Forcing early blooming branches is a fun way to fast-forward a bit of spring after a long winter. The earliest flowering plants, such as Forsythia, Witch Hazel and Pussy Willow can be forced in early to mid February, but it is better to wait a few more weeks for Cherries, and then in March you can force Serviceberry, Crabapple, Magnolia and Redbuds.
Choose a day when the temperatures are above freezing and select branches with buds that are round and plump. Be careful to remove only branches that won't harm the shape of the plant. It is preferable to cut a branch all the way to where it joins another branch, rather than cutting a branch partway along its length.
Bring the branches inside and place them in a container of water. Change the water daily to avoid buildup of bacteria which can hinder the buds from opening. Misting the branches several times a day can also help prevent them from drying out.
Towards the end of February, begin to prune fruit trees and shrubs. Prune to provide strong limbs, good air circulation and exposure to sun. Fruit trees should have well-spaced scaffold branches along either a central trunk or a vase shape. Remove 1/3 of older growth of berry bushes. If growing ever-bearing raspberries, you can cut the entire plant down low to the ground.
February is a good time to service your lawn mower, sharpen tools, and start planning for tree health care needs.
Hellebore and Witch Hazel could be in bloom by the end of the month.
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