February 2018
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?


The observations of people from many places are now part of how we are learning more about bird populations.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird populations are always shifting and changing. Today, folks like us can use our combined powers of observation to help scientists understand their movements. Every February, the national Audubon Society engages folks around the country to simply record and report what birds they spot anytime (for as few as 15 minutes) from Feb. 16-19.

Visit the official website of the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org for more information on how to participate and provide the information you collect.


Pre-emergent Weed Control

Many folks do not fuss over a perfect lawn but instead consider those early dandelions and henbit an early source of pollen or nectar for native bees.

But, if you apply a pre-emergent for crabgrass or other grassy weeds, remember to time application according to the weather. The first crabgrass seeds can sprout when the soil temperature is in the upper 50s. That may be earlier than you expect because of long, winter warm spells.

If you aren’t certain, it’s probably better to get it out a week or two early than to miss the window and end up with a bunch of crabgrass.

Some folks use the height of forsythia blooms as their guide for timing the first application, and then apply again weeks later according to the timing directions of the product.


Improving Compost

Keep adding green kitchen waste to your compost pile, and shovels of chicken or rabbit manure if you have it. If you don’t have a compost pile, it’s always a good time to start one because compost is one of the keys to good garden soil – be it for flowers, trees, shrubs, fruit or vegetables.

Enhance the nutritional quality of your compost with mineral supplements such as Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), Azomite or other rock dust (many different minerals), alfalfa pellets or blood meal (trace minerals). Sprinkle a little across the top of the pile every three or four months, depending on how much material you add to the pile.

This is especially helpful if your ground is poor and sandy.

Lamb’s ear pairs well with many other flowers.


Trim Lamb’s Ears

Lamb’s ear is one of the few gray, fuzzy-leaf perennials that will thrive in our humid climate. To keep it looking good, plants need a thinning this time of year – before new growth begins.

To do this, simply reach down into the clumps and remove all the browned, matted leaves. Then clip the oldest, woodiest-looking stems, leaving those that are the most succulent. Although the plants will look rough right after the thinning, they will grow back quickly.

Removing old growth and matted leaves allows for good air circulation that helps keep the plants looking fresh. It helps to clean out under the plants at the end of spring, too.


Remember Houseplants

Experience has taught me that I need a reminder to water potted plants tucked away indoors for winter.

I use my phone to remind me about a precious 10-year-old hoya plant in a little-used bedroom and the citrus in my pop-up greenhouse. Out of sight, out of mind is no longer a problem with a handy phone alert to keep those precious plants watered.


Seeds for Spring

This is a reminder to buy seeds of your favorite spring flowers and vegetables if you have not already done so.

Also, test germination of leftover seeds by sprinkling them between two layers of paper towels. Keep the towels moist and at room temperature; check for sprouting every few days. Most viable seeds will have sprouted in a couple of weeks.

By storing leftover seeds in an airtight plastic container in the freezer, I have been able to keep most seeds for longer than five years.

If you do this, be sure to include one or two moisture-absorbing packs that often come with shoes or other products. Keeping the air inside the container dry is crucial to longevity of the stored seeds.


The unusual color combo of Queeny Lime Orange promises to be a big hit among zinnia fans.

A Zany New Zinnia

Each year, the All America Selections organization names vegetables, herbs and flowers selected for outstanding performance throughout the United States.

In 2018, winners include a very interesting and aptly named zinnia, Queeny Lime Orange. It has large, dahlialike blooms sure to be a favorite for cutting and arrangements. The bloom colors range from dark coral to peach to orange to a light peach with a dark center as the flowers age.

It was the fan favorite in last year’s AAS trial gardens.

This new AAS Winner is also perfect for cut-flower gardens as the blooms last two to three weeks in a vase.



Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.