Although gardening activity in February may not be so frenetic as during the summer months, there's still plenty to be done and Spring is just around the corner. Nathan James Dodd suggests the jobs you should be tackling in the garden this month.
You may have taken a break from gardening over recent weeks but in February its definitely time to get back outside.
If we do have snow, don't let it remain on trees or shrubs as the weight might break delicate or weak branches and stems. Brush or shake it off and bank up soil around the shrubs to add a little extra strength. Check any stakes and ties for any winter damage or slippage.
When the ground isn’t frozen, plant bare rooted hedges and trees, shrubs and roses. Soak before planting and sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi over the roots to encourage a really effective root system. Follow up with a mulch to assist moisture retention.
If you haven't done so already, clean out and tidy up the greenhouse. Use a soap and water or a sterilizing liquid. Seed trays and pots should also be cleaned thoroughly.
Don't tread over your vegetable plot if it's too wet, but you can use a plank to stand on in order not to compact the soil. Spread organic matter so that worms can work it into the earth and dig in any green manure, don't let it go to seed.
Prune summer flowering clematis to the lowest pair of strong buds. This will encourage bushy growth and prevent it from becoming top heavy with a bare base. Also prune dogwoods hard for new growth and the best colour next winter, willows, elders and lavatera can receive the same treatment.
Mop-headed hydrangeas flower on the previous year's wood, only old wood should be thinned out by a third to encourage vigorous new stems and remove dead, diseased and damaged stems.
Prune autumn fruiting raspberries close to the ground. Summer fruiting raspberries, blackberries an loganberries will have formed new canes last season, so make sure these are tied onto supports and cut old canes out completely.
If you have left the skeletons of last year’s perennials in the ground, now is the time to cut them down close to the crown of the plant before any new shoots appear.
Clear the space around plants, picking out any weeds and mulch with about 2 - 3 ins of organic matter. Mulching will seal in moisture, warm up the soil, and, when worms work it in, feed the soil with goodness. Do not mulch over weeds and any that take their chance can easily be removed.
Clear away weeds from hedges and lay a compost mulch with a dusting of general fertilizer, brush of snow before any damage is done to the shape. If the hedge is more informal, cut out dead or old branches to encourage new growth and improve shape.
It's worth inspecting variegated plants and ornamental trees to see if there is any reversion, prune out the offending stems, this won't cure the problem but will keep it under control.
Buy seed potatoes for next year's crop and start chitting in egg boxes. If left in the light at about 50F each tuber should produce three – four strong shoots. What you don't need are lanky pale shoots that are produced in a dark, warm environment.
Preparing for Spring
Instead of complaining about the lack of colour currently in the garden, order this year's seeds and plants from those colourful catalogues and websites that promise so much. With good weather and hard work the produce so well photographed can be yours.
Towards the end of the month warm up the soil with either cloches or polythene. It will be then be welcoming for planting out seedlings. Slower growing hardy annuals and perennials can be started off on a window sill or in an unheated greenhouse, and sow summer bedding such as petunias, geraniums and verbena in a propagator to be planted out In May.
Treat hedges like old friends and give them some attention. Clear away any weeds and a lay down a compost mulch every year with a dusting of good general fertilizer. Regular trimming will keep them neat and also encourage compact growth. Make sure there is a camber or 'batter' on each side of the top that allows light in and deflects rain and enables snow to be more easily brushed off before any damage is done to the shape. If the hedge is more informal, cut out dead or old branches to encourage new growth and improve shape.
Remove any damaged or old stems from roses and any stems that are congesting the middle of the bush. On hybrid roses cut back stems to about four buds, on floribundas not quite so hard. For climbers, prune back side shoots to two buds. Always use using sloping cuts with a sharp pair of secateurs.
Sow summer bedding such as petunias, geraniums and verbena in a propagator to be planted out In May.
For information on how to keep your pond in top condition read our February Pond Maintenance blog.