Gardening notes for February

Not really like Spring weather at the moment but maybe by the end of the month the tide will have turned and we will be able to walk on the lawns again ! The days are at least getting a wee bit longer and spring is gradually appearing with Daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and primrose coming into flower.
Regardless of the weather there are jobs need doing and keep on at the list to ease the pressure later on in the Spring.

Working on the lawn is certainly very difficult at the moment due to the rain but it needs to be raked to remove unwanted winter debris of twigs and leaves, and then spread some Lawn feed with moss and weedkiller incorporated into the same mixture. There appears to be more moss than grass in the lawn at the moment and the sooner this imbalance is tackled the better. As it warms up the grass will have a helping hand to try and outgrow the moss which will be in retreat after the fertilizer application. Apart from this try and stay off the lawn so as to prevent it turning into a mucky mess ! If you really want to launch a major attack on the moss in the lawn use ‘Lawn Sand’ or ‘Sulphate of Iron’ and this will really blacken the moss fairly quickly and give the grass a bit of breathing space to fill in and will green up as spring growth commences.
Now is a good time to do some fairly hard pruning. Shrubs which have grown out of control can be reshaped and the regrowth will start in just a few weeks’ time and the new growth will look fresh and uniform. Don’t prune back spring flowering shrubs until after they have finished flowering. Apply a shrub fertilizer over the coming weeks to help boost this regrowth. Pelleted poultry manure or seaweed feed both provide a good balance of fertilizer for most shrubs.
Spring is a good time for adding shrubs to your garden and Forsythia, Witch Hazels, Camelias, Viburnum , Skimmia and Purple Plums are just a few of the early flowering shrubs actually coming into flower now which could be added now for instant colour.
Patio containers, window boxes and hanging baskets can be planted up with a mixture of spring flowering bulbs like narcissi tete a tete, hyacinth or crocus together with primrose, bellis daisies and the small flowering violas. Dwarf conifers, euonymus, or trailing ivy can be added to provide a contrast. This mixed planting will provide colour from now until summer….great value !
Seed sowing of early vegetables can now take place in polythene tunnels (or on kitchen window sills). Peas, Beans, lettuce and early brassicas can be sown in the protection of a tunnel. Give extra warmth by placing a sheet of polythene, fleece or an old window frame directly over the seed bed or trays to provide extra warmth and protection. Tomatoes, Peppers ,and Cucumbers would require additional heat and a kitchen window sill will encourage quicker germination. Outside sowings of veg can start when it’s a wee bit warmer towards the end of March. Onion sets and shallots on the other hand can be planted now and they will start rooting out surprisingly quickly.
Seed potatoes, which are basically specially grown certified tubers, can be sprouted, or ‘chitted’ ready for planting towards the end of March or a few weeks earlier in a polythene tunnel. Chitting is the name for the process that encourages tubers to sprout before planting. To chit seed potatoes, place them side by side in a clean egg box or tray ‘rose end’ up (the end where tiny buds can be seen). Label the box with the potato variety and put in a cool light place for 4-6 weeks allowing the chits to develop. By putting them in a light place, the shoots will remain short, dark green and compact. Left in the dark, long, pale brittle shoots develop that can easily break off when planting. Hopefully by the end of March the ground will be in good shape for planting.
Raised beds can be made ready for planting or sowing in a few weeks’ time by digging them over now and incorporate some well-rotted farm yard manure. Cover with some black landscape fabric and peg down until you are ready to use the bed. Sneak in some slug bait underneath to discourage them ‘orrible slimy pests !

So, until next month, let’s hope there is a positive change in the weather by then, happy gardening! Simon