Sowing seeds for the spring garden
by Michael Hylton
This is an exciting time of year. We are over halfway through winter and some signs of spring are already popping up. This week I saw my first jonquils in bloom and snow crocus are beginning to bloom as well. February is typically a month where we see temperatures range from the cold teens to the warm 70’s. Since we have had some warm days recently, many folks took advantage of the nice days and spent some time outdoors.
February Pruning — Fruit trees, blueberry plants, and grape vines can be pruned this month before sap starts rising and plants wake up from their winter nap. Ornamental grasses can be pruned to within a few inches of ground level at this time. Roses and butterfly bushes can be pruned at this time also. It is not recommended to prune azaleas and rhododendron at this time as pruning should wait until after spring flowering.
Seed Sowing — When sowing seeds for spinach, lettuce and beets, be sure to select seeds marked for planting in 2013. The older the seeds are, the less likely they are to sprout. Sowing fresh seeds improves your germination rates and provides better results. Green mixes like Mesclun mix are a good choice since they feature lettuces, greens and herbs all in one seed packet. Spinach is known for being very nutritious and can be harvested as early as 35 days from sowing!
Potatoes — Be sure not to set out seed potatoes too early. Potatoes prefer soil temperatures to be at least 50 degrees F in order for them to start actively growing. Often, potatoes that are set out too early in cold soils will tend to rot. I typically wait until late February/early March at the earliest to set out potatoes.
Composting — These simple steps will give you an idea of how to compost. Save kitchen scraps such as orange peels, vegetable peels, coffee grounds, paper items such as tea bags, coffee filters and paper napkins. Avoid using meat by-products and dairy since they attract dangerous bacteria, items high in sugar which attract insects, and fats such as bacon grease which slow decomposition. Transfer the waste to a backyard bin or pile. Add a 2-inch thick layer of leaves or shredded newspaper between deposits of garbage to set off foul odors. Stir the compost pile with a shovel or pitchfork. If you turn the pile often you can start getting compost for the garden in about 12 weeks!
Lawn Care — Cool-season lawns such as fescue should be fertilized in February. For those looking for organic or natural fertilizers, consider alfalfa pellets or organic chicken or cow manure to distribute over the lawn. Applying these organic amendments to the lawn will provide good results and you won’t be harming the environment by applying toxic, synthetic chemicals to the Earth.
Wildlife — Be sure to keep those bird baths and feeders filled during winter months for the host of birds that visit our area. Cardinals, bluejays, small bluebirds, ravens and woodpeckers have all been seen around the area this week, among others. They truly appreciate the fresh food and water. There are so many blessings to be thankful for each day and living in a beautiful area such as Stokes County and vicinity with all its natural beauty and wildlife is a true blessing!
With each passing day there are new and exciting things happening outside. Some buds on trees are beginning to swell and honey bees were actively working Mahonia blooms during the warmer periods last week. We have the beautiful blooms of spring to look forward to as Mother Earth springs to life from another dark winter. Happy Gardening!
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