When I last posted about my garden conversion, the sun was shining and temperatures were above 100 degrees for days on end. It's seems so long ago now, especially when I look at a forecast of rainy days and cold temperatures for as long as my phone forecast shows. But February marks an interesting month for many mild climate gardeners, it is the starting point of the garden season. Today I'm going to take you through my February checklist and show you how my "winter plants" are doing.

Pruning the Roses - One of my dear friends is part of the local Rose Society and she's always giving me advice about my roses, I tell you they've never looked so good even through the last few drought years, (grey water kept them alive). She told me a few years back you should prune back your roses over Super Bowl weekend, and when you're doing it pay attention to where you want the plant to bloom over the year, do you want it growing toward your walkway? Out over other plants? Really give it a hard look and decide almost like a bonsai how you want the plant to look overall. Next make sure the center of your plant has space, if you were to look down from the top it should look like a funnel wider and open at the top, down toward the center of the plant. Make sure you trim back any branches that are crossing each other, and lastly be really careful not to trim back too much. Most books and sites will tell you no more than 25% of the plant - I usually do a little bit more, but, not much. A few years back I over pruned one of my rose bushes - below the graft. Which I didn't know about at the time, it's taken me the last few years to nurse it back to a happy plant, and it blooms a different type of rose now. Needless to say a few weekends back I went to town on my remaining roses (more on that later). I have to stop here and suggest a few tools that I should have had when starting this product but have since picked up from Amazon for the future. 1. Invest in a good set of Rose Gloves - these are heavier duty than your normal gardening gloves and will protect your hands and arms up to your elbows from thorns, I've had a pair in the past and they are a true lifesaver anytime I'm working around my roses and thorns, I have to say, it took me a week to heal from all the scratches and pokes! These are the ones I picked up. 2. Good pruners, some that are easy to handle, light weight, make sure to keep them sharp and - here's the kicker for me - just like with a good knife I feel a set of pruners need to have some heft to them. I'm not saying buy the "Cleaver" version for light rose pruning but make sure it can do the job! Here's the pair I use on my roses - Pruners I mentioned above pruning my remaining roses, I had some trouble with a gopher this summer, he or she tore though my yard like a kid in a candy store, they ate my poppies, my lilies and finally 3 of my favorite rose bushes. Including the limited edition heirloom rose, my aforementioned dear friend gave me for my birthday a few years back. I was devastated at the time and tried to think about horrible ways for this nasty little creature to kick the bucket. But cooler heads prevailed and we picked up one of those vibrating post things - it seems to be working, either that or the little sucker ate everything he wanted to and moved on to greener pastures.



Generally mucking about: Next I moved into general weeding of the planter boxes, that wasn't too bad but I have a few types of mushrooms growing in them from all the rain, and I was concerned between the random people that tend to walk through my yard now, and my pups, I didn't want someone to get sick from them. I really wanted to put straw and mulch over the boxes I didn't intend to use this winter - hopefully I'll get to it next year - but the rain started early, life happened or something else and the next thing I knew it was February. So I did the next easiest thing and got a whole bunch of cardboard boxes that always seem to be stacking up around our house and cut them down to fit the planters to help keep the weeds down. I have to say there are a few downsides to this, one - when the cardboard dries and the wind kicks up, you do have to go looking for it down the street. And secondly while it might keep the weeds down, it obviously - although not to me, until I really thought about it - does not keep the mushrooms at bay.

cardboard planters

I have to say that I really regret pulling out the fabric barrier on the side of our yard. I planted a few bulbs, and plan on planting wildflowers this spring, along with the native poppies that crop up everywhere, but while the relentless rain has been awesome for our drought ridden state, it has wreaked havoc on my yard and sprouted an over abundance of weeks anywhere the fabric isn't secured down. I did pick up this little gardening set to help me - I specifically got it for the gloves, and the two weed pullers. Don't get me wrong a little rake and shovel always come in handy as well and I'm sure I'll find use for the other stuff. Needless to say I've had a heck of a time getting around all the weeding outside the boxes, but I figure 20 minutes here and there while it's still light when I come home from work and I should be done in a few years -lol.


On the upside the weeding keeps my "front yard" composter going, we decided not to put any food scraps in this bin since it is out front and I don't want the neighbors yelling at me for the lovely smell of rotting food, since I'm not the best with turning it quickly. It also houses all of my shredding as my "brown" waste, so it's recycling, composting and generally awesomeness in one small package.


when I have a little extra money I want to replace my older composter with this baby! It'll be awesome to turn it without getting down in it with a shovel or rake!
Lastly this weekend I plan on trimming back the maple in front of my house - this is not something most people have to do, but! the person that owned the house before us, planted a young maple close to the house and I don't know if they didn't expect it to grow as much as it did, or if they didn't think about the fact that you really shouldn't plant a tree that is going to overhang on your roof and gutters. So every year, I cut back all of the new growth down to a little more than a foot below our roofline and sigh as it grows through the summer. I do think about spending the money to transplant it somewhere else in my yard, although I'm not sure where we would put it. Even with the inconvenience of trimming, it is a beautiful tree, it's the shady spot the pups sit under in the summer when I'm outside puttering about; and it makes for a great outdoor ornament tree at Christmas.

One of the great things about a winter garden is the lack of work, I know that sounds a little ironic at the end of this post but from a planting and tending perspective I haven't done anything to the plants, including watering them. (Insert pics). I don't have a lot of variety, but it won't be long before I have fresh beets, with roasted cauliflower, garlic and onions. And that my dear friends for the amount of work I've put in, is priceless.



Do you have a winter garden?


Previously posted on fallingwithstyle.co

Published by Sarah Kirkland