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Flirtatious February – a tease for gardeners

Impatiens are warm season annuals that are frost tender. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS

Originally published February 12, 2017 The News Herald Celebrate Outdoors insert

When we moved to Florida four years ago we gave away our heavy coats and stocked up on flip flops looking forward to mild winters and hot summers. What we failed to take into account is that Northwest Florida is closer to South Alabama than sub-tropical Key West. Who knew winter temperatures could change so dramatically in a 24-hour period? The weather changes so quickly I have to follow local weather on Twitter just to try and keep up.

February is a terrible flirt. Bright, clear, warm days tease us with the promise of spring, while cool nights that occasionally hover just above freezing remind us that it’s technically still winter. It’s enough to confuse anyone – especially an avid gardener fighting off Spring Fever. Throw in those pesky groundhogs that can’t agree on the long range forecast and it sure makes it hard to set gardening goals!

When daytime temperatures reach 70 it’s tempting to get a jump on spring chores but there are a few things you should not do in February!

February Don’t:

  • Fertilize your lawn – wait until mid-April

  • Plant warm season flowers like zinnias and impatiens

  • Transplant summer veggies like tomatoes and peppers outside

  • Seed your lawn with warm season grasses like bermudagrass or centipedgrass

  • Aerate lawns

The news is not all bad, there are still things you can do to get ready for spring!

February Do:

  • Plant potatoes

  • Start vegetable seeds indoors

  • Freshen up mulch

  • Test your irrigation system and make repairs

  • Plant shrubs and trees (except marginally cold hardy like citrus and palms)

  • Prune roses

  • Apply pre-emergent herbicides that contain no nitrogen (first number of three on the fertilizer bag)

  • Mark your calendars to attend gardening classes like the Great American Home & Garden Expo March 10-12th at the fairgrounds!

So, get outside and enjoy our beautiful weather, but don’t be lured in by that promise of an early spring – winter is still lurking around just waiting to turn your warm season plants to brown mush when you let your guard down.

Julie McConnell is the Horticulture Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Bay County in Panama City. You can reach her at 850-784-6105 or juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu. To learn more about these topics and upcoming events please visit http://bay.ifas.ufl.edu or follow us on Facebook UF IFAS Extension Bay County.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.

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Author: Julie McConnell - juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Bay County Extension Faculty, Horticulture Julie graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture from Auburn University in 2001. She spent 10 years in the wholesale nursery business in Atlanta before joining UF/IFAS Extension in 2012. In 2016, she completed a Master of Science in Entomology and earned the Landscape Pest Management Graduate Certificate from the University of Florida.
http://bay.ifas.ufl.edu

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