By Lee Stewart
It’s February, the month of love, and one of my favorite months of the year! February is not only my birth month, but it is the time that the season begins to make way for spring. The warm rays of sunshine provide confirmation that springtime is just around the corner. The light warm temperatures are a wonderful gift to gardeners!
February is a wonderful month to be preparing your yard, patio or balcony for your springtime planting. It is the ideal time to get your space, soil and irrigation ready for the wonderful spring planting that is just beginning. Picking fresh fruits and vegetables packed with 100% nutrients straight from your own backyard, patio or balcony has so many benefits.
Hopefully you have been harvesting some of your winter crops, such as different varieties of kale, spinach, snap peas, Maryann peas, and other various vegetables. Likewise, you may have had the opportunity to create some wonderful warm stews with the harvesting of your carrots, Chinese cabbage and bok choy.
What to Plant Now
You should also be continuing to re-seed some of the varieties of vegetables. The beat can continue when you re-seed your beets. So, turn the beet around, because that is one of the many vegetables that you can continue rotating through your garden.
The middle of February is also a good time to be sowing your seeds for cucumbers, melons, cantaloupe, corn, and the wonderful watermelons. Yes, who doesn’t love a juicy watermelon when the temperatures begin to climb!
Most citrus fruits like lemons and oranges are ready to be picked now. It may be a good idea to take and share the fruits of your labor with co-workers, friends or family instead of letting that wonderful citrus drop to the ground to rot, or even attract the dreaded roof rats. There are even food banks around the Valley will accept any citrus.
Ideas for Citrus Crops
One of the other wonderful things I do at the Veg Up Get Dirty urban farm is juice our fruits. We love juicing the oranges and lemons and then freezing them for future use. I like to take my lemons and juice them into ice cube trays. It’s a wonderful way of making lemonade drinks for the summer months.
I also take my citrus peels and boil them in a huge pot to help clean the air naturally. It provides a natural beautiful aroma and fills your home with a wonderful citrus scent.
February is one of the months when you should be fertilizing your citrus trees. You want to fertilize them around mid-February—so around Valentine’s Day is a good landmark day to keep in your calendar for fertilizing. Before you head out on your Valentine’s date, give your citrus tree some love. Deciduous and bare root trees can also be planted this time of the year.
If by chance you were not able to protect some of your plants from frost, there is something to keep in mind. If your plants were damaged by the frost, DO NOT prune them. The plants may not look award-winning or becoming now, but be patient for the weather to warm up. There must be more consistent warmer weather before you prune the plants back. Please keep your frost cloths and old sheets accessible, as we are not out of the clear yet for possible frost in February. Just like you have a jacket waiting in the closet, you want to be sure to have your plants’ frost covers close in case we do have a few surprise freeze or frost nights.
I cover the trees with frost cloths and sheets at the Veg Up Get Dirty urban farm. I also want to share one of the tricks I use on the Urban Farm—I string incandescent white lights around the citrus trees. It gives the trees a fun festive look, while helping provide some small amount of warmth to the fruit trees.
I started Veg Up Get Dirty several years ago as an edible landscape company. I am a certified master gardener and mentor for the Maricopa Extension program with the University of Arizona. Since launching the company, I have had the pleasure in assisting with gardens in Montessori schools, residential homes, offices, balconies, patio homes and more.
Additional services I provide are through my company include gardening consultations, designing of your garden, custom building of gardens, servicing existing gardens, and education. I have implemented a gardening coaching service to educate individuals to take control of their own garden. You may be asking what does this service look like? I come out to the location and conduct a 90-minute assessment/consultation. During this assessment I will look at your area to find the best placement of your garden, assess for amending needs for your already existing garden, educate, and assess possible watering distribution to the garden. It would be my absolute pleasure to assist you in your gardening journey and help you grow your own food.
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Lee Stewart is the owner of Veg Up Get Dirty. Learn more at www.vegupgetdirty.com.