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EXCITING FEBRUARY
By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

February is an exciting month here in the foothills. When it comes to the natural world things are really starting to wake up for spring. While there is no denying that cold, rain and frost have the potential to return all the way to May, there are other days when it feels like spring. Just look at the quince, flowering pears and plums, and your rapidly growing lawn to realize that Mother Nature is waking up. There are many things that can be done now in the garden that will make for more enjoyable gardening later.

Speaking of lawns, if you want to prevent crabgrass and other summer weeds now is the time to apply pre-emergent on the lawn. Pre-emergent prevents crabgrass and other weed seed from sprouting. Getting rid of many weeds is harder than preventing them in the first place. The late blooming shrub Forsythia, which has bright yellow flowers, is a plant that blooms when crabgrass is sprouting. You want to get the pre-emergent applied on the lawn before the forsythia blooms, which is going to happen very quickly.

Now is the time to plant the early blooming plants so as to enjoy the flowers in your yard this year. Flowering quince, which is blooming now, Daphne, spring blooming magnolias, flowering plums and pears, Rhododendrons, Camellias and Viburnums, can all be planted now.

Thinking of vegetable gardening this year? Did you know that some vegetable plants can be planted now? Rhubarb, horseradish, asparagus, strawberries, onion sets, and potatoes can be planted directly in the ground before the last frost. Tender vegetables like tomatoes can be started from seed in a greenhouse or sunny window now, for later planting in late April and May. If the ground is dry enough you can start removing the weeds from the garden area and begin working in organic matter to loosen the soil. Most people don’t add enough organic matter to the garden each year. You should incorporate one bag of soil conditioner per every 100 or so square feet each year. This organic matter will help loosen the soil while helping to promote beneficial microbes in the ground.
Don’t forget to add a slow release fertilize with phosphorus and potassium at the same time.

There is still time to do one last dormant spray of your fruit trees and vines. Usually a mixture of horticultural oil and sulphur are sprayed up to the point of bloom. You cannot spray during or after bloom. It is o.k. to spray while the buds are swelling. This spray will help prevent diseases and insects from attacking the plants this spring.

If you are thinking of planting fruit trees you should realize the bare root season is just about over. Bare root is an inexpensive way to plant fruit trees, but is only available during the cool part of winter. The best selection of fruit tree varieties is during the bare root season, so don’t delay. I give it about two more weeks before the season is over.

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