"February To Do List," by the Whistling Gardener

Snowdrop Bells. Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, owner of Sunnyside Nursery.
Snowdrop Bells. Photo courtesy of Steve Smith, owner of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Okay folks, it’s time to get serious about gardening again. Like I mentioned last time, it feels to me like we are going to have an early spring (unless it continues to rain like crazy and it stays dark, in which case it will be a late spring! How’s that for some confusing information?)

Actually, when it is all said and done, spring never varies by more than a week or two, so I guess it is a moot point. Here are a couple of areas to focus on for this week. There will be more to come later…


Did anyone look up “shot weed” last week? If so, you probably learned that this weed “shoots” its seeds when they are ripe and can spread them four to six feet from where the mother plant is growing. If we wait too long to pull them up, the mere process of touching them will cause the seeds to explode and disperse throughout our gardens.

I have noticed that some of my shot weeds are starting to bloom, so it is best to jump on them as soon as possible, which will save you a ton of work next year. Remember, these weeds are annuals and germinate in the fall, usually in September. If we had cleaned out our beds in November and spread some fresh mulch, we would have smothered any seedlings and been done with them for the season.

If you are looking at a bunch of shot weed, chickweed or any annual weeds for that matter, get out in the beds this month (the sooner the better) to Hula Hoe them out, spread some fresh mulch and your worries will be over. Perennial weeds are a different story as they will come back from their roots later this spring, but we can deal with that another time.


February is the ideal month for pruning the garden. Remember, not everything needs to be pruned. Dwarf evergreens that only grow an inch or two a year will probably never need to be pruned and mature shade trees that have reached their full height should be left alone, except for perhaps removing an occasional dead limb or two.

Anything that blooms in the summer (rather than the spring) can be pruned back severely now. This includes such shrubs as roses, hardy hibiscus, butterfly bushes and smoke trees - to name just a few.

The same is true for any perennials that weren’t cut back in the fall. Evergreen perennials like ferns and Hellebores should have last year’s leaves removed, being careful not to break off the new shoots or flowers. Doing this makes them look much more attractive and also helps prevent the spread of diseases.

Fruit trees will need to be pruned this month, as will vines like grapes and wisteria. If you need help, bring in some pictures to your favorite local nursery and I’m sure they will try to explain what you need to do. Check out Plant Amnesty in Seattle for even more information.


It’s never too early to plant and you would be amazed at what the garden centers already have in stock. Fruit trees, roses, berries, perennial veggies like asparagus and rhubarb, shrubs and perennials can all be planted now. Shop early for the best selection and remember to always add some organic compost and fertilizer when you plant something new.

Sunnyside will be hosting a free class, “Roses: Start Right,” Saturday, February 10, 2018, at 10:00 am.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at

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