After a few really rough days in January, your garden is likely brown, black and in rough shape. This will likely stay that way until March but there is plenty of work to be done in February when temperatures are manageable — but remember that the danger of frost and freeze is still lurking.
• One of our UF/IFAS Clay County Master Gardeners likes to call February the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as it’s a great time to prune roses and crape myrtles. Trees can also be pruned at this time of year but the new growth that usually results can be susceptible to freeze if we have another frost.
• Resist the urge to cut back your frost damaged plants from the past few weeks. They may look dead and ugly but if they start to regrow and we get another late frost like last year, it could cause some damage. Wait until March when the temperatures really start to recover to refresh them for the spring. If the browning was too much for you this year, consider installing more freeze-tolerant plants.
• If you need to refresh some mulch around already established plants, now is a great time when the grueling work will be much more tolerable in the lower temperatures. Mulch should be organic such as hardwood, pine bark or pine straw and laid at a depth of 2-3 inches. This layer helps keep moisture in the soil, moderate soil temperatures and add organic matter to the soil as they break down.
• Mid-February is a good time to start planning your weed-control program for your yard with a pre-emergent herbicide application around the 1st of March. These products help to stop annual weed seeds (crab grass, sandspur, chickweed, etc.) from germinating, killing them before you ever see them. A good rule of thumb is to apply when day time temperatures reach 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit for 4-5 straight days, which is also around the time that dogwoods and azaleas begin to bloom. Be sure to choose a product that is labeled as safe for your type of turfgrass (example: atrazine will kill Bahiagrass but is safe for St. Augustinegrass, Zoysiagrass,and Centipedegrass) and targets the weeds you have issues with. Apply the product only as instructed as the pesticide label is law. Finally, if you are planning on re-seeding or re-sodding these herbicides may persist in the soil and cause those efforts to fail. Check your label.
• While weed control may be needed near the end of this month, DO NOT use weed and feed products. Fertilization should only occur when plants are actively growing, meaning you should wait until Mid-April to apply this product in Florida.
• If you are not ready to plant your garden, continue to get it ready. If you’ve not made your raised beds, do so now. Also, this is a great time to clean up your stakes, tomato cages, materials and tools. Wipe off all dirt and plant debris and was them in a bleach solution (10-20 percent bleach) to attempt to kill any disease.
• Even if your lawn begins to grow this month, it is best not to mow as it will encourage your lawn to wake up from dormancy. It is still too early for this to happen. Water the lawn if we go dry, but even then, apply no more than ½ inch of water at a time and do this no more than once every 7 days. You want your grass to stay dormant so the new growth is not killed by a later freeze.
THINGS TO PLANT IN FEBRUARY
Vegetables : Broccoli, cabbage, collards, lettuce, mustard, green onions, parsley, peppers, potatoes, Swiss chard and turnips.
Annuals: Baby’s breath, calendula, carnation, dusty miller, marguerite daisy, pansy, petunia, snapdragon and statice.
Bulbs, tubers or rhizomes: Agapanthus, Aztec lily, caladium, canna lily, crinum lily, dahlia, gloriosa lily, ixia, kaffir lily, walking iris, African lily, spider lily, tritonia, tuberose, voodoo lily and zephyr lily.
Wayne Hobbs is an extension agent in environmental horticulture for Clay County.