February in the Garden

February 4th, 2009 by david laferney Leave a reply »
Cold weather and snow concentrates birds near food supplys

Cold weather and snow concentrate birds near food supplies in February.

What to plant in the garden in February – Cool Season Vegetables – February is not too early to begin planting the spring vegetable garden.  Take action now and your family will be eating fresh garden fare months before your neighbors.

  • Cool season crops such as broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, turnips, Irish potatoes and onions planted now will yield their harvest soon.
  • Arugula, lettuce, and other salad greens can also be planted out in the garden this month, but will do better if started under cover of a simple plastic tunnel, or a cold frame.  Plan on succession plantings every week or two to keep the homegrown goodness coming.
  • Spinach – plant out in the garden around the middle of the February – cover spinach seeds with 1/4″  of peat moss or screened compost instead of garden soil so that the tiny plants don’t have to fight heavy crusty soil just to emerge.  Plant plenty to share with family and friends.
  • Potatoes – toward the end of the month plant potatoes in trenches or pits leaving room to add additional soil as the plants emerge.
  • Black berries, grapes, strawberries and other small fruit and hardy perennials can be transplanted out this month.
  • Asparagus crowns can be set out or moved, as can almost any dormant hardy perennial.

In zone 6 our last frost date is usually about April 15 (tax day), and the ground is warming up by the middle of May.  A quick look at the calendar shows that sometime this month (or early March at the latest)  I need to start seeds indoors.

To get an early start you have to prepare your soil whenever the oportunity arises.  This picture was taken on February first,  the next day it snowed.

For an early start you have to prepare your soil whenever the opportunity arises. This picture was taken on February first, the next day it snowed.

February or early March  is time to start many seeds indoors under lights, or in the proverbial sunny window.  You might hear cautionary tales of  “don’t start too soon or your plants will be leggy before you can set them out”, which is true to a certain extent.  However our “reliably warm and frost free” date is a month later – too late for spring crops to get going before hot dry weather.  Weeks before you can safely transplant into the garden the weather becomes mostly sunny and warm with only occasional cold overnight temps – you can take your flats or potted plants outside, and bring them back in as needed to avoid low overnight temps.  This might sound like a lot of trouble, but if you don’t get an early start your garden may suffer from the hot dry weather that we’ve been getting in the summer time –  beginning in early June last year.  So I plan to start early.  This year I should be able to avoid a lot of that in and out by using the small greenhouse that I built last fall.

You can grow low light crops like this leaf lettuce all winter long under plain old flourescent shop lights.

You can grow low light crops like this leaf lettuce all winter long under plain old florescent shop lights.

Start saving one gallon plastic jugs now to use for cheap easy chloches to protect tender tomato and pepper plants from the tail end of cool weather after you do set them out.

Leave mulch in place around emerging bulbs and perennials – periodic warm weather might make you think Spring is here, but it isn’t quite. As soon as you see growth out of your bulbs it’s time to start feeding them.  Bulbs do all of their growth and energy storage during a few months (or weeks) in the spring, and are dormant later.  Feeding during dormancy won’t help much.  However if you feed the soil with plenty of organic matter you don’t have to worry about it much – the nutrients will be there when the plants need them.

Bring in branches of forsythia, dogwood and other spring blooming trees to forced for indoor color. Make long, slanted cuts and place  in water – Change water once or twice a week for blooms in 3 weeks.

Prune – Now (Late Winter) is the time to prune many deciduous trees including fruit trees and Grape vines. Remove dead, or diseased branches, suckers growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.

Pruning fruit trees – Fruit bearing trees and grapes usually need to be pruned every year.  Educate yourself about the particular pruning needs of your fruit bearing plants or you might find that you’ve removed the parts that would have born fruit this year.

Do not prune Spring blooming trees and shrubs (Azaleas, forsythia, etc)   in late winter because their flower buds are already formed.  Prune soon after the show is over instead.

