few outdoor chores and buckling down for some indoor planning. Spring is right around the corner!

1. Inspect the garden for exposed bulbs, crowns and roots that might have lifted out of the ground. Tamp back into the soil with your foot.

2. Today a little rodent tells us when we can return to the garden. Legend says if the groundhog sees his shadow, spring weather will be six weeks away.

3. Turn the compost pile.

4. If you didn't properly clean seed-starting supplies after use last year, wash with one part bleach to 10 parts water and rinse well.

5. Water houseplants a bit more, as their growth begins to accelerate. Use room-temperature water to avoid leaf drop.

6. Prune grapevines, leaving just four fruiting canes with seven to 10 buds apiece.

7. Finalize and place your seed orders.

8. Cut back last year's hellebore foliage now; new growth will begin soon.

9. Refill bird feeders.

10. Celebrate Chinese New Year with plans to plant mung beans, snow peas, pak choy and yard-long beans. Find them at kitazawaseed.com and agrohaitai.com.

11. Start seeds of slow-growing annuals, like begonias, ageratum, geranium, snapdragon and petunias indoors.

12. Cut branches of spring-flowering forsythia, dogwood and crabapple and place in a vase filled with warm water. They'll bloom in a couple of weeks.

13. Cut back blooming houseplants like geraniums and hibiscus in advance of repotting next month.

14. Surprise your Valentine. Idea from thehousethatlarsbuilt.com: Cut stencils and use to sift flour hearts over the lawn. Or use red juice if there's snow.

15. If the ground is dry and unfrozen, water evergreens, especially those planted in the past year.

16. Check on stored tubers and bulbs and mist with water if they appear to be drying out. Discard any that have rotted.

17. Inspect tree wrappings to ensure protection from nibbling wildlife.

18. It's Presidents Day. Treat woody plants with dormant oil to destroy overwintering aphids, mites and scale. (Don't forget the cherry tree.)

19. If orchids are outgrowing pots, replant into a slightly larger container now.

20. Check hemlocks for woolly adelgid egg sacs -- they look like cotton-swab tips. If you find any, pick off by hand and destroy.

21. Prune diseased rose canes, disinfecting pruners between cuts.

22. Prune trees (except maple, beech, dogwood, elm and sycamore) and summer-blooming shrubs.

23. When the temperature rises above 40 degrees, apply an anti-desiccant to broadleaf evergreens like rhododendron, azalea, pieris and laurel.

24. Fertilize spring bulbs as soon as green sprouts emerge from the soil.

25. When houseplants begin to show signs of active growth, give them a boost with a shot of water-soluble fertilizer.

26. Start celery, leeks, onions, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower indoors; it's too early for anything else, so resist temptation.

27. Plan to grow one vegetable this year that you've never grown before. Consider corn, watermelon, pumpkins or squash.

28. Clean out your closet, paint, organize and complete your indoor chore list. Soon you'll be focusing your efforts outdoors!

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