February Gardening Tips

Pots & Borders

 

  • Re-pot perennials and shrubs that are growing in pots. Use good compost and add Osmocote slow release fertiliser to the mix. This will feed the plants for most of the year. If you can’t move up a pot size, remove the top couple of inches of compost [and the bottom couple too if you can] and replace it with fresh.
  • Remove battered blooms from pampas grass and cut back leaves to 30 to 45 cm. This is much safer than setting fire to it! Wear gloves as the leaves are sharp!
  • Sow Geraniums, fibrous rooted Begonias, Antirrhinum, Lobelia, Petunias and Impatiens. Make sure you use fresh compost, clean seed trays, some heat and fresh water!
  • Sow sweet peas in long tube pots or Rootrainers.
  • Buy plug bedding plants to take home and grow on in cell packs. These can even be grown on the windowsill for a while.
  • Add Osmocote slow release feed granules to your permanently planted pots. This gradually feeds for 5-6 months.
  • If you didn’t get around to splitting perennial clumps in the autumn they can be split now. Discard the oldest centres and replant the younger more vigorous material from the edge.

 

Trees, Shrubs, Roses, Conifers, etc

 

  • Trees that have lost their leaves can be pruned now. Cut out dead, diseased and damaged wood. Thin out over crowded areas but avoid removing too much in one year. It’s better to spread heavy pruning over several years and limit the amount of wood you remove at any one time to no more than a third of the total. Birch trees may bleed badly if pruned too late.
  • Check that climbers are securely tied to their supports and check that old ties are not constricting older thicker stems. It’s a good time to take a look at tree ties and loosen them a little so that they are not beginning to garrote swelling trunks. Prevent them slipping down both the tree and the stake by nailing the tie to the stake.
  • Prune Clematis this month. Those that flower after mid summer should be cut back hard [they only flower on newly grown shoots] but those that flower before mid summer should be more lightly pruned to about 75cm. The smaller flowered and species Clematis generally only need pruning to confine them to the space you have for them.
  • Put plenty of well rotted manure around your roses. Give them a liberal dressing of Toprose fertiliser as well.
  • Prepare for and plant new roses and fruit trees. It’s the traditional time to plant and they will be partly established when spring arrives.
  • If you’ve time, cut last year’s new wood on Wisteria shoots back to 3-4 inches.
  • Treat Delphiniums, Gypsophila, Hosta, Lupins, Clematis and other slug and snail prone plants with a slug and snail killer now. Lots of slugs live in the soil and will feed on the new emerging shoots!
  • Cut down the dead stalks of ornamental grasses but only cut the dead bits off those that are evergreen. Tease out dead leaves of Stipa grasses. Stipa resents pruning back hard.
  • Remove the dead fronds from deciduous hardy ferns such as Athyrium, Matteucia and Osmunda.
  • Trim the dead leaves off deciduous Epimediums [youngianum, rubrum and grandiflorum types].
  • Prune Buddleja, Ceratostigma, Caryopteris, Perovskia, hardy Fuchsias, Lavatera and Hydrangea paniculata types hard now. Mahonia Charity can be trimmed back a little now.
  • Some shrubs grown for dramatic foliage should be hard pruned and fed. For instance Sambucus Black Lace, Paulownia, Catalpa, Cotinus and Melianthus.
  • If your winter flowering Jasmine has finished blooming, cut out old wood and shorten back young side shoots to about 5cm. Summer flowering ones can be cut back now too.
  • Apply fertiliser to your borders now. Use fish, blood and bone meal, Vitax Q4 or Growmore.

 

Bulbs

 

  • Harden off forced Hyacinth bulbs [acclimatise them] after they have finished flowering. Then plant them out in the garden where they will thrive and flower for many years to come.
  • Pot up Lily, Nerine, Begonia, Dahlia and other summer flowering bulbs ready to slot into gaps in the border after the risk of frost is over.
  • Pot up Lily bulbs to flower in pots on the doorstep or terrace. Re-pot those that have been in the same pot for more than two years.
  • When snowdrops finish flowering lift crowded clumps, carefully divide them and replant immediately. Snowdrops hate to have their roots broken so be careful but this is the best time to plant them!
  • Dahlia roots can be started into growth under protection now. This will produce new shoots that can be rooted as stem cuttings to increase your stock.

