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Sowing Onion Seeds and Other February Gardening Tips

By Leonard Perry
2/7/2014 10:07:09 AM

Sowing seeds of onion and leeks indoors, getting ready for spring pruning and checking houseplants for spider mites are some of the gardening activities for this month that Leonard Perry has the scoop on...check it out!

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Long-season alliums, such as leeks and onions, should be started from seeds now. Leeks and onions need 10 to 12 weeks of growth indoors before they go in the garden. Sprinkle the seeds on top of a seed-starting mix, keep it moist and as soon as the seedlings emerge place the flats under grow lights. Later in spring, in six to eight weeks from sowing when seedlings are several inches tall, you should transplant into small, individual cells in packs, small pots or a seedling tray.

Before the main pruning season starts, check your hand pruners and shears. Sharpen the blades, oil the levers and remove any rust. Pruning trees will go much faster and be easier on your hands when you use sharp, well-maintained equipment. For sharpening, consider a sharpening stone or a file with diamond bits made just for this purpose.

Warm, dry indoor air in winter can lead to problems with spider mites on houseplants. The mites themselves are barely visible to the eye, so look for the symptoms they cause -- stippling on leaves and fine webbing on new growth. You will find a magnifying glass helpful to spot them. Spray the plants with insecticidal soap two to three times a week to kill the mites, making sure to spray the undersides of the leaves as well as the tops. If this is too smelly to use indoors, try first just giving plants a good soaking in mildly soapy warm water.

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When in flower, moth orchids (Phalaenopsis) need consistent temperatures of above 60 degrees at night and above 70 during the day. In the north, a south window in winter is not too much light, whereas it would be too much in summer. Fertilize with a dilute liquid orchid fertilizer (high phosphorous, low nitrogen). Let the soil dry out somewhat between waterings.

With some simple care, you can coax your amaryllis to bloom again next year. Cut back the flower stalk (but not the leaves) when through blooming, and continue watering and fertilizing the bulb. In summer, place the pot outdoors in a protected environment. In fall, bring it indoors and let the leaves die back and the bulb go dormant for six weeks, during which time you should water little, if at all. In November, start normal watering and fertilizing again.

When pruning spring-flowering trees and shrubs in late winter, such as forsythia, apple, dogwood and cherry, save the pruned branches to be forced indoors for your own early spring flower show. Take 1- to 2-foot-long, one- to two-year-old branches and place them in warm water indoors. Some like to soak them first in a bathtub of water overnight. In a few weeks, you should have beautiful flowers.

If you potted up spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, last fall for "forcing" indoors, they should have enough cold if stored around 40 degrees (F) to bring into warmth now. Bring into a warmer, but still cool location such as an unheated room or near a window, until you see an inch or so of growth. Then you can bring into warmer conditions. This will help keep stalks and leaves from growing too quickly all at once and toppling over.

Other activities for this month include keeping bird feeders filled regularly and heated bird baths cleaned every few days, and buying some cut flowers for winter cheer indoors.

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