February in the Garden
You may have already noticed the signs of Spring. It may still be nippy outside but the days are finally getting a little longer and bulbs are beginning to emerge. What to do in your garden in February isn't really based on hard and fast rules. Every season every year is different (no two Springs are the same). It can also depend where in the country you are. If your garden is in the south of England or your garden is sheltered there are more things that can be done earlier, but northern gardens and those who are especially exposed, may need to leave many things until later in February or even into March.
I personally love February for cleaning up the beds and kitchen garden, by removing all plant debris and forking in plenty of compost. Dig up weeds - roots and all - to get a start on them before the weather warms up. Continue to remove dead or dying leaves from plants and pop them on the compost heap. Good hygiene is an essential part of keeping the garden healthy. Grey mould will attack any dead plant material and isn't something you want.
As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can cultivate the beds and start to warm up the soil using polythene or cloches, in preparation for sowing in the coming months.
If you're in the south or have a sheltered garden, the earliest vegetable crops such as parsnips and broad beans like Aquadulce Claudia, can be sown this month (but only if the soil is warm enough, - 5°C or more). If your soil takes a little longer to warm up or is heavy clay, wait a few weeks, as they will be unlikely to thrive.
Begin by organising this year’s seeds by sowing date and make a note of monthly jobs. A box with dividers works well, you can file your seed packets by the month they need to be sown in to make it easier. It's up to you if you want to start some seeding early. The benefits of seeding in February is if it goes well, the plants will mature earlier. Sowing in March and April is easier because of the extra light and warmth. Check your tools are sound and in working order before you make a start.
When it comes to your flowers this month, February is pruning month for two of our trickiest climbers, the Clematis and Wisteria. Getting Wisteria to flower is more reliable if it is pruned correctly. Summer flowering Clematis needs to be done towards the end of the month, before active growth begins.
It's also time to cut back shrubs such as cornus and salix cultivars, grown for their colorful winter stems (cut down to their bases). Prune your winter flowering Jasmin after flowering, to encourage new growth for next year’s blooms (cut back the previous year’s growth to 5cm from the old wood should do it). For winter-flowering shrubs such as mahonia and the popular viburnum x bodnantense, wait until once their colorful display has finished and then prune. Some fuchsias maybe over wintered and need to be cut back to one or two buds on each shoot.
Whilst you're cutting back, ensure you don't miss the old foliage from any ornamental grasses before new growth begins. Clip them to within a few centimeters of the ground.
Fruit and Vegetables
February is the time to start chitting early potatoes ready for planting out in the spring. Place them on end in a module tray or egg box, in a cool and light area and shoots will begin to form over the next few weeks. This is said to help get the potatoes off to a good start but there is little evidence so don't pressure yourself with this one.
As well as raking lime in to acidic soils, continue controlling against slugs if necessary. You can also mulch perennial vegetables such as asparagus and artichoke as well as your fruit trees (with a well-rotted manure or compost).
If you're new to gardening and want an easy start, Garlic can be planted now in sheltered areas with light soil. Garlic is easy to grow and can even be grown in between other veg, and in pots.
It’s your last chance to cut autumn-fruiting raspberry canes to the ground which will stimulate the new canes ready to fruit in the autumn. Cut the tips of summer-fruiting raspberry canes that have grown beyond the top of their supports - cutting just above a bud.
Prune you blackcurrants and redcurrants to maintain a nice production. You can prune apple trees and pear trees while they're still dormant now too. In fact this is your last chance to do so. Ensure you leave any plum trees and cherry trees until the summer though as pruning these fruit trees now will make them susceptible to Silver Leaf disease.
With other fruit - cover outdoor strawberries with cloches to encourage an earlier crop and top dress fruit bushes with a slow-release, potassium-rich fertiliser to feed plants for spring. Make sure you check over any fruit you have stored and remove any that are rotten.
Lastly, hoe around the base of your fruit trees and bushes to expose overwintering insects to hungry birds.
As well as turning over the soil, encourage birds into your garden by putting up nest boxes. A number of hungry baby birds in the spring will be fed many hundreds of caterpillars and other pests every day by the parent birds (thats a thumbs up for the garden).
Another favorite thing of mine to do this month is planning. Plan your vegetable plot for this year to ensure good crop rotation and prevent pests and diseases building up in the soil. If you're new to veg patches, try a Crop Rotation guide in like this.
As part of planning you can order seeds and plug plants online now. Having a garden plan drawn up will help you decide the quantities of these that you will need. You can buy onion sets ready for planting in the spring and order flower bulbs for summer colour, such as lily-of-the-valley and gladioli, in preparation for your spring planting.
If you want to try something new before the growing season gets underway... why not try building a raised bed. They allow you to make an early start in the garden as the soil warms up faster and water drains more quickly too (they’re particularly a great way to deal with clay soils). It's a fun little project.
If you need help with your garden for 2020 then please do get in touch to here more about our landscaping packages or you could just check out our Pintrest garden board for plenty of inspiration.