February Garden Checklist for Central Texas

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com

In Central Texas, garden activity increases in February with preparations for spring’s warmer weather. There can still be significant winter weather, but there are some primary tasks to do this month that will keep your garden thriving. Actually, there is much that can be done to be ready for spring. So, clean and sharpen shovels, pruners, loppers and hedge trimmers. Stock up on compost, mulch, supplements and fertilizer. Then watch the forecast and plan ahead to take advantage of days that are comfortable to be outdoors. Here is what to do in your garden in February to have one of the best spring growing seasons ever.

What can be planted in February?

Trees, shrubs and groundcovers planted this month allows time for their roots to become more established before the heat of Texas summer. Do keep an eye on the forecast and delay planting if extreme cold is predicted. But, keep in mind that the most favorable time to plant woody ornamentals is October through March in central Texas. This applies to most regions with extremely hot summers. Can they be planted other times? Yes, but must be closely monitored for moisture when temperatures rise and rainfall is scarce.

What flowers grow in February?

Cool season annuals are blooming and can still be planted – allysum, calendula, delphinium, dianthus, dusty miller, ornamental cabbage and kale, pansies, petunias, primrose, snapdragons, stock and violas. Amend soil or potting mix with compost at planting.

Nasturtiums seeds may be planted in the garden around Valentine’s Day. Growing as small bush type or vining, they should bloom until hot weather arrives. Also, start seeds indoors of cosmos and gomphrena for planting out in late March and April.

Prepare your garden for spring vegetables. Build beds, test soil and replenish growing mix by adding 1 to 2 inches of compost. Purchase grow bags, containers, bed mix, potting soil and order seeds. If you are not growing your transplants of tomatoes, begin looking for them at nurseries.

TIP – Source transplants of peppers and tomatoes. As plants grow, they can be potted up individually into 4 inch or larger pots. Set them outdoors on warm days and bring inside at night. This is a practice that seasoned gardeners use to grow transplants with more substantial roots for planting out after there is no danger of frost.

What vegetables and herbs can you plant in February?

Potato planting season is February in Texas and many southern states. Growing potatoes is easy and especially fun to do with children. For home gardens, the thin-skinned varieties of potato are typically best, like Red LaSoda, Kennebec or Yukon Gold. First add fertilizer to soil, then plant seed potatoes 8 to 12 inches apart and 3 to 5 inches deep in a trench. When foliage emerges, mound soil around the stems, leaving a few leaves on top. Repeat as foliage grows.

What herbs can be planted in February? Herbs to plant in February are perennial thyme and oregano. Also, transplants of borage, calendula, cilantro, garlic and onion chives, dill, mints, oregano and parsley. Keep frost cloth on hand to cover and protect in case of a freeze, particularly cilantro and chives.

In February, these are the planting periods for vegetables by seed, transplant* or dormant crowns** for zone 9a (formerly zone 8b) central Texas. Note these planting times are selected for Brazos County, Texas. Adjust planting times for your region and USDA zone. Be prepared to cover and protect plants and seedlings during a frost or freeze.

Week 1 – artichokes**, asparagus**, beets, Bok choi*, broccoli*, Brussels sprouts*, cabbage*, carrots, cauliflower*, Swiss chard, collards*, kale*, kohlrabi*, leeks*, lettuce, mustard, onions – bulbing and multiplying, radish, spinach, turnip

Week 2 – artichokes**, asparagus**, beets, Bok choi*, broccoli*, Brussels sprouts*, cabbage*, carrots, cauliflower*, Swiss chard, collards*, kale*, kohlrabi*, leeks*, lettuce, mustard, onions – bulbing and multiplying, radish, spinach, turnip

Week 3 – artichokes**, asparagus**, beets, Bok choi*, broccoli*, Brussels sprouts*, cabbage*, carrots, cauliflower*, Swiss chard, collards*, kale*, kohlrabi*, leeks*, lettuce, mustard, onions – bulbing and multiplying, peas – English/snow/sugar snap, radish, spinach, turnip

Week 4 – artichokes**, asparagus**, beets, Bok choi*, broccoli*, Brussels sprouts*, cabbage*, carrots, cauliflower*, Swiss chard, collards*, kale*, kohlrabi*, leeks*, lettuce, mustard, onions – bulbing and multiplying, peas – English/snow/sugar snap, radish, spinach, turnip

If you do indoor seed starting, plant cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.

In the garden, plant strawberries all month. Also, blackberry vines, fruit and nut trees. Planting in winter gives the vines and trees more time for roots to establish before bud break. Finish pruning fruit trees as they begin to bloom. This is a link to fruit planting, growing and care instructions by Texas A&M horticulturists.

What to fertilize?

Fertilize cool season vegetables. Fertilize fruit trees at budbreak. Annual flowers should be fertilized every 2 to 3 weeks to keep them growing and blooming. Use a water soluble fertilizer at half strength.

When to fertilize lawns? Wait until April in central Texas to fertilize turf grass.

Herbaceous perennials and roses benefit from an application of compost and then mulch after pruning. The heat and drought in a Texas summer can deplete soils and reduce beneficial soil microbes. February is a good time to apply products like compost that replenish soil microbes. Organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion and seaweed also feed beneficial microorganisms that improve the structure of soil.

