Well, what a winter of weather we’ve had this year! November was so wet, with a prolonged cold spell in December, swiftly followed by another one in January, the poor plants don’t know what’s happening! On a positive note, the weeds have died back and the cold spell will have killed a range of pests and diseases. With the longer days in February, make the most of any sunny opportunities to get a head start on the growing season.
Do spend some time planning, as this will give you a head start. There’s plenty to do indoors and out; there’s no ‘off-season’ for gardeners!
SORT OUT VEGETABLE BEDS
Dig out perennial weeds such as couch grass and dandelions. Cover any empty beds with well rotted manure or homemade compost.
Help warm the ground for early outdoor planted crops, such as potatoes, by pinning down some old compost bags, black side up, on the bed.
Use cloches to warm soil for early sowings of broad beans, carrots and parsnips
Sunny February days are perfect for spring cleaning your shed to be ready for the busy months ahead. Perhaps this is a good time to add a gutter and install a water butt
PRUNING AND PLANTING
Prune away the old canes of autumn-fruiting raspberries down to the ground, weed around them and apply a mulch . This will give the new shoots plenty of time, energy and space to grow and strengthen, to hold the fruit crop.
It’s likely that perennial herbs such as oregano, marjoram, mint and chives have died back with the frost so cut any of the dead vegetation to make way for new growth.
You still have time to dig up, and split, any large rhubarb clumps to give them a new lease of life, any spares can be left on the sharing table! Rhubarb is a hungry plant so spread a layer of manure or rich, homemade compost around (not on) the crown. You can start forcing established plants by covering them with a terracotta pot.
It’s your last chance to prune apple, pear and fig trees.
Plan what you’re going to grow and where, taking into account crop rotation. This will help prevent disease specific to a particular plant taking hold. If the soil is regularly enriched there’s no need to have a fallow season.
Wash plant pots, seed trays and cold frames
Start chItting your first early seed potatoes towards the middle/end of February standing them in trays or egg boxes in a light but frost-free position.
Though it’s a bit early to sow most seeds unless you have a heated greenhouse (the danger is that seedlings grow too leggy before planting out) you can start sowing tomatoes, chilli peppers, aubergines and cucumbers in a heated propagator.
Check what seeds you have and the sow by dates, buy or order seeds you need for the upcoming season, but don’t be tempted to sow fast germinating, fast growing tender plants such as courgettes, runner beans and sunflowers.
Don’t forget your 15% WAHGA discount code if you are ordering plug plants from Rocket Gardens! Contact WAHGA (email@example.com) if you need a reminder of the code. Plants will be delivered in late spring ready for instant planting.
The last sprouts and cabbages
Leeks, celeriac and parsnips
Winter salad leaves and lettuces
Spinach and chard
If you have any parsnips left in the ground, leave a few to go to seed. The flowers they produce in May/June are lovely and perfect for bees.
Many of us grow flowers our allotments. When doing this think of the pollinators that we need for our fruit and vegetables. Open flowers are the best, so include a mix in your planting so there is something for you and the pollinators to enjoy. Flowers you can start sowing indoors, or in a heated greenhouse, are sweet peas, lobelia, salvia, antirrhinum, cobaea. and verbena bonariensis. These can be hardened off in a cold frame and planted out after the last frost.
It’s also fun to encourage or sow wildflowers - many of which are perfect to pollinators
IN THE GARDEN
Prune overgrown shrubs and hedges before the nesting season start. Prune buddleia down to about a metre height. In late February, prune back shoots on mophead and lacecap hydrangeas to a pair of buds.
Cut back herbaceous perennials, particularly those which have suffered from the weather.
Mulch the flower beds, this will provide essential nutrients, improve the soil structure and also help water retentive capacity of the soil. Apply organic fertiliser (i.e. not manufactured) to your borders; ‘blood, fish and bone’, seaweed based or pelleted chicken manure is ideal.
Plant out bare-rooted trees and shrubs. February is also a good time to move shrubs. Make sure you dig out a good-sized rootball.
Lightly prune any clematis that flower in late spring and early summer. Prune wisteria to two buds to encourage flowering.
If there is a dry spell, remember to water pots and planters.
For the lawn, you can apply either a winter or spring feed. There are winter grass seeds that can be used now, or prepare any patches for seeding in a few weeks.