February Garden Tips
We are thankful for the recent rainstorms, but with the water deficit from recent drought years and scientists’ warnings about future drought, continue your conservation preparations for spring planting (prepare to plant only what you will consume, install drip in the food garden, add water-holding compost to the soil, plan to mulch, etc.)
Clear Vegetation as Soon as Possible. Bird nesting season is March 1 to August 31. It is important not to clear brush and trees during this period in order to protect our bird populations. University of California Master Gardeners of Sonoma County, the Sonoma Ecology Center and the Habitat Corridor Project have joined forces to produce an excellent and informative article on the nesting habits of some of our favorite native birds that might visit your property, and how to manage fire safety requirements while protecting the birds.
Finish pruning your roses; the rule of thumb here in Sonoma County is to have them pruned by Valentine’s Day.
Also finish pruning summer-flowering or foliage trees as necessary. Deciduous trees are much easier to prune when leafless, as the branch structure is more clearly visible. Cut out all crossed branches and prune for shape.
You can plant bare-root trees and shrubs.
You’ll start to see snails making their presence known, either directly or by the holes that they leave in the leaves. Hand pick when you can; really dedicated types go out after dark armed with a flashlight to catch as many in the act as possible! The more you get before they lay eggs the fewer you’ll have later.
Clean and sharpen all of your garden tools. Buy a rasp or a stone for your favorite pruners and promise yourself that you will sharpen them regularly. Sharp pruners are easier on both the plants and your joints. A great place to store your hand tools year round is in a 5-gallon bucket of sand with some vegetable oil mixed in. Every time you push your small hand tools into the sand, they’ll get an effortless cleaning and lubricating job. Motor oil isn’t recommended, as it’s harsh on your hands and difficult to dispose of properly.
February afternoons are good time for washing out old pots and trays. You can put clay pots in your dishwasher, after first rinsing off the dirt and debris. The dishwasher will sterilize them and they’ll be ready for spring planting. Rub the pots with linseed oil after cleaning to bring them back to life!
You will make next year’s gardening easier if you get out Poa annua, the annoying annual bluegrass, before it goes to seed.
As you plan your spring plantings, remember that color not only creates the mood in the garden, but it defines space and proportion. Select cool tones such as blues, pinks, and purples, for a sense of serenity. Warm tones like reds, oranges, and yellows create a sense of good cheer. Blue gives you the impression that the garden is distant while red makes the garden look closer than it really is.