With the weather warming up, we need to have a good pest plan in place. Make sure you have identified the pests you’re dealing with so you know how to handle them effectively. Use products that won’t harm beneficial insects, such as bees and lady beetles.
Insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils are two treatments that can be used against destructive insects without harming beneficials such as bees and lady beetles. Both are enhanced by adding isopropyl alcohol to their mix. Add a half cup of alcohol to a quart of soap. Add one cup of alcohol and a half teaspoon of oil to one quart of water. Insecticidal soaps are a contact insecticide, so spray the underside of leaves. The horticultural oil smothers unseen young and eggs and will linger on the plant material longer than the insecticidal soap.
Care needs to be taken when applying oil during warm to hot weather. You can fry the plant material, and that is not our goal. Consider applying in the early evening when temperatures have dropped slightly. Heavy dew may help dissipate the oil overnight so keep close watch.
Reapply if needed following a rain.
Adding a strong garlic mix (garlic tea for the soap, and garlic oil added to the oil) may prove to have additional benefits in controlling pests, without harming beneficial insects.
Sow seeds of cool season vegetables, such as beets, carrots, leaf lettuce, snow peas, and turnips, by mid month.
Sow summer vegetables and tender herbs in the cold frame: beans, cucumbers, sweet corn and tender herbs such as dill, fennel, and basil.
Side dress crops already in the garden with aged compost.
Cut dead and diseased canes of your berry brambles to the ground and remove them from the garden. Do not add to your compost. Insects and disease overwinter in the old canes. (Many people burn them.)
Examine and reinforce the framework of your trellis.
If you have saved vegetable seeds from your past seasons’ bounties, be aware that different varieties of vegetables stay viable for different lengths of time. Last year’s seeds should perform well for you, but older ones may need to be checked for viability.
Onion, spinach, parsnip seeds are typically good for one to two years. Corn, okra, and peppers last up to three years. Beans, broccoli, carrots, kohlrabi and pea seeds last three to five years. Beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkin, squash, and tomato may last four to six years.
February is our last month for planting strawberries. If your strawberries did not perform well last season, you may need to consider renovating the bed, to allow the younger plants to take over. Snip the runners (also known as “sisters”) and come up with a plan for relocating them and for fertilizing (2 ½ pounds per 100 square feet), after last chance of frost. Keep them watered once hot, dry weather comes.
Each strawberry plant will typically produce about a quart of strawberries per year. A minimum of 6 to 7 plants per person should be planted (30 to 35 strawberry plants should feed a family of five). If you plan on freezing your strawberries, plant at least 10 plants per person.
Gaillardia is a self-seeding, daisy-like, native wildflower with scarlet and yellow petals. Barely cover the seeds in a bed with full to partial sun.
If starting your next season’s liatris from seed, plant in a bed with light soil, rich in compost and in full sun, barely covering the seeds.
Salt and drought tolerant, Spanish Bayonet can be planted anytime. Provide a sandy and dry area, far away from pedestrian traffic. Protect from freezing.
Agapanthus africanus (African Lily) rhizomes are best planted October through March. Container grown plants can be planted at any time during the year. Plant them in an area that will not flood during rainy season. Work a generous amount of compost into a sandy planting site, with 6 to 8 hours of sun daily.
African lilies are a long lived workhorse, bothered by few pests.
Typically, container grown trees can be planted at any time of year.
February is about the last month to get your new tangerine trees in the ground. Dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball, but no deeper. Create a berm, and keep mulch and other plant material 2 -3 feet away from the trunk. Water daily for the first few weeks, then feed 4 -6 weeks after planting. Always water following a feeding.
Winter is the best time to prune. Prune to remove lower limbs on your citrus, if they are interfering with maintenance tasks. They will grow rapidly in warmer months.
Do not fertilize established citrus trees in the winter.
Keep watch for signs of scale. Treat with an insecticidal soap with alcohol added to it. (Refer to the formula mentioned earlier in this post.)
Citrus prefers 8 to 12 hours of sun to stay healthy and productive, so keep this in mind when choosing a spot for your new tree. Citrus also thrives in an acidic soil. Test your soil if you are unaware of its pH.
Check your irrigation sprinkler heads for any silt blockage. They are easily cleaned by removing the nozzle and rinsing or blowing the debris out. I have often used the tip of a pine needle to clean out the blockage. (Getting to the nozzle may be the biggest obstacle for the homeowner. Depending on the irrigation system, the spring-loaded irrigation head may need to be pulled up out of the ground and supported so that it does not retract. Do not force it. Call a professional for help before you generate a costly repair.)