Horticultural Hints for February!
Help the birds get through the winter.
Birds that choose to overwinter in New England do
so because they can find sufficient food.
Water, though, is harder; and even vernal pools
it can freeze up in February. You can do your avian friends a good turn by either purchasing and setting up
an electrically heated water station, or by frequently
replenishing the water in your unheated bird bath
and place it in a sunny location.
A great month to prune!
Another advantage of winter is the opportunity to see problem areas in your shrubs and fruit trees. Without leaves, problems such as water spouts and crossing branches are easy to spot and just as easy to cut out. Making certain you’ve recently sharpened your pruners, go after those problem areas you can easily reach from the ground. If the problem requires a ladder though, it’s time to call in a professional.
Beware of freeze and thaw.
Unlike other recent winters, there’s no snow on the ground this year to provide a protective blanket for perennials and recently-planted shrubs. As temperatures drop into the teens at night but rise into the 30s or higher during the day, the freezing and thawing cycle can push a plant out of the ground. Gently use the heel of your hand to press plants back to be flush to the soil.
Cut the vines that bind.
One of the advantages of winter is that certain problem areas are more readily apparent. For example, invasive vines stand out in stark relief against the trees those vines are climbing – and strangling. Use your walks around your own property and neighboring areas to spot unwanted species such as Asian bittersweet, wisteria, and English ivy. Cut them close to the ground and leave them in place to die, while periodically checking the site for growth from the vine’s roots.
A present from the heart for the gardener in your life!
Instead of flowers on Valentine’s Day, how about a gift certificate to your loved one’s favorite nursery or seed company? If a nursery or seed company gift certificate isn’t appropriate, how about a membership in a horticultural, environmental, or conservation organization...or best yet, how about a membership to the MV Garden Club?
Houseplants can dry out.
Your houseplants need less water in the winter, and certainly don’t require fertilizing. But, if you have plants close to radiators, forced hot air, or other heat sources, check them frequently because those pots will dry out far more quickly than ones setting away from heat outlets. A finger pushed down into the soil is the best determinant of whether the plant’s soil is drying out too quickly.
Woodchucks Go Home!
For reasons lost to history, each February 1 we still insist on exalting the groundhog or, as they’re known in New England, woodchucks. Maybe Bill Murray is to blame. Woodchucks do extensive damage to landscaping wherever they’re able to establish a colony. They may be cute, but they’re noxious pests in any garden.