February’s Garden

Some consider February deep winter, others feel they’ve got the worst behind them and it’s just a quick sprint to March. 

When I visit California relatives at this time of year, I am heartened by blooming rosemary and fully leaved trees, but back on 7a turf, things are very different.  No matter what the groundhog says, we’ve still got some hunkering down to do.  So, I try hard to focus on how little time we actually have to complete tasks that will make the spring a lot easier. It’s actually a very short amount of time.

I’m not going to get all of these things done but a list makes it easier to prioritize my time.



●  Spread mulch from last season’s pile & have some delivered.

●  Scrape winter weeds such as bittercress, dead netttle and chickweed with a sharp hoe.  If the ground is fully frozen, this job is made much easier (and is incredibly satisfying).

●  Cut back and/or trellis vines and berries.

●  Prune fruit trees.

●  Prune roses (Two little words, but so much work….)

●  Mark the stems that need to be removed from early spring flowerers like lilac and forsythia, so I know which ones to cut for forcing or remove entirely after bloom. With leaves removed, this job is so much easier and better choices can be made.

●  Re-gravel paths and drives.

●  Re-build raised beds and garden structures that do not require digging into frozen earth for footings.

●  Check fences and gates for broken pickets, hinges and groundhog holes and repair them.

●  Re-fill raised beds that have settled with compost and topsoil.

●  Set up a cold frame or plastic covered rack to receive transplanted seedlings in March.

●  Check potted plants that are under the overhang of a porch or covering and may be drying out.

●  Start laundering money out of my budget to cover the big spring blow-out in a couple months.



●  Sort seeds.

●  Plant seed flats of cold season veggies such as cabbage, kale, broccoli, leeks, lettuce and celery indoors or under glass.

●  Prepare a place for the seedlings to go when they are big enough to transplant.  Basement? Cold frame? Garage?

●  Start to put together real plans for one “big project” for this growing season.   French drains this year methinks.

●  Keep basement or garage stored plants lightly watered.

●  Check for mice getting into overwintering plants. My cats are great mousers, but they also love to use that soil for other reasons so I use a layer of gravel to discourage them.

●  Go through my gardening book library and pick out a couple of inspiring picture-filled books near my bedside table each week to pepper my dreams.

Most importantly…..

Visit a botanical garden conservatory!  One sniff of warm, moist air filled with the heavy scents of thriving, healthy plants will motivate me through all the chores above.

Here are some mid-Atlantic glass houses to get you started:

United States Botanic Gardens, Washington DC

Longwood Gardens conservatory, Kennett Square, PA:

Hillwood Gardens greenhouse (& estate house), Washington DC: http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/about-hillwood/gardens/greenhouse

Phippps Conservatory, Pittsburg, PA

Brookside Gardens Conservatory, Wheaton, MD

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA

And here you were thinking that there was nothing to do this month…..

“Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?”

-William Shakespeare
-(Don Pedro to Benedick)
-Much Ado About Nothing


About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.