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February Garden Checklist

The year marches on; it is February already. It's important to do as much preparatory work as possible this month, because March will be here before we know it, and we'll wonder where all that time in the winter went to do our planning. For those of us that just can't wait for spring to get here and see all the green growing things, there are ways to combat the Cabin Fever and get our hands in the dirt again.

As always, clean, sharp gardening tools are an essential part of having a good garden! Sharpen those mower blades, oil your pruners, and scrape any rust off of the trowel blades. A thin coating of oil on all metal parts will also help keep tools bright and clean and rust-free when they're sitting in the shed or on the shelf, waiting to be used.

If you've made a plan and design for your gardens and know where you want to put all the lovely plants once the weather warms up, a good tie-in project is to design and an irrigation system. A good irrigation system will not only save water and time, but it will deliver the water exactly where it needs to go, making for healthier plants.

Indoors, sort through your seeds and seed starting materials. As long as seeds from last year have been kept cool and dry, they should produce a good crop this year. Some held-over seeds, like peas, should be planted with extras, as they are somewhat less reliable the second year. It is best to use up last year's seeds, but don't rely on them completely. Seed starting materials should be cleaned, organized, and put where they'll be ready to go when it's time to start the tomatoes. Since the days are getting longer and we have a bit more sunshine, a few pots of herbs or lettuce can be started indoors on a windowsill, or under a grow light. In just a few short weeks, there will be fresh greens for sandwiches and salads, right from the kitchen!

Your garden furniture and outdoor accessories can be cleaned and repainted this month, if needed. A fresh, bright coat of paint on a table and chairs can change the entire look of an area. Now is a good time to order or, if you're handy, build trellises, lattice, and frames for raised garden beds as well. Vertical structures also change the appearance of the garden, and provide the opportunity to grow things that may not have been possible before, due to space or sunlight constraints.

As you are walking through your gardens, whether to prune, or pick up fallen sticks, or just to enjoy a slightly warmer than usual February afternoon, keep an eye out for clusters of insect eggs attached to branches and leaves that may still be clinging to them. Pick these off and destroy them now, when you don't have to use pesticides, and this will definitely have an impact on the number of insect pests you have in the summertime!

All fruits should be pruned while they're still dormant. Grapes should be cut back to just a few main stems, and the oldest wood should be pruned out. Each stem should have 4 to 6 canes from last year's growth. Fruit tree suckers and crossing branches should be pruned as well. This will open up the middle of the tree, improving airflow and helping prevent branches rubbing, which can lead to other disease and insect problems during the growing season.

The more prep work that gets done in the wintertime will make the rest of the short, short growing season all that much easier and more enjoyable!

Author: Genevieve Coombs 02/05/2010

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