Apply Dormant Oil Spray – An early spring application of horticulture oil will safely kill over-wintering soft-bodied insects such as scale, whiteflies and aphids. Horticulture oil is not a poison and merely smothers insects –  so good coverage  is required.  Fruit trees will especially benefit.

February is also a good time to put out nest boxes for birds so they can have time to scope them out before the actual nesting season.

Keep March in mind – next month it will be time to plant  peas, fava beans and other cool season crops – start gathering seeds now!

As you plan your garden and place your seed order this chart might be helpful. Needless to say – your mileage may vary.

APPROXIMATE PLANTING PER PERSON

Vegetables Average
Crop Expected
Per 100 Feet
Fresh Storage
Canning or
Freezing
Asparagus 30 lb. 10 – 15 plants 10 – 15 plants
Beans, Snap Bush 120 lb. 15 – 16 plants 15 – 20 feet
Beans, Snap Pole 150 lb. 5 – 6 feet 8 – 10 feet
Beans, Lima Bush 25 lb. shelled 10 – 15 feet 15 – 20 feet
Beans, Lima Pole 50 lb. shelled 5 – 6 feet 8 – 10 feet
Beets 150 lb. 5 – 10 feet 10 – 20 feet
Broccoli 100 lb. 3 – 5 plants 5 – 6 plants
Brussels Sprouts 75 lb. 2 – 5 plants 5 – 8 plants
Cabbage 150 lb. 3 – 4 plants 5 – 10 plants
Cabbage, Chinese 80 heads 3 – 10 feet ————
Carrots 100 lb. 5 – 10 feet 10 – 15 feet
Cauliflower 100 lb. 3 – 5 plants 8 – 12 plants
Celeriac 60 lb. 5 feet 5 feet
Celery 180 stalks 10 stalks ————
Chard, Swiss 75 lb. 3 – 5 plants 8 – 12 plants
Collards & Kale 100 lb. 5 – 10 feet 5 – 10 feet
Corn, Sweet 10 dozen 10 – 15 feet 30 – 50 feet
Cucumbers 120 lb. 1 – 2 hills 3 – 5 hills
Eggplant 100 lb. 2 – 3 plants 2 – 3 plants
Garlic 40 lb. ———— 1 – 5 feet
Kohlrabi 75 lb. 3 – 5 feet 5 – 10 feet
Lettuce, Head 100 heads 10 feet ————
Lettuce, Leaf 50 lb. 10 feet ————
Muskmelon 100 fruits 3 – 5 hills ————
Mustard 100 lb. 5 – 10 feet 10 – 15 feet
Okra 100 lb. 4 – 6 feet 6 – 10 feet
Onions (plants/sets) 100 lb. 3 – 5 feet 30 – 50 feet
Onions (seed) 100 lb. 3 – 5 feet 30 – 50 feet
Parsley 30 lb. 1 – 3 feet 1 – 3 feet
Parsnips 100 lb. 10 feet 10 feet
Peas, English 20 lb. 15 – 20 feet 40 – 60 feet
Peas, Southern 40 lb. 10 – 15 feet 20 – 50 feet
Peppers 60 lb. 3 – 5 plants 3 – 5 plants
Potatoes, Irish 100 lb. 50 – 100 feet ————
Potatoes, Sweet 100 lb. 5 – 10 plants 10 – 20 plants
Pumpkins 100 lb. 1 – 2 hills 1 – 2 hills
Radishes 100 bunches 3 – 5 feet ————
Soybeans 20 lb. 50 feet 50 feet
Spinach 40 – 50 lb. 5 – 10 feet 10 – 15 feet
Squash, Summer 150 lb. 2 – 3 hills 2 – 3 hills
Squash, Winter 100 lb. 1 – 3 hills 1 – 3 hills
Tomatoes 100 lb. 3 – 5 plants 5 – 10 plants
Turnip 50 – 100 lb. 5 – 10 feet ————
Watermelon 40 fruits 2-4 hills ————

Table courtesy of Arizona State University Master Gardeners web site

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