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February in the garden

by User Not Found | Jan 30, 2014

There’s plenty of work to be done this month of course but it will be easier to do it with a smile on your face when you spot a determined daffodil peaking up at you or the return of some cheery snowdrops.

Here’s our roundup of some of the important jobs for the February gardener.

Start the spring clean. While it wasn’t the worst winter we’ve had in the last few years, most gardens have still taken a battering, especially from high winds in January. Now is a good time to take stock and repair any damage to fences and tree ties. Repair them now before they get worse, make safe any damaged branches or felled trees and protect your plants from wind rocking. The wind rocking happens when a hole is formed in the soil at the base of a tree or shrub. The best thing to do is add some course sand or hort grit to fill in the hole. If this is not done rain water can go down the hole and rot the stem and kill the plant.

And keep cleaning. Clean your tools, check garden furniture for any rot and apply a fresh layer of wood preservative to your sheds and fence. Check your garden machinery is in working order. Clean your greenhouse from top to bottom and ventilate it well when it’s drying out. This is the only way to make sure that mildew, mould and blight spores are completely removed. Don’t give them a chance to settle on this year’s residents.

Spread the pain. Start forking over your existing beds now but remember to do it when the soil is dry. Digging in wet soil may damage its structure. Spreading the digging over the next few weeks will make it ‘seem’ like less of an arduous job but it’s got to be done. I know, who are we kidding eh? Forking over now will prepare the soil for spring and it will help you to get rid of any pests by exposing them to the hungry birds.

Feed the birds and put up some bird houses. Birds will be looking for a suitable residence soon enough and it’s still cold outside so don’t forget to feed them. Why not save a few Euro by making your own bird mix cakes and fat balls? 

Sow your spuds.
It’s time to get started with potatoes and onion sets. First earlies are in stock now and second early varieties are on the way.  There are so many great varieties to choose from, why not try a drill of something different this year alongside your favourite varieties?  Seed potatoes need to be kept in a cool, light, frost-free environment while they are being "chitted". Don’t force them, they’ll be ready when they’re ready. A little patience now will actually give you a faster crop because the seed potatoes will hold their energy until you plant them out later when they’ll really need it. If you’re thinking of sowing potatoes for the first time this year check out Fergal’s tips on how to prepare your potatoes for planting. If you were affected by blight last year, consider trying one of the naturally blight-resistant varieties like Sarpo Mira.

Get mulching. Start applying mulch around your trees and shrubs. We could yet see more frost this year and mulch will protect their roots from freezing as well as keeping the ground moist. Get your mulch down before the weeds establish themselves and save yourself plenty of effort later in the season.  

And pruning. You can prune your wisteria and grapevines now. Prune summer-flowering clematis, cutting above a low pair of green buds. If you haven’t done it already, you can trim winter-flowering heathers.

And loving.  On Valentine's Day show you really care with a rose that won’t be dead in a week. Ok, it might look a little twiggy to begin with but all good things are worth waiting for. It’s an ideal time to plant rose bushes, and don’t worry if you don’t know how to do it. Keep an eye on our blog for our guide to planting and growing roses! 

Bed in bedding. It’s still early but pelargonium, begonia and osteospermum can be sown now. Remember to keep them in a warm place until you’re certain we’re finished with frost and they are well established. Don’t even think about putting them outside before March.

Bare all. Try to get any bare root planting finished this month if you’re planning on doing so.  There’s a great variety of native Irish hedging available now but get them in the ground this month or you’ll have to wait until the end of the year.

February really is a month of anticipation in the garden, in just a few weeks things are really going to get going. Getting a few jobs done now will make all the difference.

If you have any gardening questions, we’d love to help, ask us on our Facebook Page, tweet us @countrylife100 on Twitter or call into any of our garden centres.

Fergal's Bio
Hi my name is Fergal, I have been a horticulturist with CountryLife since April 2009 in the New Ross branch . I have a BSC in horticulture which I received from WIT and Kildalton College . Before joining CountryLife I worked in Ballymaloe cookery school in Shanagary Co. Cork were I was involved in fruit and vegetable production for the cookery school and also the farmers Market in Middleton every Saturday. After Ballymaloe I went to work in Mount Congreve Estate in Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford where I worked on the grounds of the estate maintaining the gardens. I love planting seeds and taking cuttings of plants, giving them a little bit of care and attention and watching them grow into mature plants. Fergal