Happy Hump Month! That’s a designation I made up to celebrate the halfway mark of this gloomy season. Specifically, the exact timing of the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox falls on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. Here are some tips and chores to keep you distracted in February, regardless of what the little rodent predicts. It’s all downhill (toward tulips!) from here.
1. Wipe foliage of large-leaved houseplants to help them photosynthesize properly.
2. Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal tell us when we can expect spring to arrive. Believe whichever Marmota monax delivers the best news.
3. Inspect beds and borders for bulbs, crowns and roots that have heaved, or lifted, out of the ground. Gently press them into place with your foot.
4. Cut back dead hellebore foliage before new growth begins.
5. It’s too early for most, but start seeds indoors now for slow-poke annuals like ageratum, sweet alyssum, geranium, petunia, snapdragon and verbena.
6. In the absence of snow cover or rain, and if the ground isn’t frozen, water evergreens planted last year.
7. Give the compost pile a turn; it’s still cooking and will benefit from a redistribution of heat.
8. Inspect fruit trees for tent caterpillar egg masses, which look like used brown chewing gum. Remove them by hand and dispose of in the trash.
9. Check on stored tubers and bulbs, and mist if they are beginning to shrivel. Discard any that have rotted.
10. Search for woolly adelgid egg sacs among hemlock branches (they look like cotton swab tips). Remove, destroy, discard.
11. Inspect tree wrappings and adjust, if necessary, to ensure protection from hungry critters.
12. To avoid winter leaf-drop, water houseplants only with room-temperature water.
13. Clean and refill bird feeders, and don’t forget the water.
14. It’s Valentine’s Day! Show houseplants some love with a shot of water-soluble fertilizer when they show signs of new growth.
15. Avoid walking on the lawn if frozen. Foot pressure can damage icy blades and diminish curb appeal when grass begins to grow in spring.
16. If you need a de-icer, selecting one made from calcium chloride will minimize salt damage to nearby plants, and sand provides traction without chemicals.
17. If orchids are outgrowing their pots, replant into a slightly larger container while still dormant.
18. Cut stems of forsythia, pear, pussy willow or quince, placed in a vase of water indoors, will bloom sooner than their garden relatives.
19. You may be home for Presidents Day, but resist the urge to start vegetable seeds. A too-early start will yield leggy plants that may struggle when moved outdoors.
20. If hollies are declining, a hard pruning should rejuvenate them.
21. Prune summer-blooming shrubs.
22. Remove diseased rose canes, disinfecting pruners between cuts.
23. Prune grapevines to four or fewer fruiting canes, leaving just seven to 10 buds on each.
24. Hold off on pruning spring-bloomers like lilac, crabapple and forsythia until their flowers have faded.
25. Start slow-germinating herbs like lavender and thyme indoors.
26. Start pruning all deciduous trees except maple, beech, dogwood, elm and sycamore. These “bleeders” should be in full leaf before they’re trimmed.
27. Start seeds of beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and celery indoors.
28. Don’t remove winter mulch from beds yet — March can come in like a lion.