Gardening in February – 2. Garden Work
Gardening in February – Garden Work in February
February can be a time of considerable activity if you have a greenhouse, exceptionally maintained at a temperature warm enough for propagation. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to sow summer bedding plants, however, unless the plants need a long period of growth. Even then, it may be more economical to start them off on the windowsill for a few weeks before moving them into the greenhouse. It is much easier to maintain higher temperatures in the greenhouse in March, and seeds were sown then often catch up with earlier sowings, thereby saving on heating costs.
Even if you delay most of your greenhouse propagation until March, stock up this month with compost, pots, and seed trays, and check that the seeds ordered in January have arrived.
Garden work in February contains the following tasks:
- Knock heavy snow from trees and shrubs and keep an area of the pond ice-free.
- Protect vulnerable plants from frost and wind damage and firm in plants lifted by ice or wind rock.
- Sow slow-maturing bedding plants such as antirrhinums and African marigolds.
- Sow quick-growing perennials such as campanulas and poppies to flower this year.
- Make a regular check on pots of bulbs being forced for indoor flowering.
- Order or buy summer-flowering bulbs, corms, and tubers, especially if you plan to grow any that need starting indoors, such as tuberous begonias.
- The closing date for ordering young bedding plants by post is often at the end of February; order them now.
- Pot autumn-rooted fuchsia cuttings into small, individual pots.
- Put cloches in position to warm the soil for early sowings of vegetables in March. They should be in place for at least three weeks for the earth to benefit.
- Make any necessary repairs to wooden structures supporting plants before the plants begin to grow.
Clean and oil the blades of all cutting tools, service mowers, and cultivators and remove the sharpening edges. Check your electrical equipment if you have not already done so.
Dispose of old and unwanted chemicals, as necessary.
Repairs and plant care
Check around the garden and repair fences, trellis, pergolas, and arches, as necessary. Check that all tree ties are secure and firm in plants lifted by frost.
Continue to reform any young plants lifted by frost. Established plants rooted into the surrounding soil will not be affected, but the more recent additions to the garden, such as trees and shrubs planted in the autumn, may not yet have grown out from their rootball. This means the rootball can be pushed out slightly as the ground freezes and expands. Lack of adequate contact with the surrounding soil may then lead to it drying out.
Make sure that winter protection around plants of borderline hardiness is kept in place. Winds can dislodge such protection, and it is too early to lower your guard.
Pests, especially aphids such as greenflies and blackflies, can already be a problem in the greenhouse and outdoors in mild parts of the country. Be vigilant, as small infestations can easily be controlled, cutting down the risk of a much bigger problem later on. Continue to remove rubbish and debris wherever you find it in the garden. In the course of doing so, you will most certainly come across slugs and snails. Deal with them now to reduce the problems they cause later in the year.
Greenhouses and frames
Move dormant fuchsias, heliotropes, hydrangeas, and other pot plants on to the greenhouse staging. The ideal is a warm spot where a temperature of 10°C (50°F) can be maintained. Spray the plants with water on sunny days and increase amounts of water as growth becomes active. Remove dead and discolored foliage.
Start dahlia tubers into growth and pot up lilies.
Check young plants and rooted cuttings regularly and pot them on into larger pots as soon as their roots fill the pot they are in.
Sow seeds of greenhouse plants such as coleus, gloxinias, and fibrous begonias in a heated propagator. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into pots or trays filled with soilless potting compost and grow them on in warmth.
Also, sow early vegetables, shrubs, perpetual carnations, annual climbers, parsley, and other half-hardy annuals.
To raise tomatoes in a cool greenhouse, sow tomato seeds in February at a temperature of 1 5-20° (60-70°F).
Vines must be appropriately chilled in winter, so keep the greenhouse well ventilated until growth starts. Once growing, a vine needs as much light and heat as possible, reducing the ventilation and applying a white paint coat on a lean-to greenhouse wall to increase the light’s intensity.
It is best to keep off the grass as much as possible during winter. In particular, avoid walking on the lawn when it is very wet and waterlogged or after a severe frost as the grass can be damaged.
Mending lawn edges
Lawn edges can be repaired during the winter if the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.
1. A lawn edge that has become trampled or damaged is easy to repair. First, cut out a rectangle of grass with a half-moon edger, using a straight edge as a guide.
2. Use a spade to undercut the turf, then slide it out sufficiently to cut a neat edge. Use a straight-edged plank as a guide.
3. Fill the gap left with garden soil, preferably sifted to a fine tilth. Firm and level it to make sure it is flush with the surrounding grass.
4. Sow grass seed, water well, and cover with clear plastic sheeting until the seeds have germinated. This will help retain moisture and discourage birds.
Water plants and pools
Keeping ice-free areas
Use a pool heater to keep an area of water ice-free; this will prevent the water’s build-up of toxic gases. Alternatively, place a saucepan full of hot water on the ice and allow it to melt through.
Sowing bog plants
The seeds of moisture-loving primulas and similar bog garden plants germinate better after freezing. Sow in seed trays filled to within 1 cm (½ in) of the top with John Innes seed compost. Stand the trays outside on a level site in light shade and allow them to freeze, but cover them against heavy rain.
A well-ventilated cold frame is useful for raising the plants once they have germinated.
If you think your pump needs servicing or repairing, it is an excellent time to have it done when gardening in February.