Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension, P.O. Box 68, LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068   Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

February 2000 - Changing Seasons

Although February is a lot like January to the casual observer, mostly cool and dry, the subtle changes marking the annual rotation of the seasons are becoming more apparent.  Although the mercury may obscure the reality - warmer weather is really right around the corner.

Mother Nature being more attuned to seasonal change is well aware of this fact.  Flocks of swallows which moved south through our area in December are now back and on their way north.  Robins are bunching up in large flocks and feasting on the bright red berries of Brazilian pepper while waiting for the weather to break up north.

Along the roadsides and ditches, the dainty little lavender flowers of the blue toadflax provide a brush of color to contrast with the dry brown grasses.  Cypress, oaks, and willows are all flowering now while the red maple has already finished and preparing to send its scarlet winged seeds spiraling to earth.

The quickening rhythm of life at this time of year is also a clear signal to gardeners of several chores which should be accomplished in the coming weeks.  There are several garden tasks that should be performed in February that will help set the stage for success in the landscape over the coming year.

Just as Mother Nature is beginning to respond to subtle changes in temperature and day length; so are the cultivated plants and weeds in the landscape.  Over the next few weeks, many trees and shrubs will begin to respond to these changing conditions with the first of several flushes of growth which we will see over the course of the year.  To help get plantings off to a good start, it is important that they are provided with adequate nutrition to support the new growth.  February is the perfect time to fertilize your trees, palms, shrubs, vining plants and lawns.

A general fertilization program for most perennial plantings includes three applications of fertilizer per year.  These applications should normally be done in February-March, May-June and September-October to coincide with and support periodic flushes of new growth.  Fertilization is best conducted on the basis of a soil test. In the absence of a soil test, a complete fertilizer will provide good results in most instances.  Feel free to contact the Hendry County Extension office for more specific fertilizer recommendations or assistance with soil testing.

While lawns and lawn care may be far from many peoples minds at this moment, a timely application of pre emergent herbicide in early to mid February will help prevent the emergence of many annual grassy weeds, whose seeds are anxiously awaiting a break in the weather.  For best results, this should be followed up with a second application in 8 - 9 weeks after the first.  Be sure to choose the proper herbicide for your situation.  This will be governed by the type of turf and type of weeds to be controlled.

Be sure to rake up fallen leaves that may accumulate and damage turf.  Although all our oaks are evergreen in nature, they have a tendency to drop many of their leaves at this time which may cause owners a few anxious days or weeks fearing for the health of their prized landscape trees.

February is typically quite dry - be sure to irrigate as needed to maintain plantings in top shape. Judicious use of mulch can help conserve moisture and reduce irrigation requirements.

As we approach the middle to the end of February, most trees and shrubs can be safely pruned if they require training or reshaping to keep them in bounds.  Be sure to wait on pruning spring flowering specimens until after they bloom or you will risk seriously reducing this seasons floral display.  Most perennials can be safely divided and reset in February.

This is the last month that the planting calendar is wide open for most vegetables and flowering annuals in our area.  Be sure to use transplants as seeded plants will be hampered by hot weather before reaching maturity.  February is a good time for planting watermelons.  Other vegetables that can be planted this month include beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, collards, cucumbers, eggplants, leaf lettuce, mustard, peppers, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.

Flowering annuals that can be planted this month include baby's breath, bachelor buttons, balsam, calendulas, carnations, cosmos, cockscomb, daisies, forget-me-nots, gaillardia, hollyhocks, impatiens, lobelias,  marigolds, morning glories, nasturtiums, pansies, periwinkles, petunias, phlox, pinks, poppies, portulacas, salvia, statice, stocks, strawflower, sweet peas, sweet William, and verbena.  Bulbs to plant this month include amaryllis, blood lily, caladiums, crinum daylilies gladiolus, iris, and zephryanthes.

Insect and disease pressure will increase with the return of warmer weather so be sure to monitor your plantings on a weekly basis and practice an integrated pest management program.  Good luck and good gardening.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or  863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.

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