BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: February in the Garden
By Kerry Peetz
With the snow lingering on the north side ground, it’s hard to imagine that spring will soon be here.
First, there are the “cold days” of Lent, then following close behind is the joyous season of Easter. Our gardens are similar to our lives. During Lent we prepare, “clean up” and wait in anticipation. With Easter there are new signs of life, little sprouts of green popping up from the ground, the giddy feeling that tags along with new beginnings and then there is that wonderfully brand new, fresh, earthy, scent of spring, and hope and Easter that fills our Colorado air.
A few jobs to consider for late winter in the garden: Clean, sharpen and oil tools; tune up the mower; attend a garden class; clean up broken branches; rake up any lingering leaves; and water on days that reach above 40 degrees. Watering should include lawns, trees, shrubs and perennials (even if they are hard to find). Order seeds, schedule springtime professional gardening appointments (mowing service, aerating and design) — their calendars fill up fast.
It’s time to assess the garden. Inspect trees and shrubs and evaluate their pruning needs. On a warmer day remove broken branches and branches that cross and are damaged from rubbing. Take out unwanted branches that interfere with the desired shape of the shrub or tree. Keep in mind that spring blooming trees and shrubs should not be pruned in late winter as their flower buds have been set and will be ready to open as temperatures get warmer. Side note: these spring blooming shrubs and trees should be pruned after their last bloom fades.
February is a good time to get the soil tested. This can be done for a vegetable garden or planting beds. Lawn areas can be tested too. A professional soil test will list nutrients the soil is lacking or if the soil has too much of any particular elements. Often, gardeners add too much fertilizer, compost, or organic matter; this can be as damaging as adding too little. Colorado State University provides this invaluable service. For more information: CSU Plant, Soil and Water Testing Lab www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu (the soil should not be wet when taking samples).
If there are children, grandchildren or neighborhood children present February is great for sprouting seeds (fun for adults too). There are two ways to watch seeds sprout: by using one type of seed in a jar, or a variety of seeds in a simple mini greenhouse. For the first method, line a glass jar with a damp paper towel and put several seeds such as zucchini or bush beans between the glass and the towel. Attach the lid and leave the jar on the kitchen counter. Check the paper each day and moisten as necessary. Your seeds should sprout in a few days.
For the second method, use a recycled foil pan and a plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. Position a damp paper towel in the bottom of the pan and gently place the seeds, such as zucchini, scarlet runner beans, cucumbers, and broccoli, upon it. Draw a simple map showing where each seed variety was ‘planted’ so that it’s easy to identify which seeds sprout first. Put the tray in a plastic bag. Once the seeds and roots grow talk about germination and how different seeds have different germination periods. It’s always amazing how quickly the tray explodes with sprouted seeds. Maybe this fun experiment will lead to future help in the “real” garden!
Don’t let the cold temperatures prevent us from taking a nature walk. Even a quick one does the soul good to open our eyes to the miracles in God’s creation that truly are all around us.