What to do in your garden in February

PLANTING

Bare-root vegetables. As soon as the soil can be worked, setout bare roots of asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb in a sunnylocation. Before planting, dig several inches of compost and ahandful of balanced fertilizer into the soil. Nourse Farms (www.noursefarms.com or413/665-2658) sells three kinds of asparagus, including 'PurplePassion', which has large, tender spears, as well as horseradishand rhubarb.

Cool-season crops. Start seeds of broccoli, brusselssprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, onion, peas, andSwiss chard indoors or in a greenhouse. Seeds of Change (www.seedsofchange.com or888/762-7333) 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 canbe grown either as a vegetable for its edible stalks and roots oras an ornamental for its attractive silvery foliage and thistlelikeflowers.

MAINTENANCE

Apply dormant spray. Kill overwintering insect eggs byspraying dormant oil on deciduous fruit and ornamental trees andshrubs. Thoroughly wet all surfaces, including the undersides ofleaves and branches. Dormant oil is not recommended for use on bluespruce because it may discolor the needles.

Battle with ice and snow. Salt used to melt ice on sidewalksand driveways can burn plants. Instead, use sand or unscented,nonclumping cat litter. To prevent branches from breaking or beingpermanently bent under heavy snow loads, use a broom to gently liftand 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 ofplants; water sprouts grow straight up from the branches. Smallsuckers can be pulled off with a strong tug. Or use pruning shearsto cut suckers as close to the trunk as possible and water sproutsjust above their swollen bases. Use loppers on water sprouts largerthan 1/2 inch.

Remove dead trees. Severe drought has killed many trees inthe Rocky Mountains the past two years. You'll do less damage tothe rest of the garden if you remove them while the ground is stillfrozen. Hire a professional arborist or tree-service firm to takeout large trees. The stump can be routed out with a grinder, orleft standing a bit above the ground as a base for a birdbath. Ifsuckers 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 looksdry, sprinkle it with water.

LEARNING

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

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