February - What's in Katie's Garden?


In My Garden (Zone 7-8)

Katie Elzer-Peters
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening. 

I’ve been chomping at the bit to actually plant things. While January wasn’t particularly cold, it was gloomy. It’s still a bit early for much besides peas, but, in our growing zones, we can sow cool weather annual flower seeds directly into the garden. They’ll sprout when the conditions are right, and we’ll have gorgeous flowers blooming starting in April or so.

I’m not very organized with the way I plant things. I tend to just dump all of my cutting flower seeds in a cup, stir them around, and then scatter them about like chicken feed. Charming, right? What you end up with when you do this is a chaotic mass of blooms. If you have an area with full sun that you can designate as a cutting garden, try this. It really is fun. I have my “throw it and grow it” area near the street and I love watching people walk by and stare at it! They always smile, even though it’s kind of a mess. That’s why I love gardening. It’s something that has the power to bring communities together, even if just for a few minutes.

What to Plant in Your Winter Flower Garden

For the "throw it and grow it" mix I dump packets of violas alyssum cornflowers, California poppies, and calendula. I absolutely love the Amber Kiss Violas. They are so incredibly striking if you plant them with the Burgundy Beauties Cornflowers. The cornflowers will really draw out the purple tones in the violas. I would plant the Royal Carpet Alyssum with that color combo. (I love purple)




California poppies are so easy to grow. Mix them with orange and yellow calendula for a sunny, cheerful mass of color.

For The Vegetable Garden

Beyond the wild flower garden in my front yard, I enjoy the winter gardening season because it’s the ideal time to grow nasturtiums. I’ve known people who have had trouble growing these flowers, but I think the secret is to make sure to nick the seed coat before planting. I actually use a pair of nail clippers to clip a little piece of the shell to make sure water can easily penetrate the seed coat before the seed rots in the ground. (One year I used my teeth and bit the seeds. Then I reminded myself that “teeth are not tools.”)

like the deep red flowers of “Empress of India” Nasturtium, but I'm excited to try growing the re-introduced "Phoenix" Nasturtiums with pinked edged flowers this year. Nasturtiums can act as trap crops in the vegetabl garden - giving pests like aphids something to munch on instead of the veggies. These cool weather bloomers do double duty so plant them around the edges of your vegetable plot or raised beds.





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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Trees and shrubs are the framework for creating spectacular gardens. They also provide a respite from the heat of summer, enliven the fall with exceptional foliage and add interest in the winter when most gardens are void of blooms. Plan now to add a flowering tree or two to your landscape this spring. If you wait to buy when the trees are in bloom, it may be too late to find a good selection.

    • Magnolias - available in sizes to suit most gardens with blooms of white, yellow, pink to purple.
    • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) - it isn't spring without this stellar native tree with blooms of white, pink and red.
    • Chestnuts/Buckeyes (Aesculus) - Beautiful and the Red Buckeye (A. pavia) is a hummingbird magnet.
    • Cherry (Prunus) - too many to mention, sensational bloom and fall foliage.
    • Princess Tree (Paulowinia tormentosa)- quick growing with lilac blooms and incredibly huge leaves.