The first glimpses of Nature starting to stir from her sleep are visible, and there’s no better time to get ahead in the garden whilst also taking time to take note of the blossoming flowers- there’s small splashes of colour in the ground in the way of magical Snowdrops, Narcissus and Iris, Cyclamen, Hellebores, Crocus and not forgetting the beautiful Cornus mas, Camellia x williamsii and many more plants starting to bud and come forth from the earth. It’s sometimes lovely to simply walk around the garden and see the progress of your plants in this season, and a lot can be done now that will make life a breeze later on in the growing season ahead. February can be a brutally cold and wet month, so check any newly planted trees and shrubs haven’t been loosened by frost- if they have, gently refirm them in the ground. Also whilst out in the garden try not to walk on overly saturated beds, this will compact the soil and rob it of oxygen, so use a plank to walk on if you can. Other than that, enjoy the crisp, fresh air, and look forward to the season ahead…

Beautiful Iris, one of the wonders of February

Sow…

Now is the time to start thinking about sowing the following inside- tomatoes, chillies, aubergines, peppers, dahlias, sweet peas, garden herbs, anthirrhinum, lettuce, lupins, radishes and turnips. Onions, peas, broad beans and carrots can also be started now, and once a decent size, can be placed in the greenhouse or a cold frame to harden off, check for hard frosts and protect the young plants accordingly. Also now is a great time to start chitting early potato varieties such as ‘Arran Pilot’, an ideal place to put them is on top of the refrigerator in an egg box or open shoe box- they’ll be ready to plant out in March.

Now is the perfect time to sow chilli seeds, and grow on a warm windowsill. Chillies are perennial, and will reward you with wonderful fresh produce from your kitchen or greenhouse every year

Prepare…

Plan out your borders or vegetable patch, make notes on the type of colours or genus you wish to see and acquire seeds or the whereabouts of nurseries accordingly. Now is a perfect time to fertilise your soil organically, if there is not too much water or frost covering the soil. A good handful of seaweed meal for every square metre mixed with Epsom salt works wonders, as does adding forkfuls of well rotted horse manure to the beds. Often this can be found for free from local stables- just ask, but make sure it’s well broken down- it should be full of worms and a good dark colour.

You may also want to cover vacant allotment beds or vegetable plots with tarpauline if drainage is not good at your site to protect them from water logging and make them ready for their new residents.

Adding homemade or peat-free compost and organic fertilisers to the soil now will really benefit plants in the coming months


Prune…

If you haven’t already, prune apples and any misshapen or overgrown deciduous trees or shrubs whilst still in their dormant stage. Also completely hardy evergreens that have become overgrown can also be pruned, as long as they are not tender such as Mexican Orange Blossom. It’s a great idea to feed after pruning and to mulch with organic matter. Now is the time to start trimming winter flowering heathers as they finish flowering, go over the plants with garden shears and take them back to the base of the flower stalks. Autumn- fruiting raspberries can now be cut down to the ground, and new growth ( and delicious berries) will flourish. Mulching and feeding will do all these plants a lot of good and encourage strong growth.

Late flowering shrubs such as Buddleja, Ceonothus, Lavatera and hardy Fuchsias can also be tackled now, don’t worry about being too brutal, these plants benefit from being cut right back as they flower on growth made in the spring. Prune away!

Roses, in sheltered parts of the country can be started on now. Keep it simple by trying to aim for an open goblet shape, cutting away crossing stems and suckers to keep the plant healthy, giving it air circulation and space to thrive, and stopping the chance of disease from stems rubbing against one another. For a guide on rose pruning please follow this link- https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=186

Finally, late- flowering Clematis and Winter Flowering Jasmine can be cut back. With Group 3, late- flowering Clematis, cut old growth down to 22-45cm from the ground, pruning just above a healthy bud. Again, after pruning be sure to feed and mulch with organic matter for a fantastic display later in the year.

Prune misshapen or overgrown deciduous plants or trees now while they are still in their dormant state

Plant…

Now is a great time to plant bare root fruit trees and bushes. Make sure to incorporate lots of organic matter into the soil before planting, and add well rotted stable manure to the bottom of the planting hole. Also raspberry, blackberry and hybrid berry canes can be planted now- however this is really the last window of opportunity to do so. To give raspberry canes a really good start, plant them in a trench, to which lots of peat free compost or stable manure has been added, and then erect a support system of canes. This will really protect them, and allow them to flourish giving you lots of wonderful fresh berries in the years to come.

Snowdrops can be planted now ‘ in the green’, they are one of only a few bulbs that do best when planted in leaf, rather than dried bulb form. Lots of companies will be offering specialist types and traditional to plant now, so keep your eyes open. Work in some leaf mulch before planting, as snowdrops favourite places are woody banks and under trees. After flowering, snowdrops that you feel could do with being spread out, can be dug, separated and planted into other areas of the garden that you would like to see colonised by graceful snowy drifts next year.

Snowdrops are best planted in leaf, and can be dug and divided once they have finished flowering