Outside the window, just past the lawn, the garden is waiting. It’s quiet and inconspicuous, but make no mistake: It’s biding its time. Gardens are patient like that. When their time in the spotlight fades, they take their place, without argument, and wait out winter until it’s safe to come out again. We don’t have that luxury. When the weather cooperates, there are things to do outside to ensure the next show is as good, or better, than the last. And when the weather doesn’t cooperate, there are things to tend indoors. If we pay close attention, we might notice the first signs of the gradual reawakening as tiny buds appear on trees and snowdrops dot the landscape. Unlike the garden, a good gardener never sleeps. But we can pace ourselves. Here’s one tip or chore for every day of February.
1. Cut back last year’s hellebore foliage; more is on the way.
2. It’s Groundhog Day! If the little rodent sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter — and if he doesn’t spring will arrive in six weeks!
3. If the ground is dry and unfrozen, water evergreens, especially those planted in the past year.
4. If orchids are outgrowing their pots, replant them now, moving up one pot size.
6. Increase water provided to houseplants, using only room-temperature water to avoid leaf drop.
7. Inspect bulbs, tubers and plant crowns in the garden, and use your foot to press back any that have heaved out of the ground. Extra points for those who cover them with mulch.
8. If you spot small cottony masses on hemlocks, they’re woolly adelgid egg sacs. Pick them off by hand and destroy, lest they wreak havoc next season.
9. Inspect tree wrappings to ensure protection from hungry critters.
10. Start seeds of slow-growing annuals, such as coleus, sweet alyssum, geranium, snapdragon and petunia, indoors in sterile seed-starting mix.
11. Inspect protective covers and wraps on shrubs and trees, and adjust, if necessary, to avoid wind burn and damage.
12. Check on stored tubers and bulbs. Mist with water if they're drying; discard if rotted or shriveled.
13. Treat woody plants with dormant oil to destroy overwintering aphids, mites and scale.
14. It’s Valentine’s Day! Remember the rose color code: red means passion; yellow, friendship; white, purity; and pink, admiration.
15. Cut summer-blooming clematis to 2 feet from the ground.
16. Cut stems of forsythia, pear, pussy willow or quince and place indoors in a vase of water. They'll bloom sooner than those in the garden.
17. When temperatures are above 40 degrees, apply an anti-desiccant to broadleaf evergreens like rhododendron, azalea, Pieris and laurel.
18. Happy Presidents Day! It’s too soon for cherry trees, but keep an eye out for yellow aconites and snowdrops, typically among the first blooms of the year.
19. If hollies are declining, rejuvenate them with a hard pruning.
20. Turn the compost pile; it's still cooking.
21. Fertilize spring bulbs as soon as green sprouts emerge from the soil.
22. Prune summer-blooming shrubs now, before buds form.
23. Resist the urge to start vegetable seeds too early, or plants will grow leggy and you may have to start over.
24. Start pruning all deciduous trees except “bleeders” like maple, beech, dogwood, elm and sycamore, all of which should be in full leaf before pruning.
25. When houseplants begin to show signs of growth, give them a dose of water-soluble fertilizer.
26. Prune diseased rose canes, disinfecting pruners between cuts with a 10-percent bleach, 90-percent water solution, or disinfectant spray.
27. Sow beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and celery indoors now, and move to the garden in five to six weeks.
28. Prune grapevines to four or fewer fruiting canes, leaving just seven to 10 buds on each.