For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD,
SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Week of February 6, 2006
“Gardening Tasks” February
February is a busy month for gardening and landscape work. It is too early, however, to do much in the lawn. Late in the month apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent summer weeds, but do not fertilize or irrigate. Our permanent grasses – St. Augustine, zoysia, Bermuda and buffalo grass respond to warm soils so they are not capable of utilizing fertilization or extra water. Fertilize in late April or early May. The most beneficial thing we can do on the lawn in February is to aerate and top dress. Rent an aerator that cuts a plug from the sod and lays it on the surface. The spike apparatus are still good, but contribute to compaction more than the plug cutters. After you aerate, spread one-half inch of compost over the surface of the sod. It will infiltrate the aeration holes and benefit the root system.
In the vegetable garden it is not too late to plant broccoli, spinach, carrots, and other cool weather plants. Onion plants planted early in the month will form bulbs for harvest at the end of May. Potatoes can also be planted. Dig a trench as deep as possible (up to a foot) and place a piece of seed potato every 18 inches, and cover the pieces with 4 inches of soil. Fill in the trench as the plant emerges. Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, lettuce, rutabagas, spinach, greens, and beets planted last autumn can be harvested in February. Harvest the greens leaf by leaf as you need them. The plants will produce well until the end of April.
Early February is still a good time plant cool weather flowers like pansies and cyclamen. Petunias are especially suitable for planting in February. They will bloom until June. Unfortunately it does not look like there will be much of a wildflower crop. The lack of rain meant very few bluebonnets germinated. There will not be many blooms but do not worry, the seeds from previous years will still be viable next year.
The paperwhites and daffodils complete their bloom by the end of the month. Leave the foliage in place until it turns brown.
February is the best month to prune most plants. Only prune plants to eliminate safety hazards, control overgrown plants and accomplish shaping. Prune roses to open up the middle for air movement and light penetration. Also remove branches that are broken and diseased. The ideal branch is growing away from the plant center at about a 60° angle. Fruit trees (peaches, plums) are generally pruned on the same model. For diagrams of pruning practices, visit plantanswers.com.
You can cut back freeze killed foliage on hardy perennials in February. If you prune oaks, paint the wounds immediately after the cut to protect the trees from oak wilt.
Wait to prune early blooming flowers until after the bloom is complete. Texas mountain laurel, redbuds, ornamental peaches and pears, and climbing roses are examples of early blooming plants. Prune conifers in hedges after the spring growth flush is complete. Remove one half of the new growth.
American and lesser goldfinches are very active in the San Antonio area in February. Attract them to your landscape with thistle seed feeders. Sunflower seeds will attract cardinals, titmice, doves, and chickadees, but also attract squirrels. To thwart the squirrels try safflower seeds. The birds like the white seeds, but the squirrels do not.
February is a good month for fertilizing trees. Apply one (1) cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per inch of diameter. Spread it over the drip line. The most common slow release lawn fertilizer is 19-5-9.