Always knowing when to
plant, prune, and harvest.
All you need is the right checklist.
February Gardening Tips: The Best Things to Do Right Now
If you’re like most gardeners, you start each gardening season hoping to get the most from your garden.
But what if you could feel confident your garden would thrive?
Just imagine it. You’d enjoy your flower and vegetable gardens right out of the gate, and not have to toil for hours in the hot sun while mosquitoes dine on your neck to make it happen.
Sound like a pipe dream? Trust me, it’s not!
The most common mistake I see gardeners make is waiting too long to get started.
Even though it’s cold outside right now, there are signs that spring will soon be here — the days are getting longer, songbirds are beginning to migrate, and the earliest bulbs will poke up out of the ground before you know it.
To have a successful gardening season this year, you need to start NOW instead of scrambling to get things done when the first warm day comes along.
Getting started now means you won’t be behind when the thick of gardening season hits. You won’t be rushing to get everything done all at once.
You’ll have some time to relax and enjoy your garden.
Keep reading to learn what you can do right now, in February, to get your garden off to its best start ever.
As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free gardening in February checklist. You’ll be sure to get the right things done this month!
This post may contain affiliate links which means I’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking one of my links. I only link to products I use and recommend.
- Get out and prune branches when your soil is frozen and before the buds swell on your trees. Deciduous trees benefit from a late-winter cleanup. Some species, such as maple, walnuts, and birches, may “bleed”—when the sap begins to flow. (This isn’t harmful to the tree. It’s more of a cosmetic issue).
- Be on the lookout for dead, damaged, or diseased wood in trees and deciduous shrubs and prune it out. This allows air and light to reach the interior of the tree or shrub, which helps prevent diseases from taking hold.
- To clean crusty clay pots, add one cup each of white vinegar and household bleach (use ½ as much concentrated bleach) to a gallon of warm water and soak the pots. For heavily crusted pots, scrub with a steel wool pad after soaking for 12 hours.
- Now is a good time to learn to identify trees by their winter twigs and buds. It’s especially fun to identify spring-flowering trees!
Watch a video from the Des Moines Parks & Rec channel about identifying trees:
Download my FREE gardening checklist for February as a bonus for joining my newsletter.
- Repair and paint (or replace) window boxes, lawn furniture, tools, and other items in preparation for outdoor gardening and recreational use.
- Watch weather conditions for an appropriate window of time to spray fruit trees, roses, and large deciduous trees with dormant oil.
- If you haven’t started any seeds yet organize your seed packets by seed starting date, and check to make sure your seeds are still viable.
- Line up hired help, if necessary, to handle spring garden chores. Landscape workers are busiest during this season and can get booked out quickly.
- While you’re outside pruning, cut some forsythia, quince, hawthorn, serviceberry, or cherry branches to force inside.
- Order flower seeds if you haven’t already.
- Continue to inspect your garden when there’s little or no snow cover.
- Make sure mulches are still in place.
- Check perennials and other tender plants to make sure the root balls haven’t raised up out of the ground due to frost heave.
- Gently push them back in if they’ve heaved, and add additional mulch around the plant.
- Continue to check tender bulbs in storage, and discard any that show signs of decay, such as mold or softening. Shriveling indicates insufficient relative humidity.
- Order perennial plants now for cut flowers this summer. Good choices are phlox, daisies, coreopsis, and asters.
- Order summer-blooming bulbs such as lilies and gladiolus.
Related: What to plant in February.
- Order vegetable seeds if you haven’t already. Starting vegetables from seed indoors is easy to do.
- This year plan to grow at least one new vegetable you’ve never grown before. There are a lot of different crops to choose from!
Related: Why are my seedlings leggy?
- Keep cold frames well-covered during mid-winter cold spells. Use tarps or insulated blankets to cover the frame. (If snow is covering the frame, that will work to insulate the inside.)
- Check crops growing under glass regularly and pick off any dead or dying leaves before they start to rot.
- Continue to water any plants you’re growing under cover.
- Warm your soil with UV-stabilized clear plastic near the end of this month. Hold it down with rocks or bricks. Monitor your soil temperature with a soil thermometer and remove the plastic when the soil has warmed.
