Garden Planner – 0212


February is unpredictable in Atlanta—if warm winter weather prevails, tulips and daffodils could be in bloom with Lenten roses and forsythia showing their lovely flowers! Frosty weather will certainly continue (Remember that ice and snow in late February and early March are not unheard of), but take advantage of those balmy February days and enjoy spending time in the garden.

Garden Maintenance

➤    Enjoy the flowering bulbs that are popping up daily—bring some inside and brighten up your home on these late-winter days!
➤    Bring forsythia, quince, pussy willow and dogwood branches indoors to force into bloom. Cut the branches at an angle, and put the stems in a vase full of warm water (Change every 3-4 days). You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous blooms in a few weeks.
➤    Don’t forget to water new plantings. A good, deep watering once a week is sufficient. Mulch and water established trees and shrubs, too, if rainfall is scarce.
➤    Major pruning of trees and shrubs can be done now. Take care when it comes to flowering trees and shrubs; spring-flowerers such as forsythia, spiraea, azalea and viburnum should not be pruned until after they bloom. Summer bloomers can be pruned now while they are dormant. The University of Georgia (UGA) Extension Service has an excellent publication about pruning (trees, shrubs, fruit and nut trees, etc.) at
➤    Cut back liriope and other spent perennials.
➤    Fertilize your fescue lawn in February. Warm season grasses (zoysia, centipede, Bermuda, St. Augustine) should not be fertilized until late spring.
➤    Apply a pre-emergent weed killer to lawns in late February (unless you are reseeding fescue). Choose a product that will prevent both grassy and broadleaf weeds.
➤    If winter annuals such as chickweed and henbit are running rampant in the lawn, spray with an appropriate herbicide. Read the label for correct application.
➤    It’s a good time to clean up beds and amend soils to get ready for spring planting. Plan and prepare beds for shade and full-sun annuals and perennials. Clay soil needs lots of help! Remove old mulch, add soil conditioners and decomposed compost and till in. Replace with fresh pine straw or pine bark.   
➤    Pre-emergents are also available for vegetable and flower beds. Remember that these products prevent ALL seeds from germinating, including vegetables seeds and flower seeds. If you have annuals that you want to reseed from last summer’s flowers, do not use a pre-emergent.
➤    Clean out birdhouses in preparation for new arrivals. Bluebirds arrive in metro Atlanta by mid-February. Make sure bluebird houses are ready at this time, although they will nest later in the spring.


Mary Kay Woodworth is executive director of the Georgia Urban Agriculture Council (UAC). She previously ran Practically Gardening, a landscape consulting firm, and was Master Gardener Coordinator for the DeKalb County Cooperative Extension Service. Mary Kay is a frequent speaker at area schools, garden clubs, civic organizations and trade shows.

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