Tag Archives: February

February: Time to Pull Weeds in My Virginia Garden

On Facebook I see several countdowns to spring but for me gardening is a year round endeavor. Although we have had and will continue to have snow and freezing rain here in Northern Virginia, I burst outside when an “almost warm day” appears in February, anxious to get a head start. I pull weeds, remove fallen branches, and throw away the invasive ivy. When the snow comes again, I am indoors updating and sorting my list of seeds and planning my veggie gardens on graph paper. It’s not that I have a large garden, we live in a typical suburban house, but I have crammed so much in so little space over the 12 years that we have been here that I have to keep track of everything on paper and in computer files.

This week we did have a passable day so I pulled as many weeds as I could. By this time, it is easy to identify and pull weeds that have settled down the previous fall and are just as anxious as I am for the spring’s warmth. Pulling them now before they flower reduces their population but also it is easier to pull when the soil is moist and the plants are too small to set anchor. Later, I will put down mulch to prevent more weeds but in February just sitting down and pulling weeds is a horticulturist’s idea of fun.

purple deadnettle on left and hairy bittercress on right

purple deadnettle on left and hairy bittercress on right

In my garden I have an infestation of hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta). A member of the mustard family, these young’uns appear as small mounds of subdivided leaves, creating a lacy or scalloped appearance. Later, as the plant matures and grows, slender stems will arise from the base producing very small, white flowers. By late spring, slender seed pods will burst open when touched (called “explosive dehiscence”), shooting seeds as far as 3 feet! Also called shotweed, this weed prefers damp conditions and should be removed as soon as possible.

I also pulled purple deadnettle, a member of the mint family. Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) is called “dead” nettle because the plant resembles the true nettles (Urtica spp.) but does not sting like a nettle, hence, “dead” nettle. Right now in February, I can only see young, leaves at ground level which makes it hard to identify but in a few months, the striking flower structures will grow tall above the basal leaves and the youngest, smallest leaves at the top will be purple. Tubular-like, purple flowers, typical of the mint family, peep out from under the uppermost leaves.

henbit in foreground and mouse ear chickweed in background

henbit in foreground and mouse ear chickweed in background

A cousin of purple deadnettle, henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), looks similar but does not have the pronounced purple color on the leaves. Purple deadnettle has stalked leaves on the flower stems while henbit does not: “amplexicaule” means leaves grasping the stem. The pretty scalloped leaves wrapped around the stem remind me of Queen Elizabeth I with her ruffled collar. Also a member of the mint family, henbit has small pink/purple, tubular like flowers.

Looking like a cross between a dandelion and a thistle, groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) is a member of the sunflower family. Like a dandelion, groundsel has a taproot and the same feathery type of seed head. It is good to pull while young before the tap root gets established but already in February it is beginning to sport yellow flowers, similar to a dandelion flower but smaller. If I had not been weeding as early as February, the groundsel would have flowered, set seed, and the wind would have dispersed hundreds of seeds to the rest of my property.



Two weeds that I do not have but spotted in my kids’ school garden are common chickweed (Stellaria media) and mouse ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum). There are several different types of chickweed, all members of the carnation family. The common chickweed has smooth, small, egg-shaped leaves and is so named because the plant is used as a starter food for baby chicks. The mouse ear chickweed has hairy leaves, slightly larger than the common chickweed, resembling fuzzy mouse ears. Both have tiny, five-petal flowers but the common chickweed is an annual while the mouse ear chickweed is a perennial. These plants have shallow fibrous roots; their stems spread and crawl and are capable of rooting where the node touches the soil.

common chickweed and mouse ear chickweed

common chickweed and mouse ear chickweed

The garden is not asleep in February. Vast armies of weeds are growing and flowering so as to disperse hundreds of weed seeds before I even start to plant the tomatoes.



Peg’s Picks February Gardening Events Washington DC Metro Area

You would be surprised at how many gardening events occur in February, there are a variety of workshops, lectures, and symposiums. February events also will be on the “Classes, Events” Page of http://www.pegplant.com

Sundays, Harry Allen Winter Lecture Series at Green Spring Gardens, Sundays in January, February, and March from 1:30 to 2:30. After lecture, meet presenter and enjoy refreshments. Can register for individual topics or for all; fee. See http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring for topics and speakers.

