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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for February

I have always thought of February as being the transition month between winter and spring in Alabama. Of course, it is the month when thoughts turn to love on Valentine’s Day with the expression of “Be my Valentine.” And what could be more welcome than candy and flowers to express well wishes?

Everything about Valentine’s Day just warms my heart. So be sentimental this month with cards, candy and bouquets of flowers. Did you know that St. Valentine was a 3rd century Roman Christian from Terni, Italy who was murdered by Emperor Claudius II for his faith on February 14th? His great transgression was secretly performing marriage ceremonies for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to be married. Another interesting fact was that King Henry VIII made St. Valentine’s Day a holiday in 1537. And all of this in the name of Love.

January and February continue to be the coldest part of our winters in Zone 8, and thus, the best time to spray all shrubs, trees, grass, with a dormant spray. Since we have had a killing frost, now is the right time to perform this task. Test your hose-end sprayer to make sure it is not clogged, or buy a new one. I usually opt for buying a new one because after going to all the trouble of buying the oil, dispensing the oil into the sprayer, and then finding out the sprayer does not work, it is enough to give up. The instructions on the dormant sprayer will give the proper dilution rate to be used. Also, check the instructions for the hose-end sprayer. And what is left to do? Spray away.

The benefits for your garden, trees and shrubs show up next spring when there are no more white flies, no more fleas, and no more pests that hatch from eggs. It is so much easier to nip a problem in the bud, so to speak, than to fight white flies, sucking the nutrients from the leaves of the plants, next summer. I have been using the dormant spray for years and cannot recommend it more. You can purchase this product as Dormant spray or Volk Oil, at any Nursery or Garden center. The oil is shelf stable, can be used for many years and not a poison. The product coats the eggs with a fine layer of oil, which prevents the eggs from hatching.

Another potential gardening problem on the horizon is the cost of fertilizer. It may be wise to buy 25 pounds of commercial fertilizer just to have on-hand should prices skyrocket. There has been information in the news about a shortage of fertilizer for agriculture, so just a suggestion to buy now before supplies are scarce. Remember that when using commercial fertilizer, do not let the fertilizer sit on begonia leaves as it will burn the plants. If it gets on the leaves, take a hose and spray the fertilizer off. I am not sure if the shortages would include Osmocote or other time-release fertilizers, but I would buy extra to be on the safe side.

As far as bulbs are concerned, they can all be planted now except tulips and grape hyacinth since they require prior chilling. The daffodils that do best for alkaline soil would be Mount Hood, Ice Follies and Carlton. The others need more acidic soil to thrive. Planting daffodils late will just delay the bloom period for about 2-3 weeks. Cannas, daylilies, fresia, licoris (spider lilies), crocus, amaryllis, allum, snowdrops, gladiolus, crinum lilies, iris, dahlias, and narcissus all do well in Zone 8. I would not plant caladium bulbs until May when the ground is warmer. Squirrels love caladium bulbs, so to avoid feeding the squirrels, plant them in May and not now. Also Asian lilies should be planted in the fall of the year.

I recently read that there are some new varieties of citrus trees and shrubs, which are extremely cold hardy. (1) The Ichang lemon, citrus ichangersis, will grow lemons to outdoors temperatures down to 15-10 degrees; (2) Arctic frost satsuma is a variety of mandarin orange that survives temperatures down to 9 degrees; and (3) The trifoliate orange, Poncirus trifoliata, will survive to -10 degrees. However, be forewarned that this is a massively thorny tree, which is also invasive.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Good Gardening!


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