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Another New Year and during the past few weeks there was a long period of frost when the ground was so hard I couldn't dig up potatoes and carrots, so had to buy some from the farm shop! Garlic and sweet pea seeds would have loved it though. That was followed by warm, wet weather - ideal conditions for growth in most plants. Keep an eye out for weeds in particular!  The more diligent you are now, the easier work in the beds will be come springtime.

February is mostly about preparation; making sure pots, trays and tools have been cleaned and the greenhouse, if you have one, has been cleared of last season's detritus, swept, washed down and windows cleaned. Seed beds should be cleared of any emerging weeds and their roots using, if you can, a small hand fork so as not to disturb the ground too much. Lightly rake to make a fine tilth ready for seed sowing or seedling planting.

Shrubs and Trees


Daphne and sarcococca will be wafting their scent around our gardens this month and buds will start appearing on cherry trees. Flowering shrubs such as cornus, holly and winter flowering honeysuckle can be pruned; cornus in particular should be cut hard back to the ground to ensure the bright red stems grow again as brightly. As always, remove any dead or crossing stems in the main plant. Some clematis prefer to be left alone, whilst others need to be cut back hard to encourage new growth from the base. Clematis pruning needs you to know which is which, so make inconspituous black labels for them, either tied in near the base or stuck in the ground.  Jasmine should have been pruned after flowering in late summer, but check that all stems left have survived the cold, removing any dead ones.

Check through the borders for emerging weeds and remove as before. Make sure all dead growth from the previous year has been cut away leaving the new, young shoots that should be about to show. Ensure any supports are firmly in the ground and change or remove any rotted string ties. Top up mulch as required or spread bark chippings for stronger weed control. Those poor weeds! They are probably the most strongest and independant plants in the world and they do have their place, so make one for them well away from your veggies and formal plants - insects will love you!


Containers and decorative pots can be filled with fresh growing compost ready for spring and summer planting, layering broken pot pieces or cork in the bottom first, and fill almost to the top, water well then top up with more compost a few days later once settled. Adding horticultural grit to the compost allows for good drainage. No need, at this stage, to add any further nutrients as the new compost should be well balanced.

Seed Sowing

Seeds to sow this month include tomatoes, parsnips, chillis, pelargonium, delphinium, candytuft, busy lizzie – if you have a greenhouse, the latter is always a pretty addition to the shelves once the job of seedling growth is finished.  Herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley can also be sown. Try to, if you can, space the seeds a few inches apart to make thinning out easier - index finger nail is good for that
Peas and beans sown inside are best left until the last week of February, beginning of March. I have always found that indoor sowing of peas and beans much healthier than sowing outside. The seedlings can be planted out end of March, beginning of April.

Summer Bulbs

Tender bulbs such as gloxinia, begonia and achimenes can be started off this month provided they are kept inside.  Half bury the tubers, rounded end down, in trays of suitable compost 2-3” apart, keep moist and warm and they can be potted up once the sprouts have appeared, usually 4-5 weeks. Alternatively, the tubers can be potted up in their eventual display pot, in which case ensure there are crocks in the base of the pot and top of the tubers are about half an inch below the soil. The tubers will swell as they grow so good spacing is essential.

Veggie Plot

Hopefully fresh compost and/or manure was spread during the autumn months and this should by now have been dragged through into the soil by insects and worms and hard frosts would have done their bit to break up clumps.  It won’t hurt, though, to use a hoe or rake to gently agitate the top layer of soil - deep digging now would only damage soil structure - plus it isn’t necessary.  The only deep digging would be for planting long rooted plants.

With the growing trend of on-line purchases, cardboard boxes should be readily available, so use them opened up and cut to size to cover veggie plots as this will deter weed growth and can stay in situ. For seed sowing, this just means making a slit a 2 or 3 centimetres wide with a sharp knife and sowing into the slit. For planting seedlings later, cut holes big enough to take the plants. The cardboard will rot down in time and amalgamate with the soil. If you're not keen on the sight of cardbard on your beds, scatter small bark chippings. Shredded cardboard is also an excellent mulch material.

I haven't sat out much this past month as the weather has been so wet and even the summerhouse hasn't been too welcoming, so I am looking forward to longer, warmer, drier evenings, when I can sit out again - glass close to hand...

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