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General News · 7th February 2019
Lu Schanfarber for Garden Club
Cortes Garden Club presents February Garden Tasks & Tips

Recent below zero temperatures are tempering any plans for planting outside but when it warms up a bit, it’s game on! For now, though, there are all kinds of other garden-related tasks to accomplish in February. Here’s an accumulated list gathered from a variety of useful sources:

First Things First - Most importantly, remove any heavy snow from your shrubs to prevent them from breaking. Leave the snow on the ground as a natural insulator against hard frost. Recent temperature swings may cause perennials to heave out of the ground. Gently push them back into the soil or cover with mulch.

Planning & dreaming – On Quadra Island many of us are sitting by the fire, looking at seed catalogs and re-reading our favourite gardening books.
• Order seed catalogs.
• Organise your seeds by sowing date. Use a box with dividers; file seed packets by the month they need to be sown.
• Begin planning this year’s garden.
• Consider companion planting—some plants grow better when planted near each other.
• Include plants that attract beneficial insects (buckwheat, sunflower, yarrow, dill, coriander/cilantro, etc.
• Order bare-root fruit trees.

Seeds & Planting Tips & Ideas
• Purchase seeds.
• Chance an early sowing of peas after Feb 14th. If you get lucky it is definitely worth it and you don't have to plant a whole package.
• Plant a tub with primroses and pansies to brighten your front door.
• Start begonia tubers inside on your window sill.
• Plant sweet peas seeds with manure.
• Plant hardy ornamental trees and fruit trees - they love to be planted when they are dormant.
• Lime lawns to sweeten the soil for spring fertilizing.
• Direct sow:-broad beans, radishes and peas in the garden.
• Start Indoors:-celery, leek, sweet onion, parsley and peppers.
• Start chitting early potatoes- stand them on end in a module tray or egg box and place them in a bright, cool, frost-free place.
• Remove yellowing leaves from brassicas, including Brussels sprouts, to prevent brassica downy mildew and grey mould from spreading.

Put Composted Manure on Your Rhubarb Patch! Rhubarb is a hevay feeder & loves well-rotted manure. You can even add a bit of your own urine to the soil of your patch diluted 20:1.

Practice Soil Kindness ~ Don’t Be Too Impatient!
• Get a soil thermometer so that you know when the soil is warm enough for seeds to germinate outdoors.
• Don’t work frozen or soggy soil; it is harmful to the soil’s health and structure.
• As soon as the soil is workable, add in manure or compost to prepare your garden for planting.
• Consider using “no dig” methods in your garden and yard.
• If your mulch was blown or washed away, reapply it around your plants.
• Mulch pathways to protect the soil there, too.

Winter Mulch Garden Beds to Protect Against Heavy Frost
• The main idea behind winter mulching is to keep the ground frozen by shielding it from the warmth of the sun. A steady temperature will keep the plant in dormancy and prevent it from triggering new growth during a brief warm spell. Tender, new growth too soon will just result in more winter die back. Mulching now will also help conserve whatever water is in the soil, so hopefully, you’ve been keeping your garden beds watered right up until the hard frost.
• Any loose, insulating material will do. Keep in mind that you’ll need to remove the mulch in the spring, or at least rake it aside. So choose a material that’s easy to handle. Shredded mulch, straw, pine needles or shredded leaves are all easy to remove or easy to work into the soil.
• The easiest mulch is snow cover. Snow is a great insulator and protector of plants.
• Some plants will simply collapse onto themselves and act as self-mulches. Chrysanthemums survive best if allowed to do this.
• Mulch perennial vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes with well-rotted manure or garden compost.

About Removing Winter Mulch: The rule of thumb is to remove winter mulch in the spring when all danger of a hard frost is past. That’s sometimes very hard to judge, as anyone who’s experienced an Easter snowstorm can attest. However, when the ground starts to thaw and the smell of mud is in the air, it’s time to start raking and removing the mulch so that the ground can warm and new growth won’t be inhibited. Add your mulch to your compost or save it for using in summer months to conserve moisture around plants.

