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  • February garden tips & tasks

    Fight cabin fever by getting on a sunny day to pick up sticks, leaves and other garden debris that has accumulated.

    Keep bird feeders filled to attract a wide variety of winged visitors to your garden in winter.

    Plant a tree if the soil isn't frozen. Dig a hole that is slightly wider than the tree's root ball, but no deeper. Place the tree in the hole; replace the soil and water it well. Add mulch, but don't mound it up around the tree's trunk.

    A Valentine's Day bouquet of roses will last longer if you cut off the bottoms of the stems at an angle bfore you place them in lukewarm water in a clean vase. Remove the lower leaves from the stem before you place the bouquet in water.

    Dig winter annuals out of the garden beds: deadnettle, henbit, chickweed and other unwanted plants before they take over the beds.

    Cut back or mow over liriope (monkey grass) before new growth begins.

    Don't overwater your houseplants. Before you add water, check the soil's moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil.

    Provide nesting boxes to welcome birds to your garden Cavity-dwelling birds may start a family in a simple box with 11/2-inch entry hole.

    Grow your own transplants indoors under lights. Start seeds of cool-weather plants now to have sturdy transplants to set out in a few weeks.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    Planners of the ever-popular Nashville Lawn & Garden Show announce that next spring's show will be March 2 - 5, 2017 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The theme will celebrate Gardens of the Future with garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs, and special features for children. The centerpiece of the all-indoors event is, as always, the walk-through, interactive garden displays from some of Middle Tennessee's top landscape and gardening companies. Free lectures are planned each day on a range of garden-related topics, and visitors can shop the Marketplace with more than 150 vendors. Complete details will be available soon at http://nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com, where you can also sign up for the email newsletter and receive updates.

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmt.org.

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New Month-By-Month Gardening

Month by Month open 2One of the resources I’ve relied on for several years to help answer garden questions is a book titled Month-By-Month Gardening in Tennessee & Kentucky, by award-winning garden writer Judy Lowe. The book was first published more than a decade ago by Cool Springs Press, and it holds a wealth of easy-to-understand information that is useful for gardeners in the southeast U.S., both novices and those with more experience.

There’s a new version of the book out now, also published by Cool Springs Press. I’m looking at the two books side by side, and loving the fact that I can find much of the same useful information in a glossy new format. (Read on for details of a chance to win a copy of the book!)

Judy Lowe crop“The information has stayed pretty much the same, the activities are the same. But for those people who want to know everything in a month in a few pages, they will like this,” Judy told me when we talked by phone earlier this week.

What’s different? In the old format, the book is divided into categories – Annuals, Bulbs, Herbs & Vegetables, Houseplants, and so on – and each category is divided into months, generally with two pages for each month. Each month has information about planning, planting, care, watering, fertilizing and problems, with a timely tip or two.

The new, more compact, full-color glossy Month-By-Month Gardening is divided into months, using subheads, making it easier to see at a glance what needs to be done in each category that month. Each month has several “Here’s How” sidebars, and there are color pictures of plants, planting techniques, a few common garden pests and more. The pictures are especially useful.

“It does help, if you are new to gardening or don’t know a lot about it, to see those pictures — the close-ups, the illustrations,” Judy said. Some garden books are written in “garden language” that a new gardener has not yet learned. “Novice gardeners feel more comforted by seeing pictures and illustrations.”

Here in the middle of winter, there is very little real gardening to be done, but Judy passed along several ideas of how to begin to get ready for spring. Here’s what she suggests:

  • “Start a garden notebook, if you don’t have one.” The notebook can be a simple looseleaf binder, one with pockets to hold labels, seed packets or other small items. “It makes such a difference in knowing what happened in the past and what you have thought of doing before, or want to do. It helps you keep a record of what didn’t work, and can help you not make mistakes in the future.”
  • If you’re going to start plants from seed – and it’s really kind of fun, gives you a sense of satisfaction – start thinking about that in February.” Most common plants take only about eight weeks from sowing to setting out in the garden. “You want to be ready and get all your equipment together.” (And here are a couple of tips for growing your own transplants from seeds: You don’t need special grow lights, Judy said. For growing seeds, a couple of fluorescent lights will be fine. If you don’t have a grow light or a shop light, and you’re not getting enough light on your plants, use aluminum foil to reflect the light onto the plants. “It really helps, and it’s nice and cheap,” Judy said.)
  • She also recommends February as the time to have the soil tested if you haven’t had that done in the past five years. You can do that through your county’s extension service now and avoid the rush of the busier time in early spring. It will make a huge difference in how successfully things will grow in your garden, she said. “In the lawn, it can tell you everything, and mean the difference between success and failure.”
  • It’s also a good time to have your lawnmower serviced. “Particularly, have the blade sharpened. If it doesn’t cut correctly it can lave spots where disease can enter,” Judy said. “Lawnmower maintenance services get plenty busy in April, so get it done before the season starts.”

 

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11 Responses

  1. The temperature here is sub-zero. All I can do right now is imagine the possibilities!

  2. Lately, with this dreadful winter, the main thing I do is pick up fallen branches and twigs, and peruse those pornographically gorgeous garden catalog dreaming of days ahead!

  3. I am ready for spring when winter loses its grip. Let’s go! Let’s garden!

  4. The only garden task I have this time of year is to keep alive the plants wintering over in my sunroom. I’m glad to say, they’re hanging in there – but I’d love to have this guide to help me with bigger and better projects outdoors. As soon as it hits 50 or 60 degrees again!

  5. Researching how and when to plant. I’m a newbie!

  6. Your blog is helping me picture Spring in below 0 temperatures. Looking forward to using some of your suggestions soon!

  7. My task is to organize the messy pile of gardening tools I stacked up in the shed at the end of the summer!

  8. Looks like a book every gardener needs!

  9. […] other organic material so that the soil drains well. Space the transplants closely (garden expert Judy Lowe suggests placing them 4 inches apart) and firm the soil around the plants so they won’t be lifted […]

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