February 2015 Gardening Calendar
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February is the transition month between the South Texas winter and spring.
Early in the month is the last opportunity gardeners have to plant broccoli and cabbage transplants. Carrots, turnips, beets, radish, English peas and lettuce can also be planted by seed. It is also time to plant potato pieces and onions.
Obtain seed potatoes from your favorite nursery and cut them into two to three pieces so that each piece has at least one eye. Small potatoes (golf ball-size) can be planted as one piece.
It is not necessary, but many gardeners let the cut pieces sit to seal for a few hours to 24 hours.
Plant the pieces every 18 to 24 inches in a trench at least 1 foot deep. The 1 foot can be accomplished by hilling over the planted potatoes if your soil does not allow digging down 1 foot.
Cover the seed pieces 4 inches deep in the trench, and as the plants emerge, add soil until only the growth tip is uncovered. Continue the process of backfilling until the trench and hilling is complete.
New potatoes can be harvested as soon as the plants bloom. Harvest all the potatoes when the plant tops die.
Potato bugs can be picked off by hand or controlled with carbaryl (Sevin).
Fertilize the onions, greens and root crops in your garden every three weeks with one half cup of lawn fertilizer spread along each 8-foot row. While you are fertilizing the vegetables, fertilize the winter annuals. Snapdragons, dianthus, stocks and calendula will provide a second flush of bloom starting late in the month. Pansies and cyclamen have been in continuous bloom. They will benefit by a tablespoon of 19-5-9 or 18-6-12 lawn fertilizer per plant.
If you have naturalized larkspur, they will grow over the other winter flowers. I eliminate all the plants except one or two rows in my raised bed garden. It is enough to serve as a seed source.
It is too early to fertilize the lawn. Nutrients provided now are wasted on our hot weather grasses (St. Augustine, Bermuda, zoysia or buffalo grass), but the winter weeds will use the nitrogen to overwhelm the lawn.
The action in February that benefits the lawn the most is to aerate and top dress.
Rent an aerator that cuts a piece of soil out of the lawn and places it on the surface. The lawn looks like it is full of cigar butts after it has been aerated.
The aeration channels allow moisture, nutrients and oxygen to penetrate into the grass roots. They (the channels) also allow gases from decomposition and root action in the soil to escape.
For extra positive impact spread one-half inch of compost over the surface of the lawn after it has been aerated. The compost filters into the aeration channels to bring organic material down to the root system. Compost does not block the channels but enriches the soil near the lawn roots.
The overall impact of aeration and top dressing is a magic elixir to your lawn.
February is a good month to plant perennials, shrubs and trees. It is also the best time to prune fruit trees, roses and other plants. To find lists and descriptions of recommended trees, shrubs and perennials, visit plantanswers.com. The website also offers descriptions and diagrams of techniques to prune various plants including hedges, fruit trees, roses and crepe myrtles.
Calvin Finch Ph.D. is a Horticulturist and Urban Water Program Director with Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources.