Plan for Pollinators.
Although early February marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the first day of spring, it’s still feeling mighty wintry in our neck of the woods. Imbolc, the ancient Gaelic spring festival celebrated on the first of February, brought us a big fluffy blanket of snow. And this week, Punxsutawney Phil took a good, long look at his shadow—letting us know where to shove any hope for an early spring (back down the groundhog burrow, of course). So, what’s a gardener to do this time of the year?
Most Northeast gardeners can safely stay in hibernation mode this month, unless you want to get out to do some light pruning. Otherwise, February is all about ordering seeds and sowing supplies, sharpening tools, consulting planting guides, and tweaking garden plans.
February is also a time for noticing. Take in the smooth curves of a landscape covered in snow, the elegant white edging along tree limbs, the blue jays making tight arcs from branch to bird feeder. If out your window things are looking grim, decide what you’d like to see in a year's time: tall, airy grasses moving in the breeze or a stand of bright Winterberry? Let winter bleakness suggest a plan.
On the subject of planning, make a point to support pollinators and other beneficial insects in your garden this year. While most of our pollinator friends are in hibernation, they’ll need nectar and pollen once they wake up. Having flowers in the garden throughout the growing season isn’t merely cosmetic; it also means better pollination of vegetable crops and, therefore, bigger yields. In other words, think pollinators as you shop for vegetable seeds.
Sow a selection of the following pollinator favorites for seasonal beauty and bigger harvests (see growing instructions under each seed listing):
Blooms for Spring: Sweet Peas, Bachelor’s Buttons, Love in a Mist, Borage, and Calendula.
Blooms for Early- to Mid-Summer: Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Linaria, Phacelia, and Poppies.
Blooms for Mid- to Late Summer: Cosmos, Dahlia, Echinacea, Hyacinth Bean, Liatris, Marshmallow, Butterfly Weed, Milkweed, Morning Glory, Evening Primrose, Rudbeckia, Snapdragons, Sunflowers, Yarrow, and Zinnia. Bees also love Marjoram, Lemon Balm, Anise Hyssop, and many other summer-flowering herbs.
Blooms for Summer to Late Fall: Marigold, Nicotiana, Dahlia, Spider Flower, Zinnias, and Snapdragons.
Succession sow Calendula, Nasturtium, Borage, and Bachelor Buttons in summer for fall flowering.
Another route is to sow a Flower Mix like Pollinator Petal Patch or Good Bug Blooms. Sow mixes in well-weeded beds and thin plants so that they have plenty of room to reach their potential. You can learn more about supporting pollinators at the Xerces Society, an organization dedicated to helping threatened invertebrates of all kinds.
For those eager to get a head start on spring, there's still plenty of time for winter sowing cold-stratified seeds that enjoy a period of low temps and fluctuations in precipitation. See our posts on Winter Sown Flowers and Poppies for ideas.
And finally, don't forget to feed the birds! February is National Bird Feeding Month. Nutrient-dense sunflower seeds, thistle, nuts, suet, mealworms, and millet are good choices for our feathered friends. If it's frozen everywhere you look, put out some water too.