February 2024 Prepare for Spring Planting

Soil Testing

Probably the first thing you want to do is to have your soil tested to ensure you have the correct nutrients. The major issue here in Baldwin County is to make sure the soil pH is correct. This means that you will probably have to add lime to your beds. To soil test, cost about $10, take some small scoops of soil from random places in your garden and mix them together. You will need to get a soil sample bag – I would suggest from Old Tyme Feed – and add about a cup of the mixed soil to the bag. Return the filled bag to Old Tyme Feed and they will handle it from there. In about two weeks they will let you know the results. When you go to get the results they will let you know how much lime and other fertilizer you will need.

Seeds/bulbs to plant

I would start looking and planning on what I want in my flower beds and vegetable garden. One of the enjoyable things to do is to get flower catalogs from various vendors such as Burpee, Park Seed, and many others.

As soon as you can, go ahead and plan what flowers and/or vegetables to plant. One of the joys of planting is browsing the various catalogs of bulbs and seeds. Almost all companies will have various tips on what to plant, how to plant and considerable other information. You must be certain to select the proper growing zone for your plants and seeds you buy. Almost any place you buy your seeds/bulbs from will have a planting zone calculator. The USDA probably has the best Zone Map.

Here are some companies that I am familiar with for bulbs and flower seeds, there are many others that you might already be familiar with. You can also get bulbs and seed at Lowes, Home Depot and our local garden and nursery stores. Last year I gave a list of local garden and nursery stores you might want to go back to and review.

For your vegetable garden use the Auburn Planting Guide for Home Gardening in Alabama, an excellent resource.

On an inclement day, as you are sitting in your armchair drinking a cup of java and looking at the various catalogs and flower pictures don’t forget that you will have to go outside and do some work there!

Clean out last years beds

Don’t forget that you will have to clean out the old beds. Rake out the old leaves. Be sure to reach under your shrubs. If they are not thick you can spread them around and use them for mulch. Trim your perennials and get rid of old branches and leaves that were killed by frost. You may have to add some more mulch – consider pine bark, pine straw, leaves, etc. If you have a mulch pile you can take the old leaves and other dead organic material and add it to your mulch pile for later use.

Get rid of any weeds or old perennial limbs and flowers, etc. Especially now that we have had rain, and the ground is soft, carefully pull them out before they grow too much and certainly before they go to seed and cause you more problems on down the road.

Prepare the new beds

At the beginning of January, for my vegetable garden I dumped about a dozen bags of leaves I picked up from the curb in Quail Creek and tilled them in the ground along with some lime. Once a week I till again to help with their decomposition and will continue to do so until I start planting. For smaller beds you can simply use a shovel to loosen the soil.

Divide your perennials. Now is a good time to share with your friends and neighbors. Replant and water the newly divided perennials immediately into their new homes – don’t fertilize them yet as the new growth may get frost bitten. If you have early blooming perennials or perennials starting to bud out hold off on them. These will be divided after blooming.

Take the time to edge your beds to get them looking neat and it helps feep your new mulch in the bed.

Don’t forget your shrubs

It is also important to inspect your shrubs and do any trimming now. You may have some shrubs whose younger stems may have been frost bitten – these will need to be trimmed up. Generally, when you prune, it is suggested to add a small amount of fertilizer. However, just be a little patient and lets wait until the chance of frost is past as you do not want to have to do this again in the case of a late frost. DO NOT trim spring-blooming shrubs such as azaleas, camellias, and most hydrangeas as they bloom on old wood.  If you are not sure what to trim or when to trim look up your shrub on the web and see what the recommendations are for that shrub!

FYI – the average last frost date for Fairhope and our surrounding area is 11-March thru 20-March. Just remember, this is an approximate date.

Clean your tools

Don’t forget to clean up all of your gardening tools. Wash them as needed.  You may also want to replace some. Now is a really good time to address this as everybody else will be at the gardening stores in another month or so!