Finally February

Finally February has arrived and we can start planting and scratching that “garden itch”! But hold on. It’s tempting to start putting seed in the ground February 1st but in our area (Region III of the aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu “Spring Planting Guide for Vegetable Crops”) it is prudent to wait until mid-month.

Mid-month is about 4 weeks before the average last freeze date, which is March 15th in Ellis County. This is the ideal time to plant cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and potatoes. Other cool-season vegetables such as beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard and “greens” (collard, mustard and turnip) should be planted between mid-month and March 1st.

Asparagus crowns should be planted this month. Asparagus crowns can produce for 15 to 25 years in the same bed. Asparagus will flourish in sandy or lightly textured, well draining soil, at least 10-12 inches deep, in full sun. Make sure the bed is free of johnsongrass or bermudagrass rhizomes and that all organic matter has been turned under. The ideal pH range is 6.5 to 7.5. Confirm the pH with a soil test.

Purchase healthy looking 1-2 year old, bare-root crowns. Small to medium crowns will establish faster than the largest crowns. The best varieties for our area are hybrid cultivars such as ‘Martha Washington, UC 157, Jersey Giant and Mary Washington. These hybrids are more disease resistant and productive than standard cultivars. An interesting purple cultivar (‘Purple Passion’) has large spears with green flesh and is available to home gardeners.

Warm-season perennials (cannas, coneflowers, perennial salvia, mums) can be dug and divided while they are dormant. Salvia gregii, (autumn sage) should be cut back 50%. Asian jasmine should be trimmed to 4 or 5 inches to stimulate new growth in the spring and maintain shape. Now is the time to dig and divide clumps of ornamental grasses with dead centers.

Valentines’ Day is the time to prune roses! Prune dead wood, old, or weak canes to the ground. Prune 4-8 vigorous canes back to one half of their growth just above an outward facing bud. Climbing or leaning roses should be pruned after they bloom. Errant canes may be pruned any time to maintain the plant’s shape. Cut back herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses including liriope. An exception is Mexican feather grass which does not require pruning.

February is the month to begin insect and disease control on our fruit and nut trees. Spraying is essential for a successful harvest. Learn about the care of fruit and nut trees by contacting the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service—Ellis County for a copy of the “Homeowners Fruit and Nut Spray Schedule.” For more information about growing fruit and nut trees, consult http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. Search “Fruit and Nut Resources” then “Fruit and Nut Fact Sheets”. There you will find information about growing and caring for many types of fruit and nut trees. Be on the lookout for aphids and caterpillars! Insecticidal soap is an effective control for aphids. Bt (Bacillus thuringensis) is effective against caterpillars.

Horticultural oil is environmentally responsible and effective control for scale insects and overwintering eggs, adhering to bark, twig crevices and leaves of shrubs and trees. Camellias, hollies, euonymus, bay laurel, myrtle, citrus, photinias and boxwood, shade trees, fruit and pecan trees can all benefit from the annual application of horticultural oil. Horticultural oil is less environmentally harsh than pesticides and is an excellent way to smother difficult-to-eradicate pests. To treat trees and shrubs, follow the product directions and thoroughly spray leaves, twigs and bark.

Crape myrtle bark scale can be difficult to control and requires application of a neonicotinoid insecticide, such as imidacloprid, as a soil drench to the root zone of infested trees. Be sure to follow application directions and precautions when applying any insecticide.

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