February Garden Sustainable Maintenance Practices for the Southeast

Posted by on February 3, 2017

UGUST Do you hide in August? I garden in August, as I do every month of the year, but I plan carefully when I go outside. August heat can be brutal! I’m not likely to go out into the garden after 10 in the morning during August or before 10 in January. My internal clock wants to be in the garden by 7:00 AM every day of the year, but winter temperatures tempers me. If I start in the garden earlier in the morning, I can stay until about 2:000. You can forget it between 2 – 6. Nope, no way. I can tour gardens during that time, although my pictures bite when the sun is at those angles.

Lantana, salvias, phlox, ruella, coneflowers, milkweeds, plus annuals are blooming their full heads off, especially the zinnias!

Deadhead flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead.

Roses can be propagated by layering as late as mid-August. Long, flexible canes are the easiest to propagate because they bend freely into place. Use a clean knife to remove two thorns near the top of the stem and bend it toward the ground. Make a couple of small cuts into the bark between where the thorns were. This is called wounding the cane. Hold the wounded area in good contact with the soil with landscape pins and cover with soil, leaving the growing tip of the stem uncovered. It’s also a good idea to put a brick or stone over the covered and wounded cane to give it extra hold.

Next spring, you should see new growth emerge. Once you see new leaves on the rooted stem, carefully remove the entire stem from the parent plant, and recut the stem just beneath the new root mass. Now you are ready to plant your new rose bush.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. I can say this now because I’ve already put my in order. Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

Harvest vegetables as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beens, peppers, etc.  By August, they are looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden; otherwise, they may attract insects and disease to the plants that are still productive.


I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden.

Apple — Honey Crisp & North Sentinel apple; Crabapple — Malus ‘Transcendent’

Blueberries Vaccinium ashei ‘Premier’, ‘Climax’, & ‘Powder Blue’

Cherry ‘Stella’

Chokeberry–Aronia melanocarpa

Chokecherry — Prunus virginiana

Dogwood — Cornus kousaKousa fruit Good Berry

Cherry — Prunus avium ‘Stella’

Cornelian cherry — Cornus Mas

Elderberry — Sambucus cerulea

Fig — Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’, ‘LSU Purple’, and an unnamed sport with super large fruit.

Goji Berry — Lyceum barbarum

Goumi Berry — Elaeagnus multiflora

Kiwi, Hardy — Actinidia arguta

Kumquat — Fortunella japonica

Plum — Prunus ‘Santa Rosa’

Raspberries — Ever-bearing, Rubus idaeus

May Apple — Podophyllum peltatum

Muscadines The muscidines are ripening up, the blue berries are done

Passiflora — Passiflora incarnata 

Paw-paw–Asimina triloba

Pear, BarlettePrunus communis 

Persimmon — Diospyros kaki 

Serviceberry — Amelanchier arborea

Strawberries — Fragaria

Quince — Cydonia oblonga

Plum ‘Santa Rose’

Raspberries–Rubus spp.

Serviceberry–Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’


Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.


Pest control:  Pinesaw larvaePests. See these on your pines? They’re the Pine Sawfly larvae. Pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. I feed them to my chickens.

 Organic: Fertilizer dos and don’ts. As August arrives, some plants will benefit from an application of fertilizer. For other plants, it could do more harm than good.

Do fertilize, Summer veggies such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant continue to produce when fertilized regularly. Use a product that contains 5 percent nitrogen.
Fall vegetable crops
Fall-blooming perennial and annual flowers
Chrysanthemums and dahlias
Re-blooming iris would benefit from a light application
Warm season lawns (Bermuda and Zoysia) can be fertilized
Remember to water any application of fertilizer well into the soil to provide nutrients to the roots of the plants.

Don’t fertilize:
Azaleas and camellias, because the fertilizer will disturb bud formation.
Summer-flowering shrubs shouldn’t need fertilizing for the same reason.


Cut flowers. Remember those zinnias you seeded in July? Seed more in August, and be sure to cut some to enjoy inside!

