University of Maryland Extension

February Tips & Tasks

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arborvitae damaged by voles
Vole damage

Outdoor Yard and Garden Tips

  • Examine the base of a shrub for signs of vole damage if you notice dead stems or branches. This is a fairly common occurrence on mugo pine, cherry laurel, azalea, boxwood, and junipers. Voles are a type of field mouse that take cover in deep mulch (a good reason not to use more than 2-3 inches of mulch). They feed on roots, crowns, and above ground wood. Snow cover can also provide shelter for voles that tunnel on the surface of lawns. The tunneling becomes evident when the snow melts.

  • Scale insects can be managed with a dormant oil spray (horticulture oil) anytime that trees and shrubs are dormant. Be sure that temperatures are expected to remain above freezing for a 24 hour period after spraying. Read the product label. 

  • Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses resemble black Styrofoam and are usually found on the ends of cherry and crabapple tree branches. They should be removed and destroyed.

  • Inspect trees for gypsy moth and spotted lanternfly egg masses.

  • Spring bulbs can still be planted if the ground is not frozen. Inspect the bulbs and plant only the solid, healthy ones as bulbs can deteriorate when stored.  They may still bloom this year but will not be as vigorous. Do not cut back the green foliage that emerges, let it die back naturally. 
    raised bed vegetable garden

  • If you want to grow vegetables, flowers or herbs next spring and your soil is especially poor, consider building a raised bed and fill it with a purchased mixture of topsoil and leaf compost. Or plant a container garden.

  • Check the germination rate of old seed. Place 20 seeds between moistened paper towels roll up the towel and place it in a plastic bread bag. Put the bag in a warm location and check after 5-7 days to see what percentage has germinated. Discard seed lots with less than 75% germination.
  • Keep garden beds covered with shredded leaves, straw, or bark mulch to minimize the risk of soil erosion and nutrient run-off.

  • Buy fresh seed locally or order from mail-order seed companies. Select cultivars with resistance to diseases that have been a problem in your garden.

  • The Maryland Lawn Fertilizer Law prohibits anyone from using fertilizer products to melt ice and snow on steps, sidewalks or driveways.

  • Continue to feed wild birds through the remaining winter weeks. Black oil sunflower seeds and suet cakes are a good choice for a wide variety of birds. Keep bird feeders clean and provide your wild birds with fresh water.

Indoor Plant and Insect Tips

  • Day length is increasing and the sunlight is more intense. Houseplants will begin to show signs of new growth. It is time to start fertilizing your indoor plants. 

  • Leaf yellowing and leaf drop houseplants can be a result of low light conditions combined with overwatering. Spider mites are another possible cause.

  • Anthurium, moth orchid, African violets, kalanchoe, cyclamen, succulent gardens, and air plants (very low maintenance) all make nice gifts to brighten up any interior space.

  • Clothes moths and carpet beetles are the two most common, damaging fabric pests. The larvae or immatures cause the damage not the adult moth or beetle. Knowing how to prevent this problem is key to their management. 

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