Monthly gardening tips - February

Contributed by editor on Feb 01, 2007 - 12:05 AM


Prune deciduous trees like mountain ash, flowering crab apple and laburnum along with fruits such as apples and pears. Remove weak, crossing and diseased wood and aim for a good shape and the free circulation of air. Never prune when frosty.

This is a good time to move soil or manure around the garden in a wheelbarrow, especially when the soil is frozen. Never walk or wheel a wheelbarrow across a frozen lawn as both foot and tyre marks will be scorched into the grass and take a while to grow out.


When the weather is open repairs can be made to an established lawn. Broken edges can be repaired and humps and hollows levelled out. 


In prolonged frosty weather keep a small area ice-free with an electric pool heater. This allows the escape of gases resulting from decomposition on the floor of the pool, which if trapped may asphyxiate the fish. 


Plant bare-rooted roses and decorative shrubs when the weather is open. Incorporate plenty of shrub planting compost into the holes at planting time. Freshly lifted bare-rooted herbaceous perennials can continue to be planted when the soil is not frosted. As snowdrops and winter aconites come to the end of their flowering period they can be transplanted if required. New bulbs can be purchased "in green" for planting now. These establish much more quickly than dry bulbs planted in the autumn. After a sharp frost check all recently planted shrubs, perennials and spring bedding plants for frost heave. This is the lifting of the soil around the plants. When this happens await the thaw and firm the plants back. 


  Sow parsnip seeds. As they are usually of fairly poor germination sow them liberally and then thin the emerging seedlings to the strongest well placed plants. Longpod varieties of broad beans and round seeded peas can be sown directly in the open ground when the soil conditions are suitable. Sowings of early carrots and lettuce can be made under cloches or in a cold frame. Be careful to select only quick maturing early varieties. 


Complete the pruning of both soft and top fruit. Cut out any crossing, weak or diseased growth. Reduce the past season's growth of gooseberries and redcurrants by one third. Cut newly planted raspberries and blackcurrants, along with the past season’s growth of established plants, to within 5cm of the ground. Shorten back the previous season's growth of apples and pears and thin the lateral shoots of plums and cherries. 


  Many tender bedding plant varieties can be sown now. Varieties include salvia, lobelia, fibrous rooted begonia, petunia, ageratum and antirrhinum. Bring out over-wintered fuchsias and geraniums, re-pot and start into growth. Chrysanthemum stools which are boxed can be brought into the warmth and light and encouraged to start sprouting and produce fresh young cuttings. Sow the seeds of greenhouse tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers.