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Home > Care  > February tips

Tips for February
by Brad Thompson

1. FERTILIZING: You may want to start fertilizing sometime this month especially if it stays warm and your plants are growing vigorously. I usually don't start until a little later, say March, mostly because I just have too much to do. You can start this month if you'd like to.

 2. CLEANUP: Make sure you keep leaves picked up and remove damaged leaves from your plants. This will go a long way towards disease control. We havenít had much rain (ok none) but with colder temperatures mildew and botrytis can still be a problem if you donít keep dead stuff picked up.

 3. PESTS: (besides me) Now is the perfect time to inspect your plants for any insect pests you have that you just haven't gotten around to taking care of. With all the dead leaves picked up and very few leaves on the plants the bugs are much easier to see and to get rid of. If you have the time to go through each plant methodically, one at a time, you can take care of that number one nemesis of begonias, the mealy bug, using a very safe method. Take a cotton swab, or better yet a small artist's brush, and paint all those little mealies with pure alcohol, and they will die instantly. The only drawback to this method is that it is time consuming and you have to make sure you inspect very carefully so you don't miss any. For a really bad infestation you'l l probably want to resort to a pesticide, follow the directions on the bottle, and make sure whatever you use is safe for begonias. Saferís Soap specifically says on the bottle not to use it on begonias. Also, this time of year you might be starting to get aphids so make sure you keep and eye out for them and keep them under control.

4. MILDEW: I 'm sure most of you have been fighting mildew since last fall and probably still have some plants with this problem. If you get it under control now by spraying and keep it under control until we get warm weather you'll have a better chance of being mildew free this summer. Everyone has their favorite spray so ask around to find out what other people use and find out for yourself which one does the best at your house. Usually just picking up the affected stuff and warmer dryer weather will soon take care of botrytis. Keep a close watch because botrytis can cause much more damage than mildew and can destroy entire plants quickly if not kept in check.

 5. PRUNING: This month you can start pruning towards the end of the month if you're careful about watering afterwards and if it has stayed fairly warm where you live. I usually prune everything starting about the 15th of February but I live 6 near the coast and I 've had plenty of practice. If you are unsure about pruning or inexperienced you should probably wait until March when it's safe for everyone to prune. Pruning instructions are in this issue. You should root the cuttings indoors because it won't be warm enough for them to root well outdoors this time of year and nothing will be gained by taking the early cuttings. Don't take cuttings off of rhizomatous or trailing begonias until after they have bloomed or you may lose your blooms for this year. Most of them only bloom in spring on the tips of shoots. If you really don't care about losing some flowers you can root them indoors this time of year though just like anything else.

 6. WATER: This has been a warm dry winter so itís a little harder to know when to water. Err on the side of dry. I ím missing our seasonal watering break this year. Watch for plants staying too wet or too dry. If you fix them now you may save them from declining later. If we should happen to get rain, then say thanks for the help.


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