February is the border between winter and spring
The clue to this month’s garden jobs lies in the quote above – February is the last of the precarious winter months and the time to make those preparations for coming Spring.
If you have snowdrops in your garden now is the time to lift and divide them so you will have even more next year but don’t do this until they have finished flowering and the leaves have turned yellow. You will need to split the plants into smaller clumps (be careful not to tear the roots as you do this) and then replant the bulbs in a new area to the same depth that they were growing before. We may not have reached Spring yet but there will be shoots appearing all around the garden so as you clear, tidy and remove the dead growth from last year’s growing season, check you are not cutting into any of these new shoots.
Cut back the spent stems of deciduous grasses, taking care around any new green shoots, and when you’ve finished, dress the plant with fresh compost to help fertilise the roots for the new season’s growth.
If you’re planning potatoes for the veg patch, you can start ‘chitting’ potatoes now. This gives them head start and all you need is a bright and light windowsill and an old egg box. Place the potatoes rose side up – this is the side with the most number of ‘eyes’ – and leave to sprout. The new crop will be ready to plant in between four and six weeks, once the shoots are about 3cm long. If you’ve been enjoying winter hellebores (such as the white flowering ‘Christmas Rose’) you’ll need to check all the plants for leaf spot – a common problem caused by a fungus. Check for round, dead, brown patches on the leaves and stems to remove all signs of this disease. Destroy all those affected parts that you have cut out.
This month, it’s all about clearing the debris of old growth and the wreckage of winter and as you clear through the borders, you’ll be better able to identify weeds that are also starting to push back up. Winkle out buttercup, nettle and couch plants and keep on top of what can otherwise become a backbreaking job – little and often is my advice! You’ll need to start mulching those plants that are pushing through this month but don’t do this over those areas where you have found weeds as you’ll only be feeding up the intruders you want to be rid of. Where shoots are appearing in ground that’s now clear of weeds, work a 5cm layer of good quality organic or homemade compost into the soil to give the growing plants and their roots a good boost of nutrients.
If you’re growing your own seeds indoors take the trouble to clean the greenhouses, cloches and cold frames you’ll be using to help acclimatize your new seedlings to the great outdoors before you plant them out next month. You don’t need nasty chemicals for this job, just a bucket of warm, soapy water and a good dollop of elbow power to scrub away algae and other dirt and debris.
Try and get out into the garden as often as the weather allow this month – the more clearing, deadheading, pruning, cutting back, weeding and raking you can do now, the better the chance you are giving your plants of a healthy and vigorous growing season once the clocks spring forward and we march on into Spring.