This past week saw January come to a close with Punxsutawney Phil stepping outside, casting a deep shadow. However, if you didn't look at the calendar or believe in such a crazy, ancient superstition, you’d have no clue that this was supposed to be the heart of winter, and that there’s supposedly six weeks left to endure. I think we all could "endurez" another six weeks of highs in the low 70s and lows barely dipping into the 40s, but I wouldn't put any money on that happening.
The future forecast continues to look mild, but beware.
Attempting to predict the weather is a futile endeavor, and seems even more so here in the Lowcountry. There have been too many days where there is a 90% chance of a downpour and there isn't a drop. Or it can hail on James Island, and just a few miles away downtown, you could be enjoying your lunch outside without a worry.
It’s a great idea to get a head start on our springtime gardening plans and activities, but it’s important not to get too much of a head start expecting the premature arrival of spring. Some azaleas are already blooming and we've even seen some daffodils not only up, but about to burst. If we were plants, these past couple of weeks would have us budding and plump with new growth. However, we are not plants, we’re human, and we have a brain and foresight.
The best things to do if you are itching to embrace this great weather and get started on our spring gardening plans is to not do anything that could end in a great loss. While we've only had one or two hard freezes so far, as soon as you put something young and tender out in the elements, you better believe there will be a late freeze. It’s called Murphy’s Law and it’s real.
So what exactly can we be doing? It’s February, so there are still some things that need their winter prune, like your roses and ornamental grasses. All plants love these slightly warmer temperatures and warming soil, including weeds, so get out there with your digging tools and eliminate existing and emerging weeds. Another thing we can be working on is enriching our soil. A good growing season starts with healthy soil. Amending with compost helps with nutrition, structure, drainage and heat absorption. Another good idea is to begin scouting for pest and insect problems. If you can catch them early on in development, you can help prevent an infestation come summer.
Prune your Knockout Roses starting in early February before they begin sending out new growth this spring.
When it comes to starting seeds and tender young plants, experiment and do so inside. A sunny windowsill, climate-controlled porch, or if you’re lucky enough to have a small greenhouse, are great places to get seeds started. Nurse young transplants along and step them up to bigger pots before the last threat of a freeze passes.
Slelect and order your seeds for Spring vegetables. Get them started indoors.
It would be very wise to capitalize on this fantastic weather we've had to prepare the garden for the coming growing season. Get out there and finish your winter pruning, weeding and soil amending. Plot out where and what you want to use. However, exercise caution when it comes to putting things into the ground too early. Mother Nature can strike when you least expect her to.