Monthly Garden Calendar for Southeast United States

Organic Gardening Month-to-Month Almanac

By Don Boekelheide



The Zone 7 garden dance gets a little livelier in February, though it's heavily syncopated with uneven weather at best. This is prime time for pruning and for building soil fertility. And then, there's always weeding. My rule for February is: When it's chilly, read. When it's pretty, weed. This is the month of Valentine's Day—buy your beloved a packet or two of seeds, so you can cultivate your passion in flowers all year long.

Garlic and Onions. Wild garlic and onions are a special weeding challenge. Unfortunately, our native onions (Allium canadense) have now been joined by wild garlic (A. vineale), an exotic invasive weed. To tell them apart, the garlic has hollow stems and smells like—you guessed it—garlic.

Take Action Against Invasives. Remove and root out Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and other weedy vines now while many garden plants are still leafless. Control or eliminate English ivy (Hedera helix); do not allow it to climb trees so it can escape and take over natural areas.

Shake Up Your Compost. Try to turn (remix) your compost pile once this month. You can also start new piles from fallen leaves any time. Keep an eye on your worm bin to make sure it doesn't dry out or get too cold.

Pruning Party. This month is a good time for vigorous pruning of summer blooming shrubs that flower on new wood. This includes beautyberry (Callicarpa—I like the native C. americana), Abelia, Althea, Hydrangea, Gardenia, Nandina, crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia), rose of Sharon (Hybiscus), Osmanthus and butterfly bush (Buddleia). Prune sensibly.

Pretty as a Peach...or Nectarine. Treat your peach (Prunus persica) and nectarine trees before early March with lime-sulfur (Bordeaux mixture) to prevent peach leaf curl. Organic peach growing is especially challenging in the southeast—an ounce of prevention is worth a bushel of peaches.

Start Seeds Indoorsfor Spring Cool Season Transplants. I grow mine under inexpensive fluorescent 'shop lights' in a corner of the basement. Keep lights very close to the tops of seedlings, and move the lights up as the plants grow. If you have a big bright sunny window, that will work, too.

Transplant Preparation. In order to transplant in mid-March, start brassicas like broccoli, cabbage, and bok choi, plus lettuces and cool season flowers like calendulas, forget-me-not (Myosotis) and Drummond phlox. In spring, I prefer quick maturing veggie varieties (50-60 days), like broccolis Southern Comet (about 50 days where I live) and Packman (about 60 days). Wait to start warm season transplants indoors until early March.

Happy Houseplants. Give houseplants lots of TLC, since the end of winter is their toughest time. Remove leggy growth (which you can root), pinch them back, and take out dead branches and leaves. On nice days, take your favorites out for air and bright shade, and wash off any infestations of various bugs.

Grass Growing. If you have a warm season grass such as Bermuda or centipede (it is brown now), do not fertilize now, but wait until spring. It's also time to mow or otherwise trim to 10 cm (3"-4") our Monkey grass (Liriope) and Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon). Just run them over with your lawnmower.

Plan Ahead For Veggies. Don't neglect your landscape and garden planning, when the cold and damp keeps you out of the garden. Plan your vegetable rotation for the coming season.