For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
This is the month to plant cool weather crops for harvest in late spring. Consider spinach, broccoli, cabbage, onion, and chard transplants. Turnips, rutabagas, carrots, beets, radishes and English peas can be planted by seed. Potatoes can also be planted. Plant all of the cool weather vegetables early in the month.
Fertilize the broccoli, onions, Brussels sprouts, spinach still producing from this fall and the new plantings with one cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per eight feet of row. Control cabbage loopers on the cabbage and broccoli with a Bt or Spinosad product.
It is too early to plant tomatoes in the garden, but you can plant transplants in one gallon containers filled with potting soil and enriched with Osmocote. Put the containers in a sunny sheltered location so they can grow at a maximum rate and be ready to go to the garden after March 15. Move the potted up tomatoes to the greenhouse or in the house if the forecast calls for temperatures under 40° F. Potted up tomatoes set fruit right after they are planted and are the source of the “first” tomatoes you read about in the paper in April or early May.
February is a good month to fertilize shrubs, shade trees, and fruit trees. Apply one cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter spread over the drip line. It is too early to fertilize the lawn.
Area nurseries have received their new selection of roses and fruit trees. Fruit trees are not the easiest of plants to grow in our area. Select the varieties that can prosper with our warm winters. Visit www.plantanswers.com for the recommended varieties. If your soil is heavy fruit trees and roses should be planted in raised beds. An eight by eight foot bed formed with used railroad ties works well for one peach, plum, apple or pear tree.
Prune fruit trees, roses, and shrubs this month. Do not prune for the sake of pruning. Refer to last weeks’s article on pruning or visit www.plantanswers.com for guidance on pruning.
The paperwhites, daffodils and tulips will bloom in February and early March. Paperwhites and some daffodils will naturalize if the foliage is left in place until it browns after the plants finish blooming.
Snapdragons, petunias, dianthus, calendulas, and other cool weather flowers get their second wind in February. They often will bloom into May if the spring is cool. Geraniums cal also be quite spectacular. Look for the Fantasia series; the Strawberry Sizzle and Violet have been especially successful. Both will live and even bloom through the summer.
The hot weather grasses such as