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February Cold-Region Kitchen Garden Almanac

Preliminary preparation for the spring kitchen garden can begin this month in cold-winter regions. Snow and freezing weather is likely to persist in these areas for another month or two. But begin thinking about spring now and when the weather turns your garden will be ready. In the northern hemisphere, cold-winter regions include zones 3-6.

Vegetable and fruit garden checklist of things to do during February in zones 3-6:

Plan and design. Map where snow melts first in the garden and mark these spots for planting early crops.

Seed orders. Study on-line and mail-order catalogs and order seeds and plants for spring.

Outdoors. Check winter mulch around perennials, vines, and trees and add more if needed. Press frost-heaved plants back into the soil.

Soil preparation. Prepare garden beds as soon as the ground can be worked. Test your soil. Add lime if your soil needs it.

Greenhouse and coldframe. Check seed packets to determine the number of days from sowing to germination. Sow about six weeks before seedlings can be hardened off in a coldframe, but do not start seeds indoors too early. The first seeds to be sown will be salad greens, beets, onions, parsley, radish, and members of the cabbage family. Also start seed potatoes indoors to insure an early crop, and sow tender vegetable seeds that require 12 weeks or more indoors.

Ventilate the greenhouse and coldframe when the temperature rises above 40 degrees. Close again before sundown. If the soil is dry in the coldframe 6 inches (15 cm) down, provide a slow, deep watering directly in soil on a warm day, but avoid getting water on plant leaves.

Vegetables. Continue to harvest winter cabbage, Brussels, sprouts, parsnips, and leeks. Harvest sunchokes and make sure that you lift every piece of tuber. Store tubers in a paper bag in a cool, well ventilated shed or garage.

Start forcing rhubarb by covering the crowns with a deep layer of leaves or leaf mold, and then cover with a pot.

Fertilize or top-dress asparagus with compost if not done last fall.

Sow outdoors. Force rhubarb. Sow broad beans under cloches in mild areas.

Fruit trees and vines. Prune fruit trees after each storm. Remove broken and damaged branches. When weather permits, prune apples, pears, berries, brambles, and grapes.

Spray fruit trees for over-wintering pests with dormant oil spray when temperature goes above 45 degrees—but while plants are still dormant. Spray peaches, nectarines and almonds with a copper-based fungicide to prevent attack of peach–leaf curl.

Check mouse guards and tree wraps.

Mulch grapevines and gooseberries with well-rotted manure or compost.

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