Don’t let cold deter from garden, lawn work

By Brad Hardison - Contributing columnist

For homeowners and gardeners, February is a month where many of us would rather stay inside and put off chores and maintenance work until the weather becomes a little warmer and drier. This delay can lead to weed infestations, improper fertilization, less productive fruit trees and vines, planting delays, and a much larger workload in March and April. Here you will find a few strategies that can help you get the chores and maintenance completed on schedule while remaining as warm and dry as possible.

On days where it is too messy to go outside there are several projects that you can work on that will keep your lawn maintenance and gardening on schedule while staying inside. If you haven’t planned your garden for the upcoming year, make a quick sketch and decide which vegetables or plants you’d like to grow. Keep these sketches to help you plan your crop rotations in the future. Order your seeds. Many popular varieties sell out quickly, so this should be a top priority to ensure you secure the seed varieties that you would like to plant. You should familiarize yourself with planting dates, planting depths, and optimal planting times by reviewing the vegetable planting guide for eastern North Carolina found at the following web address:

Inspect your equipment and make repairs as needed. Change the fluids and filters on tractors, lawn mowers, tillers, weed eaters, and other gas powered equipment. Lubricate equipment and replace or clean grease fittings as needed. Follow the instructions and recommendations from the manufacturer on fluid specifications and quantities. This information can be found in the owner’s or operator’s manual. Also check the blades on cutting equipment such as mowers and trimmers, and sharpen or replace as needed. Don’t forget to inspect hand tools for rough or splintered handles. Sand to smooth or replace these handles to avoid getting splinters later in the spring.

As the weather permits, work outside, and begin by taking soil samples. To obtain a proper soil sample, you should take 15-20 cores from the top 4 inches of your lawn or garden. Mix those cores in a clean plastic bucket and fill the sample boxes to the “fill line” located on the side of the box. If you need soil sample boxes or soil sample forms you can pick them up at the Sampson County Extension Center, 55 Agriculture Place, Clinton. Complete the soil sample forms and submit to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), or bring them back to the Extension Center. The NCDA&CS charges $4 per soil sample November 27 through March 31, 2016.

Winter weeds in lawns will be vigorous in February. Common lawn weeds for Sampson County include chickweed, henbit, dandelions and wild garlic. Applications of postemergent herbicides containing 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba are recommended for bermudagrass, zoysiagrass and tall fescue lawns. Some herbicides containing these same ingredients are labeled for centipede grass and St. Augustine lawns at lower rates, so use caution and always read the label before application. Do not apply any fertilization to warm season grasses this month. Warm season grasses are dormant and any fertilization will promote weed growth or leach from the soil before green up. Pruning should be completed for grapevines, fruit trees and some ornamentals. Make sure to remove any dead, damaged or dying branches and shape for the intended space. Hopefully, this has provided some strategies to stay warm and dry while keeping your lawn or garden work on schedule.

Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at 910-592-7161 with your horticulture questions or to register for any upcoming events.

Disclaimer: The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.

Brad Hardison is an extension agent with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center and specializes in horticulture.

By Brad Hardison

Contributing columnist

Brad Hardison is an extension agent with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center and specializes in horticulture.

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