 

Greenhouse

 

    • Regularly remove dead and dying leaves and flowers from plants in the greenhouse. If you leave them, you may have problems with grey mould developing. Regular ventilation on warm days will help to avoid this too.
    • Spray with a systemic fungicide (Fungus Fighter) at the first sign of disease and do this early in the day so that the tops of plants are dry before nightfall. Regular micro feeding with freshly brewed compost tea [only available locally from Cleeve Nursery] will avoid most disease problems inside and outside the greenhouse.
    • Keep a sharp watch for greenfly as they often appear inside this month. Spray with Provado Bug Clear as soon as any appear.
    • Sow Ailsa Craig, Bedfordshire Champion or Globo onion seed into cell packs for planting out after the last frost.
    • Wash the glass down to allow maximum amount of light to enter. By using a sterilant such as Jeyes Greenhouse Cleaner you will also kill any over wintering pests such as red spider mite and their eggs.
    • Move potted strawberries inside to begin forcing them for really early crops. They should have experienced enough cold outside to break dormancy by now.

 

The Indoor Garden

 

  • Re-pot your houseplants using good quality potting compost [a houseplant mix or our own Cleeve Nursery Multi-purpose Compost]
  • Support taller plants with a frame of bamboos or with a moss pole.
  • Prune conservatory plants back and re-shape them.

 

Grow Your Own

 

  • Sow early lettuce seed under protection. Plant out later for really early crops. Vaila-Winter Gem or Tom Thumb are good tasty varieties to grow now.
  • Don’t forget to buy seed potatoes and set them up to shoot [‘chitting’]. Early varieties like ‘Rocket’ will benefit but later varieties will yield better too if encouraged into growth before planting out. If you have room for only one variety, grow ‘Charlotte’.
  • Continue to plant shallots. They prefer soil that hasn’t been used to grow onions, leeks or shallots for several years before and a well manured plot. Plant onion sets if warm.
  • Lots of vegetable plants can be sown now e.g. turnips, lettuce, broad beans, peas, stump rooted carrots, early cabbage, cauliflower and spinach in trays on the windowsill. These could be planted out later this month.
  • Finish pruning and plant more fruit trees and bushes.
  • Raspberry canes and rhubarb can still be planted now.

 

Lawns, Hedges, Paths & Drives

 

  • Trim lawn edges with a sharp edging iron. Insert plastic or metal edging strips as support. It’s amazing what a difference neat lawn edges makes to the look of a garden!
  • Start to cut the lawn as required on dry mild days but keep the blades raised.
  • Get you lawn mower serviced before the spring rush.
  • Prepare the soil for sowing new lawns next month.

 

Bits & Pieces

 

  • Before the usual spring rush, paint fences and sheds and get other general maintenance jobs done. If plants are trained onto fences to be painted make certain that the paint you use is plant safe.
  • Check variegated plants for shoots that have reverted to all green. Remove these by trimming them back to the point where the leaves are uniformly variegated.
  • Could your garden look better? This is the month when it is stripped to the basic skeleton by winter and when you can assess whether an evergreen shrub, conifer or tree or perhaps an archway, pergola or statue would improve things.
  • Construct a cold frame to get early crops going [we stock kits for these and low poly-tunnels].
  • Go through your shed and remove any out of date and discontinued chemicals. The Local Authority recycling centre should be able to help you dispose of them safely.

 

Soils, Mulching, Weed Control, etc

 

  • Love them or hate them, celandine can take over your garden and are very hard to control! Now is the time to get rid of them if you need to. They are actively growing already and are susceptible to a spray of Roundup or Resolva now. This is a non selective weedkiller that is inactivated when it touches the soil but don’t spray it on anything you want to keep.
  • It’s not too late to mulch beds and borders to suppress weeds and trap in moisture. Use spent mushroom compost or farmyard manure on heavy soils or for a more decorative finish use chipped pine bark

 

Ponds, Wildlife, Pets & Bog Plants

 

    • Remove any fallen leaves.
    • Stop the whole surface freezing over by floating a ball on the surface ~ never smash the ice if there are fish in the water!
    • Plant shrubs and trees that will provide food and shelter for wildlife in winter. Rowan, Cotoneaster, Berberis, Amelanchier, Crataegus, Buddleja, Crab apples, Pyracantha, ivy and hollies are good examples.