February 1 to February 28
Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.
Here's what's happening in your gardening region:
Now that our mild winter is nearly over, it’s time to think spring! You can either save your cool season veggie seeds for next year or plant some fast-maturing ones like radishes for an early harvest, but don’t go overboard because warmer – er, hotter – temperatures are just around the corner. That said, take advantage of the pleasant weather and complete any garden tasks that will be made difficult by the impending sweltering muggy days. Raised beds are easy to construct, and will make gardening easier in the long run. If you’d like to plant winter squashes, gourds or pumpkins, now is the time to get those seeds in the ground. Summer squashes and cucumbers can also be planted now. Though some of you in the more southern reaches of our zone have gotten off scot free without any freezes thus far, even the more cautious gardeners can begin planting tomato seeds in the garden now. There’s still a slight chance of frost, but that’s nothing a blanket or frost cloth can’t fix. You should also be replacing your pansies and petunias with warm-season annual flowers now, and shade-tolerant blooms like begonias and impatiens are a great fit for beds under trees or on the north side of a house. Once you’ve planned your projects and ordered some seeds, go outside and play in that gorgeous weather!
Start Growing Tomatoes
They’re a must-have in every vegetable garden, and they’re a lot easier to grow than you think. Tomatoes can now be grown throughout our growing area, provided you keep the blankets or floating row covers handy in the event of a late frost. Tomato cages are essential for providing the additional support tomatoes need, but long and vining indeterminate types will even benefit from a trellis since they continue growing as long as the plant lives. For tomato fruits to grow large without cracking, plants will need constant moisture, lots of sun and a generous helping of fertilizer like Burpee’s organic vegetable formula. If you’re nervous about growing tomatoes for the first time, try growing cherry tomatoes. Even if you forget to water them or skimp on the fertilizer they’ll still produce a small crop of snack sized morsels along with the satisfaction of growing your very own tomatoes.
Plant Melons & Squash
Most gardeners are familiar with growing summer squashes in summer, winter squashes in the cooler months and planting pumpkins for Halloween, but here in our hot growing zone melons and squashes don’t play by the same rules. As a general rule of thumb, melons, gourds, cucumbers and squashes can be grown here right when the threat of frost has passed. If you plant them any later, however, they may succumb to diseases and pests brought on by the heat and humidity. Melons, gourds and winter squashes need a lot of space, but summer squashes and cucumbers are small enough for small gardens or container gardens – especially if grown against a support.
Cautiously plant warm season crops
Now is the time to start plantings of warm season crops like tomatoes, beans, squashes, cucumbers, peppers and corn, if you haven’t done so already. If you’d still like to plant cool-season veggies, choose crops that can be harvested before it gets too warm. Radishes mature quickly while salad greens and Masterpiece peas can be picked while immature, so plant these as a living mulch between your new warm season plantings. This will maximize your space, keep weeds from popping up in the exposed soil and give you something to eat while you wait for the other vegetables to mature. When adding warm-season crops to the garden, do not plant vegetables from the same family in the same spot two years in a row so that you don’t have to deal with the pests that accumulated from last year’s crop. For example, if you planted tomatoes or their relatives in the nightshade family such as eggplant, peppers and potatoes, try growing plants in the cucurbit family like squashes, melons and cucumbers instead.
Make a Raised Bed Garden
Most vegetables require good drainage and lots of fertile and moisture-retentive soil, so what’s a vegetable gardener to do with soil that’s sandy, rocky or soggy? As you may have guessed from the header, the solution is to grow vegetables in raised beds. Raised beds allow you to add the soil or compost of your choice right on top of the existing soil with no digging required, and they also bring the garden and its chores to a more comfortable level. In addition to solving lots of problems, raised beds are also quite beautiful and provide much-needed visual structure to what might otherwise look like a haphazard and messy veggie garden. Build one from a variety of materials including rot-resistant wood, concrete blocks, bricks or stone, or purchase a kit from Burpee that has everything necessary, including corner brackets.
Plant Shade Tolerant Annuals
If your garden’s trees have filled in over the years, you may find yourself with a little less sunshine than you started out with. Too much shade can make annual flowers weak and lanky as they stretch for the light, but luckily annuals like begonias, impatiens, coleus and torenia do just fine in the shade of tall trees or alongside tall perennials. Some shade tolerant annuals are especially beautiful. ‘Sparks Will Fly’ Begonia offers delicate tangerine blooms on dark green and bronzy foliage, making it a great companion plant for the tropical foliage of gingers and elephant ears. New Guinea impatiens are also ideal for a partly shaded garden and have similarly dark foliage, but the blooms range from white to peach, pink and red. Torenia is also called wishbone flower, but the blooms look less like a wishbone than an actual granted wish. Usually they’re sold in patterns of purple and white, but Burpee also has a ‘Lemon Drop’ hybrid with yellow and white blooms – as well as a striking and appropriately named hybrid called ‘Orange Red Orchid’.