For many February is their least favourite month of the year. It’s not quite winter and it’s not yet springtime. Yet for gardeners, February is a month full of activity. It is time to get organised and get ready for spring.
In the vegetable garden, act now to guarantee decent crops later in the year. Broad beans can be sown outdoors in a prepared seed bed once the weather shapes up. Plant out parsley plugs into their permanent positions, and sow mizuna and other winter salad leaves in a cold greenhouse. You can also plant onion sets under glass. If you can provide warmth in your greenhouse, or have space on a window sill in the house, sow some tomato seeds to get an early crop in the summer. They will happily grow in a heated propagator too.
It is also time to chit your seed potatoes ready to plant next month. If you didn’t get round to this in January, then do it now. Place each potato shoot pointing upwards in an old egg tray or similar container. Place in a dark, dry, cool place where there is no risk of frost damage. Chitting potatoes where it is too warm risks the shoots growing tall and weak. You really need short, strong shoots that won’t get damaged when you plant the tubers.
February is the month to get your herb garden ready for the new season. Herbaceous herbs like fennel will appreciate having any dead growth cut away so that the new shoots can prosper. Check around the evergreens like sage and lavender. Clear any weed seedlings and fork the ground between the plants. By doing this you will reveal slug eggs and other undesirable bugs. When a few days have passed and these have been eaten up by the garden birds, lay down a mulch.
Enrich your soil with some home produced compost before sowing, and cover with cloches if the soil is especially cold. In fact, any prepared soil that will be needed for seed sowing can be warmed in readiness by covering with plastic or glass cloches, fleece or even a thick layer of straw. Some old-time gardeners swore by straw for the added advantage that when it is taken away and composted, loads of slugs that were hiding go with it. Once the ground has warmed, sow some early lettuce – cos varieties do well when sown early.
Among the first jobs in February is to finish any tidying up that was left from January. Prune shrub roses, tidy up ornamental grasses, trim back winter-flowering heathers and prune winter-flowering jasmine. They will all appreciate some attention this month. Your lawn might also be in need of a light trim, but don’t be tempted to mow too soon. Your first cut should be a high one to avoid damage to the turf. Don’t do anything to your lawn if the weather is particularly wet or frosty.
February is a good month to plant container-grown flowering shrubs and bare-rooted trees. They will still be dormant, so have a chance to settle in before they flower or start shooting. Any snowdrops that have finished flowering can be dug up, split and replanted ready for next winter. Sweet Peas can still be sown, and will do perfectly well in a cold greenhouse. If you haven’t yet done so, order your seeds – it won’t be long before it’ll be time to sow most of them. If you have dahlia tubers ready to plant, pot them up now, and then take cuttings from the fresh shoots in a few weeks time.
For instant colour around your garden, buy a few pots of narcissus from a supermarket or garden centre. Some splashes of colour here and there will brighten your garden and give everyone’s spirits a lift. Using ready potted bulbs and plants it is possible to create an attractive and varied planter. Narcissus, primroses, ivy and cyclamen make an attractive display at this time of year. If you have permanent containers in your garden, they will benefit from some TLC. Top up the compost and add a mulch. Gravel spread over the surface of containers will stop any weed seedlings from taking hold. Keep your eyes open for weed seedlings anywhere in your garden – dig them out now before they become stronger.
Lots of jobs to complete in February, so not such a dull month after all. Preparation completed in February will put you in a great place when March – one of the busiest months – arrives.