Start 2020 gardening in February

January 30, 2020



February is a short month in the midst of winter, and plenty of cold days remain before the earth starts to warm, but there are several gardening projects to let you get an early start.

• If you purchased seed packets and some contain more seeds than you can use, count out a few, put them in a small envelope and offer them to a friend as an unusual Valentine gift.

• If you make your own seed starter pots from sheets of newspaper, construct them now.

• Start slow-developing plants such as onion, celery, pansy, coleus, verbena, phlox, marigold and petunia.

• Check small shrubs, especially young ones, to be sure none is heaved out of soil in alternate freezing and thawing. If one is partially out, replant it quickly and add a couple inches of mulch. Incidentally, I planted two new azaleas in early summer and before they got established, both were pulled out of the soil by deer.

• As soon as you see new growth on liriope (“monkey grass”) or ornamental grasses, trim last year’s blades, using clippers or even a chain saw.

• Valentine’s Day is a traditional date for sowing garden peas. If the soil is frozen, plant in large pots. You don’t need a fancy trellis for pea vines to climb. Use fallen twiggy “pea brush.”

• Pull mulch or last year’s leaves away from daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs or foliage will be yellow and spindly.

• While forsythia and other deciduous plants are still leafless, remove invasive honeysuckle and grapevines which have climbed into them. It’s easier now to distinguish between weeds and desired plants.

• Make sure your soil is dry before you work with it. To check, squeeze a small handful, then drop it. If it breaks up, it’s safe to turn your garden, but if remains a clod, wait a while.

• Salt used to melt ice on walks can damage adjacent plants. Sand is an alternate choice to prevent slips and falls.

• It’s safe to cut away foliage from Hellebores (Lenten roses) to better display the flowers.

• Continue filling bird feeders with seeds and suet. To make your own suet, slowly render (melt) beef tallow (from a local grocer), mix in some peanut butter, bind with corn meal and/or oats, and add chopped nuts or raisins. Pour into a flat pan to freeze, then cut into pieces to fit a suet holder.

Sharon Daniels is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteer.