Though seed poppies aren’t winter-hardy, their seeds are best sown when the weather is cold. If you allow them to go to seed after blooming in your garden, they’ll self-seed for plants and blooms the following year. ‘Lauren’s Grape’ is a popular variety. (Photo/Kylee Baumle)

We’ve made it through January – all 6,184 days of it, according to poet Brian Bilston. We laugh, but sometimes it seems as if January, and winter, will never end. If you’re the type who really enjoys winter, perhaps it isn’t long enough for you, but most people I know long for tulips and daffodils about now.

Both Punxsutawney Phil and Buckeye Chuck have given their prognostications regarding whether or not we can expect an early spring. They are both in agreement and it’s not looking good if you put much stock in what they say. In fact, Chuck couldn’t be bothered to emerge from his hidey-hole to even look for his shadow.

So here we are. But February is no ordinary winter month. I mean, it only has 28 days (this year), so there’s that. Before we know it, March will be roaring in. That’s a good thing because March 1st is the start of meteorological spring. Astronomically, we celebrate it with the spring equinox, this year on Monday, March 20th.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. We’ve plenty to do in February, including two holidays to celebrate. Valentine’s Day is coming up and even if you don’t have a significant other to spend it with, anyone can be your valentine – a friend, a neighbor, a favorite relative, a teacher, or even a pet. We all can benefit from a little extra kindness and love, so get out there and show some!

We have a federal holiday to observe as well. Since 1971, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 took effect, we celebrate the third Monday of February as President’s Day. Both presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were born in February, so it’s a good month to do it. Presidents William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan have February birthdays, too.

This is the month when we tap the maple trees to collect sap for making syrup. What a gift from nature that is! I’ve always wondered when and how humans discovered that you could collect sap from these trees and boil it down to make such a delicious treat. No one knows for sure, but legend has it that Americans learned the craft from Native Americans. Bless them, and pass the syrup, please.

Fort Wayne meteorologist Matt Leach was heard to say last week that February means not only increasingly longer days, but warmer ones, too. Not that we can’t have some frigid temperatures and large snowfalls, but on average, we will end the month warmer than when we began it.

That increasing warmth signals spring bulbs to wake up and kick it into gear. By month’s end, we’ll see crocuses appearing and bursting into bloom. Snowdrops, winter aconites, reticulated irises, and some early blooming daffodils will add some color to the landscape. And don’t forget the vernal witch hazel, whose delicious scent begins wafting through the air as its tiny blooms unfurl.

Now is the time to sow poppy seeds in the garden. Just sprinkle them generously over the soil where you want them to grow. If you didn’t sow milkweed seeds last fall, do the same with those. Both poppy and milkweed seeds need cold moist stratification to germinate well, and we have enough cold, wet weather left to accomplish that.

You can also start some seeds indoors if you have the space and appropriate lighting. Some vegetables take longer to mature, so giving them an early start can increase your yield. Bell peppers and other types, such as jalapenos, can be started this month. Check seed packet instructions for best results. And speaking of seeds, if you haven’t ordered any yet, you best get to it, before the ones you want are sold out.

Finally, keep your ears and eyes open for the first returning red-winged blackbirds. These, and not robins, are a reliable harbinger of spring. You should be noticing them arriving in the last week of the month or so. The goldfinches will start losing their winter drab colors and will start taking on their familiar bright yellow summer hues.

February is indeed a fun month that signifies a turning point in winter. There’s enough to keep you busy and put a smile on your face. You could even start your spring cleaning. It’s time.

Kylee Baumle is a lifelong resident of Paulding County. Contact her on Facebook or by email at