February - There are no pressing tasks to be done this month, although you could dig over empty beds to get the soil ready for sowing and planting.
- Plant roses, so they flower this summer
- Collect up and compost fallen leaves, in case they harbour diseases
- Sprinkle your lawn with top dressing of loam-based compost for healthy growth
- Dig over vacant beds and add plenty of organic matter
- Move dormant shrubs and conifers
- Buy gladioli, cannas, begonias, dahlias and summer flowering bulbs
- Plant new hedges; prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges
- Divide bulbs such as snowdrops
- Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering
- Protect hellebores and alpines from heavy rain with cloches or similar
- Prune climbers
Tip: Be prepared for snow!
Heavy downfalls can build up on shrubs, trees and hedges, which can break them. So keep a broom handy to brush the snow off. Move pots near to the house or a wall or fence. Small plants and bulbs covered in snow should be fine, as it insulates them from icy winds.
In the greenhouse
- Check greenhouse heaters are working efficiently and you aren’t wasting heat.
- Improve insulation in your greenhouse by lining it with bubble wrap and sealing the windows
- Pick off faded leaves and flowers before they start to rot to reduce the chance of harbouring disease
- Plant dahlia tubers, begonias, gloxinias and eucomis in pots and keep them in a warm position
- Water over wintering pots of fuchsias and pelargoniums if their compost is dry
- Plant chrysanthemum cuttings for colour in the summer
Tip: Forcing Rhubarb
Dig a portion of dormant rhubarb and plant it in a large bucket. Block out any light by covering it with black polythene and place it under the greenhouse bench. Remember to water it regularly and pink stems of tender rhubarb will develop much earlier than those in the garden. This will exhaust the plant, so it’s best to throw it away once it has finished cropping.
Fruit and Vegetables
- Finish digging over empty beds to get the soil ready for sowing and planting
- Sow onions and leeks in pots in a windowsill propagator or heated greenhouse
- Plant new fruit trees, bushes and cane fruits. You can carry on planting bare-root fruit trees until mid to late March
- Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off
- Divide large clumps of rhubarb and replant new sections
- Cover seakale and rhubarb with forcing pots to exclude light
- Prune side shoots on trained forms of gooseberry back to two or three buds
- Crops to sow outside under cloches now include hardy peas, broad beans, radishes, parsnips and spinach
- Chit potato tubers
Tip: Chop back blackcurrents
These delicious fruits are packed with vitamin C and are ideal in summer puddings. Keep bushes productive by pruning out about a quarter of the oldest woody stems every winter. This encourages new shoots to grow from the base. Aim to keep the bush upright by cutting back low-lying shoots. On established bushes, remove the very oldest stems, shorten new growth to about 3” from their based and prune side shoots back to just one bud.
Around the garden
- Clear up debris and leaves that could be harbouring slugs and snails
- Loosen tree ties on established trees so they can’t constrict growing stems
- Spread a generous mulch of compost, manure, or bark over borders, especially around the base of trees and shrubs
- Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter
- Check summer bulbs in storage for signs of rot
- Buy seeds, bulbs, potatoes and onion sets from your local garden centre
- Scatter organic fertilisers like bone meal around plants early in the year. These types of fertilisers decompose slowly under the action of micro-organisms, so they need to be scattered around plants early to enable nutrients to be released as plants start to grow.