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February tips for the garden

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By The Staff

How wonderful, we had approximately two inches of rain last month, after a long dry spell. Have you serviced your irrigation system? Have you gone out and watched how the water is moving in the landscape? Have you seen the smile on your plants?

The winter vegetables; kale, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, and onions, that are close to harvest, are beautiful. And, our daffodils are in bloom.

Yes, there are some daffodils that will succeed in our climate. Their names are “Carlton, Erlicheer, Early Pearl, and Soleil d’Or.” Contact the Florida Daffodil Society to find where they are available.

Azalea show time, February and March, is here. Soon Ocala will be covered with those spectacular blooms that signal the arrival of spring.

The species that do well here range in color from white, pink, red, lavender and salmon. Whatever you do, do not prune except for one or two of those wild branches that shoot out because the buds for this spring’s bloom were set last summer.

Do not fertilize azaleas until after they finish blooming. Clean up around them and add fresh mulch. Do fertilize camellias and other woody shrubs.

This is a good time to shop for lawn fertilizer since application time is early March. If you have a problem with spring lawn weeds look into using fertilizer that has a pre-emergent included.

A pre-emergent prevents dormant seeds from last year’s crop of weeds from germinating. Be careful. Read the label and be sure that the active ingredient (a.i.) is safe for your type of turf. For example, an a.i. that works with bahia will kill St. Augustine.

Another caution is to be meticulous about the amount applied and to calibrate your spreader correctly, so you do not apply too much. A good application would be a mixture of 50 percent slow-release and 50 percent water soluble fertilizers.

The slow release will feed for months and the soluble will be the jump start for spring growth. If more information is needed, call the Master Gardeners at 671-8400, or see them and 70 vendors at the annual Spring Festival March 14 and 15.

Mid February is the time to begin planting a spring vegetable garden. You can plant seeds for collards, cucumber, endive, lettuce, and parsley. Transplants can also be set out with some cautions.

Protect tender transplants from wilt and cut worm by wrapping the stem with a piece of newspaper before replacing soil in the hole. Also be prepared to protect the transplants against a frost or freeze. Lightweight row covers or gallon milk jugs, with their bottoms cut out, work well.

The compost that you have been making since last season should be used now. Work one- to two inches of new compost into the soil so it will be ready for planting. You can also add some slow-release fertilizer, about one cup per 10 feet of row.

After cleaning up dead leaves and blossoms, prepare the beds for planting bulbs and annuals. Good bulbs to plant this time of year include lilies, caladium, cannas, dahlia, gladiolus, Tritonia (hearty South African bulb sometimes called Blazing Star), tuberose, and Watsonia (hearty South African corm, relative of gladiolus).

It is good to mix some annuals among the bulb plantings. The annuals fill in the spaces between the bulbous plants and may continue blooming after the bulbs are finished.

Consider planting baby’s breath, calendula, dianthus, pansy, petunia, and snapdragon. Some of these will last until summer and some will expire with the first heat wave.

Caution: Don’t overexert those under-worked winter muscles. Pace yourself. Bend at the knees and lift with your legs, not your back. Playing in the dirt should be fun.

For more information about gardening practices in Central Florida, call Marion County Master Gardeners at 671-8400, or visit their office in the Cooperative Extension Center, 2232 N. E. Jacksonville Rd.