Winter Pruning

Pruning begins in mid to late February. Depending on the long-range forecast in central Texas, I often begin pruning near Valentine’s Day.

What plants to prune in February in central Texas?
Prune herbaceous perennials. These are plants that die down to the ground each winter but their roots remain alive and send up new top growth each year. Once new basal growth has begun prune dead stems back to the ground. Apply a layer of compost and replenish the mulch.

In central Texas there are some perennials that may not die completely to the ground in winter. Some examples are artemisia, daylily, guara, lamb’s ear, skullcap and verbena. In mid to late February, depending on weather, they can be pruned to remove dead growth or shape the plant.

Groundcovers may or may not require pruning, but most benefit from late winter shearing just before new foliage begins to emerge.

Pruning roses is commonly done near Valentine’s day, but can be done when new shoots and foliage begin to emerge from the canes. There are many categories of roses, each requiring particular pruning, so research to find the specific pruning and growing recommendations for the type of rose you grow. In general, trim canes to desired height cutting back to an outward facing bud. Remove dead and crossing branches to open up the center of bush roses.

Pruning Knockout roses

A tip on this group of roses. According to the Knockout Rose website, the bush type rose is recommended to be annually pruned to 12 inches tall so that in the growing season it reaches 3 to 4 feet tall. In landscapes, this rose is commonly left unpruned or cut very little. When it is not pruned and left to grow to 5 feet or more, the canes become thick and the prickles – thorns – become large and excessive. Proper pruning of Knockout roses results in healthy, attractive plants with significantly more flowers.

Pruning shrubs

Keep an eye on the weather forecast when deciding when to prune shrubs. In Central Texas, you may wait until late February or early March to prune and shape shrubs. Pruning triggers plants to grow, so a late frost or freeze can be damaging to tender new foliage. Note that spring flowering shrubs like spirea or quince are pruned after flowering.

Vines to prune after flowering are: Carolina jasmine, crossvine, honeysuckle and star jasmine. Wisteria blooms on new growth and can be pruned in winter, prior to spring blooming.

Pruning ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses like miscanthus, panicums and muhly grass should be pruned right before new spring growth begins. Use hand pruning shears, hedge trimmers or an electric hedge trimmer to cut the blades at 4 to 6 inches above the soil.

Pruning Crapemyrtles

The goal of pruning crapemyrtles is to improve form, maintain a balanced shape and make strong branches to hold blooms. Here are some pruning tips

  • Thin the crown by removing crossing branches. Make cuts flush to the branch or main trunk
  • Remove branches that rub and ones that grow into the center of the plant that restrict air
    flow. Make cuts flush to a large branch or to the trunk
  • Remove small twiggy branches within the interior.
  • Cut off sprouts or basal growth flush to the trunk or the ground.
  • If cutting a branch to reduce height, only cut branches that are pencil size diameter or less.
  • For additional information on how to prune crapeymrtles, see my blog post HERE.

Mulch with Compost

Compost makes for healthy plants. One of the most beneficial times to apply it is in spring. It continues to slowly decompose adding beneficial microbes to the soil. After pruning spread 1 to 2 inches of compost around herbaceous perennials, roses and shrubs. Then, apply a layer of shredded hardwood or pine straw mulch. Compost is also good for lawns and trees, spread thinly over all the turfgrass and to the root zone of trees.

Turfgrass

Fertilizing lawns – Wait until April in central Texas to fertilize lawns. Why? It is best to fertilize grass when soil temperature is warmer, after grass is actively growing and able to take up fertilizer.

For optimum fertilization have your soil tested in February. It is a good practice to soil test every 2 to 3 years. This allows you to follow fertilizer recommendations made specifically for your lawn, as well as ornamental plants and vegetable gardens.

Weeds – What to do to get rid of weeds?
Pull weeds in lawns or mow to cut back winter weeds to prevent flowering and seed development. In flowerbeds, hoe or pull weeds and apply a layer of mulch for prevention. A pre-emergent herbicide is a simple way to manage lawn weeds, but timing of the application is very important. Timing and effectiveness is based on soil temperature and moisture. This type of herbicide controls annual weeds and is applied prior to seed germination. If you use a pre-emergent for warm season lawn weeds, some time in February is when to apply it in most of central Texas. Read and follow label
directions.

Indoor plant care

House plants and tender plants brought indoors for the winter should be kept slightly moist. Inspect plants occasionally for mealy bugs and scale insects. If you find insects, dab them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to reduce the population. It is difficult to get rid of them, especially mealy bugs. Clean and prepare plants for moving outdoors soon.

In February a freeze is still possible, so be prepared to protect plants.

What to do before a freeze?

  • Water – It protects and insulates roots from cold damage. Before a freeze, if soil is dry water lawns,
    landscape plants and containers.
  • Mulch – A deep layer of mulch protects and insulates roots of shrubs and perennials during a freeze.
    Shredded hardwood, pine straw and shredded leaves are all good mulches.
  • Cover Plants – Frost cloth or blanket can modify temperatures 6 to 10 degrees during a frost or freeze. Cover cold
    tender plants with a layer or 2 of a lightweight frost cloth. To be effective, the cloth must contact the
    ground and be secured in place with bricks or stones. If cared for, it can be used for many seasons.
    Plastic coverings can heat up in sunshine and actually damage foliage, so remove them during the day.

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