When the sun shines in February, you can really sense that spring is just around the corner. With spring bulbs flowering and buds swelling on the trees, it’s a great time to get outdoors. And although there may still be cold weather ahead, there’s plenty to do in the garden. Here are our top gardening jobs for February.
Your essential February checklist
- If your fruit trees are showing early blossoms and buds, you may need to protect them with garden fleece against cold snaps.
- If you’ve got raised beds, you can start warming the soil up now by covering them with garden fleece.
- A warm spell may encourage perennial weeds to make an appearance – this is your chance to blitz them before they get established by digging them up. Make sure you’ve got the whole root out as any pieces will sprout a new weed plant!
- Check your tools, clean and sharpen them, ready for spring.
- Clean out nest boxes, ready for the nesting season. Remember to keep feeders and bird baths filled and clear of ice.
- If you have acid soil, now is the time to add some lime such as Westland Garden Lime.
- Watch out for slugs! This is the time of year when they start making an appearance, so if you start to see damage to brassicas or young plants then get the slug defences up and running. Pick a dry day and apply Nemaslug nematodes to the vegetable plot.
- Make sure you keep topping up the bird feeders, as small birds will be struggling to find food in February.
In the vegetable garden
- Get a head start on your vegetable garden by sowing seeds in the greenhouse. Kale, tomatoes and sweet peas can all be sown indoors towards the end of February.
- Consider installing a greenhouse heater to protect your seedlings against sudden cold snaps this month. If you don’t have a greenhouse, a windowsill Propagator Kit is a great space-saving alternative.
- Start chitting first early potatoes towards the end of February to give them a head start when you plant them out. Place your seed potatoes in a bright, frost-free place indoors, with the ‘eyes’ pointing upwards. They’ll be ready to plant in 4-6 weeks, once they’ve sprouted shoots.
- Watch the weather forecast and protect early-flowering small fruit trees and bushes against hard frosts by covering them with horticultural fleece overnight. Remove the fleece during the day so that pollinators can reach the flowers.
- Clear vegetable beds of weeds and cover them with fleece or black polythene to warm up the soil, ready for early sowings.
- Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries, cutting all canes down to ground level.
- If you have rhubarb plants, cover them with pots to force an early tender crop.
- Prune autumn-fruiting raspberry canes right down to the ground to boost new canes, which will carry the fruit in the autumn. Summer-fruiting canes need to be trimmed to just above a bud to encourage new growth.
In the border
- Deadhead winter pansies for a second flush of flowers in spring.
- Prune winter-flowering shrubs such as winter jasmine, mahonia and heather once they finish flowering.
- Prune bush roses now before they start to put on new growth. Remove any dead, damaged or crossing branches, as well as any spindly weak growth. Then shorten the remaining stems by half, cutting just above an outward-facing bud.
- Prune wisteria, cutting back last year’s side shoots to 3-4 buds from the main framework of the climber.
- Prune group 3 (late summer flowering) clematis, cutting back to buds about 30cm (12in) from the base.
- Cut back Cornus sanguinea (shrubby dogwood) cultivars to within 15cm (6in) of ground level. This will promote the growth of new coloured young stems that will brighten up your garden next winter.
- Once snowdrops have finished flowering, but before the leaves start to wither, dig up large established clumps, divide and replant them, to encourage the snowdrops to spread.
- Now’s a good time to plant new shrubs and trees, provided the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged. It’s also the time to move plants that are in the wrong place.
- Plant summer bulbs like agapanthus and lilies in pots in a greenhouse, ready to be moved outdoors after the last frosts.