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Master Gardener: Gardener’s February checklist

Vegetables: Early spring garden can be planted. Get an early start by beginning seed indoors using trays placed on a heating mat. Stimulates germination and resultant plants develop a stronger root system. Outside mulch soil to keep soil temperature variance at a minimum. Application of a layer of black plastic will help warm the soil. Asparagus season is starting. For a new bed, work up the soil and mix in as much organic matter as possible. Place one or two year old crowns at the bottom, then cover spears as they emerge. Let plants develop first year - forego any harvest whatsoever. You can harvest sparingly the second year. In succeeding years, enjoy your crop. Fertilize established asparagus plots at least twice during their growing season. That also goes for your other vegetables - fertilize at planting and side-dress six to eight weeks later.

Spring bulbs: Up and growing and some in bloom. Fertilize emerging stalks with a complete fertilizer. Repeat, only lightly this time, after bloom.

Perennials: All spent growth should have been removed by now. In mild winters, many perennials will already be putting out tender growth. (I noticed small blooms of purple salvia in January in the Senior Citizen Center’s bed.) Leave mulch as a protective cover for awhile longer. Those early spring fluctuations in temperature can do a lot of damage to plants. (Remember that nine inch snow we had on March 1st, 2008?)

Shrubs: With the exception of big leaf hydrangeas and gardenias, summer flowering shrubs can now be pruned. Prune a plant based on its particular situation - dead wood, lopsided appearance, thinning older stems to stimulate new growth, etc.

Grasses: Perennial ornamental grasses need pruning now. Dead growth needs to be cut back to make room for the tender new shoots emerging.

Roses: Prune roses now, with the exception of hybrid teas which are pruned at the end of the month. Refrain from pruning actively growing plants until the right time. Prune hybrids to within ten inches of the ground. Prune just above on outward facing bud. Prune climbers and shrub roses after bloom.

Fruiting trees and vines: From the time you plant and each succeeding year thereafter, prune in order to achieve optimum production. Plants set much more buds than can be supported. Correct pruning assures larger, quality fruit and fewer broken limbs. Consult pamphlets at the Extension Office or go to their website to get information on pruning specific fruit varieties.