February Garden Sustainable Maintenance Practices for the Southeast

Posted by on February 1, 2018

FEBRUARY Lengthened daylight hours and shortened shadows are noticeable in February. A winter-weary mood is elevated as light lifts the spirit. Holding onto the winter can bring great joy when we’re reminded, every season has its reason.

February, cold and cruel to some, is hope to others. After all, February touches March, the month of spring. February is a bridge month, crossing over from winter into spring. Instead of rushing forth into a new season, take one more look around at the joy and the life only February can bring.

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.

BLOOM Pansies, edgeworthia, galanthus, camelias, ranunculus, Prunus mume, & flowering apricot.

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. Or better yet, remove the non-native wisteria and honeysuckle!

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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 and/or recycled cardboard. 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.

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.

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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

BULBS. February bulbs begin to bloom in earnest. In the Bee Better Teaching Garden, we will begin to see the early bloomers showing their color, like Narcissus ‘February Gold’.

VEGETABLES To get a head start on the growing season, start seeds indoors.

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

In the Bee Better Teaching Garden the varieties we grow do not require spraying. As such, February is a time to focus on other projects.

February is a great time to sit back and watch the birds. It’s like a winter wonderland in the Bee Better Teaching Garden. Cardinals, Chickadees, Brown Thrashers, bluebirds, bluejays, and so many  more!  Feed and feeders for our area birds chick here.

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 wise. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

Mulch: As time permits, the winter is the best time to mulch. The leaves are down, herbaceous perennials are dormant, deciduous shrubs have shredded. Mulch is much easier to spread during this time of openness. In the Bee Better Teaching Garden we used composted leaf mulch from the City of Raleigh.

We also use sustainably harvested pine needles from the streets of Raleigh where they have naturally fallen. This mulch is used around the perimeter of the property where we also compost in place. The pine straw is used to cover the biomass.

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Fertilize: 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.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.

Pest control: Camellia blooms should be picked up from under the bush. This will help prevent the spread of disease.

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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.

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Also, walk your garden for anything evergreen. You’ll be surprised just how easily it is to pull together conifer foliage for an arrangement.

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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