For The Answer
February is a great month for gardening in San Antonio. The weather warms and our gardening hormones start to flow. Our muscles automatically make hoeing motions; we gravitate towards our favorite nursery; and we dream about blooms, tomatoes, and butterflies.
As exciting as the month is for our favorite hobby, remember, we are still likely to have a freeze in February. Dig into the landscape and your garden, but remember not to rush things, especially for tomatoes and your lawn.
The soil is too cold this month to plant your tomatoes in the garden, but it is the ideal time to pot up your transplants. Obtain a recommended variety such as 444, Celebrity, Carnival, or Merced. Plant the transplants into a 1- to 3-gallon container filled with high quality potting soil or compost. Fertilize with Osmocote or another slow-release capsulated fertilizer and place the containers in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind. The tomatoes will grow very quickly in that situation and you can move them to protection if temperatures of under 40 degrees F. are forecast. Transplant the potted plants to the garden in late March or early April. By that time they should be blooming.
It is appropriate to apply pre-emergent herbicide to the lawn in late February but is a waste of lawn fertilizer this month. Our permanent grasses (St. Augustine, Bermuda, buffalo, and zoysia grass) cannot uptake nutrients until they are actively growing, usually after April 15. Fertilizer applied in February will be used by the lawn weeds and your trees but not the lawn.
If it is trees you are fertilizing, apply one cup per inch of diameter to the dripline area. The best thing you can do for your lawn this month is to aerate and top dress. Use a plug-cutting aerator for the best job and compost for the top dressing. It can be applied .5 inch deep by shovel, roller, or blower.
February is the best month to prune fruit trees and roses. Open up the middle to the air and light and direct the stem growth at 60 degrees from the trunk for peaches, plums, and roses. For apples, prune in a modified central leader configuration. The branches are arranged in step-stair fashion around the trunk. Be conservative with your pruning on pears; remove dead and injured branches and try to spread the branches to the horizontal with spreader sticks. For diagrams and more detailed instructions, visit the plantanswer.com website or request the pruning brochures from the Cooperative Extension at 467-6575.
There are a number of programs offered in February for area residents that want to learn more about gardening.
This afternoon (Thursday, February 12) the Master Gardeners are offering the Brown Bag Lunch Program on ”Wildflowers & Identification” by Lonnie Millsap at the Schultze House located at 514 HemisFair Park. The program begins at noon and is over at 12:30, so it is a great offering for folks who work downtown. Don’t forget to bring your lunch and eat while you enjoy the program. You can park at the HemisFair Tower lot.
Every last Monday of the month the Gardening Volunteers of South Texas host a free gardening program. On February 23 the program is on “Principles of Xeriscape Design” by Leticia Zavala and “Turfgrass” by Joe Taylor. Class will be held from noon until 3:30 p.m. at the San Antonio Garden Center (3310 N. New Braunfels). Reservations are not required. Call 522-9220 for more information.
Saturday, February 28, from 10:30 a.m. until noon, watch for a locally produced garden program on KLRN Channel 9 (cable 10). Milton Glueck, Jerry Parsons, and I will host sessions on lawn aeration, top dressing, container plants, rose pruning, tree planting, and hummingbird feeding.
Your cool weather blooms and vegetables will perk up in February. Apply a dose of slow release lawn fertilizer down the row to your snapdragons, stocks, dianthus, petunias, and alyssum. Use soluble fertilizers for containerized plants and pansies. Early in the month you can plant broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and greens. It is also a good time to plant carrots, radish, beets, rutabagas, and turnips by seed.
Fruit trees, shrubs, and trees planted in February will have time to develop root systems before the stressful hot weather of summer arrives. Mulch over the root system.