February Column: The Gardening Year

February 01 2013

February is a much misunderstood month! It stands with one foot in winter and the other in spring.

February Column: The Gardening Year

with Pete from All Gardens

Happy new gardening year. February is a much misunderstood month! It stands with one foot in winter and the other in spring. It’s the time when the bulbs start to push their bladed leaves through the earth and the rooks get ready for their nesting.

It’s a critical month for us gardeners, for what we do now will cause great effect later in the year. This year’s February stands on a very wet legacy.

Lawns – Don’t be tempted to mow yet. If it’s not pouring with rain take a small border fork and dig the tines into the turf to aerate. This will help drain the first 100mm (4in) of saturated turf, allowing air to get to the grass roots and encourage the symbiotic wildlife that helps our lawns, such as worms and the breakdown of subterraneous compost.

Pruning shrubs – Buddleia, cornus (dogwoods), and hardy fuchsias can be cut down to 50mm to ground level at the later part of this month.

Grapevines – It’s important to get this right to avoid bleeding. Prune this month. An established grapevine should have its lateral growth cut back to two buds from the main stem. The same applies to wisteria.

Summer flowering clematis – These should be pruned right down to two buds from base then remove last year’s dead foliage. To protect emerging new clematis growth from hungry slugs and snails, take an empty plastic bottle and cut the top and bottom off it, split it down one side then surround the plant and put slug bait in the top. This will protect the birds and mammals from eating poisoned dead slugs and preserve young shoots. All prunings should be burnt or mulched for compost bins.

Mixed borders and perennial areas – Remove dead stems before the new growth shows. Fork over the borders aerating the soil which will help drainage. Divide old, more established plants and add new plants to border.

Bulbs – this is a good time to divide and replant snow drops.

Fruit trees – prune apples and pear trees for convenience and balance and scale to the garden. Try not to cut back last year’s growth although it’s unavoidable in some cases.

Pots and growing containers – All the nutrients of old compost would have been watered out. Empty old growing mediums out and trim roots of pot-bound acers, camellias, azaleas and rodos and re-pot with ericaceous compost with additional feed of blood, fish and bone. As spring warms up these plants will excel with health.

Veg plot – There is a connection between the amount of flavour, vitamins and minerals we get from fruit and vegetables and the soil they were grown in. So let’s bring health and vitality to our veg plots. February is a great time to do this. The potato and brassica areas should have had a lot of over-wintering frost. It’s time to break open the compost bins and add additional manure. Fork in and cover with an old carpet or black plastic. This will keep the plot warm for next month’s planting. Now it’s time to order potatoes and seed for the growing season.

Plant of the season – Garrya Elliptica, a wonderful climbing shrub with sustained catkin flowers which can grow to 20cm long. A total star in a drab February/March border and looks great as a backdrop to a water feature.

Work tip – small bursts, don’t make it a chore and have fun, followed by lunch.
Happy gardening from Pete at All Gardens.