"More Things To Do," by the Whistling Gardener

Hey there Lady Valentine!  Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
Hey there Lady Valentine! Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

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

Considering all the rain that we have received lately, it is probably safe to assume that most of us have not completed the tasks I wrote about last week. I managed to hoe out some of my shot weed and spent one hour pruning some shrubs, but that was about it. Hopefully the rest of you were able to do a little better. Just in case you have run out of chores, here are a few more to consider.

Lawns: Normally February is still a relatively slow month for our lawns, but due to our unusually warm winter, things are ahead of schedule. I would definitely treat for moss this month by either spreading iron sulfate (which will stain concrete, so be careful) or an organic product by Bonide called Moss Max that contains a potassium salt of a fatty acid and will not stain concrete and therefore can also be used on patios, decks and roofs. Both of these products will turn the moss to slime, after which you will need to aggressively rake the lawn and fertilize to get things growing again. Do not try to re-seed this month, the soils are still too cold.

Moles will start to come out of hibernation soon, so if you start seeing new mounds make a plan of attack. Repellents seem to work for some gardeners and not for others. The main ingredient is nothing more than castor oil and I don’t even want to know how it is supposed to work, just that it does. In my opinion, traps are the only sure fire way to stop moles. A device called a Cinch Trap has worked the best for me, but if you don’t want to hassle with trapping then call someone else to do it for you.

Vegetables: We have two growing seasons in the northwest, “cool” and “warm.” Obviously, this time of year is the “cool season,” when we should be thinking about “roots and shoots.” Root crops like carrots, beets, onions, and potatoes can be planted now as well as “leafy” crops like broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and peas.

Be patient with garden centers this month, we are at the mercy of our suppliers and so some varieties may not be on the shelves until later in the month. Our “cool season” runs into May so there will be lots of opportunities to plant.

While it is fun to start plants from seed, it often makes more sense to just buy transplants when you only need a few plants. With the exception of carrots, most vegetables are available as transplants from the garden center. REPEAT AFTER ME: Before you plant, always add some organic fertilizer, lime, and compost to the soil. Most vegetables are what we call “heavy feeders” and you will get much better harvests if you feed your soil generously.

Fruits and berries: It’s time to apply a dormant spray. Copper and oil is a dynamite combination that helps reduce insects and diseases. Also, sulfur and pyrethrum is a natural combination, sold under the Bonide label as Orchard Spray that helps control scab and mildew on apples and pears. Be sure to clean thoroughly under blue berries to help control mummy berry.

Last but not least, I can’t overstate the fact that in the northwest we can plant year around. Shrubs, perennials, trees, fruits, and veggies can all be planted NOW. Don’t miss this great opportunity to get a jump on the season.

Sunnyside will be hosting two classes next weekend: “The Beauty Of Hellebores” Saturday, February 17, 2018, at 10:00 am and “Terrariums” Sunday, February 18th, at 11:00 am.

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

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