February Gardening Tips 2024
How lovely that 1st February is a sunny day to welcome the start of a new month, a month that really bridges winter and spring. The days are certainly lengthening – a reason to be cheerful in itself, and it is great to spot green shoots starting to emerge from the soil.
I am particularly excited about the prospect of greater colour in the garden as we go through the month. From snowdrops which are currently in full flower through daffodils, crocus and then on to tulips which can flower right through to May, depending on the variety. If you didn’t plant enough bulbs in the autumn or are noticing some gaps, then pots of spring flowering bulbs are an easy way to fill any void in borders or containers. I have native primroses (Primula vulgaris) in flower already in my garden and they always make me smile.
Later in the month, we are holding a Festival of Primroses across our centres, focusing on the wonderful variety of flower shapes, forms and colours that hybridising has given the gardener, including some really exciting new introductions and colourways, perfect for a splash of colour. I think they work particularly well in a pot by the front door as a lovely floral welcome.
Now is a great time to think about propagation too, whether you want to grow vegetables or flowers from seed. Take time to clean out heated and unheated propagators and any pots and trays you intend to reuse. 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.
If you have not done so already, buy seed potatoes which are available now and ‘chit’ them 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.
Talking of ‘grow your own’, autumn fruiting raspberries are in need of a chop now. Cut back to a few inches above the soil and mulch. It is also a good time to plant new raspberry canes. Borders and the veg patch will benefit from a good mulch of homemade 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.
February is a good time to trim deciduous hedges before nesting season begins. If you 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. 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.
Of course, it can still be very cold at night. Some horticultural fleece will act as a nice cosy blanket for susceptible plants if it looks like being particularly chilly. Your camellias may be especially thankful if you protect their flower buds. Do think of the birds in these cold months too and keep bird feeders full and a source of clean water available. Our feathered friends are such a source of simple joy in the garden
I send you all good wishes as we look forward to spring and all the colour, renewal and hope it brings.