February Gardening Checklist

february gardening checklist

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
–   Andrew Wyeth

It’s a Little Early to Plant, but You Can Plan!

Check out water-wise plants that are recommended or this area by the Lubbock Master Gardener Association.

Test Your Soil to Save Money, Maintenance, Time, and Effort!

Why Soil Test?  Soil fertility fluctuates throughout the growing season each year. The quantity and availability of mineral nutrients are altered by the addition of fertilizers, manure, compost, and mulch. For example, if soil is already high in phosphorus, adding fertilizer with phosphorus will prevent plants from absorbing essential micronutrients, affecting  their growth and health.  The test will tell you what nutrients are present in your soil and whether they are in balance. It will also give you appropriate recommendations about the kinds and amounts of fertilizer to use in order to maintain your soil at maximum fertility. Without a soil test, you may actually harm your plants by adding fertilizers that create imbalances. With a soil test, you will know exactly what to use.

The soil test will also tell you the pH number of your soil. The pH number refers to how acidic or alkaline something is.  A pH number of 7 is neutral.  Numbers lower than 7 indicate more and more acidic soils. Numbers higher than 7 indicate more and more alkaline soils. Most soil nutrients are readily available when soil pH is slightly acidic at 6.5. When pH rises above this value, nutrient elements such as phosphorus, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc will become less available. When soil pH drops below 6.5, manganese can reach a toxicity level for some sensitive plants. A soil test will tell you the pH of your soil and give recommendations about bringing it to the desired pH level.

The soil test takes the guesswork out of fertilization and is extremely cost effective. It not only eliminates the waste of money spent on unnecessary fertilizers, but also eliminates over-usage of fertilizers, hence helping to protect the environment.

Soil test kits can be picked up from the Lubbock County Extension Office.  Kits have information and addresses for ordering tests; they cost $10-$15 each, depending on how detailed you want the test to be.

Garden Chores

Do you ever get that urge to go out and do something in the garden, even though it may be too early in the year to do much?   Here are some ideas.

Winter Pruning
February is a great time to prune most trees.

Prune oak trees before the end of February to minimize chance of oak wilt infestation.

Prune other shade trees and woody shrubs as necessary to remove dead wood and improve structure.  Prune tall Nandinas, if necessary, to improve fullness, by removing one-third of the tallest canes at 2-3” above ground level (late February). Repeat the next two years.

Continue to plant evergreen shrubs, fruit, nut and shade trees.

Touch Up Mulch
Inspect your mulch, particularly its depth. Organic mulches decompose and wash away.
Fluff your mulch and level it  over your garden beds. Use a ruler to determine the average depth of the mulch. Ideally, you want at least a 2-inch layer, and 3 to 4 inches is OK.

Other Tasks to Complete

Trim or mow grasses, grassy groundcovers such as liriope and mondo grass, and perennials if needed, due to freeze damage or ragged appearance, before spring growth begins.

Use dormant oil on fruit trees and other scale-prone plants to control insects.

Inspect birdhouses to make sure they’re firmly mounted. Clean feeders. Give birdbaths a good scrubbing and refill with water. Last but not least, create a pile of ready-for-the-taking nesting materials to make life a little easier for our feathered friends.

Clean gutters to prevent water from drowning plants below.

Scrub clay pots. Clean tools.

Scalp your yard!  It exposes the roots.  Rake if you have thatch, and next year, water and mow correctly to prevent it.

Commit Crepe Murder!  Crepe murder turns beautiful trees into ugly stumps, and it prevents the formation of pretty, mottled bark on maturing trunks.
It createsskinny, whip-like shoots sprouts from the end of each ugly stump. These whips are too weak to hold up the flowers.

Do NOT prune trees, climbing roses, or shrubs that bloom in early spring until AFTER they have flowered.