- Continue to harvest salad greens, carrots, beets, and radishes that are growing under cover.
- Clean pots and flats for seed starting if you didn’t last month.
- Check your grow lights for seed starting to make sure the lights still work.
- Take a tour of your gardens this month. Make sure all mulches are still in place around garlic, strawberries, etc.
Watch a video from Grow Organic’s channel about February gardening tasks:
Take the guesswork out of what to do in your garden this month. Get my FREE Smart Gardening Checklist for February.
- Get out and prune. Fruiting trees, grapes, and brambles benefit from a late-winter cleanup this month. Do this before spring growth begins.
- Start with apples and pears first. The branches of peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom.
- While you’re pruning, inspect your fruit trees for insect and rodent damage. Things to look out for:
- Scale insects and evidence of rodent injury to the bark. Use traps and protection measures where necessary.
- Tent caterpillar egg masses. Eggs appear as dark brown or gray collars that encircle small twigs. Destroy them by pruning or scratching them off with your thumbnail.
- Fertilize fruit trees at least six weeks before they bloom but after the ground thaws.
- Collect scion wood now for grafting of fruit trees later in spring. Wrap bundled scions with plastic and store them in the refrigerator.
The best pruning books and tools
Prices last updated on 2022-08-17 at 03:49
- Prune grapes to no more than four fruiting canes with 7 to 10 buds apiece. Save grape trimmings to turn into wreaths or other craft projects.
- Continue to check the fruit and vegetables you’re storing indoors, and discard anything that shows signs of decay, such as mold or softening. Shriveling indicates insufficient relative humidity.
Related: What to do in your garden this March.
- For easier lawn maintenance, plan to eliminate the hard-to-mow spaces this year. Eliminate acute angles in beds and borders. Connect single trees to a larger planting area.
- To avoid injury to lawns, keep foot traffic to a minimum when soils are wet or frozen.
- If it’s dry this month, because you’ve had no significant snowfall, water your lawn every week or two when the daytime temperature is at least 40 degrees (F).
My favorite lawn care books
Prices last updated on 2022-08-17 at 00:39
- Report robin sightings to Journey North.
- Set up a nest cam in one or more of your nest boxes.
- Don’t have a nest box yet? This is the perfect time to set them up. Nesting birds will be scouting for suitable homes soon!
- If bird feeding has turned into a favorite activity this winter, consider adding trees and shrubs that’ll provide cover and food for your backyard birds. Planting suitable shrubs, trees, vines, and evergreens for the birds will provide wild food sources and nesting habitats.
- At your bird feeding station include a selection of bird feeders such as tube, hopper, and platform to accommodate the feeding habits of different birds.
- Late winter storms often bury birds’ natural food supplies, and a well-stocked bird feeder will provide life-giving nourishment to our feathered friends during the cold weather months.
Attract wildlife to your garden
Prices last updated on 2022-08-16 at 19:09
- Continue to turn and prune house plants regularly. Pinch back new growth to promote bushier plants.
- This month many houseplants can start to show signs of stress caused by light deprivation, overwatering, lack of humidity, and overheated indoor air. Stressed plants are more likely to develop insect and disease problems, so watch your plants for early signs of trouble.
- There’s still time to put indoor herbs, as well as smaller houseplants, under artificial lights to supplement the diminished natural sunlight. Pinch back any leggy growth.
- Don’t fertilize your houseplants this month. They don’t need fertilizer in the winter due to slower growth rates.
- This is a good time to air-layer house plants such as dracaena, dieffenbachia, and rubber-plant, especially if they’ve grown too tall and leggy.
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Your turn: what to do in the garden in February
Did I miss any important February garden chores? Let me know in a comment below!
Hi, I’m Cheryl.
I’m a certified gardener, bird lover, and spreadsheet enthusiast. I believe you can grow your dream garden and still have time to enjoy it. I teach online gardening courses and write articles that help you save time and money in your garden. Join my mailing list, and as a bonus, you’ll get a helpful checklist that’ll tell you what to do in your garden right now.