Sara Swanson

February Gardening Advice for Manchester – 2016

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photo courtesy of Jennifer Fairfield

by Jennifer Fairfield

Editor’s Note: Manchester resident, Jennifer Fairfield, owns and operates the Garden Mill in Chelsea, serves on the Manchester Community Garden Committee, and volunteers with the school gardens at Klager and the MECC.

This winter has definitely been better than the last two, in terms of temperature and snowfall amounts. Yes, we got a little cold snap in January, but that’s OK. We need a little of that really cold stuff to help kill off some of the diseases and insects that plague our gardens in spring and summer. I don’t know about you, but that little cold snap was enough for me this year. We can move quickly into spring now – that would be OK with me. So somebody please tell the groundhog?

While we’re waiting for spring, there are a number of things we can be doing this month.

Indoor activities that you can do for your garden this month:

  • Clean out last years pots. Clean and sharpen your tools.
  • Check to see what seeds you may have left from last year, and make a list of what you need for this year. Seeds will be showing up in stores soon including the Garden Mill! Don’t forget that if you have extras left in opened or unopened packages from previous years that you won’t be using, donate them to the seed library located at the Manchester District Library. While you are there look through the drawers, see if there are any seeds you would like to take home and grow.
  • If you are starting your own rosemary, do it now. Rosemary is extremely slow to get going, so needs to be started in early February in order to be at a size for transplanting out into your garden in spring. The same thing is true for perennials. Starting perennials from seed can be an inexpensive way to get a lot of plants. Most other plants don’t need to get started until sometime in March.


    Rosemary. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Fairfield

Things to do outdoors this month:

  • Normally, I would recommend spraying your trees with dormant oil at the end of the month, but with the warmer temperatures this year, you might be able to do this task sooner. Dormant oils are used to control a variety of insects, generally by suffocating them. Read the directions on the product you purchase, but in general, spray trees and shrubs when the temperatures are above 40°.
  • This time of year is best for pruning many trees and shrubs because they are still dormant. Pruning at this time of year is generally done to encourage lots of new growth in the spring, but you can also prune to remove dead or damaged branches, to create better growing conditions for other plants in your landscape, or to make mowing or walking around your trees or shrubs easier. Don’t prune early spring-blooming trees and shrubs at this time of year, if you want to have maximum blossoms this spring. This includes forsythia, lilacs, azaleas, and dogwoods, among others.
  • Add a layer of mulch to your perennials, shrubs, and trees now to help prevent frost heave.
  • Continue feeding your birds. It may be a milder winter than last year, but it’s still hard living out there, and food sources are limited at this time of year. Besides, they are lots of fun to watch.
  • Also, provide a source of drinking water for the birds.  When the temperatures go below freezing again, a birdbath de-icer or heated bath makes getting water easier for thirsty birds.
Look through your old seeds and decide what seeds you need to buy for this year. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Fairfield.

Look through your old seeds and decide what seeds you need to buy for this year. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Fairfield.

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