Your February garden

After the relative slumbers of the first month of the year, things begin to hasten now that February has blown in. The gales have had a few fence panels down but my new greenhouse stands firm. Gusts in the Midlands have been nothing like parts of the north, so I am happy the structure is here to stay and where it was put up! I still haven't sorted the sparky out to run electricity to it yet (I'm, still recovering from the quote for the armoured cable and he has become incredibly busy) but that is now due end of this month, so I'll need to keep a careful watch on the weather with anything I do in there that might be sensitive to frost.

Outdoors the garden is beginning to look like spring with daffodils now joining the crocus, primroses, snowdropsand hellebores. All seem to be a few weeks ahead of themselves, and here's tempting fate, the long range forecast seems to indicate relative mild conditions, so hopefully nothing will come to a cropper.

I have noticed a few slugs on the move at night so maybe my prediction of a troublesome pest-riddled year ahead will come true. But if we are forewarned then we can be ready. There's plenty to be doing in February with the earliest seeds going in, the soil being warmed in readiness for planting and final orders of plug plants to be made. Even though we are being battered by what seems like weekly storms, this month is the calm before the frenzy of March. It'll be gone in a flash so get gardening today.

Key activity / planting/ preparing/maintenance for February

If the weeds are growing then the soil is getting warm. Believe me, my beautifully cleared, dug and snoozing veg patch is beginning to show signs of unwanted growth. But having cleared it in autumn I am not going to let it get away so early in the year so the hoe is already out and about, the radio is on and I'm hand pulling many of the deeper rooted weeds out.

Then, once it is clear, I am going to put my cloches over the soil where the first sowing of parsnips and carrots are going to be made. The cloches will warm the soil and encourage the last remaining weed seeds to germinate and grow. In a week or so I can easily pull them out leaving the soil as clean as I can get it.

My seeds can then be sown and will grow without unwanted competition. The cloches will need to be weighed down though as the wind is still high and I don't want them disappearing over the garden fence or even worse, crashing into the greenhouse. Still keeping things warm, it's a good idea to bring any shop bought compost into the greenhouse or even porchway of the house to give it a chance to warm up. Most bags are sold from outside areas and will be cold. This can effect germination. Another good idea is to knock the contents of the closed bag around a bit to break up lumps, aerate the mix in readiness for use.
Hints and tips

  • Keep a filled watering can of water in the greenhouse to ensure the contents are relatively warm for use on seedlings.
  • Place cloches or sheets of plastic on bare soil to encourage weed seeds to grow. They can be pulled out before you sow your crops and flowers.
  • Check the chits on seed potatoes are stubby. If they begin to grow too long reduce the temperature and put in a brighter position.
  • Plant shallots into individual pots in the greenhouse to give them a great start – really useful if the soil is cold and wet.
  • Sow a couple of pots of hardy annual mixes. Place on a cool windowsill or in the cold greenhouse. Once they are large enough to handle they can be planted outdoors.


Summary 

  • Keep on top of early growing weeds. Never let them flower.
  • Plan any staking requirements for your perennials. They look small now but delphiniums, poppies and lupins will soon grow and start to flop without help.
  • Pot up any early plug plant deliveries and keep warm to ensure they keep growing steadily.
  • Warm bare soil to get things growing quickly.

FAQ's

Q: My damson tree is in bloom and it's only February. Will it still fruit?

A: It's a tricky one because the flowers need pollinating, yet the bees are still snoozing. Plus, if we do get a week or so of frost then that can damage the open flowers. So, if the don;t get frost, the bees wake up then yes, fruiting will be fine. A sharp frost or two will reduce the crop, and if the bees don't appear then we are all up the creek!

Q: My local garden centre is selling spilt bags of compost. They look wet but are cheap – are they any good for seeds?

A: I wouldn't use such compost for seed sowing. The fact that the compost is wet can mean the structure and fertiliser content won't be as per manufacturers original plan so won't grow great plants. However, if cheap enough, get what you can and use it as a mulch around your roses, trees, shrubs or as a top dressing to all soil.

Q: The lawn is growing strongly, can I cut it even though it is February?

A: Yep – the sound of mowers hasn't stopped over winter. Grass grows when the temperature is above 6C, and it has been for a lot of the winter months, so lawns are looking straggly. Use a high cut, tidy everything up, and keep doing it to encourage strong growth.

Events/shows introduction

Plant fair adverts are beginning to appear and I bet there's one local to you. They are a great way to see specialist nurseries, often one person companies, growing plants for the love of plants ( as opposed to 'business only' organisations and importers of plants) Usually at larger gardens, they are a great way to buy something unusual and see how other gardens are looking. And don't forget the snowdrop displays – particularly good and early this year.

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