Pruning & Cutting Back
NOTE: At this time of year there is a lot to do in the garden but you'll want to make sure that you don't get ahead of the season. Do not trim back any plants that are not completely hardy in our zone (7-8-9) until at least mid- March.
• Prune established fruit trees and berries while they’re dormant, as weather allows..
• Spray lime sulfur on fruit and deciduous trees and shrubs.
• Remove any diseased or damaged branches from trees and shrubs.
• For trees and shrubs that bloom in summer, prune on the current year’s growth in winter. For those that bloom in spring from buds on 1-year-old wood, prune just after flowers fade.
• Prune grape vines at the end of the month.
• This is the tine to prune currants. On a mild day, remove all deadwood and low shoots that are over 3 years old. Prune to an outward-facing bud.
• Remove yellowing leaves from brassicas, including Brussels sprouts, to prevent brassica downy mildew and grey mould from spreading.
• Prune raspberry canes. It’s your last chance to cut autumn-fruiting raspberry canes to the ground to stimulate new canes to fruit in the autumn. Cut the tips of summer-fruiting raspberry canes that have grown beyond the top of their supports; cut just above a bud.
• Prune blackcurrant bushes, gooseberries and redcurrants to maintain a productive framework.
• Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost, taking care not to mound mulch up around the trunk.
• Winter prune apple trees and pear trees while they're still dormant. This is your last chance to do so.
• Leave plum trees, cherry trees and apricots until the summer as pruning these fruit trees now will make them susceptible to Silver Leaf disease.

Tool Maintenance, etc.
The slower winter months are a fantastic opportunity to get those pruners and tools out. While it’s not everyone’s favourite task, tool maintenance gets you ready for the growing season that will be here soon enough. Keeping tools in tip-top shape for years to come enables you to be ready to go as soon as Mother Nature allows.
• Get your tools ready - Sharpen and sterilize your garden tools.
• Disassemble hand pruners, and loppers. Sharpen the blades, oil the levers, and remove any rust.
• Paint the handles of garden tools red or orange. This will preserve the wood and make the tools easier to locate when you lay them down in the garden or on the lawn.
• Lawn mower tuned up.
• Make a cold frame or hot bed to start your vegetable and flower plants early.

Repotting? Not yet!
• Don't repot (including indoor plants) until closer to spring.
• "Wait until we get out of February. In March the plants show signs of life, their roots will come along a lot better and that's the time to do that. And remember, when you're planting trees in containers, use a very open porous soil with lots of very fine bark mixed in. Use a nursery mix, otherwise regular potting soils hold too much moisture and they get in trouble when it stays wet." Brian Minter

Winter-Blooming & Hearty Lovelies
• Violas - Violas are available in garden centres right now. The flowers are like little pansies in beautiful pastel colours but don’t have any face patterns. Violas are more resilient to adverse conditions than pansies.
• Cyclamen - Hardy cyclamen plants are also pretty during winter. Cyclamen hederifolium opens pink or white flowers in September, then produces large leaves with intricate patterns of silver and green which carpet the ground till early May when it goes dormant. Cyclamen coum is another dwarf hardy cyclamen with plainer leaves. The flowers it produces in January continue for about eight weeks.
• Hellebore - T he winter-flowering hellebore (Hellebore foetidus) has glossy, dark evergreen leaves and does very well in containers (so do violas and dwarf cyclamen). This hellebore forms clusters of large, green grape-like buds in December which open into clusters of cup-shaped, green and red-rimmed flowers in January. Hellebore orientalis flowers about month later, but has larger, more colourful blooms. It’s been much-hybridised, and blooms range through white, pink, purple-red and black with embellishments ranging from dots, picottee and doubles to nodding and upright types.
• Heather - Winter heather (Erica carnea) is well suited to containers. It’s fairly dwarf and in a container might look good around a tall, narrow juniper. The heather flowers for ages in various pinks and whites. Heather and juniper need well-drained soil. Both are drought-resistant.
• Winter Jasmine (Jasminium nudiflorum), which flowers from November to February. Flowers are small, yellow, non-fragrant and carried in loose clusters. The stems are bright green. Winter Jasmine accepts most soils and is very hardy, but it does need considerable pruning after flowering because it wants to grow big and sprawling. It is beautiful in winter for several months.
• Parsley is also lovely in a pot and stands through all but the worst weather.
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