Q: Kate, February always catches me off guard. 

One week, I’m sipping tea (or scotch), thinking winter dormancy will go on and on. The next, my garden is overrun with growth. Help?!

A: The first thing to do is pull on your galoshes and walk around. Do you see weeds? (Spoiler alert: almost certainly.) Does the soil look washed out or compacted, or are you thinking of making a new garden? Finally, what flowers, veggies, or trees do you want to plant come spring? Now, make a three-step action plan!

1. Weed   Weeds grow all winter during mild spells, so get out there and dig after any warm weather. Fight invaders now and you’ll have fewer problems come spring. Use a hula hoe for gravel patios or large flower or vegetable beds. For small areas, try a handheld triangle hoe. Stay on paths or lay down pieces of plywood to stand on so you don’t compact your soil.

2. Mulch   Spread two to four inches of garden mulch over freshly weeded beds. If you’re mulching woody plants (trees or shrubs), use decomposed wood chips. Planting flowers or vegetables? Use aged cow, chicken, or steer manure or even a mixture of both wood- and manure-based mulches. 

3. Sow Seed   Cuddled up by the fire in winter, what plant nut doesn’t make crazy plans to use seeds instead of buying costlier starts? Let this be the year. In February, buy some seeds and pots; set up grow lights. Let them be a beacon of future possibilities (and tomatoes).