Updated: Feb 25
Winter months turn gardening into an indoor sport and an exercise in imagining how beautiful your garden will be this year. But February is coming to a quick end. Hopefully, you have most of those necessary outdoor chores checked off your list. If not, don't stress. It's not a deal-breaker. March will get here, and you and your garden will be just fine!
Here are some reminders of things to do!
You've probably ventured outdoors and tended to these little tasks, but just in case this crazy weather has gotten you off schedule, here goes:
Check those evergreen perennials first! If you waited too long, some of the new growth might have already shot up. These also include any groundcovers and ferns. Watch them carefully, but if they've made it this long, all you may need to do is cover them lightly if unexpected heavy frost or ice shows up. That happens in Arkansas!
By mid-February, your ornamental grasses, summer-blooming spiraeas, and crape myrtles should have had a pruning, so catch them now if you missed them. Most of Arkansas and other areas in our Planting Zones 6 and 7 have had a lot of snow this year, so do the best you can now that it has melted.
You're right on target to prune fruit trees. They're usually best left to the end of February. If you don't have fruit trees yet, now is the time for planting! Apple and pear trees are the recommended choice for home gardens. UA Extension shows one that would be my choice if I were to decide to plant an apple tree. The Enterprise apple is an October-November apple shown as having the best disease resistance and a spicy, full flavor.
If you have spring-flowering trees, hold off on the pruning until late spring, after the flowers fade. If your trees and shrubs flower after the end of June, go ahead and prune now before new growth starts.
Some of your roses need pruning, too, but just your Knock-Outs and Hybrid Tea roses. Hopefully, you've attended to this already since this pruning should cut their height by about one-half, but not less than two feet from the ground. Gets tricky. Hold off pruning your climbing roses until after blooming. And for other rose varieties that only bloom in the spring, wait until after they bloom. Rose aficionados have all this down pat!
Boxwoods, hollies, and other evergreen shrubs don't need a prune until March or early April.
Everything in your yard doesn't need pruning right now. Whew! Generally speaking, you should not prune any of your spring-flowering plants like azaleas, hydrangeas, gardenias, and forsythia until after finishing being show-offs.
Feed your garden!
You may not know what your garden is hungry for and have no idea what kind of food it wants. This is especially true if you've never planted a garden or you've moved to another location. If this is the case, now is definitely the time to have your garden soil tested.
Contact your local Arkansas county extension office for testing details and instructions.
If you compost, lucky you! You already know the benefits of this black gold, and you're ready and anxious to use it! Compost enriches your garden by helping retain moisture and suppressing plant diseases and pests. Another benefit of using compost you've carefully cultivated is the reduction of the need for chemical fertilizers. Compost is a stimulant that feeds your plants and enables soil organisms to help plant roots find and better use food and moisture.
Prepare your vegetable beds.
It's time to get your raised beds or row garden ready to plant cool-season vegetables. These include broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, onions, potatoes, peas, and spinach. Some herbs, such as parsley and cilantro, do well. Your cool weather veggies should also include beets, carrots, and radishes which can be planned together as companions who help and take care of one another!
Not sure if your soil is ready? Try this: Squeeze a handful, and if it forms a tight, muddy ball, it's too wet. When you can squeeze a handful, and it easily flakes away when rubbed between your fingers, put your gloves on and get to work. The time is right!
How about planting to increase your harvest? Depending on your overall space, consider making the bedding area in the rows wider. Instead of a narrow bedding row for seeds to be planted in a nice, straight line, increase the planting bed to about 6 to 10 inches wide, sprinkle in the seeds, cover, and watch them produce better!
Radishes are handy in a lot of places! Radishes can repel cucumber beetles, flea beetles, and other pests. You can plant them with carrots as the radishes are harvested before the carrots, and they loosen the soil for the carrots! Since radishes germinate within a week, they make great row markers for slower germinating plants. Don't plant radishes close to potatoes, grapes, turnips, kohlrabi, or hyssop (kin to mint).
You've pruned, cleaned things up, arranged beds, possibly tested soil, and added your Black Gold compost to your anxious garden spaces! And, you probably still have questions. Each flower, tree, veggie, and garden subject is the topic of many books, blogs, and studies, so consider these reminders as a beginning, not the end of your gardening!
Thank you for your time!
I hope you enjoyed this article and are ready to use some of your pent-up spring energy to get outside and play in your yard and garden!.
If you haven't visited The Learning Fields at Chaffee Crossing, any season is a good season, and our Demonstration Gardens are Springtime Wonderful!
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