Top Jobs This Month
February is the month that we finally see the long awaited signs of Spring. The days are drawing out, bulbs are beginning to appear, wildlife is waking up and the temperature is increasing, if even just by the slightest! There are plenty of jobs to both inside and outside to prepare for the seasons ahead.
Growing your own vegetables can be extremely satisfying but failing to plan ahead can result in gluts and shortages. Take some time to read up on which vegetables to sow when, where and how to maintain them to ensure a constant supply throughout the year. See our 2017 Gardening Calendar for useful tips.
Potatoes are generally grown from tubers known as ‘seed potatoes’. Chitting or sprouting the tubers early in the cultivation season extends the growing season and leads to a higher yield.
- Place a single layer on a tray with the ‘rose’ end uppermost. This is the end with the most buds and sprouts will grow from these.
- Keep in a cool, frost-free, unheated place with moderate sunlight – avoid direct sunlight.
- Sprouts should appear within a few weeks. At about 6 weeks, shoots should be 5ch long and dark coloured.
- Choose the strongest 4 shoots and remove the weaker shoots for early potatoes.
- Start chitting in January/February and delay planting until March, or April for colder areas and even as late as May without too much crop loss.
Most soft fruit and top fruit are fairly hardly while dormant and will not be affected by the Winter temperatures. However the frosts in Spring can damage the flowering blossom and the eventual crops.
- Use fleece to cover plants.
- Old clothes are also excellent at protecting the blossom from frosts.
- Hessian or shade nettings should be held away from the blossoms using canes and rolled away during the day.
- Apply mulches around plants
- Keep grass around trees mown short – long grass prevents heat radiation from the soil.
- Grow in pots and move to a sheltered location during particularly cold spells.
Deciduous grasses, which turn a golden brown, can be cut back hard. Cut back about way, and carefully remove any dead grass and weeds, as the old stems will be protecting the new green shoots underneath from the winter weather. Cut the old grass back to a few centimetres from ground level leaving a small tuft for the new shoots to easily grow up through.
Evergreen grass does not tend to respond well to hard pruning and generally only removing the dead material will be sufficient. Trim the dead leaves which collect around the base and remove any brown tips. Some larger species such as Cortaderia Selloana (pampas grass) can benefit from hard pruning. Again it is important to be mindful of the new shoots growing underneath the old grass.
The safest and most long term solution to protecting crops from birds is to cover with netting or grow within a fruit cage. Pigeons are the main pest for agricultural crops but also cause damage to gardens and allotments.
They seem particularly keen on crops such as broccoli, sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower, even cherries and peas. They may also attack budding plants and fruit from bushes. Pigeons will peck at the leaves and rip off portions of the crop, often leaving just the larger leaf vain and stalk.
Start pruning early Spring before growth starts mid Spring, this will avoid frost damage to new shoots. Aim to remove one third of the shrub, removing dead, diseased or damaged shoots. Pruning small shrubs such as lavender annually will improve flowering and extend their lifespan. Next you will need to thin out any crowded shoots. Once you have pruned, a layer of mulch or fertiliser will benefit the shrubs growth.
Large climbers such as Bougainvilleas, can be planted directly into a conservatory border or large containers. These tropical climbers can be placed in the garden during the Summer months but must be kept frost-free throughout the Winter. Follow these steps for a stunning display.
- Re-pot if necessary using loam-based compost or replace old plants.
- This type of climber requires a trellis or pillar for support.
- Bougainvilleas flower depending on the current seasons growth so prune just before growth begins, so late Winter or early Spring.
- Bend and tie in young strong-growing laterals to check the vigour and stimulate bract formation.
- Once these have fallen, cut long growth back by half to encourage a second flush of bracts in the late summer.
You will find that some bulbs naturally produce offsets, baby bulbs, which can be removed and kept in storage or replanted.
- Detach offsets and pot up. Small offsets benefit from remaining in the pots until they reach a larger size.
- Large offsets can be replanted immediately.
- Small bulbs can take between 2 and 4 years to flower from offsets while large bulbs can take between 5 and 7 years.
- Carefully tease clumps of bulbs, avoid damaging the roots.
- Space at least 2 bulb widths apart.
- If clumps include seedling, replant in small clusters.
Should you need any help or advice, contact us on 0330 058 5068. We love receiving customer photographs, if you have any tips for February or have completed these jobs yourselves, send us a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will feature it on our social media pages.