Lower South

February, 2013
Regional Report

Prune Fruit Trees

Late winter is prime time for pruning fruit trees. Do some research first to determine the best form for each species of fruit you have. The first few years of a fruit tree's life are the time to train it into the desired form. As a general guide, peaches and plums are trained to an "open bowl" shape, while apples and pears are trained to a central trunk with whorls of branches spaced apart up and down the trunk. Once the basic form is created, pruning in future years is basically for the purpose of maintaining that form. Use sharp pruning equipment to make clean cuts that will heal over more rapidly.

Plant Roses

February is for roses! This is a great time to plant bare root and container grown roses and also to prune existing plants. Mix several inches of compost into the surface 8 to10 inches of soil in the planting bed. Firm the soil in around the roots of bare root plants or the root ball of container plants and water it in well when the hole is half filled and again when you are done planting. Sprinkle some complete fertilizer around each plant and water it in well. Mulch the area beneath and around each plant to deter weeds and protect the soil surface.

Fertilize Cool Season Vegetables

Cool season vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, collards, lettuce, spinach, and onions will all benefit from some added nutrition now. These plants are actively growing and will continue to speed up with the arrival of milder temperatures. If the roots have access to plenty of nutrition the plants will perform their best and the coming harvest will be more bountiful. In the case of broccoli, cabbage and onions for example, the larger the plant the more productive the harvest.

Plant Potatoes

This month is the time to plant potatoes (except for sweet potatoes) in the garden. Choose potato tubers that are sold for "seed pieces" rather than grocery store tubers, which have often been treated with sprouting inhibitors. Cut the tubers with one bud or "eye" on each piece. Lay them in a well-ventilated spot for a couple of days to allow the cut surfaces to dry. Then plant them out in the garden in a trench to allow root for pulling soil up around the growing stems. The new crop of tubers will form along the stem above the seed piece.

Start Warm Season Transplant

If you would like to grow your own transplants of warm season vegetables, this is a great time to start the seed indoors. Tomatoes, peppers, petunias, marigolds, and even some herbs can be started from seed in a protected indoor spot when it is still too cold for them to be outside. Check on the best temperature for the seed species and how deep to plant the seed. Most seeds will germinate well in the 72 to 78 degree range. Florescent lights a few inches above the seedlings will help provide extra light to keep them strong and stocky.

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