Finally! Beautiful, warm, sunny days in the forecast, which makes February in Birmingham, AL a great time to get a jump start on garden tips and tricks in your landscape. Some weekends are better than others, but when it’s sunny and 55 degrees or warmer, I can’t wait to get out into my yard and start planning for Spring as well as getting a few things done that will make Spring and Summer that much better in my yard. Just think of it as the perfect time to work outside in the air conditioning!
Garden Tips and Tricks Number One
If you have any Crape Myrtles in your yard, this is where I would begin. Get your hand pruners and loppers out and even a ladder if yours are very large. February is the perfect time in Birmingham, AL to get this job done, before the trees begin to foliate. The blooms grow off of new growth for Crape Myrtles, so pruning now will not limit any blooms and it may even increase the number of blooms for the summer.
First, take your time with this and think about how you would like your Crape Myrtle to look. Start by pruning away any suckers that grew out from the bottom and work your way up to the top of the tree. Please, do not whack them off at the large part of the trunk. That type of pruning over time will produce large knots on the trees and it doesn’t leave a large enough branch to support heavy blooms in the summer. Plus it makes them look pretty silly too.
Garden Tips and Tricks Number Two
The second thing to consider for a little weekend project is to blow the leaves out of flower beds onto the turf and run over them with your lawn mower, mulching the leaves into tiny pieces. You may have to make several passes over large piles of leaves to chop them up small enough and any excess pieces can be blown around to other parts of the yard or even back into some of the flower beds. This leaf mulch will break down very quickly as soon as it gets warmer and provides some much needed organic matter into your lawn. Most of us in Birmingham have a lot of clay under our turf areas and over time this practice can dramatically improve the soil below your sod, because it attracts earth worms to your soil, which will further improve your turf. I’ve done this for several years on my Zoysiagrass and very pleased with the result.
Do this for two seasons and you will see an improvement in the beauty of your lawn.
Garden Tips and Tricks Number Three
The third important action item for February or March is to apply your pre-emergent to limit the number of weed seeds germinating in your lawn throughout the Spring. Apply it with a broadcast or drop spreader or spray it on with a liquid. Just be sure to read the instructions closely on these products before the application. If you plan to over-seed your lawn in the Spring, it would be best to skip this altogether, since the pre-emergent would inhibit the turf seeds from germinating too.
Be careful to not broadcast or overspray pre-emergent into your flower beds where you plan to grow new plants and annuals from seed. A drop spreader around the edges of your turf could dramatically help by keeping the pre-emergent out of your perennial and annual beds.
Garden Tips and Tricks Number Four
The fourth thing is to go ahead and water in your pre-emergent within 1 to 3 days of application if at all possible. This will help you to get the max benefit from the pre-emergent by getting the product down into the soil where it needs to be to work its magic on those weed seeds. If you have a contractor chemically treat your lawn, ask them to notify you of the application of pre-emergent, so that you can water it in properly. If you have an automated irrigation system, go ahead and run that to water in the chemical treatment. This may also be a good time to go ahead and run a test on your sprinkler system to make sure your valves, heads and controller are all operating properly and that there are no leaks.
Garden Tips and Tricks Number Five
The fifth thing is simply to go around the yard and clip away the brown foliage from your perennials. This will help your landscape to look better immediately as well as give it a jumpstart for the Spring, allowing the new growth from your perennials, to come up and look perfect without competing for the sun with old brown spent foliage.
My gardenscape design is perennial-heavy and I intentionally stop dead-heading towards the end of the summer and leave the spent blooms for the birds. The finches particularly appreciate that, because they are thistle eaters. By February I’m ready for snipping the brown foliage off daylilies, Black-eyed Susans (Rubeccia,) Purple Coneflower (Echinacea,) Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum superbum,) Lucifer Tongue (Crocosmia,) and Bee-Balm (Lamiaceae) to make the yard look cleaner and allow the new growth to be reborn.
Even my Holly Ferns (Cyrtomium falcatum ‘Rochfordianum’) which are supposed to be evergreen require a little pruning off the dead leaves. They are shade-loving plants and mine are growing below deciduous River birch (Betula nigra) trees, so they get a little too much sun in the winter and a few of the leaves will turn brown. They rebound well after a I take a few seconds per plant to snip out the brown leaves and they quickly send out beautiful new shoots.
By doing just a few simple things in late winter, it will make your garden happier and your life easier in the Spring.
So what are you waiting for?
Get out there and enjoy your yard.