Finish Pruning Fruit Trees
Finish pruning any fruit trees that you had not already pruned in January. Once you are done pruning, it’s time to apply a dormant oil spray to smother any pests and/or disease spores that may remain on your trees. Dormant oil sprays vary in viscosity/weight. The first dormant oil sprays were heavier and only safe to use on dormant woody trees because they would clog up respiration in growing leaves. Newer dormant sprays have different viscosities, some are light enough to be used on growing tissue.
Be sure you read and follow the directions on the label. For this wintertime spraying, you want a heavier oil, so it won’t disperse in winter weather.
As you prune, look for and remove insect egg casings. This is a continual process throughout the year, but they’re most easily seen when your trees and woody shrubs are dormant. During this “quiet” time of the growing year, you can familiarize yourself with various insects that will visit your garden.
Photo used with permission
Good pruning practices during dormant season will help your fruit trees thrive in spring and summer.
Pull out those seed catalogs that have been arriving all winter. February is a good time to develop your wish list and then whittle it down to what you will actually plant. If you end up with unused seeds, they can be stored in an airtight bag in the bottom of your refrigerator where they won’t freeze. It’s best to buy seed from companies that are specific to the Pacific Northwest as we have a shorter and cooler growing season than other areas of the country.
Plant Cool-Season Vegetables
As the name implies, cool-season vegetables grow best in the spring before the weather heats up. They will bolt and become bitter with warmer temperatures. Work your vegetable garden soil as soon as it dries out enough that it does not clump up.
Peas can be planted as early as the soil can be worked, but that doesn’t mean they will thrive. Plant too early and many of them will rot in the cool, damp soil. If this is the year we’re blessed with an early spring, that first planting of peas will produce the earliest vegetable of the growing season. You can help those early peas by pre-soaking the night before planting. Peas prefer the early cool weather and will stop producing just as summer vegetables get started.
Finish Winter Harvest
Harvest the last of your winter kale and other vegetables and compost the remainder. This removes any over-wintering pests on the older plants.
Start Warm-Season Plants Indoors
Warm season plants have a longer growing requirement and usually need the warm temperatures of summer to set and mature fruit. For example, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are considered warm-season plants. If you would like to start your own, you can plant the seeds inside at the end of this month and they’ll be ready for hardening off and planting outside when the soil warms up. In our Pacific NW gardens, the last frost is usually around Mother’s Day.
You will need growing trays, strong light (grow lights 6” above the plants really help), and a sterile growing soil/medium. Damping off is a fungal organism that is deadly to young seedlings, so use a sterile seedling mix. A heated growing mat will increase your success. Most people start with a seed tray and a different row for each vegetable.
When the plants have a set of true leaves (not just the seed coat leaves), they can be transplanted to pots or cells and grown until outside temperatures are high enough to transplant into the garden. They must be hardened off before putting outside. Larger seeds can be put directly into a pot; this is a great activity for little kids. Read directions on the seed packets for specific timing and heat/light requirements.
Photo used with permission.
Warm-season plants benefit from an early start indoors.