The days are lengthening, & more daylight means the garden is waking up fast.
It’s the perfect time of year to get set for the coming seasons in the garden, a way of buying time for when there’ll be lots to do out there in a few months time.
Plan now for the year ahead:
I’ve learned the hard way that it’s good to plan ahead at the start of the year.
- not to plant too many seeds, small plants need lots of time & effort to nurture
- & to make sure that you have enough room in the right conditions to plant them
- have a plentiful supply of plant labels & compost for seed sowing & potting
- keep compost in a greenhouse, shed or garage to warm it up
- cover vegetable beds & bare soil with compost, avoid spreading it onto frozen soil.
Now I try to concentrate my time, energy & money on what I really want to grow. Though it takes an iron-will not to be seduced by magazine pictures of glorious gardens.
Vegetable seeds to sow now:
Use modules, ( planting trays sub-divided into small squares ) or individual pots. Keep them undercover where the temperature doesn’t fall below 5 degrees C. Undercover means a greenhouse or cold-frame, or a window-sill thats not too hoy & dry. Plants need hardening off to acclimatise them to being outside.
Mine will go into the cold-frame next to a sheltered wall. It’s near the back door, so I can keep an eye on them, & gets a fair amount of light.
Chilli Seeds: these tropical plants ideally need a heated propagator, but a small pot with a plastic cover keeps them warm & stops them drying out. Many gardeners plant these in January, they need a long growing season, but if like me you didn’t get that done, it’s not too late.
Broad Beans: if the soil is frozen, sow in pots & keep them inside. Cover the soil with fleece until it warms up.
Radishes: these little jewels are worth it for the colour & zing they bring to a sandwich or salad.
Salad leaves: they like cool weather to germinate, but it’ll have to be undercover at this time of year.
Peas: Keep them under cover, then plant out in March for an early crop.
Light levels are low in at this time of year, so give the seeds as much light as possible to help germination.
Still time to prune gooseberry & currant bushes:
Aim for an open shape to get plenty of air-flow in the centre. Cost the main branches by half, & the side shoots back so that 2 shoots remain.
Apple & pear trees can still have their winter pruning.
Start with cutting out dead or diseased stems & remove branches growing inward.
The aim is to manipulate the tree so it grows plant of fruit & has the best chance of keeping disease at bay. Have a look at the RHS website for more specific instruction.
There’s lots of information about winter pruning fruit trees on the R.H.S. website here.
IT’S TIME TO PRUNE ROSES:
I keep 14th February in mind as the time to prune roses, it doesnt have to be on that day, but its a memorable date & keeps me on track.
Like any pruning, it begins with cutting out dead or diseased shoot & any the cross ove other shoots. Then I trim the tips of some of the side-shoots to an outward facing bud.
Modern climbing roses ( not ramblers ) are also trimmed now, same as above. They flower better when new shoots are tied-in horizontally.
Look after the birds & they’ll look after your garden. Although it’s good to look after them without expecting anything in return because they have such a hard time in January, the coldest month of the year.
We’re attracting a good range of birds with niger seeds, nuts & a block of fat & seeds. The bird-bath hasn’t frozen over much as it’s been so mild here. I’ve made a note to cut back hedges & shrubs before March, so as not to disturb nesting birds. It’s usually safe to cut back hedges after August.
February is a time to savour, as new shoots gradually unfurl with the promise of new growth.
Enjoy your garden.
all photos: Jill Anderson