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February Garden Tips

Garden work for February 2018

Flower garden

A lot can be done in February if we have a mild spell, but if we get prolonged cold weather you may have to confine yourself to planning for the season ahead. So keep a weather-eye out! If the weather allows, try to get the seed beds dug over early in the month as the frosty mornings will help make a good ‘tilth’ for the young seeds. But only do your digging when there is no frost and it is dry enough to fall off the end of the spade – otherwise it will do no good at all. Always try to dig in good humus. Some people say that incorporating coarse grit will improve our clay soil by improving the drainage.

When the weather allows, it is time to lift and divide the larger clumps of your favourite perennials. This will encourage re-growth and make the plants stronger as well as allowing you to win favours with your friends and neighbours if you give them weed-free and named discards.

If you did not cut old leaves from your helibores that produce flowers from ground level, now is the time to get the pruners out and lop off the old leaves. Start dahlia tubers into growth by putting them into a light, warm place in some slightly damp compost medium. Pot up lily bulbs in containers for summer use.

Towards the end of the month dogwoods that have the lovely wood stems in brilliant reds and yellows should be coppiced, to encourage new growth for the next winter show. Usually I am cautious and only cut about one-third to one half, but if you are brave, have a go and do the whole bush. Purple Buddleia davidii should be pruned towards the end of the month. You will be well rewarded provided you prune quite severely, but always leave at least 3 or 4 buds for the fresh growth, in case there are late frosts.

Vegetables

I was reminded recently on the benefits of warming the soil early in the season using horticultural fleece as a protective and warming barrier. In this way any seedbeds that have been protected under cloches or garden fleece can be started to be sown with hardy vegetables such as parsnips. You can also start to consider sowing some early cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

Early onion seedlings raised under glass should be pricked off into boxes, 5cm apart each way to give them the best opportunity to develop before being planted out. Towards the end of the month it is a good idea to divide and replant chives.

From mid-February onwards sow glasshouse tomatoes and cucumbers at 21°C. You can also start to sow broad beans, carrots, parsnips, onions and lettuce under cloches (or poly tunnels) in pre-warmed soil. You do that by covering the soil with fleece before sowing.

As the buds on the gooseberry bushes begin to swell, they will become ever more attractive to bullfinches and other birds, so give them some protection. Ideally, they should be protected by a fruit cage. Alternatively use the old trick of straining black cotton thread from branch to branch over the bushes. This time honoured practice is supposed to confuse birds by not giving them perching space from which they can do the damage to the buds.

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