February Gardening Tips 2023
I cannot say I have enjoyed the meteorological stripes of alternating very mild wet and very dry cold weather so far this winter. The plants seem a little confused by it all too and I fear there may be some losses in my garden this year from cold or waterlogging, especially where plants have woken up during a warm spell and produced soft new growth. Some horticultural fleece will act as a nice cosy blanket if it looks like being particularly cold at night, your camellias may be particularly thankful.
However, the days are definitely lengthening, and it is great to spot green shoots starting to emerge where there will soon be clumps of nodding daffodils or dainty crocus. Snowdrops may have already flowered. Divide clumps that have become too large once they have flowered but while they are still in the green. This is the best way to reliably increase your stock of these delightful flowers.
If you are fortunate enough to grow wisteria this is the time to give it a prune by shortening shoots to two or three buds, about 10cm. Prune again in July or August. My father has two most wonderful wisteria one lilac/mauve coloured the other white and they give me plant envy every spring.
By the end of the month or early in March it will be time to prune the roses. For all roses, take out dead and any diseased wood. Then, for shrub roses, cut stems back by a third to a half. For Floribundas (multi flowered heads) and Hybrid Teas (single flowered heads), take them down to no more than 30cm above the soil. Don’t be afraid to be that brutal. For climbing roses take the shoots that flowered last year down to about 15 cm. Rambling roses should not be pruned in spring, unless you are trying to manage their shape or growth, or you may lose most of the flowers. Mulch around your roses in March with some well-rotted manure and feed in April. I promise this simple regime is well worth it. You will be rewarded with beautiful blooms and healthy plants that can better withstand any pests and diseases without the need to spray.
Autumn fruiting raspberries are in need of a chop too. Cut back to a few inches above the soil and a mulch. It is also a good time to plant new raspberry canes. Borders and the veg patch will benefit from a good mulch of home made compost or well-rotted manure. This organic matter will help water retention, provide nutrients and really set the soil up for the growing season. Use boards if you need to do much work that involves standing on wet soil or grass to minimise soil compaction.
Now is also the time to clean out heated and unheated propagators and any pots and trays you intend to re-use. This is so important to prevent the spread of pests and disease, particularly damping off which can affect seedlings. It will soon be time to choose and sow some seed which is always exciting. Again, to avoid damping off, always use fresh compost, don’t sow the seeds too close if you can help it and don’t keep them in a propagator for too long. Give your tools a good clean too. Get your mower serviced and cutting tools sharpened, although finding someone to do this is not always easy – do let me know if you have any tips.
If you have not done so already, chit seed potatoes in advance of planting later in the spring. This means placing them in a light, cool place with the eyes to the top and allowing them to chit or sprout until the shoots are about 2cm. As I have mentioned before, always use seed potatoes which have been specially grown and are certified disease-free rather than using some old spuds from the vegetable rack.
February is also a good time to trim deciduous hedges before nesting season begins. To look after garden birds in these cold months, and add immensely to your own enjoyment of the garden, keep bird feeders full and a source of clean water available.
I hope you have very enjoyable February. As spring approaches in earnest, the sun gains its strength little by little and new life emerges from the soil.