Please welcome our newest Contributor, John Movius of Terraccord Landscapes. John will be checking in with us time and again to share his green thumb wisdom.
February, you freakin’ Flirt!
Swollen buds, sprouting bulbs, and the occasional honeybee taking stock during our fleeting explosions of sun. And then…back to dark winterish days. It can be exciting, but as with any flirt, can present some confusion on what to do next.
Are you noticing some unusual things going on in your garden? Me too. It’s not just the usual stirrings this time of year. It’s the result of the milder winter we had. For those of you who launched new gardens last year, our milder winter was a gift for all those tender new plants.
The biggest challenge this winter has been, not surprisingly, heavy rains and winds. How bout those whistling night winds?! Makes one grateful to have a home to go home to. This time of increased dormancy is a gift as it allows us to observe some of the larger cycles at play. Take stock now of which areas in your yard or garden collected water in the heavy rains. Are there some places where the plants look like it was never winter, while other areas look completely dormant? There might even be some places that are dry to the touch, even in February. Make note now before all the growth of spring and summer makes it harder to access the soil.
Because of the mild winter, it can be confusing to know which plants to cut back and which to leave be. For example, your perennial geranium or even a fuschia might look fantastic right now. It would seem harsh to cut it back. What to do? The short answer is, don’t worry! It’s not a huge deal. If you cut them back now, you’ll get a more typical bloom season. If you let them be, you might get 2 or 3 bloom seasons out of them this year, assuming you cut them back after bloom, but the bloom times might be different than you are used to, which could lead to some interesting new combinations in your garden. For edible fruiting plants, it’s a different story, and is better off left on a case by case basis.
This is a great time to work another round of bone meal into the soil near your spring bulbs. I like to mix some alfalfa meal in as well for a gentle nitrogen boost. Be careful as most bulbs have begun sprouting and it takes barely the swing of a pinky to snap off the new sprout. They’re tough buggers, but still…I like to pay some respect.
Another thing to keep on the radar is weed control. You might just be battling grass shoots, or you might have some more interesting, valuable, and/or edible weeds like peppercress, plantain, dandelion, or henbit. Mulch is the way to go. You’ll really f*ck with the head of that neighborhood squirrel, whose exact coordinates for that buried chestnut will be gone for good, but she’ll still outwit you in the end. Use a blend of soft compost with harder woody debris such as fir or hemlock chips.
It’s also not too late to apply dormant spray to your fruit trees. Make your own at home to avoid the excess petroleum in most commercial grade products. I like this free handout from the Sierra Club of Canada on homemade sprays – check it out here.
Lastly, I have to mention roses. 2012 was a fantastic year for roses, amen? You might notice yours beginning to leaf out with new leaves after taking a brief rest in December and January. Now is a good time to cut them back, especially if you didn’t cut them back earlier in the season. The prize for that thorny work is rose hips! It’s still a great time to collect rose hips for tasty tea, or just to snack on raw (including the seeds – eat those nutritious seeds inside the hip meat too). The best hips taste much like a sweet, ripe persimmon. Give them a shot. Tell em I say hi.
Peaceful wishes from Terraccord Landscapes. And remember- there’s no rush, even if February makes us feel motivated to ‘do’ more than ever before.
See you soon.
In accordance with the Earth.