February Garden Checklist for the Midwest

Good thing February is the shortest month on the calendar.  In the Midwest, it ranks as many people’s least favorite month and quite frankly, if it weren’t for Valentine’s Day and my birthday, I’d probably like to do a Rip Van Winkle and sleep the whole month away.

But there are valuable things I can do on my gardening calendar so I guess it’s a good thing I’m awake.  This is the month in which I do all my planning for the upcoming gardening season and start working on those plans:

  • I review last year’s notes about which plants performed well and which were disease prone, grew too tall or not tall enough, or looked good in someone else’s yard but not mine.  Keeping a good record is helpful since I don’t want to be disappointed by poor performers two years in a row.
  • I decide upon the color schemes for the various annuals I will grow this year and where I will put them.
  • I purchase seeds for the ones I will grow from seed and then I organize them by planting date.  I have separate envelopes set aside for 8-10 weeks indoors, 6-8 weeks, 4-6 weeks, and ones that must be direct sown into the garden.  I write the weeks on my calendar so I know when to plant what.  Our last frost date is technically May 17th, but Mother’s Day is generally safe.
  • I purchase my seed starting supplies and make sure any containers I’m reusing have been treated with bleach so that they will not infect new plants with any diseases from last year.
  • I begin to prune back and take cuttings of garden favorites.  I now have a whole new gardenia plant from cuttings I took last month.  I will take new cuttings from the coleus, begonia, lantana, rosemary, wandering Jew, ivy, polka dot plant, and heliotrope cuttings that have rooted and grown into decent size plants.  Pruning them and rooting the cuttings serves two purposes: (1) it keeps the mother plant bushy in its habit, and (2) it expands the collection so I will have more to plant in the spring.
  • I repot plants whose season has come as well as potting plants that have fully formed roots from cuttings.  If the potting mix has dried out in the bag since last fall, there are two ways I like of rehydrating it so the water will be more likely to stay in the pot and not just run around the soil.  garden tip thumbnailSome people like to put a bag of potting mix in the microwave, but I’m not really all that keen on using my microwave for that.  So if I have a larger amount to rehydrate, I add hot water to the bag, roll it around to mix it well, and set it on a floor (heater) vent for a day or two.  If I’m in a hurry and I want to do smaller amounts, I dish up a gallon size Ziploc baggie full and add hot water.  I then suspend it over a crock pot of boiling water using an old splatter screen (for frying).  I turn it over after 5 minutes and heat the other side for 5 minutes and voila! It’s hydrated and warm which feels good when planting.  By using two Ziploc bags I can have a constant supply as I’m working to repot plants before their growing season really gets going.
  • Because I can’t stand to be without flowers, I’ve been bringing in my hyacinths (bought at the end of last fall, on sale of course) from their 10-week minimum chilling period in the garage and now I have beautiful hyacinths all month including for Valentine’s Day.   Soon, I will go outside and cut forsythia branches so that they’ll be blooming when the hyacinths run out.
  • I continue to water the plants I’ve been overwintering in the garage.  I water them with ice cubes or snow (of which we have no paucity) to make sure these plants don’t break dormancy as they might with warm water.  It has been so cold this year in the polar vortex that I’m not sure these non-hardy plants will survive as usual.  The garage temperature has dropped below 25 degrees F and that’s the threshold for some to experience root death.  Until I know for sure, I’ll keep watering them.  Gardening is never the same two years in a row.  Every year has its joys and sorrows.
  • I’ve cleaned all the dead leaves off the geraniums in the basement and my Martha Washington geraniums are budding.  I also have some salvia that are still growing in the cool basement.  I took cuttings and to my great surprise, they are really quick and easy to root.  clivia smIt’s a good thing because I can’t find the seeds of one of the varieties this year.

Some plants even help me along by doing their normal flowering at this time of year.  Here is the Clivia I bought for 75% off at an end of the season sale a few years back.  All of this helps the shortest month to seem less like the longest month.

As a reminder, Lent begins March 5th.  Sign up today for the series “Be Still and Know that I AM God” on the space provided on the Home Page.  Get ready to Be Still.


Categories In the Garden, Inspiration | Tags: | Posted on February 13, 2014

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