It’s cold and frosty in the garden but our days are lengthening… at last winter is drawing to a close.
February in the Garden.
Did you know that the UK is on the same latitude as Hudson Bay in Canada and some of the coldest parts of Russia? At this time of year they are completely snow bound but here in the UK the Gulf Stream warms the sea and brings mild winter weather to most of us, especially along the west coast.
Even so the sea is cold this month so February is usually our coldest month of the year. Snow is most likely in the Scottish Highlands and Pennines. According to the Met Office long range forecast it’s likely that the recent spell of cold and unsettled weather will continue… so February this year will probably be windy and cold for most of us here in the UK.
Thank goodness the days are longer in February and there is usually more sunshine. We can expect around 75 hours of sun on average this month. In February we often have lovely sunny days with clear blue sky… nice and crisp. It’s lovely to see the first spring bulbs and hardy shrubs beginning to bloom. By now we are all ready for spring and keen to get into the garden to get cracking with all those plans we made this winter.
Despite the weather February is an exciting time of year. It’s late winter and it’s time to decide what you want to do this year in your garden and start growing. Yee Ha! Now’s the perfect time for a spot of armchair gardening or seed sowing indoors. If you jotted down some ideas and plans back in autumn then have a look at the notes and photos in your garden journal to remind yourself of the changes you’d like to make this year. Don’t be in too much of a rush to tidy up your entire garden because many insects, overwintering butterflies and Hedgehogs will still be hibernating.
If your garden is waterlogged or frozen it’s best to keep off the ground until a spell of better weather arrives. If the soil is workable then here are some things you can do to improve your garden now:
- Plant new trees and shrubs. If you are lucky enough to have a garden that is not frozen or waterlogged this is a good time to plant new trees, shrubs, climbers and fruit.
- Prune late flowering deciduous shrubs. Woody plants that flower on new wood (stems that will be produced this year) such as Buddleja davidii, can be pruned hard now, as long as there is no danger of frost. You can cut them right back to the ground or grow them on a leg (prune sturdy stems to within about 90 cm of the ground – 3 feet) so that you can grow spring bulbs and perennials beneath them. Feed with organic fertiliser and mulch with garden compost to give them the best possible start.
- Shred the prunings. Woody stems need shredding before adding to your compost heap to encourage them to break down quickly. If you don’t have a shredder you can hire one for the weekend. Don’t forget to save the best twiggy stems from your pruning to stake tall perennials in spring.
- Prune hardy evergreen trees and shrubs. Yew hedges and any other hardy evergreen shrubs can be pruned now before the birds establish their nests.
- Tidy perennials. Towards the end of the month remove tall stems, seed heads and tatty foliage on your perennial plants. Divide late flowering clumps now if you didn’t do that in autumn. Keep the strong new growth and discard the older and less vigorous parts of each clump. Feed with organic fertiliser and mulch with garden compost to give them the best possible start.
- Add organic fertiliser to the soil. This is readily available in all good nurseries, garden centres and DIY stores. You can spray the whole garden with a diluted seaweed solution, add blood fish and bone or hoof and horn in powder form or scatter pelleted chicken manure. Nutrients are released slowly so these are great for producing strong plants. Fruit trees need extra potash so if you have a log fire you can sprinkle wood ash around them.
- Prepare seedbeds for vegetables or flowers. If this is the year you plan to grow vegetables, fruit or flowers then NOW is the time to prepare the ground. You may need to weed or dig the bed to break up large clumps of earth. Add slow release organic fertiliser and cover with a sheet of polythene or a cloche to keep rain off the ground and help the soil warm up.
- Sow flower seeds under cover. In the greenhouse start hardy annuals such as Sweet Peas, Cornflowers, Larkspur and Scabious. Some Half Hardy Annuals such as Antirrhinum, Cleome and climbing Cobaea need to be started off this month because they need a longer growing time. For a wild garden you can sow annual wildflowers in plugs to get them off to a great start. There are many perennial flowers to sow in February too. Checkout SEEDS TO SOW IN FEBRUARY for more inspiration.
Salad, herbs and early vegetables can be all be started off in the greenhouse in seed trays or plastic modules. Whatever seeds you’re sowing, it’s good practice to sow some and save some seed to sow next month just in case you have some hungry little visitors such as slugs or mice.
- Feed your garden wildlife. February is a difficult time for wild creatures. The cold wet weather means that their natural food is in short supply so please provide seeds, peanuts, fat and kitchen scraps such as bread and cheese. If it’s frosty they will need fresh clean water too.
- Put up garden bird boxes. Remove last years nesting material from the boxes and sterilise each box by pouring boiling water inside. Allow to dry in a warm place then rehang them.