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Winter Gardening: February Garden Checklist Zones 1-3

February traditionally packs on the bitter temperatures, piles on the snow, and can often try the patience of gardeners eager to get started in their gardens. The winter has been long in Zones 1-3, but there is some hope on the horizon if you pay close attention.

Gardeners in these zones would undoubtedly like to see the soil almost as much as they would like to work it with their hands. But, the longer days of sunlight will become more and more prominent as each day passes.

Look to these slightly longer days of the sun’s gleam as the light at the end of the tunnel of winter. Use our February Garden Checklist Zones 1-3 for valuable information on all you can do in your garden this month to ensure a hearty and healthy garden this year.

Plants sprouting from soil.

Garden Planning

February is an ideal month to put to work all of those ‘December and January Year in Review’ reflections and ‘Planning for the Year Ahead’ garden plans from your journal.

  • Continue to cozy up and peruse gardening magazines for ideas.
  • Use your sketched-out garden design plans and dream boards to figure out where your newly acquired plants and seedlings will go.
  • Decide what you still need to fill unoccupied spaces in your garden beds.
  • Use your garden planting charts to guide you on what to plan and when, so you will be ready for planting when warmer temperatures roll in.

Garden Tools and Supplies Assessment

With not much to do in the garden in the depths of winter, it might feel nice to get your hands on your garden tools.  Spring will be here before you know it, so it is worth repeating on our February Garden Checklist Zones 1-3 that your garden tools should be at the forefront of your mind.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure that you assess your tools for sharpening and cleaning needs.  The lawnmower should receive a fluid change as well. It’s best to get all of your gardening supplies in tip-top shape so that when spring rolls in, you are fully prepared for yard and garden work, so you do not have any setbacks.

Check your tools for disrepair signs, tune-up and thoroughly clean and sanitize, sharpen blades, and oil up moving parts. These steps will give you confidence for a strong start to the garden season. It is also essential to keep your garden free from diseases that may have plagued your garden last season.

  1. Start by using steel wool or a metal grill brush to clean any debris off your garden tools.
  2. Wipe surfaces with a damp rag.
  3. Use coarse sandpaper to scuff away any signs of rust on metal surfaces.
  4. Dab vegetable oil onto a rag and wipe metal surfaces.
  5. Use a piece of sandpaper to slough away any rough or splintering spots on wooden handles.
  6. Wipe wooden handles down with a rag wet with linseed oil.

February is a great month to scour store shelves for sales for garden tools and containers, so be on the lookout for exceptional deals!

February Garden Maintenance

If you live in Zones 1-3, you are deep in the heart of winter, so you are in the clear for labor-intensive outdoor garden tasks in the backyard garden. The odds are high that snow is insulating your garden beds as your perennials rest.

As you are assessing what things look like outdoors, don’t forget about the wildlife. Fill up some bird feeders or hang some suet and watch the array of birds that flock to the feast.  Attracting these colorful friends to the feeders will provide entertainment and joy as you await the milder days to come.

Herbs growing in pots on a window seal.

February Indoor Planting

Indoor planting can be a real pick me up for gardeners in colder climates, and planting indoors can be done in some unexpected ways.

Growing Plants Under Grow Lights

While you won’t be able to plant outside for some time, it is possible to bring your growing indoors by growing vegetables under grow lights and implementing warming mats.  Some easy growers to get started with are lettuces, mixed greens, spinach, and herbs.  When you gain some confidence, try out more high-yielding plants.  Planting less plants with higher yields allows you to reap a plentiful harvest without taking up too much space indoors.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Before we discuss starting seeds indoors on our February Garden Checklist Zones 1-3, it is crucial to identify your growth zone’s last frost date.  This date varies with each zone and is just an estimation.  The last frost date is essential because this is how you will calculate what you can start planting indoors by counting the seed maturation days backward from the last estimated frost date so transplants will be ready for outdoor planting.

  • Zone 3 – the last frost date ranges from May 22 – June 4
  • Zone 2 – the last frost date ranges from May 15-22
  • Zone 1 – the last frost date ranges from May 1-16

Force Bulbs Indoors

You can force any bulb indoors.  If you simply cannot wait until spring to see blooms, amaryllis, narcissus, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths will make quite a show either planted in a pot of soil or a low dish of water and gravel or marbles.

Force Branches Indoors

Consider pruning a few branches from some flowering shrubs and trees.  Make a clean cut and arrange the branches in a vase of clean water to force an early bloom. Flowering fruit trees make great branch sources along with:

  • Forsythia
  • Dogwood
  • Magnolia
  • Pussy Willow

Houseplant Maintenance

Changes are happening for your indoor houseplants as well as your outdoor ones. Take time this February to repot your indoor plants.  The sun is higher in the sky, and your indoor plants should be ready for growing strong.  You do not need to get all new pots unless, of course, your indoor plants have outgrown their containers.

  • Remove the houseplant from the pot.
  • Shake off loose soil from the plant.
  • Fill the pot with new potting mix and reposition the plant.
  • Add some organic slow-release fertilizer.
  • Give plants a thorough watering session. Consider a shower watering, which will clean the plant’s leaves and give the roots a good soaking.
  • Allow the potted plants to drain water and set them in their sunny location.
A person putting plants into pots

February Outdoor Planting

The ground is still frozen, and temperatures are not conducive to outdoor planting in Zones 1-3. So there is not much on the February Garden Checklist Zones 1-3 for outdoor planting.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a greenhouse or some cold frames, you may be able to try direct sowing certain cool-season crop seeds outdoors before the temperatures begin to rise in your grow zone. Use some trial and error to see what successes you have.

February Harvest

Those in colder climates won’t be harvesting this month unless you are growing plants indoors under grow lights. But, do not fret; a time of rolling harvests and bountiful yields are ahead.


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