February begins for gardening enthusiasts with the preparation of garden beds and a rearrangement of the compost pile. Trees, hedges and shrubs require pruning and the first summer flowers are waiting to be sown in the heated garden shed. We have summarized the most important gardening tips for gardening in February.
Prune and thin out trees
Apple trees and other woody plants that bear pome fruit are happy to be pruned back in February. Berry bushes and stone fruit, on the other hand, only want to be thinned out if pruning has not been done immediately after harvest. If possible, pick a frost-free, cloudy day for pruning so as not to impede wound healing in the trees.
The goal of pruning is to create a pyramidal structure. While the crown is narrow, the woody plant may become wider towards the bottom. This pruning optimizes the incidence of light so that ideal fruit quality can develop. At the same time, the leaves dry more quickly after rain, so that moisture-loving fungal diseases have no chance.
Especially for older trees, pyramidal pruning means rejuvenation, as it avoids overgrowth in the upper part of the tree. To ensure optimum light penetration, therefore, also remove branches that are too dense and thin out the tree slightly if necessary.
Prune back shrubs and hedges
If you want to cut back hedges and shrubs severely or even put them on the vine, you should complete this pruning work by the end of February. After that, the closed season begins, which exists in the form of a stand protection until the end of September. It protects the breeding grounds of birds and ensures that the species are not exposed to any danger.
While radical pruning can only be carried out until the end of February, shaping and maintenance pruning can be carried out throughout the spring. If the temperature is above five degrees Celsius, you can relax and reach for the hedge trimmer. If the weather is cooler, however, you should postpone the pruning work. Thus, in severe cold, you risk bruising the branches and rarely achieve a clean cut.
For summer- and fall-flowering shrubs, early pruning in February is recommended. This is because the sooner you reach for the pruning shears, the sooner the shrubs will adjust to their new condition. Since the flower buds sprout on the fresh shoots, early pruning on a frost-free day ensures abundant blooms in summer and fall. As summer-flowering shrubs, hibiscus, panicle hydrangea and summer lilac, as well as spirea shrubs, among others, enjoy pruning in late winter.
Prune ornamental grasses
Once you have trees, shrubs and hedges in shape, the next step is to trim ornamental grasses. Chinese reed, feather bristle grass, pampas grass and switchgrass enrich garden beds with their silhouette during the winter months. However, even these plants can tolerate pruning in late February, which should be done before new shoots appear.
Gather the culms in clumps for pruning and trim them to a few inches above the ground with a sickle or pruning shears. For large, sprawling ornamental grasses, using an electric hedge trimmer will make your job easier.
If you want to divide or transplant your ornamental grasses, you can also do this work already. This will allow summer and fall blooming grasses to grow well over the warm months of the year.
Remove old inflorescences from perennials
While pruning roses is not recommended until March, the seed heads of perennials can be shortened a month earlier. In the case of stonecrop, yarrow and purple coneflower, you can cut off the seed heads that have added structure to your winter garden just above the ground.
The withered inflorescences of hydrangeas, on the other hand, tolerate less severe pruning. Therefore, shorten them only to the next healthy pair of buds, and also take the opportunity to remove frostbitten shoots.
For your kitchen garden, you can already grow heat-loving vegetables in February in a heated greenhouse or on a warm windowsill. Crucial for strong precultures is the cultivation in germ-free and nutrient-poor substrate. The trade has special growing soil available, but you do not necessarily have to use it.
Both classic seed trays and mini-greenhouses can be used as containers for sowing. Alternatively, if you like, sow the vegetable seeds in clean egg cartons or curd cups. Make sure that excess irrigation water always drains through holes in the bottom of the containers and that no waterlogging forms. After sowing, cover the sowing containers with plastic hoods or cling film so that a humid climate is created.
As soon as the first seedlings emerge from the soil, they need as much light as possible. When the first tender leaves appear, you can move the young plants to a cooler place and let them grow in peace.
Sow summer flowers
Amateur gardeners who do not want to wait any longer for summer can sow the first summer flowers as early as the end of February. In a mini-greenhouse on the windowsill or in a heated greenhouse, especially varieties with a long germination period will thrive. For example, busy lilies, snapdragons, liverwort, male chaff and petunias require constant heat and feel comfortable at temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees.
You can use egg cartons or cardboard pallets as sowing containers, for example. Place one seed per bulge in the fresh soil. As soon as the small plants are strong enough, separate the individual sowing containers from each other and place them directly in the bed. The cardboard will soak and disintegrate quickly, allowing the young summer flowers to root through it easily.
Sift and rearrange compost
February is the ideal time to turn the compost. This involves completely re-piling the compost pile right next to the previous location. Mix the compost thoroughly with a pitchfork. In this way you improve the oxygen supply and contribute to an improved decomposition of the individual components.
During the re-stacking, you can filter out already decomposed components with a sieve. A large-area sieve with a mesh size of at least 15 millimeters is recommended. To separate the coarse and fine components of your compost pile, throw all of the compost through the screen. The coarse compost will slide down the sloping surface of the throw-through screen and can be mixed in when you later build the new compost pile.
Prepare beds for planting
If February offers frost-free days with dry weather, you can use them to prepare your beds and borders. Start by loosening the soil and then turn your attention to soil amendments as needed. If you have already shifted as well as sifted your compost, you can mix the fine components into the garden soil and work them in lightly.
If the soil requires a lot of soil improvement or seems particularly depleted, it is recommended that you take a soil sample. You can submit this for testing and specifically maintain your heavily used beds according to the soil analysis.
If you would like to create a new bed in your garden or plant a new woody plant, you can also prepare the soil for this project. Loosen the subsoil spade-deep with a sow’s tooth or digging fork and remove all weed and root residues.
Then mix mature compost into the soil and work it in lightly. If your garden soil is very loamy or clayey, you can improve the permeability by adding sand. Then allow the new bed to rest for about four weeks so that the soil can settle sufficiently during this time.