February Care

February - Busiest Time of the Year 

by Lee Vanderpool 

February is normally the time to be spraying for fungus, scales, mites and other critters which overwinter in litter or on your trees. This February, however, looks like it is going to be another kind of month when most trees, shrubs and other plants are actively growing and many trees are in leaf or flower. There may still be time before the weather gets too warm to spray with dormant oil to control scale and with a miticide to control red spider mites. Each of these sprays should be applied to appropriate plants twice, two weeks apart, to be most effective. The key to spraying, especially for scale, is to do so on a dry evening when the temperature is not over 70 degrees. 

The dormant oil used to control scale must remain on the plant as long as possible to be effective, It is also important to drench with a systemic fungicide a couple of times in an attempt to control root rot which may have set in during the winter. Root rot is usually not noticed until the tree does not leaf out in the spring or puts out only a small amount of leaves. Those indications usually come too late to be of much use in control; the tree is normally on decline and control is not of much use. Fortunately or unfortunately for us, we do not seem to get enough chill temperature to cause apples, crabapples or peaches and cherries to set fruit. Most of them will flower but fruit will not develop. I always threaten to appropriate some space in the refrigerator to store a crabapple over winter but have yet to do so. I would like to see if the chill would cause fruit set as I have been told. I do know that people in Hawaii store their elms in refrigerators over winter to give them their dormant period. 

Some azaleas, elms and pines began to return to active growing during January this year. Repotting may be somewhat risky if the leaves on deciduous trees are too well developed before repotting is attempted. If you are inclined to try to root hardwood cuttings, now is about the last time to take material and get it set in perlite or sand before the hot weather comes. If you are going to attempt to graft pines this year, you may already be too late. 

Hit the nurseries during the coming active selling period. Sometimes you can find good deals on trees left over from last year that the nurseryman wants to get rid of at a bargain price. Enjoy spring! 

© Fort Walton Beach Bonsai Society (FWBBS) ELF 2017