February is the time to finish all those clearing up jobs and get yourself ready to start the new season as soon as the weather warms up.
Seed potatoes should be ‘chitting’ (shoots beginning to grow) in old egg trays inside somewhere frost free. Onion sets, shallots, asparagus and garlic should all be available from mid February. Onion and leek seeds take some time to germinate and should be sown as soon as possible. Force rhubarb by covering with a large pot or dustbin so that you get an early crop. Don’t be in a rush to sow tomato, pepper or cucumber seeds as once the plants are growing they’ll need plenty of heat until the weather is warm enough to plant them outside in May.
Plug plants such as fuchsias, geraniums and hanging basket plants start arriving in February. There’s a huge range of varieties to choose from including the new Black Velvet petunia which has a spread and height of 20 -30cm and is ideal in tubs, baskets and pots. If you do decide to buy some of these small plants remember they need to be nurtured with warmth and light to get them growing. A sunny windowsill is fine during the day, but if we get a frost at night, take them off before you close the curtains.
If the weather is fine and frost free, you can finish any clearing up jobs that weren’t done before Christmas. If it’s cold and frosty you’re better keeping off the lawn. Shrubs can still be moved if the weather is mild, once replanted give them a good soak with water to settle them into the ground. If we get a severe frost go round and gently firm newly planted shrubs back into the ground if they become raised up.
For some instant colour in the garden, buy pots of daffodils and tulips and plant with pansies and primroses. Look out for signs of colour in your garden. Plants such as hamamelis (witch hazel), winter flowering jasmine and hellebores will all be showing signs of colour that suggest spring is on its way. Plant snowdrops at this time of year – they will settle much easier from green plants than planting bulbs in the autumn.
Roses and shrubs
Roses can be pruned now, along with shrubs that will flower on this years’ growth such as buddleia and elder. Always prune roses back to an outward facing bud approximately 20cm above ground level. Mulch and top dress shrub and herbaceous borders. A good mulch with well rotted manure will help to deter weeds during the growing season and a top dressing with a general fertilizer will give plants a good start to the season. Lime hating plants such as rhododendrons and camellias can be given a dressing of ericaceous fertilizer specifically designed for lime haters as it will contain all the extra trace elements that they need.
February is the ideal time to turn out, wash down and disinfect your greenhouse. Remove as much as possible from the greenhouse and disinfect the shelving and the glass using household detergent. A clean start is the best way to ensure healthy plants all season.
Although it’s been unseasonably mild over Christmas and January, please don’t forget to put out food for the birds. Peanuts, seeds and fat balls are all ideal and remember to put out fresh water daily.
This month’s tips are provided by Ann Winwood of Lealan Garden Centre, Shipley.