February Gardening Tips for the Northwest

Spring is just around the corner. Celebrate the turn of the seasons with quality time in the garden.


Start Planting

+ enlarge image Give your plants room to grow.

It's time to start planting -- inside and out. What should you be tucking into soil?

Bare-root stock. This includes fruit trees, shrubs, roses, berries, and grapes. Along the coast, plant at any point this month. In inland regions, wait until air and soil temperatures move above freezing.

Hardy annuals. Begin planting annuals such as calendula, poppies, pansies, and English daisies this month. Direct sow these beauties into prepared garden soil.

Primroses. Along the coast, where warmer temperatures prevail, tuck primroses (Primula vulgaris) into pots outside, or use to brighten indoor rooms. Add polyanthus primroses, the multiflowered types, to garden beds. Where temperatures are still on the chilly side inland, count on pots of primroses to sound a colorful note on windowsills.

Cool-season veggies. Start seeds indoors for cool-season edibles, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuces, and onions. Use fluorescent lights to improve seedling growth. Plant these veggies three to six weeks before they should be moved into the garden.

Learn more about cool-season crops.

Test Garden Tip: Start tomatoes indoors now to have good, sturdy plants to set out in early summer.

Don't miss our seed-starting guide.

Breeze Through Garden Cleanup

Remove leaves that may have blown in during winter. Cut down any remaining perennial stems, taking care not to damage emerging shoots.

Clip ornamental grasses before new stems appear. To make quick work of large clumps of grass, bind stems together using a bungee cord. Cut stems beneath the cord using electric hedge clippers.

Apply Dormant Spray

Spray ornamental plants before they leaf out -- while they're still dormant. This is probably the most important spray of the year to control insect problems. Many diseases and insects (or their eggs) overwinter on plants or in leaf litter in beds. Spraying while plants are dormant allows you to use a stronger blend of lime-sulfur and horticultural oil, which will kill eggs, insects, and disease spores.

Follow label instructions carefully. In general, spray on a warm day (above 40 degrees F) with no precipitation or freezing temperatures predicted for eight hours after application. Apply horticultural oil and lime-sulfur in separate sprays spaced at least two weeks apart.

Test Garden Tip: Deal with weeds as soon as they appear. Spot-spray weeds that surface in mostly weed-free lawns.

Check out our Weed Identification Guide.

Prune Away

Late winter offers a key pruning window. Grab your pruning tools and tackle these plants.

Roses. In warmer areas near the coast, prune roses now. Remove dead, diseased, or damaged canes. Cut Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, and Grandifloras to 12-18 inches tall. Prune established shrub roses to 36 inches and remove any tiny twigs (ones that are smaller than a pencil in diameter).

Fruit trees. Prune fruit trees to improve tree form and enhance bearing. Check with your local cooperative extension office for details on shaping fruit trees.

Shrubs. Shape, shorten, and thin shrubs. Don't prune spring-blooming shrubs until after they flower.

Houseplants. Remove any leggy growth to encourage sprouting from the base.

Test Garden Tip: Repot houseplants as needed, giving them as much sunlight and air circulation as possible afterward. Start fertilizing when you spot new growth.

Don't miss our BHG pruning guide.

Learn more in our houseplant care guide.

Deal with Moss

Moss thrives in places with high moisture, limited sunlight, and little air circulation. Treat moss using commercially available products.

In lawns, if moss is present, sunlight may not be abundant enough for grass to grow. You may need to convert to groundcovers.

Use the right product in the right place. Lawn moss controls may contain iron, which stains concrete surfaces. Moss controls for roofs and concrete contain zinc, which may harm plants.

Picture New Plants for Your Garden

As you consider additions for your garden, keep winter interest in mind. Would your garden benefit from evergreens, berried plants, or shrubs with colorful bark? Perennials with strong stems that stand up to snow also enhance a winter scene.

Test Garden Tip: Slugs start feeding as soon as shoots emerge from soil. Deter these pesky varmints with pet-safe baits. Follow label directions, noting if you need to water after application.

  • Prune your summer-blooming clematis.

Pruning Trees and Shrubs -- Prune trees and prune shrubs. Be careful with flowering trees and shrubs -- you don't want to trim off developing buds. In fact, as a rule of thumb, prune flowering shrubs and trees within a month after they stop blooming. But do trim late-summer or fall-blooming trees and shrubs, including abelia, mimosa, cassia, oleander, crape myrtle, princess flower (also called tibouchina), golden rain tree and hibiscus.

Pruning Trees

Pruning Shrubs

Start Seeds Indoors -- Keep an eye on any seeds started indoors. They need gentle, constant moisture but not too much or they'll get damping-off. (Running a fan in the room helps.) Also give them as much light as possible. Keep grow lights just an inch or two above the plants.

Start Seeds Indoors

  • Consider building a cold frame. You'll be able to plant radishes, spinach, lettuce and other cool-season crops in it this month and use it for fall planting as well.
  • Wait to do any painting on outdoor structures until the temperature has hit at least 60 degrees F. Otherwise, the paint won't last as well.
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