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What to do in the February Garden

Happy February Gardening Friends,

Have you seen sneak peaks of summer poking from the chilly ground? Blooming snowdrops, crocus, and daffodils? These cheery flowers certainly herald the spring, though the official first day of spring may still be six weeks away. They symbolize our excitement after the drab chilly winter. Here in mild Portland, winter need not be drab. Hopefully you've tucked other winter blooming plants around your garden like camellia, hellebore, witch hazel, winter hazel, Chinese paper bush, and winter daphne.

By now you've probably received your seed, bulb, tuber, and plant catalogs in the mail. Have you been drafting a plan for your spring garden? If you've taken any of my classes or read any of my articles you will be familiar with my encouragement of always making a garden plan prior to shopping and planting. Those seed catalogs are way tempting, way, way, way tempting. I could easily drop several hundred dollars just drooling over the photos. And end up with no room in the garden for the majority of those seeds.

When spring arrives with the first warm and sunny day gardeners everywhere eagerly flock in mass to our local plant nurseries. After a long wet winter indoors, in a frenzy carts are loaded with plants. Returning home to find not enough space in the garden for the abundance of garden treasures.

February is a great month for planning. Consult a planting calendar. Take a gardening class, I've got several coming up this month and weekly through June. I'm available for edible gardening consultation that is like your own personalized gardening class at your home. Together we can walk your site, answer all your questions, and help you develop a garden plan for your best gardening year yet! Contact me today to schedule your consultation before my spring schedule fills up:

Considering your garden planning, peruse your seed, bulb, and plant catalogs making note of what interests you. Grab your pad of paper to first make a list of everything you want to plant, then a narrative about what's worked/not worked in the past, and then start narrowing down your list. Next draft a simple drawing of your in-ground and raised bed spaces. If you are creating a new garden or have run out of garden space survey your yard for unthought of areas to tuck in containers or plants.

Once you have a map of your garden spaces, stark plugging in your plants in pencil. Keep in mind their growth habit (root, bush, vines, etc) and days to maturity. Each vegetable crop has a season, some like cool weather and some like hot weather. You won't plant your entire garden at the same time. Succession planting will happen weekly to monthly in March through June. In a small garden you can intensively plant, however, you never want to overcrowd your plants. This forces them into a relationship of competing with each other for space, sunlight, water, soil, and nutrients.

If you have no idea where to start with your garden, you are feeling overwhelmed, or you just want to be more successful this year please join me for Organic Vegetable Gardening Basics at Portland Community College. During this in-depth 3-hour class we will get you the information to build the skills you need for being a competent and successful vegetable gardener. I'm offering this class once in February and once in April and it always fills up, so please register today if you are interested.

During February you can purchase seeds, supplies, tools but it is not yet time to plant any of your vegetables or herbs outdoors. Air and soil temperatures are still too cold. Remember, you also don't want to plant or work in soil that is wet, as this causes compaction. Soil compaction results in decreased drainage and ultimately unhappy stunted plants.

To be prepared for planting in March you can assist your soil in drying out. Cover both your in-ground and raised beds with a tarp, cardboard, or burlap sacks to start drying out the soil. On a dry February day remove the cover, add some organic granular vegetable fertilizer, top dress with one to two inches of compost, and recover. When soil temperatures warm up in March that fertilizer and compost will start becoming available in the soil. And you'll be prepared and ready for earlier planting in March.

If you are eager to do some planting on a mild February day, again keep in mind you need to work in dry, not rain-soaked soil, you can begin planting fruit. Mid to late February nurseries begin stocking fruit trees, canes, bushes, vines, and don't forget the strawberries! All of this are fine to plant throughout February, if the weather is middle. Keep in mind our February temperatures can fluctuate wildly. Last week we had a 30 degree temperature fluctuation. One day was 30, the next 50, and the next 60. Personally, my body did not know what to do. My feet were shivering one day and the next I was sweating in wool socks. These types of severe temperature fluctuations are confusing for plants, and very stressful for newly planted fruit.

The official first day of spring is March 21 and it is around that time our average last frost date. During March when minimum temperatures are in the 40's you can begin planting your cool season herb crops like chervil, cilantro, and parsley. If you are interested in growing an herb garden this year or you'd like tips to be more successful with your current herb garden please join me for Organic Culinary Herb and Edible Flower Gardening. In this focused class we will learn about over 20 herbs that grow well here in Portland, culture and care of each, harvesting, preservation, and recipes. I'm offering Organic Culinary Herb and Edible Flower Gardening several dates at both Portland Community College and Mt Hood Community College.

You can begin planting your cool season vegetable crops like chard, kale, lettuce, peas, and radishes. I would hold off until April for root crops like beets, carrots, and turnips. Unless you are utilizing a cold frame, cloche, frost blanket, or low tunnel. All of these season extender techniques will increase soil and air temperatures.

If you'd like to learn more about cool season crops, please join me for Cool Season Vegetable Crops. In this informative, practical, and fun class we will explore all the cool season vegetable crops in detail with culture and care tips for your growing success. I'm offering Cool Season Vegetable Crops multiple dates at both Portland Community College and Mt Hood Community College.

Spring is right around the corner, this month is your deep inhale before the frenzy of spring planting. I am excited to help you be most successful this season. I look forward to meeting you and your gardens!

Happy Gardening,


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