Rockies

What to do in your garden in February
Marcia Tatroe

PLANTING

Bare-root vegetables. As soon as the soil can be worked, set out bare roots of asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb in a sunny location. Before planting, dig several inches of compost and a handful of balanced fertilizer into the soil. Nourse Farms ( www.noursefarms.com or 413/665-2658) sells three kinds of asparagus, including 'Purple Passion', which has large, tender spears, as well as horseradish and rhubarb.

Cool-season crops. Start seeds of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, onion, peas, and Swiss chard indoors or in a greenhouse. Seeds of Change ( www.seedsofchange.com or 888/762-7333) offers a wide selection, including 'Gold Marie' vining bean; 'Bull's Blood' beet, grown primarily for its sweet, tender, dark red leaves; and cardoon, an artichoke cousin that can be grown either as a vegetable for its edible stalks and roots or as an ornamental for its attractive silvery foliage and thistlelike flowers.

MAINTENANCE

Apply dormant spray. Kill overwintering insect eggs by spraying dormant oil on deciduous fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs. Thoroughly wet all surfaces, including the undersides of leaves and branches. Dormant oil is not recommended for use on blue spruce because it may discolor the needles.

Battle with ice and snow. Salt used to melt ice on sidewalks and driveways can burn plants. Instead, use sand or unscented, nonclumping cat litter. To prevent branches from breaking or being permanently bent under heavy snow loads, use a broom to gently lift and shake accumulations from branches after each snowstorm.

Prune suckers and water sprouts. Before new leaves emerge, remove these unsightly stems. Suckers emerge from the bases of plants; water sprouts grow straight up from the branches. Small suckers can be pulled off with a strong tug. Or use pruning shears to cut suckers as close to the trunk as possible and water sprouts just above their swollen bases. Use loppers on water sprouts larger than 1/2 inch.

Remove dead trees. Severe drought has killed many trees in the Rocky Mountains the past two years. You'll do less damage to the rest of the garden if you remove them while the ground is still frozen. Hire a professional arborist or tree-service firm to take out large trees. The stump can be routed out with a grinder, or left standing a bit above the ground as a base for a birdbath. If suckers erupt from the base, cut them off.

Stir up compost. If your compost pile isn't frozen solid, give it a turn now to kick it back into action. If your pile looks dry, sprinkle it with water.

LEARNING

Garden advice. Whether you're interested in bulbs, cactus, perennials, rock-garden design, fruit and nut trees, or water-wise gardening, you'll find an expert speaker at one of the sessions slated for this year's Landscapes West Conference & Garden Show. The show includes 80 booths for vendors and nonprofit groups. Feb 11?13; $1 admission, from $25 per conference session; Two Rivers Convention Center, 159 Main St., Grand Junction, CO; www.westernslopegardening.org or 970/244-1836.