Plants pay no attention to the calendar. Spring starts when the temperature, not the month, says so.
There may be six more weeks of winter, but spring-flowering trees and shrubs will rush into bloom as soon as they feel warmer weather.
Hurry up and finish winter garden chores before those fruit trees bloom and rose bushes bud out. (In fact, some already have started.) Tasks that need to get done:
▪ Finish pruning roses. Even if they still have flowers, get this job done by the end of February. Remove old leaves left over from last season (they’re havens for fungal disease). Also, rake up debris around the bushes. A little cleanup helps cut down on black spot, rust and mildew. Apply new mulch, too.
▪ Prune deciduous trees while it’s easy to see their branches.
▪ Plant bare-root roses, berries and fruit trees. Nurseries have the best selection now and the ground is easy to dig. Those new plantings will get off to a fast start in March.
▪ Remove old or browned flowers from azaleas and camellias to reduce petal blight.
▪ If needed, apply a final dormant spray to deciduous fruit trees before the flower buds swell. This is especially important with peaches and nectarines to fight leaf curl; use a spray that contains copper.
▪ Transplant or direct-seed snapdragon, candytuft, lily of the valley, larkspur, Shasta daisy, painted daisy and stock.
▪ In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichokes, strawberries and rhubarb. Transplant seedlings of lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and kale. Direct-seed radishes, beets, peas and chard.
▪ Remove aphids from blooming bulbs and tender vegetable seedlings or transplants with a strong blast of water or insecticidal soap.