February Gardening Activities - Region 1
Gardening Tips for January
Northwest and Northern California Gardens
States in the region:
Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Northern California
Key Issues for January
- Use snowfall to your gardening advantage when you can – it can be a protective mulch and moisture source! If you haven’t used any chemical deicers on your walkways and driveway, shovel piled snow over to your planting beds.
- Check perennials for any signs of heaving caused by freezing and thawing of the soil, and add mulch around plants to reduce temperature fluctuations. Don’t forget to provide winter care for planted bulbs, too: If spring bulbs – especially tulips – emerge too early, they run the risk of being hit hard by late February freezes.
- Experiment with new plant material: Try bare-root plants. Though they may seem weakly without a soil-bound root ball, these plants really are robust and healthy – and can be easily planted directly into the landscape.
- Grab your pruners – it’s time to prune fruit trees! Make sure your cutting tools are cleaned and sharpened before you start.
- Keep an eye on the weather and protect plants from low temperatures and freezes. If a freeze is predicted, water plants thoroughly the day before. Cover tender plants with cloth to help keep the cold air away. Potted plants should be moved to protected locations if possible. If temps drop to below freezing, hold off on any pruning or planting.
- Help your houseplants in winter stay happy and healthy. Even though your indoor beauties aren’t subjected to the outdoor cold, winter can still be tough on them. Providing a little more humidity and checking on shifting light levels in your home are good places to start.
- Check all recent transplants for water needs – winter weather can cause root balls to dry out. Evergreens (those plants that keep their leaves year-round) lose water from their leaves and needles throughout winter, especially when it’s above freezing and/or windy. If rain or snow is still lacking in your area, drag out the hose and deeply water trees and shrubs.
- Cut branches of pussy willow, redbud, forsythia, flowering cherry and quince for indoor forcing. A little indoor color this time of year can really chase the winter blues away!
- Open your garden journal and check your notes from the previous growing season to see which plants performed well for you, then reorder those favorites. Consider some new varieties that may add interest to your garden, too, then plan your garden on paper!
- Cut back ornamental grasses. To make the job easier (and neater), tie the grasses in a bundle, then cut them back to within 4-6 inches of the ground.
- Feed the birds. Our feathered friends need a reliable supply of water and food during winter. Once you start feeding them they’ll keep returning for more, so you’ll need to continue until natural food becomes available again in spring.
- Get a compost keeper and turn kitchen waste into dark, friable compost for the garden. (It’s not only rewarding, it’s a great way to reduce unnecessary materials in the waste stream!)
- Check all stored bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers. Dahlias, caladiums, elephant ears and tuberous begonias that are moldy or rotten need to be discarded. Any sawdust shavings or newspaper shreddings that appear infected should also be removed, and fresh replacements should be added.
- Keep your green thumb green, even when you can’t get out in the garden. Tending to your indoor container plants, planning your next flower bed and reading gardening articles for tips and ideas are just a few ways to exercise your skills before the official start of the new growing season.
- Plant a sweet cherry tree! This large, deciduous tree brings great-tasting rewards. Give your plant full sun and well-drained soil that’s moderately fertile. The universally enjoyed fruit usually ripens by midsummer. Note: Most varieties require a pollinating tree nearby to ensure a good fruit crop.
- Manage winter weeds lurking in your planting beds. Properly removing and discarding them now means less work to do when spring finally arrives.
- Test your garden soil before the spring rush hits hard and heavy. Many home gardeners can get a good sample by using a standard garden trowel and an at-home-test kit (available at most garden centers).
- Start annual seed that are slow to germinate and/or need a long growth period before bloom time. Petunia, ageratum, impatiens, alyssum, portulaca and snapdragon seed all need ample time to grow before they’re ready for outdoor transplanting after all danger of frost has passed.
- Build wood flats for seed starting. These easy-to-build boxes make sprouting seed easy, and they’re more decorative than ugly, plastic flats.