February Lawn and Garden Tips

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Pruning – February is the best time of year for major pruning and shaping of most trees and ornamental shrubs. At this time you can cut overgrown shrubs way back to rejuvenate them. You can also remove limbs from trees but never top a tree!

Spring Flowering Shrubs – Spring flowering shrubs bloom on last year’s wood and should not be pruned until after flowering, if you want to preserve the bloom for this year. These include Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Forsythia, Spirea, Flowering Quince, Kerria, Pieris, Weigela, Abella, Oakleaf and Macrophylla Hydrangeas, Beautyberry, Clethra, and Vitex to name a few. If you desire to cut these shrubs back substantially you should prune them in February and forget about the bloom.

Summer Flowering Shrubs – Summer flowering shrubs bloom on this yea’s wood and should be pruned before new growth starts. On deciduous shrubs, 1/3 of the oldest shoots should be cut back to the ground. Summer flowering Buddeleia Davidii should have all shoots but to 8-12″ from the ground. Crape Myrtle trees may be pruned at this time but try not to commit “crape murder” by topping.

Overgrown, Established Plants – Plantings of old established plants like Holly, Cleyera, Japanese Holly, Pittosporum, Ligustrum and similar broad-leaf evergreens can be cut back to 15-24″ from the ground if you want to rejuvenate them.

Conifers – Pine, Junipers, Fir, Spruce, Yew and Arborvitae will not withstand heavy pruning because most conifers don’t have latent buds below the foliage area and do not really produce adventitious buds. If a branch is cut back past the foliage area, it will not re-foliate. The best time to prune conifers is just after the new growth is completed, usually in late spring or early summer. Encourage bushier growth on pines by pinching out the new candles. Hemlocks are the exception to the rule. They will tolerate pruning and are sometimes used for hedge plants.

Tree Wound Paints – These are useless in sealing pruning cuts and may actually do harm to the tree.

Ornamental Grasses – Ornamental grasses should be cut back before new growth starts. Mow Liriope (Monkeygrass) to remove last year’s unsightly foliage. Ornamental grasses may be divided now.

Fertilizing – Fescue lawns should be fertilized in late February. Use no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 sf. In order to achieve this amount of nitrogen apply 10 pounds of 10-10-10 or 6 pounds of 17-17-17 per 1000 sf. Late or excessive fertilizing in spring predisposes Fescue to Brown Patch disease.

Trees – If the tree is in good condition, well mulched, or in a natural area, it does not need regular fertilizing. If you do desire to fertilize you can make holes about 6 inches deep and 2 inches wide around the drip line and fill each hole half way from the stem.

Shrubs – Most shrubs respond well to an application of a slow release fertilizer. Apply according to directions and distribute it evenly over the entire root area but away from the stem.

Fruit Trees – Apply a dormant oil spray to fruit trees and ornamental for control of overwintering insects and eggs. Do not apply to broadleaf evergreens when freezing temperatures are expected.

Wild Garlic (Wild Onion) – Control with 2,4-D Amine. Add a few drops of dishwashing detergent as a surfactant to help herbicides adhere to the narrow leaves. Spray in late February/early March. and again in late August. Control may require two years of persistence, spraying in both growth seasons.

Roses – Thin bush roses to 3-5 good strong canes and shorten canes to 15″. Prune climbers after they flower in early summer. Shrub roses such as the popular variety “Knockout” need little if any pruning but can be pruned hard if they are over grown.

Grapes – Prune after most cold weather is over, late February/March. Bleeding will not hurt the vines.

NOTE:  The use of brand names in this article does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.