February

Whatever the weather there is plenty to do in the garden in February: 

  • Check your lawns for waterlogging – which might not be that uncommon given all the rain! Signs to look out for include puddling on the surface, a squelchy feeing underfoot and yellowing of the grass. Spike the lawn with a garden fork until further measures can be taken in the spring.
  • If the ground is not too wet then February is a good month to lift and divide large clumps or congested clumps of flowering perennial plants. It’s the easiest and cheapest way of making new plants but, if the ground is still wet after all the rain it is best to avoid compacting the soil by treading on it.
  • Plant bare rooted trees, shrubs and hedging; getting the plants into the ground as soon as possible after buying or receiving a delivery.
  • Prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs such as Buddleia.
  • Get the vegetable garden ready for the coming vegetable growing year; clear beds of old crops, debris and weeds and prepare a trench for runner beans.
  • If you have a heated greenhouse you can start sowing seeds. Otherwise use a sunny windowsill. Seeds that can be sown this month include early peas and tomatoes (in a propagator). Onion, shallot and sweetpea seeds can also be sown.
  • Indoors, you can start chitting potatoes. If you have not done it before, chitting is easy; stand the potatoes side by side in a tray ideally with the end with the most ‘eyes’ facing upwards. Keep them in a light relatively cool frost free place (the window of the conservatory works well) and shoots will eventually begin to grow from the eyes. Traditionally potatoes were planted out on Good Friday but anytime between mid March and May is fine – depending on the weather.
  • Pruning apples and pears. Remember that stone fruits (like plums) must not be pruned at this time of year but in the summer. Now is also the time to plant new fruit trees. And rhubarb.   Sprinkling a handful of high potash fertilizer around established fruit trees will be beneficial for the fruit formation later in the year.
  • Also in the fruit garden, gooseberry, red and white currant bushes can be pruned – aim for an open permanent framework to ease picking of the fruit.   Autumn raspberry canes can be cut down to the ground. And now is the time to plant new raspberry and blackberry canes.
  • Force Rhubarb so you can enjoy tender stems in 6-8 weeks’ time. No special equipment is necessary, although the traditional terracotta rhubarb forcers do look lovely (all year round) just clear round the base of an emerging rhubarb crown and use a large pot or dustbin to cover blocking any holes to exclude the light. To speed the process or, if it is very cold, cover the pot with straw for insulation. Enjoy! But don’t force the same crown next year – give it a year or two off to recover!

Finally, it is never too early in the year to get out for a garden visit and snowdrops are the plant to see for many at this time of year. Last year I finally got to visit Colesbourne near Cheltenham – the famous Snowdrop garden and haunt of many a galathophile.

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