Garden Clippings

| January 2006

If you've ever thought about it, February is an odd month. It's almost as though it were a last-minute addition to the calendar to make up for some sort of sidereal miscalculation. It's the shortest month of the year with 28 days, and every four years, an extra day is thrown in.

A couple of odd events also take place in February. On Groundhog's Day, we wait for a rodent to predict the weather, and on Valentine's Day, love is symbolized by giving flowers, even though most gardens are in deep sleep.

This month is almost a tease to gardeners. Mild, springlike temperatures get gardeners in the mood to play in the soil again, but a quick drop in temperature drives us back inside until the next band of warm winds arrive.

While the weather is still too unpredictable to start this year's gardening at a full gallop, there are a few chores that can be done to benefit the coming season.

• Make sure your planters and window boxes are in good repair. A fresh coat of paint or wood sealer, coupled with an additional nail to tighten loose joints, will make the hectic spring planting rush a much smoother event.
• Make a list of the plants you want to be sure to include in the garden this season. New plant releases touted in the catalogs we've been perusing all winter tend to sell out quickly each season.
• Check on the condition of the summer bulbs you've stored over the winter. A spoiled bulb doesn't have to ruin the whole barrel if you catch it in time.
• Go outside on nice days and begin pruning. Fruit trees can be pruned in late February, and snow and ice damage on other trees and shrubs can be repaired.
• If you would like to usher spring into your home a little early, bring in branches of forsythia and quince, and force them to produce colorful blossoms.
• Don't be in a hurry to remove the protective mulch from the plants you put to bed last fall. That is, unless you trust the prediction of that furry varmint from Pennsylvania.

Speaking of mulching, I received a letter from Frances, of Gordon, Neb., who says she's having trouble getting the ever-bearing strawberries in her garden to produce.

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