Rodale’s Organic Life
by R O L Staff
Everything that needs to be done in the dirt this month, wherever you live.
Here’s your February gardening guide for North America’s USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3-10. If you don’t know what zone you live in, check the map here to find out. We’ve left off zones 1–2 (far-north Alaska) and zones 11–13 (small section of the Florida Keys, the Pacific coast between L.A. and Mexico, and Hawaii) since zones 3–10 cover 99 percent or more of the gardeners in the U.S.
- Check for winter sales at your local garden center; you may find good deals on pots, planters, and tools.
- Replace fluorescent bulbs in grow lights that are more than 2 years old.
- Organize seed packets according to planting date.
- Check stored gladiolus and dahlia bulbs; Remove any that have deteriorated.
- Remove geranium and fuchsia plants from cold storage, repot, water, and move them into light to restart their growth.
- Start seeds of slow growers—such as pansies, onions, leeks, and celery—under lights this month.
- If snow isn’t too deep, prune dead or damaged branches from fruit trees, brambles, and shrubs.
- Try raising an indoor crop of leaf lettuce beneath lights.
- Fertilize houseplants that show signs of new growth.
- Bring geraniums out of storage; cut them back by half, water well, and set them in a bright, cool window.
- Indoors under lights, start seeds of sun-loving daisies, columbine (Aquilegia spp.), stocks (Matthiola incana), edging lobelia (Lobelia erinus), and shade-seeking impatiens.
- Start seeds of lettuce, celery, onions, leeks, and early tomatoes indoors under lights.
- If the ground isn’t frozen, sow some spinach and radishes outdoors under cover.
- Force some indoor blooms! Cut branches or gather prunings from fruit trees, lilacs, and forsythia. Put them in a vase with water, then enjoy the flowers a few weeks later.
- Under fluorescent lights, start seeds of onions and leeks at the beginning of the month.
- Near the end of the month, start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts indoors under lights.
- Start slow-growing flowers, such as garden verbena (Verbena xhybrida), stocks (Matthiola incana), wallflowers (Cheirianthus cheiri), and ageratum indoors.
- If winter has been mild, transplant trees, shrubs, and roses.
- For the earliest tomatoes, start seeds of Early Girl under lights now. In April, set out the transplants and protect them with Wall O’ Waters.
- Sharpen pruning shears and use them to prune fruit trees, brambles, grapevines, and late summer–blooming shrubs.
- Rinse houseplants by setting them beneath your shower.
- When you see the first crocus open, consider it time to set out transplants of lettuce, cabbages, and onions; cover them on cold nights.
- In the garden, sow seeds of radishes and cold-hardy lettuces.
- When daffodils “pop,” plant seeds of spinach, turnips, and peas.
- Cover the pea bed with clear plastic until sprouts begin to emerge; then, immediately switch to a floating row cover to protect the seedlings from weather and birds.
- Start herb seeds indoors under lights.
- Also indoors, start seeds of annual flowers—such as ageratum, petunia, and snapdragons—that need 8 to 10 weeks to reach transplant size.
- Feed the soil by applying compost to plantings throughout your landscape: trees, shrubs, lawn, and all garden beds.
- By the third week of the month, plant potatoes 4 inches deep in warm soil.
- Begin sowing seeds of leaf lettuces, collards, and other greens outdoors; for continuous harvest, repeat sowings every 2 weeks.
- On Valentine’s Day, prune roses, clean up debris, and then top-dress the shrubs with fresh mulch. No roses? Plant some now!
- Prune fruit trees, then spray them at their “pink bud” stage with either a copper or lime-sulfur solution if you’ve had trouble with foliar and fruit diseases.
- Plant alyssum (Lobularia maritima), hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), edging lobelia (Lobelia erinus), rocket larkspurs (Consolida ajacis), and Canterbury bells (Campanula medium).
- Build the soil! During dry spells, dig in composted manure and garden waste; turn under cover crops, such as annual rye, vetch, and clover.
- Start seeds of indispensable summer veggies—tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants—indoors under lights.
- Also indoors, start seeds of flowers that are slow to develop, such as lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum), wax begonias, petunias, and geraniums.
- Plant perennials, bareroot roses, trees, shrubs, and vines. (Next month could be too hot!)
- Direct-seed radishes, spinach, carrots, peas, onions, and cabbage family vegetables.
- Continue to plant Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule), calendulas (Calendula officinalis), foxglove, and primroses in flowerbeds.
- Plant dahlia bulbs and begonia tubers.
- Celebrate winter’s end by filling window boxes and planters with cold-hardy snapdragons and stocks (Matthiola incana).
- Plant seeds of corn and cucumbers in the garden, but be prepared to protect them from a surprise frost.
- Set out transplants of hot peppers; be prepared to protect them from frost and, as the weather warms, from intense sunlight.
- Plant fast-growing varieties of beets, carrots, and radishes so you can harvest a crop before the real heat sets in.
- Also start southern favorites, such as okra, southern peas, and sweet potatoes.
- Lubber grasshoppers hatch this month: Spread Semaspore around the perimeter of your property and on their favorite foods—amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.), tuberoses (Polianthes tuberosa), rain lilies (Zephyranthes spp.), and crinum lilies (Crinum spp.).