University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article


ORDERING FRUIT TREES AND OTHER FEBRUARY GARDENING TIPS
 
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
 
             
Ordering fruit trees, propagating African violets, and getting ready to sow seeds are some of the gardening activities for this month.

Now is the time to order bare-root fruit trees, which are shipped “bare root” in late winter or early spring (for planting time in your area) before they start to grow.  When ordering fruit trees, make sure they are hardy for your area.  Also check the descriptions to make sure they are the best performing cultivars (cultivated varieties) for your area.  Many need at least two different varieties for cross pollination, and even those that don’t may fruit better with cross pollination.

African violets are easy to propagate by leaf cuttings. Snip off a leaf, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder, available at garden stores, and stick the cutting in a pot filled with vermiculite or sand. Cover the pot with a perforated clear plastic bag and keep the medium moist. In a few weeks you'll start to see new plants forming, which you can pot up separately.

To get off to a clean start with seed starting this year, disinfect any flats and pots you’ve saved in soapy water with bleach added: one part bleach to nine parts water. The longer you can soak them the better, then rinse well.  Some prefer to use a household disinfect product instead, as they’re safer to handle.  This is a good project for a basement or garage on a warm day.

Long-season alliums, such as leeks and onions, should be started from seed now. They need 10 to 12 weeks of growth indoors before they go in the garden. Sprinkle the seed on top of seed-starting mix, keep it moist, and as soon as the seedlings emerge, place the flats under grow lights so they grow strong.

There are several flowers that you can start from seeds the end of February as they too take 10 to 12 weeks to grow large enough to set out.  Some of these are perennials, such as columbine and bellflower.  Early in the month start wax begonias if you have these seeds, and didn’t sow them last month.  Toward the end of the month is the time to sow annual statice, wishbone flower, and annual vinca or periwinkle.

For seeds that need warmth to germinate, a heat mat underneath the flat can make a big difference. Once the seedlings are up, move them off the mat and grow them on at a cooler temperature to encourage strong, stocky growth.  If a temperature isn’t given on the seed packet, aim for an air temperature of 65 to 68 degrees (F) for best growth.  Too warm (especially if insufficient light) and seedlings will get tall and leggy.

If you are preparing to start seeds under grow lights or fluorescent shop lights indoors, check the tubes for signs of age. Tubes that have been used for two to three seasons probably have lost much of their intensity even though they look fine. Dark rings on the ends of the tubes are a sign they need to be replaced.  Look for energy-efficient tubes, and ones that have a daylight or natural spectrum of light wavelengths.  Otherwise, you can alternate warm white and cool white tubes.  Keep lights about 6 inches above seedlings as they grow.

Other tips include checking stored bulbs such as dahlias, watching for upcoming flower shows (such as at perrysperennials.info/events), and buying cut flowers or a pot of spring bulbs.
 

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