February in the Southern Garden
Short and cold -- that's February. This month got its name from the latin verb, "februare", meaning "to purify with sacred rites". February was not in the Roman calendar until 700 B.C. -- when Pompilius added what is now our second month.
Anglo-Saxons called their second month "kale-monath" -- in reference to the cool season plant they called "kale" -- which sprouted in February and was a diet staple for them. We know this vegetable as cabbage -- an important source of vitamin C.
February is also a good time to plant beet, broccoli, carrot and cauliflower. For a complete list of the vegetables to plant throughout the year, send a large SASE to: Jim Notestein, 3701 NW 17 Street, Gainesville, Florida 32605.
The flower of February is the Violet. Widely distributed around the world -- it was the symbol of Athens, Greece, over two-thousand years ago. It has been used since ancient times for medicine, decoration and perfume. Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin selected the Violet as their state flower. Growing wild or cultivated, some blooms are single, others double. Colors range from white, purple or yellow.
This time of year, bare-root fruit trees are available. These should be planted quickly after purchase -- along with generous amounts of compost or peat. Small trees or shrubs may still be successfully dug up and transplanted.
Now's a good time to prune evergreen shrubs for size and shape. An exception would be Azaleas and Camelias. For them, wait till after the flowers are gone. Fertilize during the winter with a low-nitrogen compound -- 2-10-10 for example. Nitrogen is the first number and in small concentrations will not encourage tender leaf growth that might be damaged by frosts yet to come.
Many cold-hardy, flowering annuals can be planted now. Calendula likes full sun and looks like marigold. Carnation's name refers to its use as a coronary or garland flower. It was known by ancient people as "Divine Flower". Pansy, Petunia and Snapdragon also thrive in cool weather. Statice, planted now, will yield pastel-colored blooms that can be dried as "everlasting" flowers.
The small size of most flower seeds make germination difficult. Where possible, it is easier to start from young plants available at most garden centers. Flower beds are more productive if compost, peat moss or other organic material is generously incorporated into the soil. A ration of time-release fertilizer at each plant location will increase vigor and flower production. Mulch flower beds, garden and foundation plantings with bark, leaves or wood chips. This will smother weeds, reduce watering and build soil -- while improving the appearance of your landscape.
This is a good month to divide or repot overgrown houseplants. Cut back weak, leggy portions to encourage new growth. Watch your watering schedule -- cloudy days and too much water can harm houseplants.
So, cozy up to your favorite seed catalog, and make plans for a beautiful spring in your southern garden.
If you would like a free copy of the Vegetable Gardening Guide, send a large SASE to:
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