  • February 1: Ornamental Edible Gardens, Sandra Clinton
  • February 8: Windowsill Floral Displays, Nancy Ross Hugo
  • February 15: Winning Against Weeds, Mary Godinez
  • February 22: Rhododendron and Relatives, Steven Kristoph

Sunday, February 1, 1:00 pm, Garden Talk: Your Edible Garden, Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. Free but must register. (301) 937-1100; http://www.behnkes.com

Monday through Wednesday, February 2-4, Garden Club of Virginia gardening symposium in Williamsburg. Fee and must register. Contact is Ann Heller, GCV Communications Coordinator (804) 643-4137 or communications@gcvirginia.org and http://www.gcvirginia.org/symposium/speakers.cfm

Saturday, February 7, the 10th Annual Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchange, at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA. This event includes two lectures on two different topics, the seed swap, and a “goody bag” of freebies. 12:30 to 4:00 pm. Must register and fee, for more information call Kathy Jentz, (301) 588-6894. http://www.washingtongardener.blogspot.com

Saturdays, February 7 & 21, 10:30 to 1:00 pm Sustainable Vegetable Gardening series, VCE-Prince William Master Gardeners, Chinn Park Regional Library, 13065 Chinn Park Drive, Woodbridge, VA; free but must register; (703) 792-7747; http://www.mgpw.org

Saturdays, February 7, 14 and 21, Merrifield Garden Center, free lectures at 10:00 am in three locations

  • 2/7: Merrifield, Tips From Your Extension Agent; Fair Oaks, Evergreens for Every Garden; Gainesville, Shrubs: A New Look at Old Favorites
  • 2/14: M, Romance in the Garden; FO, It’s All about the Birds and the Bees; G, Romancing with Plants
  • 2/21: M, Success with Seeds; FO, Boxwood and Flowering Shrubs; G, Gardening for the Birds.

In addition, on February 7, 2:00 pm, Fair Oaks will have a seminar to introduce children to gardening, activity targeted to children ages 6-12 years to complete, adult must be present, sign up online. (703) 560-6222. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

Vegetable Gardening Series, three-part series, hosted by the VCE Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, at Fairlington Community Center, 3308 South Stafford Street, Arlington, VA.

  • Session 1: Planning the Vegetable Garden, Sat, February 7, 9:30 to 11:00 am; or Tues, February 17, 7-8:30 pm (same content repeated)
  • Session 2: Preparing the Garden, Sat, March 14; or Tues, March 17
  • Session 3: Managing the garden, Sat April 11; or Tues, April 21

Free but must register, (703) 228-6414; e-mail: mgarlalex@gmail.com. Register at http://www.mgnv.org

Wednesday evenings, February 11 to March 25, 6:00 to 8:00 pm, (first one till 8:30 pm), plus one field trip on Saturday 3/21. Organic food gardening winter class. Fee and must register in advance. Neighborhood Farm Initiative. 1525 Newton Street, NW, Washington DC; (202) 505-1634; http://www.neighborhoodfarminitiative.org

Saturday, February 21, the 11th Annual Eco-savvy Symposium: Evolving Landscapes 8:30 to 4:00 pm at Green Spring Gardens, fee and must register in advance, (703) 642-5173; http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

Friday, February 27, Green Matters Symposium, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Theme is “Protecting our Pollinators,” an annual symposium at Brookside Gardens but this year will take place at Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza. Fee and must register. (301) 962-1451

Saturday, February 28, RootingDC Forum, an all-day, free gardening forum with many lectures and vendors, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (a ten dollar donation is suggested). Registration started January 15. Wilson Senior High School, 3950 Chesapeake Street, NW, Washington DC. http://www.rootingDC.org

Saturday, February 28, Middleburg Horticultural Symposium, 8:30 am to 3:15 pm, sponsored by the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club at the Salamander Resort and Spa, 500 North Pendleton Street, Middleburg, VA. Fee and must register. E-mail elaineburden1@aol.com or call (540) 687-6940. www.flgardenclub.org

Saturday, February 28, 1:00 pm, Garden Talk: Discouraging Deer in Your Garden, Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD. Free but must register. (301) 937-1100; http://www.behnkes.com