February in the Pacific Northwest often feels like spring. You may be tempted to start planting. Don’t! The last frost date in Vancouver is in late March. So what can you do in the garden when the sun is shining and you want to get outside? Here are five late-winter garden chores that you can get started on:
1. Trim and Clean-up Dead Foliage, Broken Twigs, and Damaged Boughs
Cutting away dead and damaged foliage when a plant is dormant helps wounds quickly recover before the plant starts to actively grow. You will start the growing season with tidy perennials, shrubs, and trees.
2. Dig and Divide Emerging Perennials
Perennials are wonderful plants for propagating. I have numerous daylilies, peonies, irises, and astilbes that have all been propagated from just a few parent plants. This is a great way to fill your garden without spending a lot of money. Other great perennials that divide easily are Black-Eyed Susans and Shasta Daisies. Even ferns can be divided. You can tell when a plant needs dividing because the center will look sickly and not produce as much foliage as the outer regions. To divide a large perennial clump:
- Divide in the shade and do not let unearthed perennials sit out of the soil for an extended length of time.
- Dig the perennial out and shake off excess soil. This is difficult for some heavily rooted perennials. I try to dig mine out before they get too large – otherwise I can jump on the spade with all my weight and nothing is accomplished.
- Use a spade with a flat blade and cut the perennial in sections, ensuring there is a good amount of root in each section.
- Replant the divisions and water slightly.
That is all there is to it! Below is a picture taken today (February 21st) of my neighbour’s daylilies emerging from the warmed soil. The magnificent trunk behind is a Sequoia.
3. Clean Birdhouses and Birdbaths and Set Up
This is the time to get your birdhouses and birdbaths cleaned up and ready for the birds. Already I am seeing lots of chickadees and robins in my backyard. The chickadees will be looking for nesting locations before they need them.
- Do not use harsh chemicals when cleaning your birdbaths and birdhouses. Use only water and a good stiff brush.
- Hang the birdhouses where you will be able to enjoy watching the comings and goings of the parents as they feed their young.
- Ensure predators cannot reach the birdhouses and that there is afternoon shade. It can get quite hot inside a birdhouse if the sunlight is directly hitting it.
- Put the birdbaths in a location near the hose. I have to put fresh water in my birdbaths sometimes three times per day. Moving the hose back and forth will quickly become a chore.
- Make sure the birdbaths are not located near an area where cats can lie in wait.
- Place birdbaths in the shade if they are made from metal. Even other types of birdbaths should be put in shaded locations because bacteria can grow rapidly in warm water.
4. Clean Patio Furniture, Decks, and Patios.
It is a good time to scrub all mold, moss, and dirt from your patios and deck furniture. Use stiff brushes and water. Power washers are great inventions; use one if you can. Dress in waterproof gear because you can get wet and cold very quickly. Keep the cleaned furniture under cover for a while longer but you can now pull a chair out on a sunny day to sit and enjoy the warmth.
5. Plan Your Summer Garden
Here is the best part. Just sit outside and look around your yard and make plans. I find planning is the best part of any project. Take deep breaths of the fresh air and enjoy! Look up into the sky and give thanks for this beautiful world.