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Winter Gardening: February Garden Checklist Zones 4-5

February brings unpredictable weather and can often try the patience of gardeners eager to get started in their gardens. The winter has been long in Zone 4 and 5, 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 brightness as the light at the end of the tunnel of winter.

Use our February Garden Checklist Zone 4 and 5 for valuable information on all you can do in your garden this month to ensure a hearty and healthy garden this year.

Tools hanging on wall of garden shed.

Spring Garden Planning

February is an optimal 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.  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 the spaces. 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

Spring will be here before you know it, so it is worth repeating on our February Garden Checklist Zone 4 and 5 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!

Garden Maintenance

If you live in Zones 4 and 5, you are 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.

If there is no snow on the ground, peruse your gardens and add more mulch to areas where mulch has been depleted.  Check for frost heaves and if the ground is soft enough, gently press raised areas down with your boot. If you had a Christmas tree or any fresh greenery as décor, you can snip off the branches and lay them down scatter them around the bases of rose bushes or on perennial garden beds.

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.

woman watering her indoor plants.

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.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Before we discuss starting seeds indoors on our February Garden Checklist Zones 4-5, 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 4 – the last frost date ranges from April 24 through May 12
  • Zone 5 – the last frost date ranges from April 8 through May 1

Force Bulbs Indoors – You can force any bulb indoors. If you simply cannot wait until spring to see blooms these flowers will make quite a show either planted in a pot of soil or a low dish of water and gravel or marbles:

  • Amaryllis
  • Narcissus
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Hyacinths

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 as well as:

  • Forsythia
  • Dogwood
  • Magnolia
  • Pussy Willow
Coal Tit perched on a bird feeder.

Houseplant Maintenance

Changes are happening for your indoor plants as well as your outdoor ones. Take time this February to repot your indoor houseplants. 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.

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

Outdoor Planting

The ground is likely still frozen in Zone 4 and Zone 5, and frost is still an imminent threat. So there is not much on the February Garden Checklist Zones 4-5 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.

Harvest Winter Vegetables

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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Woman watering indoor plants
Red bird on a birdhouse in snow

2 Comments

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  1. Thank you ! Very helpful and informative.
    I ran out of room in my raised garden bed so I planted squash in the miracle grow bags of soil. The leafy greens were like a jungle, but I only got 2 squash. I had many flowers & buds but nothing grew. Why?

    • Hi Janice, we’re so sorry to hear about your squash plant. There a few reasons your squash plants may not have set fruit; inadequate pollination, unbalanced nutrients, and/or insufficient container size.

      Your plants may not have received adequate pollination which kept them from setting fruit. Companion planting will help bring in more pollinators Here is a guide that may help https://www.kellogggarden.com/companion-planting-guide-ebook/ Also, to help them pollinate fully, try hand pollinating using a small paintbrush or q-tip.

      Depending on the type of soil you are growing in, there may have been an abundance of nitrogen which encourages squash plants to produce lots of green foliage. The soil you chose has synthetic fertilizer mixed in, the plant takes that up faster and it can be more difficult to gauge what your plant is getting and what it needs. Here is an article on synthetic versus organic fertilizers https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/fertilizer/the-difference-between-organic-vs-synthetic-fertilizers/ When you have lots of green foliage and blooms but no fruit the plant may need more adding phosphorous to help encourage your plant to set more fruit. Squash plants are heavy feeders and may require multiple organic fertilizer applications throughout the growing season.

      Finally, the soil bag may not have been large enough to allow the plant to grow to its fullest potential. Squash plants prefer a container that is about 24″ in diameter and 12″ deep. For more information about growing squash check out this article: https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/growing/how-to-grow-squash/. We hope this helps, happy gardening!

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