Ask a Master Gardener: How to prep your garden in February


February has started, so here are some gardening tips for outdoor flowering plants, ornamentals, fruits and nuts.

For outdoor flowering plants and ornamentals, by mid-month, consider starting seeds of annuals flowers like ageratum, petunias, geraniums, impatiens, salvia and others indoors. For more information, see MU extension guide g6570 Starting Plants Indoors From Seeds, https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6570.

Start seeds that require a pre-chilling period. Seeds can be planted in trays and refrigerated for designated times. Examples include milkweed, liatris, shining blue star and blue false indigo.

Take coleus, begonia, geranium and succulent cuttings now. For more information, see MU extension guide g6560 Home Propagation of Houseplants, https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6560.

Remember to check your stored summer bulbs to be sure none are drying out or rotting. Discard any that show signs of decay.

Finish up any major pruning of woody ornamentals. For more information, see MU extension guide g6866 Pruning and Care of Shade Trees, https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6866 and MU Extension guide g6870 Pruning Ornamental Shrubs, https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6870.

For fruits and nuts, begin pruning apples and pears with a central leader system and peaches and nectarines with an open center system. For more information, see MSU Bulletin on Training and Pruning Deciduous Fruit Trees, https://ag.missouristate.edu/MtnGrv/_Files/B40TrainingandPruningDeciduousFruitTrees.pdf.

If you want to raise fruit in your garden, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries are good option. It is easier to succeed with them than with tree fruits and you will get much faster results.

Fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground thaws, but before blossoming begins.

Grape and bramble fruit may be pruned now.

Practice sanitation. Remove any mummies and diseased plant parts on fruit plantings.

Invest in good pruning equipment. Consider a pruning saw, hand pruners and loppers.

When pruning diseased branches, sterilize tools with a disinfectant between cuts. A 10 percent bleach, rubbing alcohol or Lysol spray can be used. Remember to oil your pruners after using disinfectants to keep them from rusting.

(Source: Missouri Botanical Garden)

Dhruba Dhakal, PhD, is a University of Missouri Extension Horticulturist, serving to Missourians about a decade in Central Missouri. Dhakal can be contacted at [email protected] with gardening questions.