FEBRUARY Before the gardening season kicks into full gear, evaluate your landscape with regard to sustainability. Are you doing all that you can to reduce water, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer use? Are you  composting? Are you harvesting rainwater? Are you planting the right plant in the right place? Do you mulch? Let this be the year you consider a more ecofriendly approach.
traditional landscape by Gardening with Confidence®
BLOOM. Edgeworthia, camelias, plus…..

GROOM. Pinch spent blooms off pansies to maintain their peak flowering performance through spring.

February is a good time to cut back liriope. The key is not to trim it too late, or you’ll risk cutting new growth. The plant will not recover from the damage, and it can look tattered.The solid green variety spreads. If your original design had a pattern, and if you want to keep that pattern (usually an alternating X pattern), dig out the liriope that has spread, after the cutback, bringing back your original design.

Tame vines. If your vines have gotten out of hand, late winter is a good time to tame them. Cut back wisteria, Virginia creeper, ivy, and Japanese honeysuckle.

traditional landscape by Gardening with Confidence®

Prepare new gardening beds. A warm winter day is perfect for preparing a new or existing garden bed. For a new site, mark the area of the new bed and dress it with several layers of newspaper. Add organic matter, such as composted leaf mulch, as the final top dressing.For existing beds, work the ground with a garden fork to loosen the soil and mix in the organic matter. In doing so, you will improve soil fertility and drainage.

February is the time to fertilize your flowering ornamentals. My beds get most of their nutrients from decaying composted leaf mulch, but oftentimes after a soil test, I will use an organic fertilizer.
PEST. Camellia blooms should be picked up from under the bush. This will help prevent the spread of disease.
traditional landscape by Gardening with Confidence®
BULBS. Fertilize tulips and daffodils as the foliage begins to break ground. A general 10-10-10 fertilizer works fine, but there are also products made especially for flowering bulbs, such as Holland brand products.

PLANT. You can still plant peonies. Fall would have been ideal, but they can be planted now, as well. Make sure the top of the crown is just above the soil line. Peonies need cold weather to set the buds. Fertilize now before the spring growth, so that nutrients will be readily available when the plant needs it.traditional landscape by Gardening with Confidence®

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, it’s still a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Prepare the planting hole with ample mulch mixed with the native soil. Dig a hole twice a wide as the root system. Also cover the root ball with mulch, being careful to not bring the mulch right up to the trunk.
FRUITS. Add lime to your fig tree. Our area tends to be acidic, and figs prefer a much sweeter soil. Get a soil test to determine how much lime to apply. It’s not unusual to need to add about 2 cups of dolomitic lime.
traditional landscape by Gardening with Confidence®
traditional landscape by Gardening with Confidence®

DECORATE. Paperwhite narcissus and hyacinths are easy to force, and can be enjoyed indoors while waiting for spring.  Click here for information of forcing paperwhites.

traditional landscape by Gardening with Confidence®

Helen Yoest



5 responses to “February Garden Sustainable Maintenance Practices for the Southeast”

  1. I am a huge fan of yours, and am now a happy subscriber to your wonderful gardening blog. I love the peonies, but don’t see many planted here in Dothan, Alabama. I am now inspired to plant some though. My mother raised peonies in her garden (and the original plants are still thriving) in the Northeast Mississippi town of Pontotoc where I was raised. A lovely older lady in her church inspired my Mother to start growing them. During May, gorgeous arrangements of peonies were often shared for Sunday worship at our church. Theypeonies also traveled 6 hours to my home and my sister’s home in Athens, GA, to create lovely bouquets for our daughters’ dance recitals. Peonies will always hold a special place in my heart. Thanks for sharing.

  2. HelenYoest says:

    Thanks, Mary. Peonies are my fave. I plan to add more this year. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Debra Turner says:

    You’re giving me a little break from Old Man Winter. What beauiful flowers and garden!

  4. Great advises! I’m done already with the preparations of my spring beds and also finished with the vegetable seed starters. I got some new kinds of lovely tulip bulbs in the autumn and now my garden is so colorful. Planning to plant few kinds of summer bulbs right now. Thanks for the useful information. Greets!

  5. HelenYoest says:

    Thank you, Annie! I really love the tulips, they add so much color to the garden.

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