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Spring is around the corner

While spring is around the corner, we can still count on several more weeks of cold weather. There are things gardeners will want to attend to.

--February is time to feed tulips. Begin early.

--It is best to fertilize in both spring and fall, dividing these duties equally between the seasons. Mid-February is time to fertilize trees, including fruit and nut trees and shrubs. If you fertilize only once per year, wait until after a killing frost in fall.

--Spray dormant oil on trees and shrubs to control spider mites, scale insects and eggs of other insects that have survived the winter. Be sure to read the label. Choose a calm day when the temperature won't go below freezing that evening.

--Peach and nectarine trees may be sprayed with a dormant spray of lime sulfur or other fungicide as prevention for peach leaf curl.

--Continue to provide water and food for birds.

--Order seeds and plants for spring. Hardy, disease-resistant, drought-tolerant varieties are the best choice, if possible.

--Longer days will spark signs of new growth on houseplants. Resume fertilizing, always mixing houseplant fertilizer half-strength.

--Later this month, plant blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, asparagus and other perennial garden crops.

--Mid-February is a good time to do further pruning.

--Pruning shade trees, summer flowering shrubs and hedges may be finished now. Delay severe pruning of evergreen hedges until just before new growth begins. Immediately after flowering, spring blooming shrubs may be pruned.

--A scissor-type hand pruner should be used for limbs less than 1 inch in diameter. Use a long-handled lopper for limbs that are between 1 1/2 inch in diameter or ones that are hard to reach. For the largest limbs, use a pole pruner or a pruning saw.

--For early bloom of flowering branches like forsythia and quince, force the process indoors.

--For grafting pecans later this spring, collect and store graft wood.

--On warm days, search for evergreen shrubs for arbovitae aphids.

--Mulching perennial beds can be done at this time. A covering of 2 to 4 inches of compost, tree leaves or clean straw will act like a blanket to hold in soil heat. It also delays the soil's warming up in the spring, which can delay flowers, and prevent them from being lost to a late spring frost. Combine mulch with winter watering to create a two-tiered strategy for plant protection.

--Some of the more important groups of plants to protect with a mulch layer are shrubs and perennials. Apply mulch over perennial gardens and rose beds when the ground is frozen hard.

--Cypress bark mulch is a popular mulch in Oklahoma. It doesn't blow or float away. Cedar bark chips will float and move in heavy rains, but does create a good mantle layering over the soil. Use about 3 inches of bark for mulching, being careful to keep bark mulches 3 to 4 inches away from shrub and tree trunks. This will prevent trapping moisture and causing trunk rot.

--Compost is another good mulch material. Good insulation is provides by a two inch layer and helps improve garden soils in years to come. Keep compost 3 to 4 inches away from trunks of trees and shrubs.

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